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Monday, June 11, 2012


Greatly disappointed in this film.  I'd give it 3 stars, just for great actors and great production values.  But not much "there" there.  Definitely a case of my expectations being too high.  I tried not to read much about the movie, and the few reviews I read were very careful not to give away plot points (though it must be noted that the trailer already shows you a lot - I would have awarded it Trailer of the Year, but now that I've seen the movie, what were they thinking?  There were tons of spectacular images from the first half of the movie, why did they need to include so much from the last 30 minutes?)

There's very little character development, though to be fair, none of the other Alien movies give the viewer any background on the characters - you learn about them through their job assignment and their interactions with the other characters.  But the other movies were almost purely about survival, and this movie was ostensibly about something larger, so it's more important to understand why the characters are there.  Especially Holloway and his "fanatic" girlfriend, Shaw - what kind of scientist is he (are they)? How did he and Shaw come to be searching for these cave paintings?  Why were they in a position to have their trip financed by Weyland?  And why did they assume that the petroglyphs were an invitation?

A few other burning questions I had after I watched (*major* spoilers ahead):

Why did the Engineer just kill everyone, especially after being spoken to in his own language? Did he not have some curiosity about the humans standing in his spaceship after unknown years of hypersleep?

Did Weyland really think that the Engineer would somehow instantly grant him immortality? And why did he bother to hide his presence? I realize it creates a great reveal later, but upon further reflection, why didn't he just openly come along? There's no reason for the secrecy.

Why did David infect Holloway? It seems like he wanted to bring the alien back to Earth (like the Company person always does, in all the movies), but if Weyland was along on the trip, why would he need to take anything back with them? And was David counting on Holloway and Shaw having sex immediately after Holloway was infected, thereby implanting an alien baby in her? Why would David assume that would happen?

Why did David know how to press the hieroglyphs in the Engineer cave and ship in the correct order to open doors? Why did no one notice or question this? (I understand that he studied the language, but how did he know the correct code? Every time.)

Why did Fifield turn into some kind of superhuman monster zombie and return to the ship to attack everyone? Wouldn't he just die after having acid blood hit him in the face?

What was that black stuff oozing out of the canisters? Where did the snakes come from - were they in the canisters, in a really small form, or were they in the room? Are the snakes a juvenile version of the octopusy creature that came out of Shaw, or a totally different creature? (Snake has same acid blood as alien in other movies.) If so, are they both bioweapons created by the Engineers?

What was the original cave that the explorers found? Was it a storage room? Why did it have that big head/statue in it? Was it a temple?

Why did no one comment on Shaw's condition when she reappeared after her C-section (an astonishingly bloodless procedure for her, which I can attest is strikingly different from real life).

Why did so many characters behave in ways that made no sense? Why did the geologist want to go back to the ship? He wasn't the tiniest bit interested in the discovery of alien life? Why did the biologist act so playful with the snake who emerged from the scary black ooze? He was terrified by everything up to that point (a mummified corpse, some sounds down the hall), but he wasn't even a little nervous about this alien creature? Etc, etc, etc.

Why were there (conveniently) additional ships hidden under additional hollow domes on the planet? Were they also full of canisters, and if so, why did Shaw risk riding through space with them?

What's the connection among the petroglyphs on Earth? Did the Engineers come to Earth and warn the humans in various places? Or are we supposed to think that the knowledge of the Engineers' genocidal plans (to build a weapon of mass destruction on the moon of a planet far away) was transmitted through our DNA, even though it hadn't happened yet?  (Larry suggests they're saving the explanation for the sequel.)

Why was Weyland played by Guy Pearce in old age makeup? I thought they cast a young actor because he was going to reverse age at some point, a la Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button, but he never did.  So why not just cast an actor of the appropriate age? Unless it was solely for the marketing campaign, including this fake TED Talk video starring Guy Pearce as his real age, portraying Weyland in 2023, which would be super crass and lame.

I didn't hate the movie - there were some fun moments, especially in the first half, but it was such a mess, and ultimately so unsatisfying. You just left scratching your head. We spent time discussing the movie, but not the larger themes or cosmic questions, just our frustration with the vast illogic and all the red herrings.

* * * * *

The guest reviewer at Forbes actually feels exactly the way I did about the movie, but just says it much better - here's a sampling:

While stunning to look at, Prometheus contains none of the class or the evenness of tone of the first Alien, nor the substance of the lofty subject matter it portends to explore. It is a silly movie, filled with characters and situations that aren‘t remotely believable, driven by blatantly obvious plot developments and devices.
. . . Also shamelessly stolen are characters, concepts, themes, and designs from Dark CityContact, StargateA.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indeed, finding a single original idea in the entirety of Prometheus is a chore.
. . . Alien worked because of Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ellen Ripley. She was a normal person like you and me, who found enormous inner strength when thrown into the middle of the ultimate claustrophobic nightmare, with nowhere to run. There were no giant, rolling spaceships. There were no screaming, alien-ooze-infected zombie attacks. There were nodeus ex machina squid monsters to save her. There was a woman and her fear, and nothing to save her but her wits and an indomitable will to survive. She was the opposite of the Xenomorph, the opposite of the murderous android, Ash. Ripley was human, and she embodied the very reason why scientists would travel to distant worlds to find out who and why we are.  Prometheus has no Ellen Ripley, no humanity, and as a result, says absolutely nothing about us worth hearing.

Here's a user review from imdb.com that also says it well:

The WHOLE MOVIE is a litany of ludicrous so-called science, schoolboy errors, and pseudo-profundity about the origin of species. Ironic really, when none of the crew would have a chance in hell in any sort of contest governed by Darwinian rules.

. . . There is spectacular cinematography and effects, but not one iota of originality has been squandered on plot, subtext, tension or characters - which are as shallow as the Prometheus's muddy little gene pool.

Ridley Scott is a hero of mine, but Prometheus is not the intelligent, emotionally satisfying prequel that Alien deserves. It's a derisory, empty experience - and anyone who loved Alien is surely too old and too smart to be fobbed off with something this bad just because it's shiny.

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One fun fact, amid my complaining, which I saw somewhere while obsessively reading reviews and analysis: the names of the androids in the successive movies are alphabetical: Ash, Bishop, Call, David.



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