“Big things have small beginnings.”
The Scoop: 2012 R, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron
Tagline: The search for our beginning could lead to our end
Summary Capsule: See how the entire Alien franchise got its beginning! Sort of! Kind of! Not really!
Justin’s rating: TheoEvoNutso
Justin’s review: Thinking about Prometheus too much gives me a headache. It’s not that it’s an overly complicated film — it’s not, and it puzzles me how some people seem confused over its simple plot points — but that it’s really hard to get a handle on how to approach it. The easiest way would be to see it as a prequel to the Alien franchise, except it sort of is and sort of isn’t and might be a reboot and it doesn’t fully connect them and it’s not an outright horror flick. Or some have approached it as a thoughtful, high-concept scifi mystery, except that its story is kind of dumb when broken down, and the mystery is not so much mysterious as “vague.” Or others have gone into it expecting a slasher/elimination film, something that Prometheus only does half-heartedly. Or you could just enjoy it on a visceral level, liking the visuals and aesthetics and special effects, while ignoring the thinking part of your brain.
It’s a jumble of ideas — some interesting, some vapid, and some nonsensical — and then put into an admittedly pretty package.
I’m going to approach it as a prequel to the Alien franchise, because that feels the most Mutant Reviewery way to go for me. Ridley Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece of suspense, scares, and hard scifi, and it holds up extremely well to this day. It surprised the heck out of audiences back in the 70s and generated one of the most feared movie monsters of all time. Aliens was a great followup, Alien3 bombed but had its moments, Alien Resurrection is enjoyable if not that scary, and the two AvP flicks are just weird offshoots at best. Due to all of the different directors and visions for these films, the franchise’s continuity is somewhat fractured, and there are lots of unanswered questions, such as, where did these aliens come from?
Prometheus attempts to answer this along with “where did humans come from?” by choosing the most boring of all answers. It’s the old “super-aliens seeded loads of worlds but are now revered as gods” trope. I’ve seen it way too many times to take it as seriously as Prometheus tries to do here. As I said, this “mystery” isn’t engaging at all; it’s the first part of the film leading up to the so-called big reveals that is far more gripping.
So it’s slightly into the future, and some archaeologists have found evidence that aliens visited Earth way long ago and left a map back to a specific planet. We load up the interstellar RV and Bob’s-your-uncle, we’re there. The catch is that the planet in question isn’t some sort of knowledge utopia teeming with answers, but a barren world where structures house black goo that does nasty things. As black goo always does in science fiction, of course.
Our cast is far more forgettable than the average Alien flick. There’s the two scientists that lead the expedition — Ms. I’m Sort of a Believer and Mr. I’m Sort of an Atheist — as well as their corporate boss, Charlize Theron and her Incredibly Tight Hair. Past that… uh… well there’s the ship captain who doesn’t seem to be all there, and… some other people. I think they die at some point. I should’ve caught their names to send their families my condolences. That the cast is ill-defined is bad enough, but it gets worse when they start doing weird and abrupt things without any apparent motivation or explanation whatsoever. The standout here is the ship’s android, David. As with all Alien films, the android isn’t quite on the up-and-up, and that makes him much more interesting to watch. He’s a robot, yes, but you can see apparent human emotions running in his circuits at some level, because he doesn’t quite shrug off the insults and comments others throw his way.
They land, find the goo, bad stuff starts happening, but — and this is important — we don’t have a chest-bursting alien suddenly running around while the terrified remainders of the crew scurry to survive. Instead, the threat is on several levels and far less interesting. Sometimes the crew turns bad, sometimes the unaffected crew does bad things, and people keep finding excuses to run back to the temple of death with a lame excuse of “wanting answers.”
I understand that Ridley Scott was trying to avoid copying his older work, and I appreciate that. The problem is that it doesn’t quite gel in the end, even if it is entertaining. The best parts of the movie are when it does start rubbing elbows with the classic alien mechanics, such as the betrayal, the Thing In My Stomach, the facehugger (version 1.0), and the teaser at the end. There are too many connections in Prometheus to Alien that you can’t write it off as anything other than a prequel, but the movie seems incredibly reluctant to embrace that connection while flaunting it elsewhere. As I said, it’s frustrating, and if anything it makes me want a proper Alien film (sans Predators) that we haven’t had for well over a decade now.
- Designer H.R. Giger, who worked on the original design of the Xenomorph Alien, was brought in to assist in reverse-engineering the design of the Aliens in the film.
- Charlize Theron found herself struggling during her action scenes due to her smoking habit, particularly the segments that required her to run through sand in boots weighing 30 pounds
- The androids’ names in the Alien films follow an alphabetical pattern: in Alien it’s Ash, in Aliens and Alien³ it’s Bishop, in Alien: Resurrection it’s Call and in this film it’s David.
- The moon’s name in the film (LV223) is arguably a reference to the the bible verse Leviticus 22:3
Peter Weyland: To those of you who know me: you will be aware by now that my ambition is unlimited. You know that I will settle for nothing short of greatness, or I will die trying. To those of you who do not yet know me: allow me to introduce myself. My name is Peter Weyland, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to change the world.
David: Big things have small beginnings.
Charlie Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers, to get answers why they made us in the first place.
David: Why do you think your people made me?
Charlie Holloway: We made ya ’cause we could.
David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Blade Runner