I was going to call this post “Why I am done with Ridley Scott.” I thought that was a bit harsh. We will see how it goes from here.
Last night I finally got to see Prometheus. It was in 3D IMAX. The film looked stunning, especially in the first half. It had a great sense of scale and depth showing us just how small mankind really is.
The story left me feeling a bit “Is that it?” Lots of the characters made stupid decisions:
- Surely they would have scanned the place before they went in?
- Why would they step in pools of liquid on an alien planet without checking if it was acid?
- How did the guy who sent up the probes to map the place get lost when he had already shown he could check his location?
- Why take your helmet off when on an alien planet – just because your computer says the air is breathable does not make it safe?
- Why open the cargo door when you have picked up the signal outside from a crewman who disappeared at the scene of another ones death?
- Why go up to a weird alien snake thing and tease it (especially as the character in question had previously shown signs of being nervous on the planet)?
- Why have music which sounded a bit like the Star Trek theme playing loudly through many of the quieter scenes?
Things like that left me feeling frustrated with it. All this talk of the film raising deep questions about life and they did not think through the little obvious things.
Like most Ridley Scott films it left me feeling slightly cheated. I enjoyed the look of it, but it all felt superficial with the illusion of depth created by the visuals.
I think one of the problems is that Scott has always been stuck in the advertising mindset from the days when he made commercials. He wants it to look good, have that lovely sheen that makes you want to see more. He sells a good movie, yet they often fail to deliver.
You only have to look at Blade Runner which was much maligned upon release. It was pretty much hated by many people. Scott famously tweaked and changed it until he had fixed many of the complaints. Yet it still has a feeling of emptiness about it. There is no soul. I suppose that works with the whole Replicant vs Humanity thing, but all of his films suffer from it. Would Blade Runner have been as good without the actors involved?
As Craig Grobler said during a chat on Facebook, his films are like a Minimalist Poster. It shows the small tease of what could be something so much greater.
All of Scott’s films over the past few years have left me feeling the same. I really look forward to them yet feel disappointed after seeing them.
Out of them all I feel Alien is my favourite. Again, like Blade Runner, this could mainly be down to the actors involved plus the great sets and effects. It also probably worked better as Scott seems to have approached it in a different way to all of his films.
As far as I am aware it is the only film he has made as a horror movie. Forget the sci-fi aspects. It is a good old fashioned haunted house type story – a group of people in a location from which there is no escape get picked off one by one by something scary. Most of the deaths also happening off camera.
It worked so well and makes me wish he had done more horror movies over the years.
I could go on but you get the idea so let’s get back to Prometheus.
There was all the talk of it not being a prequel to the other Alien films. It is set before them, has lots of references to the Alien movies so is therefore a prequel. True, it does not lead directly into Alien although the Space Jockey from that film could have been Dr Shaw in the Space Jockey armour and the chestburster was the remnant of the creature born inside her.
It seems in their desire to move Prometheus away from Alien, Scott and Damon Lindelof ended up being beholden to the first film.
Jon Spaihts wrote the original Prometheus screenplay and Lindelof came on-board to rewrite it as Scott wanted to go a different direction to avoid repeating cues from the Alien movies films.
It appears that they failed as Prometheus is chock full of cues from the other films.
- Female lead who is the last survivor? Check
- Android with ulterior motives? Check
- Android ends up being decapitated? Check
- Scene involving something coming out of a characters stomach? Check
- The female lead ending the film with a voice over giving a final log entry for the ship? Check
And so on and so forth.
They should have gone all out either way – make it totally Alien or go in a hugely different direction with maybe just the Weyland logo here and there. Hell, Soldier was set in the same universe as Blade Runner and that was referenced by having the wreckage of a Spinner on the junk planet.
Aside from the story there are good things about Prometheus. I have already mentioned the visuals. The set design was also superb. The interior of Prometheus seems solid and realistic. The temple/installation on LV-223 is creepy and all the better for being a practical set with little green screen. The creature designs were good if a little bit boring.
One of the main saving graces for the film was the mighty Michael Fassbender. His portrayal of the android, David, was fantastic. We see him watching Lawrence of Arabia and then looking and talking in the same manner as Peter O’Toole. As the film progresses his comments take on more and more of a sarcastic tone. He really did lift the whole film.
Idris Elba was also good as the grizzled Captain and Charlize Theron looked simply amazing in the skintight catsuit. Sadly the naked press-ups were a tease. She was wearing underwear at the time. Joking aside her performance was also good as the cold and efficient Meredith Vickers.
The rest of the cast – Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green etc – were okay. Nothing special just okay.
A flawed film and not the one we all hoped for. Maybe that is the problem. Our expectations were so high the film was bound to suffer in comparison. It also did not help that the film was over-marketed.
It all started well with the drip feed of information and things like Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland giving his TED talk and the promo for the David Android.
Then it just went all out with the trailers and TV spots showing aspects from every part of the film. Beginning to end is all laid out for your to see. It meant there was nothing left for the film to surprise us with. Seeing the Space Jockey battling a tentacled monster means you know it is going to happen taking away the suspense at the end of the film.
Oh well. That’s the way the movie business works I suppose.
Sorry if this ended up as a bit of a ramble. I promised a theory in the title and have yet to deliver.
The good thing about Ridley Scott’s films is that they do leave you with a few questions. Deckard being a replicant was one which caused many viewings of Blade Runner.
Prometheus does do this. Mind you Lindelof wrote Lost so he is good at raising questions that may never be answered.
The question I was left with was what happened 2000 years ago?
As the humans explore the alien structure David sets off a black box type hologram recording. It shows the Space Jockeys / Engineers running to their ship (we later see another recording showing they were going to Earth).
What caused them to want to get out and why go back to Earth to destroy mankind? What had we done?
Something must have broken out in the structure to panic them. Maybe as they prepared to head to Earth one of them dropped something dangerous. That’s not what got me.
Part of the film centers on Noomi Rapace’s character, Dr Shaw, being a scientist searching for the origins of mankind and yet being deeply religious and believing in God.
Stick with me.
Dr Shaw carbon dates the dead Engineer. It has been there for 2000 years or more.
What happened in the history of man over 2000 years ago?
Where the Engineers heading back to Earth to destroy mankind because of their belief in God? Did the Engineers think the belief was a dangerous mutation?
Another way to look at it is the Engineer at the beginning of the film is a renegade Engineer who maybe designed another genetic lifeform different to the Xenomorph resulting in Humans. He could also be a Prometheus type, stealing the technology of the Engineers for his own ends. Maybe there are different factions of Engineers – peaceful and warlike?
They are some of the questions I would like to be answered if there are any sequels to the prequel.
Oh and what did David say to the Engineer at the end? He was being manipulative all through the film and mentions how he wishes his Father, Weyland, was dead.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any other theories about the film?
Thanks for your time.