The Movie Scab Reviews: "Prometheus."
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Monkey Boy gives Prometheus 0 Acks! out of 5!
Two words first: Absolutely. Unnecessary.
Third word: Disappointed!
Let me clarify: believe it or not, but Monkey Boy and I were actually excited about this big summer movie. In fact, this is the first summer movie that actually caused my heartbeat to speed up when the movie theatre went dark and the opening titles began. Really. That truly and really happened.
Here’s why: I saw Alien when I was 12 years old in one of the last 70 mm CINERAMA movie theatres in operation. The words "big screen" do not come close to describing it. "Ginormous screen" is better, a wrap-around movie screen that was simply amazing, breathtaking and phenomenal to behold, a total-immersion experience. IMAX comes close in comparison, but at the end of the day? Nothing can compare to the size of those wrap-around CINERAMA screens.
I was a very lucky 12 year old to see Alien on a screen like that.
Anyway, I talked my mother into taking me to an R-rated movie because I loved science fiction and horror and, frankly, so did she. I’d read just about everything I could about the movie before seeing it, did my research via movie mags like Starlog and Fangoria, so I knew what I was in for. But my poor mother didn’t have a clue what she was in for. When the alien burst from John Hurt’s chest and blood splattered everywhere… holy crap. I was grinning from ear to ear. But the blood had drained from my mother’s face and I’m sure the words from the ticket seller echoed in her head: “Ma’am, are you sure you want to take your son to this movie? It’s very violent and scary. It’s R-rated, you know. For a reason.”
It was an awkward moment for my mother, riddled with guilt as she was. I remember how she looked down at me, worry and indecision scouring her face. The ticket seller’s words had made her feel uncomfortable, guilty, ashamed.
But she took me to see Alien anyway, God bless her, cementing the two of us as scifi/horror moviegoing partners forever.
And even though the blood had drained from her face when the chest-burster splattered blood everywhere, she was grinning from ear to ear just like me. She loved it as much as I did.
We loved it.
And similarly we did not love Prometheus, the prequel to Alien.
That’s right. I saw the prequel with my scifi/horror loving mother and this time she didn’t have to feel uncomfortable, guilty or ashamed because I was much, much older. Even so, when the end credits began to roll, she felt uncomfortable, guilty and ashamed anyway.
Because we’re fans of the Alien movies (1, 2 and 3 only—4, the worst of the lot, does not exist in our minds).
Above and beyond that, I deeply respect Ridley Scott as a director. He’s created and directed some of the best science fiction/horror in movie history and my mother would agree. For example, he directed Alien, Blade Runner and much later Gladiator (not a science fiction and not nearly as good as the first two mentioned, but pretty doggone good).
It’s true that over the past ten years or so Ridley Scott has been mostly making crap movies, from Robin Hood to Kingdom of Heaven to A Good Year. It’s arguable, but you could say that the last great movie he made was probably Matchstick Men. It’s like he lost his edge or something. Don’t ask me why. I have no answer. Maybe he needs Movie Making Viagra. And even though I’m a smartass and he may not respect me or my opinions, I still deeply, deeply respect the man.
That said: I have to say, if you’re a fan of the Alien series do not go and see Prometheus.
Scott Rudin said it best: “The scab you’re picking at is called execution.”
But how could Ridley Scott go so wrong?
Oh, let me count the ways:
First, when you make a prequel, the world that you’re creating has already been created. Thus, the “new” world of the prequel has got to connect in some way, shape and/or form to the movies that came before it. (Or after it, if you're following the chronology.) For it to be believable or in the very least accepted—in order to convince the fans of the Alien series—the world has to be technologically connected with the original. In Prometheus the technology looks more like Star Trek than Alien. I couldn’t help but think of another series of prequels that failed in a similar way. They were written and directed by George Lucas.
Second, the brilliance of the first film, and to a lesser degree the second and third installments, is that less is more. The less you see, the scarier it is, the more you like it. Watch Alien today and you’ll realize that Ridley Scott (back then) left most of the horror to your imagination. In fact, the alien is hardly discernible, other than its double-mouth and phallic-like head. Watch Prometheus today and you’ll realize that Ridley Scott (now) decided to show you everything in brightly lit CGI, and it’s blinding.
I swear, I thought I was in the wrong movie theatre. I thought I was watching Men in Black III. That’s how scary, brightly lit and silly the monsters are in Prometheus.
Third, when the brilliant and totally wasted actor Sean Harris becomes infected with the “weaponized DNA” and he turns into a killing machine monster? When the ten foot (or however tall) evil creator alien knocks Michael Fassbender’s head off and kills Guy Pearce? When the squidly alien-hybrid that came out of Noomi Rapace’s belly attacks the ten foot (or however tall) evil creator alien that created us? Those scenes and execution? All I can say is: OMG. Brighter is better? Bigger is better? Nope. Not in this case. It's just stupid.
And weak, weak, weak.
Fourth, who wrote this monster? Oh, that would be Damon Lindelof (Cowboys and Aliens) and Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour). Did I spell their names right? Well, it doesn’t freakin’ matter because I’ve seen Cowboys and Aliens and I’ve seen The Darkest Hour and they’re crap, just like this movie is crap. Those are some of the worst movies to come out of the Kingdom of Hollywood’s crap colon in the past couple of years, so what were 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott thinking when they hired them to write the prequel to Alien? This is why it makes total and complete sense that the writing in Prometheus is… wait for it… wait for it… crap.
Don't believe me about the screenwriters? Rent The Darkest Hour, fast forward until you get to the scene where the damsel in distress hides in a bus to escape the invisible aliens, near the ending of the movie. The hero is hunting for her, trying to save her, and she yells out directions so that he can find her. She even includes the number of the bus she's hiding in.
Some of the worst, and funniest, bad writing and dialogue I've heard in years.
Still don't believe me? OK, well, how about this: all the mystery of the Alien series is summed up in about two or three seconds of crappy dialogue in Prometheus when Idris Elba (who is very good in the role of the Captain) Spells It All Out For The Mentally Handicapped In The Audience So That They Will Understand: the aliens that created us created weaponized DNA to kill us. I couldn’t help but think of another series of prequels that failed in a similar way. They were written and directed by George Lucas.
Hey, didn’t I say that before? Weird.
Oh, yes, that’s right, now I remember: George Lucas explained away the mystery of the Force when he told fans of the Star Wars series that the Force was nothing more than a bunch of… microscopic bugs. Nice way to kill twenty years of wonder, George.
Ridley Scott, along with Lindelof and Spaihts (spelling?), have done the same thing with Prometheus.
It seems that Hollywood does not learn from its miserable and failed past.
Fifth, the original was light years smarter. The characters in Alien behave in a believable manner for people who have been used to living and working in space. (And at least the original dealt with the gravity situation! They give us “Artificial Gravity," but in Prometheus we’re back in the fantasy land of Star Trek where no one ever talks about the reality of traveling in outer space. Everyone’s walking around like gravity is in full working order, no questions asked—stupid, stupid, stupid.) Worse yet, the characters in Prometheus do not behave in a believable manner for people who are not used to living and working in space. Remember, in Prometheus this is humanity’s first big foray into deep space, first time alien contact, and since that’s the case, come on, let’s just say it: they behave like morons! They’re waaay too casual about the entire affair (first into deep space, first to a world like earth, first contact with an alien species would make people behave in a much more cautious manner). And they’re literal morons: two moronic space explorers meet—for the very first time in human history—an alien species of worm (or something) and one of them treats it like a dog. A dog. A dog? And he wants to pet it.
That’s some of the worst writing I’ve come across in quite some time. Fans of the Alien series, as a number of notable critics have said, deserve better. (And now that I'm thinking about it, why throw in high concepts about creation, God, faith and then go nowhere, absolutely nowhere with it?)
Sixth, when they finally get to the ending, what do they do? They rush it so that it ends up being dramatically weak. Man, I hate it when Hollywood does that. They don’t have to do it, but they choose to because they think we won’t tolerate another twenty minutes of storytelling, and most of the time they’re wrong because if they’ve told the story well we’ll happily sit through another twenty minutes.
Lord of the Rings anyone?
Seventh, eighth, ninth and blah, blah, blah: the scientists act like brain-dead teenagers and are, of course, as believable as brain-dead teenager-scientists on a deep space mission trying to find the origin of Life--in fact, EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER acts like a brain-dead teenager, which is about as believable as brain-dead-teenager-scientists on a deep space mission trying to find the origin of Life, and not only that, they have the depth of character of a puddle of dog piss on an hot asphalt highway in Death Valley, i.e., if there's any character depth it ain't deep and it don't last long because it's piss-deep on a super-heated asphalt highway in Death Valley and so it means freakin' nothing; they get lost in an alien space ship even though it's being mapped and they're being monitored from the earth-ship, and the mapping scientist-brain-dead teenager-scientist or whatever freaks out because they're lost and never mind; why does David, the robot, infect the brain-dead-horny-teenager-scientist with the black goo? Just because? He's having fun? David knows this little red-herring plot device will go nowhere and therefore it doesn't matter? In other words, David's motives are as brain-dead and teenager-like as the brain-dead-teenager-scientists running the earth-ship, which means that David is merely a plot device that supplies information that keeps the action rolling--above and beyond that, his character serves no purpose; even though they're on an inhospitable planet, when they're in the alien spaceship that has a small amount of breathable oxygen, for some stupid, ridiculous absolutely absurd reason they instantly take their helmets off like it's A-OK and the smart thing to do, the point here being they take they're helmets off, they take their helmets off, they take their freakin' helmets off, which never, ever happened in the first movie and would never, ever happen in real freakin' life--they would never, ever take their helmets off and the only reason they take their helmets off in this crapfest of a movie is because Scott and the moron screenwriters wanted us, the stupid idiots who paid for this fiasco, to see the faces of the actors; the black goo is what? What? What I ask you? Stupid is the answer; Noomi gets impregnated by a brain-dead-horny-teenager-scientist (they have time to make love and comfort one another) and then, because the baby has alien DNA, gives herself a computer controlled C-section that involves cutting her gut open, yanking out the alien baby and then applying countless metal staples and afterward she's A-OK for the rest of the freakin' movie, running and jumping and skipping and laughing and singing like she's in the Sound of Freakin' Music; when you're running from a doughnut shaped space ship that is crashing and rolling toward you, run to the left or the right and maybe it won't crush you; why, why, why show us an image of the "Alien Mother" carved on a wall and then have ZERO connection to the alien species and alien mother from the original series, and then, even worse, show us that the so-called "Space Jockeys" from the original movie are actually stupid looking Europeans wearing elephant-like space-helmets? It can't get lamer that that, kids--that's like suggesting Superman's face is a mask that conceals Mickey Mouse's rodent face. It doesn't freakin' work, right? Of course it doesn't! What Scott and his writing crew did is obvious: they found themselves in trouble because of the original movie premise with the "Space Jockey" and tried to write themselves out of it by suggesting the Space Jockey "skull" was actually a "helmet" and it failed miserably for all sorts of storytelling reasons that don't jibe with the original and also because... wait for it... wait for it... the Space Jockeys look like white Europeans! In other words, they're white, they're white, they're white! Why do they have white skin and look like big lipped, sad-eyed, da Vinci-esque Europeans? And why is this movie called Prometheus anyway? Check your Greek mythology and you'll see that the story has little, or perhaps even nothing, to do with it. But it sure sounds super smart and clever, doesn't it? Something to do with the origin of life and our Creators and Greeks and nudity and sex and nothing to do with the aliens we know and love, and, dammit, where are the scary double-mouthed aliens we all know and love and paid money to see? Nowhere in this stupid excuse for prequel.
And, finally, dear God in heaven just kill me now, the end: Ridley Scott and the writers leave it open for a… sequel. If the sequel is made, and I expect that it will be made (not because the movie has merit, but because it might make a pant load of money), the sequel will follow Noomi Rapace’s character as she flies in an alien spaceship to the alien home world to find out just what’s up. Since that’s the case, the alien monster—the one we’ve come to know and love with two mouths—won’t make an appearance. If the sequel follows the logic that they’ve set up, the movie will be about her entirely separate adventure and it will have nothing to do with the Alien series at that point because there cannot be any aliens (the ones we’ve come to know and love) in the movie!
Smart? Maybe. Maybe not.
Honorable mention: Michael Fassbender’s performance as the robot David is truly remarkable. He steals the whole show and his performance is almost worth, but not quite, the price of admission. In fact, all the actors give solid performances, including Noomi Rapace who does her best to carry this monster. Sadly, she doesn't have the strength, nor do any of the actors. Like Sean Harris, the actors are all wasted in this lame attempt at science fiction/horror, Hollywood's latest failure in a long line of failures. Clearly, Hollywood's meth-head-like addiction to prequelitis and reboots and remakes isn't worth the investment.
And the movie, as a whole, is a wonder to behold. It is beautifully imagined and filmed, the special effects are top notch, and once again Ridley Scott's visual genius shines. If only the plot was as beautifully and cleverly designed as the visuals.
My rating: find a copy of Mel Brooks’ 1987 Spaceballs, drink as much absinthe as you can without vomiting (the real deal with wormwood in it), and watch the dancing/singing chest-burster/alien sequence when the alien bursts out of the chest and then sings and tap dances, watch it over and over and over until you pass out so that you do not go and see Prometheus. When a solid, well told, much smarter science fiction comes out in the future—we can only hope—invite me and my scifi/horror movie loving mother and we will happily attend it with you. After a few glasses of absinthe. Just in case.