I’m not sure where to start with this review. Ridley Scott, the visionary engine of Gladiator and top movie Blade Runner, is one of my favorite directors. He returns to the sci-fi genre after a 30 year absence to create a prequel to the first Alien movie. That’s good and bad for a lot of reasons. Let’s start where we left off, after where we started…
The plot of Aliens deals with the fate of a mining crew awakened early from cryo-sleep to respond to an unknown signal. They land on a remote planet and things go really bad. Among all of the great moments is an iconic shot of the exploratory group discovering “the space jockey” which is the fossilized remains of a GIANT alien, possibly a navigator or last survivor, sitting in a chair with his chest burst outward. It’s a foreshadowing point in Alien and creates the premise or unanswered question that the prequel, Prometheus hopes to answer.
Well, the question is: Who was that giant alien and what was he doing before the monster (Alien) got him? That scene also spoke volumes about the universe Alien was happening in. Apparently, a first contact with an alien civilization is no big deal. They boldly go to find the source of the beacon without any meeting-extraterrestrial-neighbor concerns. They see a dead alien and have no pause. In any other movie, a GIANT ALIEN SITTING IN A CHAIR might be a big deal. Nope, not in this universe. In Prometheus, the possibility of meeting the architects of humanity is the big deal. And so the company we all know and hate Weyland (before the Yutani corporate merger) sends out a group of scientists to pursue the riddle of our origin on a far off planet (yes, that one).
Everything begins with a trailer because that’s where the promises start. Noomi Rapace plays scientist or cultural archaeologist Dr Elizabeth Shaw, Michael Fassbender plays the ship’s cyborg David. Charlize Theron plays the corporate heavy Meredith Vickers and Idris Elba steals some shine as captain Janek. Everyone else is pretty much extra characters and Red Shirts. So far, so good. We have some really good actors, a legendary director and a monstrous (sorry) franchise. We have the visuals to match. Plus, an awesome ship as cool and Sci-fi functional as the Nostromo, a panicked crew running for their lives, a (finally seen) horseshoe-shaped alien ship being smashed out of the sky and [gasp!] the space jockey guy alive and kicking- even menacing our heroes! Whoa!
Sounds like a classic in the making until we remember that a director doesn’t make a movie, he films a script. The writers are Jon Spaihts (the TV-movie turned movie; The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof ( the mighta worked better as a TV special Cowboys & Aliens) who together, have managed to saddle one of the greatest film directors of our time with a script full of dead ends, plot holes and maybe some of the worst characterizations I’ve seen in a long time. We have scientists that don’t act like scientists…specialists that don’t do anything special and crew members that no one would pick for this mission or any other. And, I’m not even referring to the silly BIOLOGIST who wants to play Steve Irwin in a scary and dark tomb, on a scary alien planet, with similar results. No offense meant.
Oh the trailer got me. I watched it a dozen times and even watched the one where a fanboy slows it down so much- you can study every sequence and analyze every frame. Certainly a trailer is supposed to tease us about what’s to come. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes, the Prometheus trailers shows us damn near everything. It’s not that all the best scenes are shown; it’s that EVERY scene is shown. That trailer has exposed the meat AND the potatoes of every twists and turn- or at least the ones that matter. You can tell the movie was written to include all those moments as shocks- moments when you are supposed to be surprised or awed and basically taken someplace you didn’t see coming. But wow, the alien ship trying to fly away and Prometheus crashing into it???? How much better would it have been if we didn’t know that was coming? Going on more would bring out the spoilers so I’ll stop here.
In Greek Mythology Prometheus is the god who brought man the secret of fire and was punished for it. The movie Prometheus promised to bring us the secret of the alien before Alien and a tease that humanity might be punished for accepting that knowledge. After the 2 hours running time, I didn’t feel like I knew any more than I did after watching Alien. I heard there’s already a Prometheus II in the works. I hope the gods come down and give us the secret of good script writing before we try and answer any more questions surrounding the Alien franchise. I’m not a movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.