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That covered, we can move on.
And yes, hello. Welcome back. It's nice to come back and write about movies again and what better one to kick back in with than the highly anticipated prequel/side-quel/whatever to Alien? Lets get down to it shall we? Brass tacks as it were. Prometheus, celebrated director Sir Ridley Scott's return to the petered out Alien franchise, is really rather stupid.
Yep. Stupid. For a film nominally about the search for the beginnings of human life, helmed by one of the smartest and visually interesting directors still working, Prometheus is monumentally bone-headed. The script, by Damon Lindelof from a draft by Jon Spaihts, is riddled with plot-holes and peopled by barely sketched and needlessly contradictory characters who blunder about and occasionally find themselves running into barely explored themes.
I barely even know where to start with talking about this. Before I saw Prometheus, I'd heard chatter that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But still, I went in with my high hopes. Slightly dampened, but still. C'mon, right? This was Ridley Scott returning to Alien territory. Alien is still the best all of the various Alien films and sequels; much like the horrific xenomorph that stalks the corridors and ducts of the Nostromo it's a sleek, fierce and deadly film. There's no fat on Alien's bones and it is still a remarkable, frightening film. Prometheus has no idea what it is. It tries for drama, dread, thrills, deep questions and more and comes up short on all accounts.
Let's start with the characters. The ship Prometheus is peopled with a huge array of extraneous barely seen characters who are summarily beaten and chewed and killed to absolutely zero effect. They're barely there as cannon fodder. Our main characters fare little better. Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw is a barely defined muddle of a generic "scientist". At various points she is an archaeologist, astronomer, xenobiologist and more. Oh, and she's also vaguely religious too. 'Cos science and religion y'know, man? Woah. Her partner/husband is even less well defined, seemingly only to serve to get infected with the space-worms they find and then knock up Rapace with an alien space baby. Yeah. Sure. Okay. Whatever.
Similarly wasted are Rafe Spall and Sean Harris as a stupid biologist and oh-he's-a-geologist? respectively. Spall is a nerdy biologist who, at his first sight of a (dead) alien body decides he wants to scarper back to the ship. But, after he and Harris get lost (again, stupid stupid plot-hole. Harris is the geologist for fuck's sake! Not to mention there's a big ol' holographic map back on the ship detailing all of the explored caves and where everyone is. And they all have nifty gadgets on their suits that provide them with co-ordinates. It is unforgivably bad writing that they get lost) and they find some mutated-alien goo worms that look exactly like penis eels with vaginas for faces, Spall wants to give it a cuddle. Freaked out by a long-dead alien but totally ok with a living alien creature.
Coming out slightly better off are Charlize Theron as the calculating boss, Meredith Vickers and Idris Elba as the charming, working-class pilot Janek. But they're not really given enough to do and the film would have benefited from focussing on them more. In fact, I would have much rather followed Theron's icy corporate type than Rapace's poorly defined scientist; she's a better character and Theron is a markedly better actor. Oh, right - and Guy Pearce shows up in old-man make-up as an elderly Peter Weyland 'cos... there are no old actors in Hollywood? And he's Theron's dad - which is just thrown out there arbitrarily and entirely un-revelatory.
It's Michael Fassbender, as the android David, who really comes out the best. Fassbender's performance is great from beginning to end; some of the best stuff is in the first 20 minutes and is just David hanging out, shooting hoops, watching (and cos-playing as) Lawrence of Arabia during the crew's cryo-sleep. He's fascinating to watch and you get the feeling Fassbender has been tricked into thinking he's in a much better film than he actually is.
Almost ironically, David is the most human of all of the characters. He really is more relatable than any of these other dunderheads. Upon discovering alien life - honest-to-gods proof or alien life and civilisations, not to mention being the things they had set out to find in the first place - there is almost uniformity in how the crew reacts: meh. Dead or not, this marks the most significant discovery in human history and no-one really gives a shit. Because Scott wants to hurry up and get to trying to scare you.
This seems like a lot of bitching, and a lot of bitching at surface details at that. Apologies but it's just, the more I've been thinking about it, the more pissed off and disappointed it's making me. This could have been, and really should have been, something more. Something larger than any of the Alien films, grappling as it does with the very beginnings of mankind. There was the chance for Prometheus to be an elegant, moving science-fiction film with some great terror thrown in. But Scott obviously no longer even cares about things like story, characters and themes. He's all about the visuals. And, to bring in some positivity, the visuals in Prometheus are suitably staggering. They are images of strange, otherworldy beauty; vast alien landscapes (some right here on Earth) that stretch to the stars. But now, much like his brother Tony, Sir Scott only seems to give a damn about how it all looks.
It just, aaggh! It's all so monumentally stupid. The second scene of the film has Rapace and her partner man finding a series of cave paintings on the Isle of Skye in Scotland - except the cave paintings are lifted directly from the Chauvet cave already and recently explored by Werner Herzog in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Sure, your average movie-goer will probably skip right over that but to me it is a perfect example of the lack of ambition inherent to the film. Scott and Lindelof aren't interested in exploring questions any further than just asking the questions. And by asking the questions, I mean they have characters, at various times, asking these questions directly.
Prometheus is a visual marvel, I cannot call attention away from that. It looks absolutely phenomenal - quite possibly the best looking film of the year. But there's nothing really going on underneath that. The film is all surface, desperately pretending to have hidden depths but failing to engage in any meaningful way. It doesn't hold a candle to the original beast and Alien still stands tall as the greatest of them all.
As a bonus: I think I've solved the riddle of Prometheus. In the film, the Engineer's (the space jockey creators of human life) are killed off some 2,000 years ago, just before they're readying to wipe out life on earth. And the question is asked (often but, again, barely explored): why? I think I have the answer. What happened 2,000 odd years ago in human history? Why, Jesus Christ of course. The Engineers got wind of this and that's where the decision came from. King of the Jews? Can't be having with that! The Engineers are inter-galactic anti-Semites. YOU'RE WELCOME.