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Prometheus

Prometheus

What She said:

She

Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s much anticipated return to directing sci-fi.  The mastermind behind the much revered films Alien and Blade Runner, Scott is considered by many to be a sci-fi giant.  His latest movie is a loose prequel to Alien, following the crew of the ship Prometheus as they seek to come in contact with the Engineers (those elephant looking humanoids that we briefly get a glimpse of in Alien).  Of course, things don’t go as the scientists hope, and so they get mowed down one-by-one by scary, slimy creatures.  All the while, the crew contemplates the origins of mankind and what role the Engineers may have played in Earth’s evolution.

The trailers for Prometheus made it seem chilling and filled with action-packed suspense.  I’m sorry to say that the scares were not as abundant as one would have hoped.  The film opens with a lead-in explaining how the crew ended up on this years-long trip in search of the Engineers.  It stems to some discoveries made by Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway of cave paintings that they interpret as an invitation for mankind to go find these aliens.  Fast forward to Prometheus and Shaw and Holloway are leading the crew.  Of course, Meredith Vickers doesn’t see it that way.  She’s a representative from the Weyland Company who has some sort of ulterior motive for going on the trip.  And then there’s the android David, who has an even different agenda.  There’s a whole lot going on here, as the plot of the film gets pulled in many different directions.  The shame of it is that the storyline gets so chewed up by subplots, divergent themes, and big questions that it doesn’t hold together in a way that creates a wholly enjoyable thriller.

For all the time that Scott had to contemplate where he wanted to go with this movie, he certainly came up with a jumbled mess and ended up not going much of anywhere.  Dare I say, there were parts of the movie that were boring?  There were other parts that seemed kind of cheese ball, and I couldn’t help but laugh.  I did, however, enjoy the performances of Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender.  Rapace plays Shaw, whose curiosity gets the better of her.  Theron is Vickers, and excels once again in the role of a cold hearted stiff.  And Fassbender is the robot David.  He somehow gives a degree of range to a character completely void of emotion, and this adds a shroud of mystery him.  The other characters are complete throwaways; some are even annoying.  The aliens of the film, whether it’s the Engineers or others (and yes there are others) are pretty scary, but they don’t command enough screen time to help the movie along.

The cinematography of the is dark, yet beautiful and the special effects are relatively good (except for once or twice when they were cartoonishly bad.  Not sure how that happens.).  There’s a mystery to outer space that is intriguing, and Prometheus attempts to latch on to that.  But with so many unanswered questions, you’ll likely leave the movie confused and feeling somewhat cheated.  It’s a shame this film didn’t live up to all the hype.

Thumbs only a quarter of the way up.


What he said:

He

In 1979 Ridley Scott created the sci fi/horror classic Alien. When it came out it did a few different things.

First of all, it scared the shit out of people. Yeah, monster movies were nothing new and some of them even scared audiences, but Alien was different. It took a much more gritty and realistic approach than some of its predecessors. The sets, costumes, and creature itself look and feel very real. Audiences had never seen anything like it and that is what cemented its place in film history.

Prometheus

The other thing it did was create all kinds of wonderful dialogue (for nerds) that revolved around a very specific scene from the movie. In Alien, the crew of the Nostromo gets a distress call while on their way back to Earth after a mining expedition. They go down to planet LV-426 and find the alien ship responsible for sending the signal. The ship’s crew is dead and clearly not human. They also find some kind of cargo hold on the ship that contains 100s if not 1000s of eggs. My point is that once this happens, the crew heads back to their ship and ends up dealing with the one of the creatures from the eggs; which was not the same species as the crew of the ship. We never see the ship again and never know why this alien species was carrying all these eggs. The scene was only a few minutes long and drove nerds like me nuts (in a good way). People wanted to know more. Why was this mysterious species carrying these eggs? Where were they going with them? And most importantly, who are they?

Prometheus (sort of, but not really) addresses these issues. It isn’t actually about that specific ship from Alien, but rather the species of alien that was piloting it and their part – if any – in the existence of a certain movie monster. In this movie they are referred to as “Engineers”.  Archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) believe they found evidence of these beings existence and even know where to find them. They also believe they are responsible for the existence of life on Earth. They believe these beings traveled to our planet and planted the seeds of life; making them our creators. Shaw and Holloway manage to convince the super-rich and powerful Weyland Industries to fund their expedition. Fast-forward a few years and they are actually on their way to (hopefully) meet our makers.  

Shaw, Holloway, and a bunch of other people Weyland (known as “the company” in most other Alien movies) has hired are on their way to this mystery planet where they believe beings are. Though archaeologists, and not physicists, the two of them have a very great interest in figuring out humanity’s place in the universe; Shaw particularly. When she starts to theorize that these beings created us, it becomes her obsession to meet them. She wants to know the what, when, why, and where of it all. That is something I can identify with and was a big reason why I was so interested in this movie. It attempts to explore issues that humanity has been asking itself ever since it was intelligent enough to ask such questions.

Though Shaw and Holloway are "in charge" of the expedition, company woman Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is the one calling the shots. Vickers is joined by company employee and android named David (played by Michael Fassbender). This dude is just a little too polite. You know he is a machine and programmed to follow orders, but you just start to wonder what those orders are. Anyway, Weyland has invested a lot of time and money into this project and once they actually arrive to the planet, Vickers informs them of who is really in charge (and if you know the Alien universe, you know "the company" is usually up to no good). As always, somebody inside the company seems to have some kind of hidden agenda. It was kind disappointing that agenda was so obvious. It kind of smacks you in the face. I think it was trying to keep it a surprise, but it somehow managed to hint at what it was all along. Lack of surprise is actually what I feel this movie suffered from the most, but I’ll touch more on that later.

Once they land they waste little time in beginning this journey. They locate some kind of structure. Before long they enter it and start to piece together some pieces of the puzzle; though one could argue that these pieces were to a different puzzle, but I digress. If you are familiar with Alien, you know these types of situations usually don’t go well. Hidden agendas, paranoia, and a creepy crawly or two and you got yourself another Alien movie.

For as long as I have been frequenting internet message boards, rumor sites, and other forums nerds like me use to stay up-to-date on movie news, there have been murmurs that Ridley Scott wanted to make another Alien movie. He had been on record as saying he liked and enjoyed Aliens, but was not happy with the direction Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection took the series. I hear him on Resurrection, but I have always felt Alien 3 (David Fincher’s first film) was criminally underrated. There were even rumors that he enjoyed Aliens so much he and director James Cameron were going to collaborate on a new Alien movie.  I don’t know what happened, but the buzz died. Cameron was busy making one Titanic documentary after another at this point - and had simply stopped making movies - so it never really seemed like a legit rumor. I think Ridley also had some disagreements with the movie studio over the project’s direction. Anyway, rumors started to pop up again in 09 that Ridley Scott was making an Alien prequel. It eventually morphed into Prometheus; which is more like a spin-off than prequel. So as a fan, I was totally pumped to hear that it was actually happening. Ridey Scott – who brought us sci fi classics like Alien and Blade Runner – was returning to science fiction and the Alien universe he created.

Prometheus

By all indications, this was going to be a solid film. Trailer-after-trailer showed the same kind of tension and horror that Scott created in Alien 30+ years ago.  Unfortunately, it simply did not live up to my expectations. When I saw trailers for this I thought, “This is going to scare the shit out of me and I’m going to love it for doing so!” I was super excited to see this movie. If you frequent our site you’d know I have been posting trailers, clips, and images as often as I find them. But when I finally did see it, it really lacked the sense of tension and drama the original had. It was really very bland in that department. There was nothing close to a “Wow!” moment. Having just re-watched the original (review here), I can honestly say I was more intrigued by that and I’ve seen it more time than I can remember. There was just this sense of panic, curiosity, and realism in it that Prometheus lacked. Watch the two trailers I linked to above. Pretty intense right? Well whoever made those trailers should get an award because they managed to create more tension in those snippets than this entire movie did. There were moments in the movie that were supposed to do this, but the execution just fell flat. The same stuff is actually scarier in the trailer. How does that even happen? I didn’t expect this at all and frankly it shocked and disappointed me.

The movie also didn’t really answer a whole lot. It addressed some things in a very vague way and created even more questions.  I’ve already heard a bunch of jokes/comments about Damon Lindelof’s involvement in the movie. Lindelof was one of the creators and writers behind LOST; which sometimes had the reputation for creating questions and never fully addresssing them. I can delve more into my feelings on LOST at another time, but with Prometheus I found that to be the case.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wondered about that scene in Alien. What the hell is that giant thing sitting in the chair and why is its ship carrying a bunch of scary looking eggs? Though I didn’t get that answer, I did get to see a peek into the existence of the very same species.  Not everything was answered, but I did enjoy seeing a little more into what the “Engineers” were all about.  Though short, I really liked the opening sequence of the movie with one of the “Engineers”. I would have liked to have seen more stuff like that. However, one could argue, and I wouldn't deny it, that Scott completely changed what they are about and look like. It really didn't feel like the same beings from Alien.

I thought they looked very cool. I loved that the “Engineers” looked human, but not totally human, but again the original creature from Alien did not, and it felt like Scott simply changed movie history. The sets were also quite good. The inside of the ships, costumes, etc. were all fantastic. There was only one effect which I thought looked pretty bad and that was at the very end (shame on you Ridley Scott for using CGI instead of one of H.R. Giger’s designs).

I thought the acting was hit or miss - and mostly miss at that. Noomi Rapace was pretty much what I thought she would and needed to be. Her character Shaw is a dreamer who is forced to find an inner toughness she didn’t think she had. You can see shades of Ellen Ripley in her. That being said, it was nothing new.  Charlize Theron was wooden as super-bitch Meredith Vickers. She was as cold and selfish as I would expect anyone who works for Weyland to be, but it was simply a bland performance. Fassbender was quite good as the android David. He was the best performance of the movie. In this movie, androids are something very new to the Alien universe. He did a very good job of portraying that childlike curiosity that a new life form would have. He also had this kind of a sinister sense to him that made you wonder what he was really up to. He was different from the androids in other Alien movies, so it was actually nice to see something new considering the rest of the movie offered very little in that department.  The supporting cast was totally forgettable and that was not something I could say about Alien. The guys who played the two scientists who get lost and eventually infected were awful. They were one of the most talked about things when people saw the movie and that's not a good thing.

Prometheus

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in this movie. It didn’t scare or wow me at all like I thought it would after watching all the trailers. There was no single moment that stood out to me the way several did in Alien, Aliens, or even Alien 3. That aspect of the film was seriously lacking. That is actually my biggest complain about the movie. It just didn’t have a whole lot of tension or surprise.  

I would also be lying if I said I hated it. There were ideas put forth that I find myself wanting to know more about.  The ideas this movie puts forth about the creation of life were kind of interesting; though not entirely original (see Mission to Mars).  The story of the Engineers is what I enjoyed most about the movie. I felt it could have benefitted from more of it.

I also liked seeing Ridley Scott expand his Alien universe. He has hinted since the first movie there is a lot more out there than we see on screen and I always felt that way too. I had felt the premise of Prometheus was a good one.  I actually wrote about it a while back here. I would love to see more science fiction take advantage of the vastness of space. Not every sequel has to focus on the same character or sequence of events, so I credit it for doing what most sequels do not.

The movie also left a lot of open ends. I don’t mind a little ambiguity, but I left this movie feeling a little cheated. As the movie progressed and eventually ended it felt like little more than an advertisement for a sequel and I expected more than that from Ridley Scott. Alien was over 30 years ago and for all that time in between he should have given us something more substantial.

Despite liking things in this movie, I ultimately found it to be a failure.

Diagnosis: Thumbs down.

This movie review was given the He said, She Said seal of approval on June 11, 2012. It was updated on November 27, 2014

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