A Problematic Prequel
MovieMike - wrote on 01/25/17
Director Ridley Scott has been responsible for a number of iconic films since his freshman outing of ‘The Duelists’(1977). The two films that stand out above the rest have to be ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) and ‘Alien’ (1979). I don’t want to imply that either of these is better than any of his other films, but they do represent a benchmark in film making that has led to many other quality films in this genre. ‘Blade Runner’ is sci-fi meets western and ‘Alien’ is sci-fi combined with horror. Even the tag line ‘In space, no one can hear you scream…’ still evokes both intrigue and chills. I lost interest in the ‘Alien’ franchise after the third sequel and was sad to see the development of the ‘Alien vs Predator’ movies – it definitely cheapened the ‘brand’ (so to speak). When the first ‘Prometheus’ film trailer appeared in a set of coming attractions, it seemed to have more of a look and feel of the original film and I was totally drawn in by what was promised.
Noomi Rapace (‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, ‘Sherlock Holms, A Game Of Shadows’) and
Logan Marshall-Greene play archeologists Shaw and Holloway – a team that provided discoveries of ancient drawings that lead to the exploratory mission at the core of this story. They believe they may have discovered a race of ‘engineers’ who were once worshiped on Earth by various cultures and may have also been responsible for the birth of mankind. Representing the Corporate investment interests that sponsored this journey is Charlize Theron (‘Snow White and The Huntsman’, ‘Hancock’). She plays a very icy and driven manager of the expedition and her motives are constantly suspect. Rounding out the core cast is Michael Fassbender (‘300’, ‘Inglorious Basterds’) as the android that supports the ship while the crew has been kept in stasis. His delivery and demeanor far out-creeps the other android character of Ash (Ian Holm) from the original ‘Alien’.
But, the big question has to be: Is ‘Prometheus’ really a prequel? It seemed to incorporate a lot of the elements that showed up when the Nostromos landed on that non-descript planetoid so long ago. On this same question, Sir Ridley Scott offered the following statement: "While Alien was indeed the jumping-off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place. The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative."
After watching this movie, I can understand Scott’s statement much better, but what I can’t understand is why they only half-heartedly embraced the ‘strands of Alien’s DNA’ with the finished product. As a film, ‘Prometheus’ could have easily been a stand-alone project, without having an ‘Alien’ tie-in; but there was a perceived value in invoking the iconic predecessor, so the powers-that-be opted to just include a few bits and pieces that would make this loosely identifiable as being related to the original ‘Alien’ film. I applaud the effort, but felt ‘Prometheus’ would have been better served by lining up all the pieces that make up the story for the original ‘Alien’ movie. Without giving too much away, it’s impossible to state what these elements actually are.
There are a number of inconsistencies and non-sequiturs that dog this film and prevent it from rising to the level of the story that it supposedly predates. For instance, after the ship’s Captain (played in a gritty fashion by Idris Elba) makes a lewd proposal to Charlize Theron’s character, she delivers a withering repartee that underlines her character’s hardness – then after waiting a beat, tells the Captian to be in her quarters in 10 minutes. I really fault the script there for undoing all the hard work Ms Theron has put forth in trying to portray a strong willed feminine character. There is another a bit where a geologist who is responsible for mapping the team’s environment gets lost in the same surroundings. Then there is a high-tech, self-contained, automated surgical enclosure that is pre-programmed to execute delicate surgeries, but it closes up its incisions with staples! There are many more, but you get the idea.
In hindsight, it seems that the large ideas that Director Scott spoke of overran the basics of common sense and the smaller details that make any story all the more interesting. To be sure, ‘Prometheus’ does put forth some intriguing ideas and perspectives, but it ends up feeling like the film has bitten off much more than it can ‘chew’. If you are a true sci-fi fan, you should still consider seeing this. If you don’t examine the presented details too closely, ‘Prometheus’ is still interesting to watch – problems and all.