SPOILER ALERT: Prometheus was a terrible movie! In all seriousness, this screed will contain numerous spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie you might want to skip this and then after you watch it (if you must), lower yourself into this warm, bubbly tub of frothy vitriol.
I had a hunch it would be terrible. Not just because people always seem to mishandle beloved properties from yesteryear, but because I saw Damon Lindelof would be one of the writers. Most of you probably have no idea who he is, but he was a writer on the show Lost (probably the one who made every terrible, weird decision ever made on that show), as well as the guy who was somehow able to make a comic miniseries titled Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk into a very boring, dull affair, and take 4 years to do it.
First of all, let me excuse the frequently hacky acting and cornball dialog. These are staples in summer movies, and I like plenty of movies chock full of both. I can’t fault a movie just for that.
So what’s my beef with this movie? Pretty much everything, with the exception of the production design (which of course looked terrific), and Michael Fassbender’s android David (who deserved his own movie, which would have been much more interesting and rewarding).
If I understand the plot of the film (and I’m not sure I do, which is not the hallmark of cohesive storytelling), it is as follows:
Life on Earth was ‘engineered’ by a superior race of large humanoid aliens long ago, and then, due either to something in our genetic code or perhaps visits, primitive humans started drawing ‘star maps’ showing the location of these aliens. This evidence is found by two ‘scientists’ (I’m being kind and using the movie’s term) who think it’s an invitation to meet life’s creator, when in fact it’s apparently an invitation to come get beaten to death by your own severed body parts.
So they convince the Weyland corporation (of Aliens lore, of course) to finance their expedition. The Weyland corporation, in a baffling move, has assembled a crew of scientists who, in a similar baffling move, agree to get onto a ship and be put to cryogenic sleep to travel to a distant location without knowing anything else. Of course that’s a handy way for the characters to talk the plot along, but it’s also super stupid.
Which is okay, because these scientists are also super stupid. There’s a geologist (and geology becomes a pretty fucking hip profession 100 years from now) who ‘likes rocks’, and whose scientific expertise in the film is limited to setting loose two probes and howling like a dog. Then there’s the biologist who encounters an alien creature that looks like a giant, fanged penis, and his first reaction is just to grab it. It’s a shame they didn’t bring along more scientists, like a botanist who might just chew the first plant he or she saw. The scientist Holloway (aka the Main Guy) gets pouty and drunk the night they find the aliens’ ship and corpses, because they’re all dead. Holloway is in fact so stupid that the android points this out to us during one of their conversations. I’m surprised the audience didn’t stand up and clap when he’s finally put out of our misery.
This bumbling, bad news bears team of scientists encounters vases of Hershey’s syrup that, according to what the movie needs it to do, either kills people incredibly quickly or vastly mutates the life that touches it. It’s not really clear. As a human, if you have a teeny drop, you die in less than 24 hours, but if you pretty much bathe in it, you turn into a super-powered werewolf that’s almost impossible to kill. Just one of the many cool plot contrivances from Lindelof and Co.
After thinning the crew out by the aforementioned werewolf [How did he get to to the ship all wadded up like that? How did he turn his camera on when he was outside?] we’re left with no choice but to root for Noomi Rapace’s character, an unlikeable crybaby who makes you wish Ellen Ripley would run in and knee her in the gut. Another side effect of the Hershey’s syrup is that if you’re infected by it, and you somehow manage to fuck in that tiny window of life you have left, you impregnate the other person with an alien squid.
Conservatives of today, rejoice! Apparently the word ‘abortion’ is just not in anyone’s vocabulary 100 years from now, so Noomi Rapace asks the medi-pod for a ‘cesarean’. The medi-pod informs her that it’s ‘calibrated for men’, (medical science takes a step 500 years into the past 100 years from now) so she somehow manually tricks it into giving her an abortion. And make no mistake, the imagery for the surgery is every Pro-Life activists’ wet dream. After being cut open like a pig and having the fetus scooped out, Noomi is hastily stapled back up, you know, like in imaginary abortion clinics.
But that’s not the only surprisingly conservative undertone to the film. Noomi wears a cross around her neck (which the android takes away, in a display of mustache-twirling villainy), and later, after meeting the creator of life on Earth (who responds to meeting his creation with gleeful violence), she asks for her cross back. When the android questions just how stupid this decision is, Noomi just wants to believe, and trots out the tired platitude of “but who made THEM?” Who gives a shit? It certainly wasn’t the father of Jesus Christ. You just saw proof of who created life on Earth, and the human race. You watched it beat a bunch of people to death. I suppose this scene left many a Christian nodding in their seat, “See, even if I met an alien, that wouldn’t disprove the existence of God! This movie just proved that!”
As for these alien engineers, just how stupid are they? Despite traveling in interstellar starships that are operated via flute and jumbo toddler glow-buttons, they’re pretty stupid. They fly around in ships stuffed full of the dangerous Hershey’s syrup, which is used to either create or destroy life (again depending on the movie’s whim). When the engineer in the movie is awakened, his only goal is to get to Earth to apparently end all life. Or maybe create a planet full of super-mutants. Who can say, the script certainly can’t.
Other poor decisions I will hastily address:
-The old man makeup on Guy Pearce. Another laughably poor choice. I couldn’t tell it was Guy Pearce under all that makeup, so why did they use it? Why not just cast an actual old guy? The character didn’t even need to do anything physical! You could pay an old man Guy Pearce’s lunch as a salary!
-The ‘plot twist’ of Charlize Theron being Guy Pearce’s daughter. “You know what would be a REAL twist? If it turns out this evil corporate tycoon is actually the daughter of the other evil corporate tycoon!” When the movie dropped that ‘…father’ line I had to actually choke down a laugh.
-Speaking of Charlize Theron, watching her death scene I could almost hear the writers saying, “Wait, she’s still in this?” Her character was almost useless to the story, other than graciously flame-throwing Holloway to death.
The final nail in the coffin (which was definitely already heading into the grave) was the ending sequence. As a fan of the original Alien, I vividly recall the characters encountering the derelict alien vessel with the ‘space jockey’ seated with his ribs exploded outward. This being the prequel, I thought we were seeing the sequence of events that led up to that scene… until the space jockey got out of his seat, ran to the lifeboat and got killed by the giant facehugger. Still, he could have survived the attack and gone back to his ship, only to die when the alien burst out. That would have made sense and lined everything up quite nicely. But no, he just dies, and then an alien comes out.
Defenders of the movie say that the alien ship in Alien is in fact an entirely different ship from an entirely different situation. So, these very advanced creators of life fly around with very unstable cargo that keeps killing them? That makes it seem better.
Andy, relax, you’re saying. It’s just a summer popcorn movie. Don’t get so worked up over it. But it isn’t. It’s a film in the Alien franchise, which admittedly has a few missteps already in the family (like Alien Resurrection, which is now tied with Prometheus for best comedy), but is still revered by sci-fi geeks like me. Yes, the creators of Prometheus said this was a stand-alone movie, but it isn’t. It’s clearly trying to be the prequel to Alien! It uses the same title sequence as Alien. It uses the Weyland corporation from Alien. It uses the same alien technology from Alien. And perhaps most importantly, it has a fucking ALIEN in it. So don’t sucker everyone in under the banner of Alien and then deliver this steaming pile of garbage.
I don’t think anyone is still reading this.
(Thanks to Will Weldon to seeing this with me, listening to me yell in his car for a long time, and giving me some of the ideas written here)