I went to see Prometheus this past Sunday. I hunkered down in my seat, propped my feet up on the railing in front of me and got ready for a masterpiece from Ridley Scott. I absolutely LOVE the original Alien. The sequels were progressively less impressive, though enjoyable. But this would mark Ridley Scott’s return to this universe and I was beyond excited. The ensuing 124 minutes were, on some level, enjoyable, but they were no where near what I have come to expect from the director that gave us Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster. In fact, while I always enjoy going to the movies (and seldom get to these days), the more and more I thought about the movie, the more it left a bad taste in my mouth.
First of all, the story had no progression. The opening scene shows us an intelligent and emotional, yet unknown alien race and then we are instantly introduced to our protagonist who believes said aliens exist and is anxious to find them. By the end of the movie we know barely anything else about said aliens.
On top of that, there was near zero character development. The story follows a familiar structure (more on that later), however in the original Alien there are 8 crew members. When we first see the titular space-faring vessel of Prometheus we are told via text that the ship is crewed by (if I remember correctly) 17 crew members. We have more than doubled the crew – which means each individual will, by necessity, receive less character development. We are shown bits and pieces that let us know that our protagonist Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, has some kind of faith that is driving her, but other than off-hand comments it does not seem to factor into her decision making. Most other characters have near zero explanation given for their actions – to include the more nefarious actions of Michael Fassbender‘s android, David.
In this same vein, there were entire storylines that seemed completely superfluous. What I’m assuming is good money was paid out to cast Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce in what amounted to a great big aside that took the wind out of the story of Shaw. Theron’s Vickers is closed-off, impersonal, and cranky. We are not told why until the very end and guess what – with zero character arc for her, no one cares. In fact – I was left wondering why the scene had occurred at all. Pearce’s Weyland, the presumed dead owner of the company that sent the Prometheus on it’s voyage, is apparently secretly kept alive and smuggled onto the ship, so he can seek immortality from the Engineers. This mission is part of David’s programming, but doesn’t explain 90% of what he does against the rest of the crew, nor does it factor AT ALL into discovery of the Engineers or the resolution of the film. Excluding this entire story arc (as both Vickers and Weyland are the same story) and the elimination of the basically useless storyline of the two lost team members would have left ample time and material to explore in depth who the Engineers are, what they are doing & why, and what should happen next. Instead we have zero explanation of why the Engineers created us, why they developed a biological weapon that they intended to destroy us with (the Xenomorphs), or anything at all about who they are. Instead, despite David learning how to communicate with them, we are treated to a mindless rampage by the last Engineer on the planet, and a sudden resolve from Shaw to find out what we did wrong (and the promise of travel to the Engineer’s home planet).
Next we have the complete lack of originality in the plot. To be clear, I’m not talking about the necessary elements to cause this to lead up to the events of Scott’s 1979 Alien. I’m talking about the fact that it borrowed scenes and elements directly from other films in the Alien franchise. Just to quickly name a few of the many, many rehashes of past films:
1. We have an android with a secret agenda
2. We have a violent scene discussing breaking quarantine rules and bringing an infected crew member on board
3. We have an attempt to hide/bring home an alien specimen
4. We have our heroine run around in little white underwear.
I could go on as this is nowhere near the only ones – but even just having these elements present left the movie as a whole entirely predictable. Even when there was a slight twist given to the elements or scenes, they quickly got back on the “let’s remake Alien” track. To top it all off, the worst part about rehashing Alien is that this installment has none of the originals suspense or horror. Alien was a truly frightening movie – it is the ultimate haunted house movie, set in a sci-fi setting. You simply cannot leave the house and thus escape your tormentor, because there is no where to go. This movie lacked all of the fright, but kept the action and gore. It’s like Ridley Scott forgot who he was and channeled the much over-hyped James Cameron for this movie.
In all, I had hopeed for a intelligent and cinematically beautiful look into creation and technology. David’s questioning of Logan Marshall-Green‘s Charlie gave me great hope that we would get there, but alas the question, “Why did man create me.” provoked the answer “Because we could,” which is basically the only reason this film was made. There was no hope or plan to start a discourse or to simply say anything. There is hope that the end will lead to an un-Alien franchise that can hopefully shake off the shackles of rabid fandom and possibly have something worthwhile to add to our culture, but likely, we’ll just get more rehashed Alien drivel.
Despite enjoying the visuals, I’m going to have to give this film a disappointing 55%.