Friday, April 19, 2013

Film Friday: Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus is perhaps one of the most anticipated films of modern times. Tantalizingly premised on the Alien universe and directed by Ridley Scott, who has redefined science fiction a couple times, this was a film everyone wanted to see. So how was it? Well, that depends.

** MAJOR spoiler alert **

The Plot

Prometheus opens with a truly inspired scene where a human-like creature kills himself so he can release his own DNA into a waterfall. This was the creation of the human race. Flash forward to two scientists (Shaw and Holloway), who discover a cave painting in Scotland, which they think tells us where we can find the beings who created humanity (“the Engineers”). Flash forward a couple more years and we are onboard the Prometheus, a spaceship on its way to that planet. The Prometheus belongs to the Weyland Corporation, the corporate quasi-villain of the Alien series. Weyland Corp. hired Shaw and Holloway to lead the expedition, but the ship is actually under the control of a woman named Vickers (Charlize Theron), though confusingly the ship also has a captain. So it’s not really clear who is in charge. Also among the crew are several scientists and android David (Michael Fassbender).
When they get to the world they are seeking, they find a man-made structure and they investigate. Inside, they learn that some disaster has befallen the Engineers. Some people die. Some twists happen. We learn the evil truth about the alien and the Engineers. The credits roll.

Where The Movie Excelled/What Sucked

This film is stunningly beautiful. It looks like science fiction should look. And if you know nothing about Alien, and you can ignore some problems, then you will also find this film to be quite impressive. The film builds a mystery quite nicely and it leads to some shocking moments. Its pacing is good. Its writing is solid for what it offers. The Engineers are beautifully designed (though the makeup to make Weyland look old is pathetic). There is a little tension now and then. And Fassbender does an excellent job of presenting us with a robot without morals.
The film also does an excellent job of raising really great issues. What if we were created by an alien species. Would that mean there is no God or just that there is a different God than we thought? The Engineers seem to be rather evil, quite frankly, so does that affect our nature? The film also raises the issue of the Engineers creating us and then deciding to kill us off. Why? Are we just a lab experiment that has run its course? Do they want the planet for something better? Did we turn out to be too dangerous? These are great questions. Too bad they’re never developed.

Indeed, this film has some serious problem, especially if you know Alien. If you’ve seen Alien, then forget everything I just said about the film creating mystery because none of the surprises will surprise you. The moment they say, “Gee, it looks like something came out of this Engineer’s chest,” you know exactly what that means and the mystery ends. From that point on, it’s just a matter of watching the alien evolve from worms to snakes to giant face huggers to finally the familiar form, though annoyingly, the film keeps acting like it’s surprising you with each step.

Moreover, the film is totally predictable if you’ve seen Alien v. Predator, because it’s the same movie. Swap out the Predator for the Engineers, set the movie in space, and you’ve got the exact same film: minority chick/scientist hired to lead expedition, Weyland comes along seeking a form of immortality, they find ancient pyramids where there shouldn’t be any, all ancient Earth cultures worshipped these creatures as gods, unleash aliens, run from aliens, scientist-chick fights back and saves the day, and aliens fight each other to the death. Same plot... same story arc... same characters. Unfortunately, this makes it very easy to guess what will happen next in scene after scene.
There are other problems too. Scott keeps trying to reach back into the prior films to take things that worked well before, but he doesn’t ask if they work here. For example, in Alien, the crew constantly argued because they were sick of each other and they were in the middle of a contract dispute. Hence, they were surly. Scott tries to recreate that here, but it doesn’t make sense because this crew consists of scientists who have only just met. Why would they in-flight and treat each other with contempt for no reason whatsoever? Scott also tries to repeat the idea of the crew being blue collar, as they were in Alien even though it makes no sense this time because this is a scientific crew, not a space freighter. Thus, even though they are all scientists who are put into stasis the moment they board, they show up dressed like grizzled lumberjacks and truck drivers in dirty work boots and flip-flops and they act like longshoremen. It doesn’t make sense.

Another problem is that most of the characters are meaningless. You could remove everyone except Holloway, Shaw, David and the Captain and not a thing would change in the story. Basically, it’s red-shirts galore. That means most of the setup, like the tension between Vickers and everyone else or between the various scientists is just pointless filler.

Even worse, there’s a frenetic twenty-minute period toward the end of the film where everything completely falls apart. It begins when Holloway is poisoned and turns into a monster and needs to be killed. Strangely, only Shaw is freaked out about this; everyone else acts like nothing happened. Would real people not care? Shaw then immediately learns that she’s been impregnated by an alien (through Holloway) and she wants it removed from her. David, however, decides to freeze her against her will. The reason isn’t given but presumably he wants to preserve the specimen -- the same idea as in Aliens. This makes sense at first, but a moment later he mysteriously lets her run away after beating up two doctors and he doesn’t even chase her. No one else tries to stop her either, or even follow her, even though they know she’s infected with something. That makes no sense.
She then reaches the surgery pod, which you would assume would be part of the ship, but they pointlessly made a big deal of it being something Vickers brought on board herself. Shaw climbs into the pod and has the alien taken out of her. It’s still alive, so she hits the decontaminate button and walks off. . . never waiting to see if it’s actually dead. What? She then stumbles around the ship like she’s dying since she just underwent major surgery until she happens upon Weyland himself, who faked his death and came aboard the ship secretly. Huh? The guy owns the company. He owns the ship. No one would tell him he couldn’t go if he wanted. So why do this in secret?

Bizarrely, neither Weyland nor David nor any of the new crewmembers with them act at all surprised to see Shaw, nor are they alarmed by her ill appearance. They chat as if nothing is happening, with the infection/freezing alien issue entirely forgotten. Shaw then leaves again to wash up. After she leaves, we learn that Vickers is Weyland’s daughter, and we just don’t care because it means nothing to the story. Not only does Vickers add nothing to the story, but her being Weyland’s daughter is never used in the plot in any way.
Suddenly, we’re off to see the last living Engineer. Once they find it, it chooses to attack them for no apparent reason. . . actually, the reason is that if it spoke to them, then it would need to say answer some questions and Scott didn’t want to answer questions. At that point, the plot returns to a simple chase film and sanity is restored. For about 20 minutes though, nothing in this film made any sense – not the actions of the characters, not the things they said, not the plot itself.

Finally, while there’s nothing wrong with science fiction films leaving ideas unexplained so the audience can fill them in, it is a cardinal sin not to at least give the audience some clues. This film, unfortunately, does this all the time. For example, it raises the issue of how the meaning of God would change if we were created by mortal beings, but it never addresses it beyond asking the question. By comparison, Tom Sizemore gives a four or five line speech in Red Planet that is deeper and more meaningful than all the discussion on this topic in Prometheus. Another example is why the Engineers would create us and then decide to kill us? Sadly, we don’t know. The film never even speculates as to a motive. Thus, there’s nothing to debate except “why might someone want to commit genocide?” which isn’t really that interesting of a question as it’s too abstract. It also strikes me that the Engineers must be clones, but that’s never mentioned. Intellectually, the film is a complete disappointment. It’s like someone suggesting topics you could discuss and then walking away without saying anything further.

Ultimately, what you get here is a film which is probably excellent for anyone who hasn’t seen Alien, but is weaker if you have. I enjoyed the film a good deal and it held up to being watched a second time. But I can’t help but feel let down. This is a film with so much potential throughout, but it always feels lazy to me. They raise ideas, but don’t address them - they don't even tease them. They constantly swipe from the prior films (almost every scene steals from prior films, right down to the heroine walking around in the same underwear Sigourney Weaver’s character wore). In fact, if this had been a film outside of the Alien universe, people would be angrily denouncing it as “a total ripoff.” They establish ideas they then ignore because they didn’t want to bother making them work. And ultimately, little in this film matters. You don’t care that any of these people are dead. There is no sense of terror that something bad will ultimately happen. And there’s no sense of wonder or the type of thought provoking that usually happens with good science fiction. That makes this a bit disappointing, especially as I think each of the mistakes was avoidable.

66 comments:

K said...

Probably just needs a couple more "director's cut" versions to get it right. :)

AndrewPrice said...

K, LOL! Probably.

Actually, ironically, the better movie is what happened before the humans arrive.

ScottDS said...

Truthfully, it's been so long since I've seen the film in its entirety, that I've forgotten a lot of what I was complaining about!

Re: Are we just a lab experiment that has run its course?... I think you might be on to something there. Humans were a rough draft, we were given a chance and screwed up, and now the creators feel we no longer deserve to exist.

Re: Once they find it, it chooses to attack them for no apparent reason... the popular theory I've read online is that the Engineer saw that we humans had engineered a creation of our own (David) and was offended by this act of sacrilege.

Again, interesting ideas but one needs to reach quite a bit to arrive at those conclusions. I've read defenses of the film that include quotes from the filmmmakers as a source and it's like, I shouldn't need to read every interview with the writers in order to make sense of the movie!

Oh, and here's one thing that bugged me... the scientists take off their helmets. On the commentary, Damon Lindelof (who rewrote Jon Spaihts' original draft) said that this was a "leap of faith" moment and compared it to the scene in Close Encounters when Roy Neary takes off the gas mask to prove the military is covering up something at Devils Tower.

Here's the problem: at that point in that movie, we knew what was going on. We knew Roy Neary - he was Everyman. The character of Holloway on the other hand, we knew exactly jackshit about him! And you'd think a scientist would exercise caution!

tryanmax said...

I don't know how you could even give this a second viewing. This film is needlessly complicated in a way that contributes nothing to the story so there's no reward in it.

But the biggest disappointment is that this wasn't even an original take on the alien creator/deities concept. Can we knock it off with the godforsaken pyramids already!? Ancient people figured out how to build them b/c humans are clever creatures and they chose the shape because it is extremely durable. No aliens required.

To be sure, it wasn't even really a take on the concept at all as pointed out with all the unanswered questions. The idea that aliens seeded our planet isn't shattering enough on its own any longer to carry a story. There needs to be more.

Dan O. said...

Good review Andrew. Some will enjoy the hell out of it, and I have no problem with that at all. But for me, it lost my interest and severed my ties to the story with a pair of rusty scissors.

Tennessee Jed said...

I didn't know this was based on/affiliated with the Alien films. An interesting review, and it does seem to me, slick production, while worth something, cannot overcome committing the cardinal sin multiple times.

T-Rav said...

Weird.

I've seen others bring up the "these have to be either scientists or blue-collar guys; they can't be both" point. It sounds like Scott was trying to produce the feel of Alien, but in a movie that required something very different.

Between this and the way Lost ended, I think Damon Lindelof's cred with the sci-fi community is pretty well shot.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

Re: Can we knock it off with the godforsaken pyramids already!?

Thank-you!!

I complained about this very thing in my Mission to Mars review. This sort of thinking is insulting and I prefer to quote Gene Roddenberry who once said, "Aliens didn't build the pyramids - humans did, because they're smart and they work hard!"

ScottDS said...

Jed -

There had been rumors for years about some kind of Alien prequel but the filmmakers tried too hard to walk the fine line between "prequel" and "spinoff" and IMHO failed. I think they were so focused on the mystery aspect of that (not to mention the marketing angle) that they failed to create a compelling stand-alone story.

I've remarked to Andrew several times that the best comment I read about this movie was something to the effect of, "Hey, remember when movies used to be self-contained?!?!"

Too many filmmakers are so focused on the mythology that they forget the story. Look at the original Star Wars - a good story, well told, in one movie. Fans were left to fill in the blanks until Lucas did it himself.

Now EVERY filmmaker seems to be interested in filling in those blanks.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax,

there's no reward in it

That sums this movie up perfectly. There is no payoff and there's nothing new or original. There's no personal story to latch onto. There's no drama to enjoy. It's just some things that happen against a very pretty background with a cool soundtrack. In fact, the only scenes that really light up the screen are those withe Engineers and those are left exploited.

The idea that aliens seeded our planet isn't shattering enough on its own any longer to carry a story.

Exactly. And Scott knows that because he dumps that in the opening frame. But then, rather than build on it, he kind of leads back to it as his conclusion. It's frustrating. It's like a movie that starts by showing you Person A murdering someone and then gives you clues until it reveals that Person A is indeed the murder. Hmm.

AndrewPrice said...

Dan O, Thanks! I have no problem with people enjoying it either. If this was the first Alien movie, I would probably be really happy with it. But having seen the entire franchise many times, this came across as just a ripoff to me that misses every opportunity it developed. That's why I could really see people being split on this. Some may love it, others will be completely turned off.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The production is very, very slick. This is easily the best shot science fiction film I can think off. This is top quality in terms of visuals and soundtrack. The story is ok as well, with some big holes. BUT if you know anything about the series, then it totally feels like a ripoff. And if you aren't willing to pretend that Scott asking big questions but then giving you nothing to think about beside the question, then it's not a good film either.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, This is a lot like Lost in that regard where they keep suggesting... "we're going to bring up some big stuff, just hold on." And then they don't really. They just toss out some big questions without any discussion -- is there a God, what if we were made by mortal beings, why would they want to kill something they created. Not only are no answers or even clues provided to those things, but those aren't even all that interesting as questions go anymore because they've been asked so many times.

Interestingly, the film does provide clues that you can parse if you want to. But the problem is that the film doesn't even give you hints to guide the conversation.

On the blue collar thing, the difference is this. If you were going to pick a bunch of scientists to take with you into space... you hire them... you take them aboard a spaceship... you freeze them and then wake them up:

1. They aren't going to look like they just came back from cutting timber in the mud.
2. They aren't going to act like they are in a biker bar.
3. There's no reason for them to start fighting the moment they arrive and to hate each other.

This was an attempt to copy the blue collar crew from Alien, but it made no sense in this case. This crew would have looked an acted a lot more like nerds on a field trip or at least normal people... not homicidal bikers hopped up on meth.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

On the lab stuff. Think about what we do when we create something in a lab. We don't let it go off on it's own now that it exists. When the experiment ends, we destroy it. That is probably exactly what this is. They tried to create something in their own image, they failed, now they destroy the experiment.

ALTHOUGH, that doesn't explain the rage of the Engineer when he sees the humans. He's acting like he needs to kill us before we do something -- like they think we're an out of control experiment.

On him being upset about seeing us create a robot, it's possible. But let me repeat what I said above to K, that's why the better movie would have been what the Engineers were up to and how it went wrong and then ending the film with a 10 minute bit where he wakes up and sees the humans. That would have been the really great movie.

Taking the helmets off made no sense. Even non-scientists wouldn't just rip off their helmets until they had a better sense that it was safe. You're on a dead planet after all. You kind of want to know why it's dead before you go breathing the air.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and tryanmax, Totally agree about the pyramids. I think it's obnoxious to pretend that creating something as simple as the pyramids needed aliens.

I also think they blew a chance for a cool reveal with the pyramids. It would have been much more cool if they had been drawn in by something man-made (like an energy signal) and found what appeared to be a mound. Then they investigate and learn that it's an underground bunker, which then turns out to be a spaceship which has been buried by centuries of dirt.

I had the same problem with the way the holograms were revealed. They should have told a story with them rather than revealing the ending at the beginning and then filling in a little later. They should have reversed that to create a much bigger surprise for the audience... "oh, they were going to Earth.... oh something went wrong... oh, they were infected... oh, they built the stuff!!" Rather than... "the alien killed them all... gee, they wanted to dump the alien on us."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, "Hey, remember when movies used to be self-contained?!?!"

That actually encapsulates the problem here. This film feels like it was meant as a bridge rather than a film. It was meant to provide you with information you will need to connect some dots between two franchises. Films shouldn't leave you feeling that way.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, I need to run to Denver today, so please feel free to discuss the film without me. I'll catch up when I get back.

rlaWTX said...

This was one of those that,as I watched it I thought, "kinda cool", but the more I thought about it, and then following a conversation with someone who had spent waaay too much time thinking about it, it didn't stand up as well. But it looked good doing it!

LL said...

I enjoyed the movie and understood that when I watched it that Scott was producing a derivative prequel to Alien that would be the first of three. I disagree that Vickers was unimportant. She tied a lot of loose ends together with Wayland from a plot point of view and Charlize Theron is just about the finest eye candy on the planet (IMHO - I'd buy her a condo and a corvette at the drop of a hat).

It may be that I'm simply not picky enough - but it's the best Sci-Fi that I've seen in a long time. I'm a big fan of both the Predator and Alien franchises, so there is my prejudice.

El Gordo said...

"On the commentary, Damon Lindelof (who rewrote Jon Spaihts' original draft) said that this was a "leap of faith" moment and compared it to the scene in Close Encounters when Roy Neary takes off the gas mask to prove the military is covering up something at Devils Tower."

What an idiot. I guess that´s what you get when movies are made by people who know nothing but stealing from other movies.

A large part of Close Encounters is about Roy Neary being "invited" and figuring out where to go. We in the audience have seen the UFOs are real. We know he has been told to go to Devil´s Tower. We know he has reason to suspect that the government is just trying to clear the area with a scare story. We have actually seen the government guys plan their deception.

Totally different thing, Lindelof.

K said...

tryanmax: Can we knock it off with the godforsaken pyramids already!?

You hit on one of my big resonances. Film makers too scientifically and historically illiterate to believe humans could be responsible for their accomplishments.

= Independence Day.

ScottDS said...

El Gordo -

You raise an interesting point - Spielberg and many of his peers were raised on and subsequently inspired by the movies and television they grew up with...

...but now, many of the people making blockbuster movies were inspired by Spielberg and Co.

I'm no literature expert (far from it!) but it's like a copy of a copy. We're borrowing from the borrowers now!

ScottDS said...

K -

You're right that too many filmmakers aren't scientifically-inclined - this program was set up to fix that - but I think it's more a case of trying to find a new twist to a story, and not any kind of anti-human sentiment.

But the new twist has now become the old twist and the "aliens built the pyramids" thing is cliche.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I think it's a gorgeous film. This is how science fiction should look and I love that part. It's just that the film felt very rote to me, not at all creative.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, This may well have been the best sci-fi in a long time, though I think that's more of an indictment of modern science fiction than anything. As I say, I think the films is gorgeous and it's got some great elements. And if you take it completely independently then, it's probably a rather good science fiction film. But to me, it just didn't work. I didn't hate it. It just left me saying, "meh".

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, I agree. The scene in Close Encounters was set up long before it happened and it was a key moment in the film where this guy's convictions were challenged -- either he's right or he's crazy. Taking off the helmet here just seemed more like some drunken college student acting on a bet that no one really made with him.

Bill: "Oh, you don't think I'll do it?!"

Others: "We don't care, Bill."

Bill: "Seriously, I'll do it."

Others: "Whatever Bill, no one's paying attention anymore."

Bill: "Fine, if you doubt me then I'll prove it."

AndrewPrice said...

K and tryanmax, I don't mind it when it's done the right way, like taking some genuine ancient mystery and spinning it into a story. But I think it's beyond cliche at this point and it has reached the point of being offensive because of the constant implication that humans were too stupid to get from where they were to today.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It strikes me that entertainment is always about people stealing ideas and then trying to make them better. I don't think the problem here was just the theft, it was the fact they missed the substance of what they stole.

For example, they should have made some point about arguing whether or not the Engineers would need to breathe the same air we do. Then they could pretend they don't have sensors to test the air and the guy could take his helmet off to prove that the Engineers were our creators after all. That would have made the moment meaningful.

As for they pyramids... yep, Clicheland.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

My point wasn't about stealing ideas per se, but that many of the people making movies now grew up with nothing but movies and TV - it's all they know, and sadly I fall into that category as well.

And one of the points I had to cut from my MegaCon article was the possible danger of letting the geeks and the fanboys take over Hollywood. Sure, Joss Whedon made a miracle with The Avengers (a movie that was wonderfully entertaining considering everything against it)... but it doesn't mean every sci-fi/fantasy movie needs someone with "geek cred."

When Nicholas Meyer was asked to do Wrath of Khan, his reply was, "That's the one with the pointy-eared guy, right?"

And for anyone still reading, if you haven't done so already, check out my geek article! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't buy the idea that geek-cred is a good thing. I think that the best stories are those told by people who are good storytellers first and foremost. Those people can make good stories in any genre. The geek-cred guys, in my experience, tend to be lost in the weeds and miss the bigger picture.

That said, you don't want someone who disdains the genre. What you really need ideally is an excellent storyteller who is looking for a challenge of telling a great story in a new genre.

I got your point on knowing nothing but television, but I was just expanding on it.

ScottDS said...

Speaking of sci-fi...

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's true in some ways, but in other's it's backwards. Part of the problem I have with so much "sci-fi" today (as seen again in "Defiance") is that it turns into generic soaps set in strange places. Then it follows the monster of the week formula as we watch these generic character who supposedly become our friends. Blech. That makes all of these shows very predictable and rather lame. In fact, if you know what to look for, you can map out how each character will evolve and what types of episodes are coming up. It's pure formula.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, Scott (and whoever else is interested), here are some thoughts on the film...

1. Love the score.

2. The Engineers are clones (all male, all identical).

3. They are religious -- hence the huge head statue. That kind of makes the question of God in the film kind of silly since the real question should be if the Engineers believed in God, not if the existence of the Engineers kills God.

4. I suspect what they were trying to do with the humans was play God and create their own species. They probably went to destroy the humans either after they realized that we weren't the noble creatures they thought we were. I assume, like most people, they saw themselves as angelic creatures and they overlooked their flaws as an aberration. Thus, when they created us and we had the same flaws, they saw us either as a failure or as an affront to their own self-image and they decided to wipe us out to put their mistake behind them.

5. I don't understand the action of the Engineer unless he's frightened. What troubles me is why he doesn't react with hostility when they punch Shaw. That should be the moment his expression changes because he sees the ugliness of the humans, but he doesn't. He doesn't get upset until David speaks to him. That's when he first becomes almost happy and then rips David's head off without a change in expression. The whole scene doesn't work unless he suddenly realizes that his mission is in danger.

tryanmax said...

Just saw Oblivion. It is better than Prometheus. Back-handed compliment? Perhaps.




Tom Cruise should never be allowed to do V.O.s.

AndrewPrice said...

I have to say that the ads for Oblivion are rather enticing. BUT, I am assuming that it goes somewhere original and that it doesn't just end up in a generic formula.

tryanmax said...

I'm still processing the movie, but I feel safe saying Oblivion was more original than I expected. It doesn't really tackle anything new, but it combines a lot of sci-fi tropes in a good and coherent way. What makes it work is that you know everything you are told up front is a lie, and the intrigue comes from discovering the truth along with the main character. One thing that is absolutely refreshing: the hero isn't just "along for the ride." He actually propels the story.

AndrewPrice said...

That is refreshing. I'm really sick of the passive hero which Hollywood uses almost exclusively now.

shawn said...

When I saw the first preview for the movie, I was psyched because Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time. When I saw the second preview, I was less enthused as it looked like it was going to yet another retread. Then I saw the movie, and yes, it was a retread of Alien. Only not as good. As Andrew says, Prometheus is a technical marvel to behold, sets, cgi, cinematography- all are gorgeous to look at. But the movie is filled with stupid people who do stupid things and any talk of the origins of life are not particular thought provoking or well explored. I don't know how much of the blame lays at Lindelhof's feet as from the interviews I have read of Scott, he clearly had in mind some grand themes which he really show or tell very well in the movie.

ScottDS said...

Andrew (and shawn) -

After watching the 3-hour behind the scenes documentary on the Blu-Ray, I'm not entirely sure Ridley Scott knew what the end product was going to be. They had to re-shoot a few scenes and some other stuff was cut (which is normal for most movies), but it seems that they also just threw a lot of ideas on the wall to see what stuck.

Here's is a list of the major differences between Jon Spaihts' original draft and Lindelof's revised draft.

As far as the music, I liked the theme and the reprise of Goldsmith's Alien theme for Weyland's message, but that's about it.

shawn said...

Oops, that should read- he had in mind some grand themes which he didn't really show or tell, very well in the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, That's a great description -- a technical marvel that felt like a second-rate retread and missed every opportunity to say something interesting. I am amazed how many times they approach the question of "is there a God," for example, but how each approach is little more than "There is no God, you know that right?" and they leave it that. There's no debate, no evidence suggested either way, and no nuance to the question either. Ultimately, I think the film actually takes the stance that there is a God, but it doesn't tell you why. The characters just assume there is after everyone who said there isn't has died. Even David says there is -- "Have a good journey" (to Weyland). It's like someone went through and ripped out everything after the first line of each debate.

It's disappointing.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, This feels like a film with a lot of reshoots and changes at the last minute with ideas being butchered and others being tossed in half-baked in the process.

I thought the main theme was fantastic (the one they use when he discovers the space map).

Ty in TX said...

As to the discussion about Earth being seeded by aliens. That is a *VERY* old plat device.

There was an episode of the original B&W The Twilight Zone, where you see a rather American sounding Col. Adam has crash landed his ship on this nicely forested world only to find out that not only can rescue not come for him, but an enemy craft has crashed too. After some scenes of fighting another person in a space suit, Adam eventually convinces the enemy that they are alone, they need to give up the war and learn to cooperate if they wish to live. The enemy agrees, takes the helmet off and surprise it's a girl, sounds kinda Russian. He introduces himself to her and she responds here name is Eve something. By this point if you have half a brain, you can see where this is going. And sure enough as they walk away, hand in hand, Rod Serling voice says: "The same story, but a different telling, in the Twilight Zone."

So in this one episode you've got Enemy Mine and every freakin' "we're actually the aliens" story ever made.

And yes. We are actually capable of building pyramids for God's sake....we made the Great Wall of China for crying out loud.

AndrewPrice said...

Ty, The idea that we didn't build the pyramids is an old conspiracy theory of the UFO age. It's premised on willful ignorance, where the theorist pretend that certain things must be true that aren't true:

1. The builders needed to leave exact plans. Since they didn't, it must have been aliens.

2. It is impossible to carry large objects across any distance.

3. Ancient people weren't smart enough to invent tools. And just because we no longer do something a certain way means it was never done that way.

4. The stars haven't changed in 2000 years. (Deals with alignment.)

5. If they did build these things, they should have left work materials lying around to be found.

All of this is garbage, but it's the "facts" the theorists use to peddle their theory.

Ty in TX said...

oh yes, I'm familiar with the conspiracy theories surrounding the pyramids...to quote a popular meme: Aliens! :)

AndrewPrice said...

That's the one!

Anonymous said...

Well, I haven't seen 'Prometheus,' but, then again, I don't see too many new releases these days. Still, even though I now know the plot, it still seems like it's worth viewing.

On that note, this movie has been prime fodder for parodies. Like this one. Or this one. (WARNING: one or 2 liberal sucker-punches may be involved. Proceed with caution.) I should mention this last one is from a series that ScottDS introduced me to when he posted a link for the episode concerning 'The Room.' (On that note, Scott, I blame- and thank- you for my latest Youtube addiction.)

Also, here are some questions that may or may not have been asked on this thread so far.

And why has nobody mentioned the character who tries to run away from the falling column by running in its path instead of running to the left or right? It's practically become an Internet meme!

Bye the way, Andrew, are there any more reviews from the 'Alien' series coming up? I'd like to spill my guts about how the first movie was ruined for me by something I saw on an episode of MST3K.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, There are indeed more Alien reviews coming up over time. I think Scott is doing Alien 3 soon actually.

As for running in a straight path... yeah, that's pretty stupid. I guess I could see if it was a panic thing, but it's such a slow collapse that it seems like you would be out of panic mode. I will say though that I thought that was a really well shot scene in terms of the effects and the visuals all around. It was very believable, even if the one character's actions are kind of stupid.

Red Letter Media... awesome! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, That's awesome! "what if the mission involved a gang bang"... LOL!

What a great list of questions -- they are all spot on. This film really has some serious flaws once you start using your brain to think about it.

ScottDS said...

Rustbelt (and Andrew) -

I forgot to mention the running in a straight path routine - even in the movie theater, that annoyed me!

As for the "Everything wrong with X" series, I enjoy it but the guy is waaay too snarky for his own good and some of his criticisms are, uh, not exactly legit. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I just watched a couple (Transformers, Battleship). And while I would say that 90% of what he says is right, the other 10% do feel like he's just being a jerk. Still, it's pretty funny stuff.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Andrew. I'll save that explanation for later, then.

It's just that the running scene has become quite the gag. Even the RLM guys mentioned it in their 'Best of the Worst' review for the film(?) 'Deadly Prey.'

Also, on the subject of ancient alien astronauts, I was looking at 'Alien's' Wikipedia entry. (Which I swear I try only to use for pop culture purposes.) According to the info, in early drafts, the Nostromo crew was originally supposed to find the alien eggs in...*gulp*...a pyramid-like structure with hieroglyphs depicting the alien life cycle. This was thankfully scrapped only because of budget issues. (Sometimes limiting what artists can do can be a good thing!)


Also, at the end, the alien was originally supposed to decapitate Ripley and record her final log entry in her voice. (Hey, I know this was 5 years before Terminator came out, but I'm calling grand theft T-800!) Fortunately, the suits made Ridley Scott change his mind.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, In general, I think studio interference works wonders when it stops a director from doing something. It rarely works well when it adds something to a film.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I do agree about running in a straight line-- not smart, but the scene itself was beautifully shot and it felt very real.

Anonymous said...

Scott, I have to agree. Personally, I think the guy's gotten more snarky the more episodes he's done. The same thing goes for the 'Honest Trailers' crew.

But good quality stuff is hard to find these days. So, I try to take the good stuff with the bad.

-Rustbelt

tryanmax said...

So, I just watched a video purportedly explaining Prometheus. If correct, it actually reveals more problems with the film:

1) There's an extreme reliance on outside sources, such as the phony Weyland Corp. website, interviews with writers, directors, etc., and promotional material. Call me old school, but I believe a film should be reasonably self-contained.

2) According to some interviews, the point of the movie is simply to make you ask the questions. In other words, the film raises questions and the audience is supposed to say, "Wow! What a great question!"

3) Many of the character questions were rebuffed rather than answered with insistence that inconsistent human behavior is actually consistent human behavior.

5) Many other questions are rebuffed by insisting the object of the question is intentionally vague.

Lastly, the ultimate conclusion is highly speculative and, I contend, cannot be reasonably drawn from the movie. That being, that the Engineers seeded Earth with humans to serve the express purpose of being hosts for xenomorphs.

In addition to being beyond the scope of what the film provides, it's also senseless.
1) It is revealed across the franchise that xenomorphs need no specific species to serve as host--unless the Engineers specifically human-based xenomorphs, which seems rather persnickety considering the creatures are just as deadly in any form.
2) If the Engineers are such masters of DNA, why wouldn't they develop a creature that requires fewer steps in its life cycle? Surely in the same amount time they allowed for humans to evolve to a state suitable for xenomorph hosting they could just as well develop a solution to the complicated life cycle.

So, points for the effort and find coherence in the film, but major demerits for end result.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Wow, yeah.

1. Films should always be self-contained. I understand allusions and the such, but even then, you should be able to understand what is meant just from the film itself. Once you start telling people to buy a guide to the film, then you have made a poor film.

2. The questions they ask aren't smart enough to be standalone questions: (1) Is there a God, (2) what if we were made by other mortal beings, (3) why would some hypothetical race we know nothing about want to kill us after supposedly creating us. Those aren't questions that open debate in a film. Those are so generic and so oft-asked that they are not fertile grounds for conversation. This sounds like someone who didn't really know what they were talking about and are hoping that we all see something in the film and run with it.

3. Most of the human behavior in this film is nonsensical and random. Saying that this is typical of humans is seriously flawed. People are consistent in their nonsense, not random. This film mistakes random behavior for normal, when it really isn't.

4. The explanation of breeding humans to serve as hosts makes no sense at all. For one thing, why wait thousands or millions of years (not clear) for humans to evolve before bringing the xenomorphs? Surely they could knock out some clone babies quicker.

Also, why not engineer the aliens directly?

It makes a lot more sense that the humans were an attempt to play God and for political or scientific or religious reasons, they decided the experiment needed to end and the test subjects destroyed. Then, when the guy sees us, he freaks out because we've escaped the petri dish and have infected the universe.

tryanmax said...

Oh, one thing I meant to include but forgot: the "explanation" revealed all kinds of allusions to Christ. I'm sorry, but generally speaking, any film and especially sci-fi that loads up on Christ references is obviously trying to compensate for something. "Look! I'm drawing connections to Jesus! I'm deep!"

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, I agree. Allusions to Christ are the kindergarten version of allusions... so easy that anybody can do them and pretend to be deep. You get no credit for those.

And that's especially silly as this film really has nothing to do with Christianity specifically or Christ the person. In other words, if they were going to say that Christ was an Engineer, that would be something that would make the allusions meaningful, but they didn't say that. Instead, they just said, "Is there a deity who created all life." That's not Christian specific.

tryanmax said...

Unfortunately, the "explanation" video I saw only made the film seem worse to me. It caused me to think about all the wasted possibilities. Here are a couple:

- The film makes clear that the Engineers created humans, but isn't quite so clear that they mean to destroy us, let alone why. The intent to destroy should have been made crystalline so that the question of why could be better explored.

- The Engineers have clearly combined their science with their religion to a high degree--something quite opposite of what we are doing at present. This is a theme that could be deeply explored all by itself.

- This one's a little further out, but what if the Engineer who seeded the planet was a rouge? One who saw a greater potential in humans than the other Engineers? Granted, that would require massive script reworking, but it would have been a cooler jumping off point than the typical, "humans as an invasive species" angle.

Ty in TX said...

Andrew, also Christ allegories are getting to be kind of cliche. Saw it in Alien 3, Matrix Revolutions, Superman the Motion Picture, even more ham handed in Superman Returns. I'm sure there's more, I just can't think of them.

Frankly, I think it's become such a cliche through lazy and unimaginative writing. Chariot of the Gods type story telling doesn't have to rely solely on Christianity. There's other pantheons and deities that can be alluded too. Stargate SG-1 did that by mixing in other aliens that had names adopted by the Norse to become their gods.

Christ as an Engineer? That would certainly change the Nativity story...."For unto this night is born a savoir. He's 9 feet tall, has turquoise skin and a really short fuse."

AndrewPrice said...

As I said above, I think the great film they missed is the one which focuses on the Engineers. For example...

1. The Engineers create humans (a) as an experiment or (b) to play God or (c) they were breeding us for some purpose (e.g. they need an army).

Then either....

2. Something goes wrong with the experiment,
2. The experiment runs its course.
2. There is a theological change which requires us to be wiped out because we now offend their view of God.
2. The war is over and they no longer need us as an army.
2. Some Greenpeace rogue Engineer decides to wipe us out.

So they decided they need to wipe us out to prevent us from spreading across the galaxy and becoming dangerous. They develop a disease that should do it, but one of them becomes infected. The disease mutates and becomes a growing worm-like lifeform, which kills everyone except the one guy to get into stasis. Since the whole thing was secret, no one will visit the planet and no one knows about earth.

The film focuses on the sleeper.... time passes. He wakes up to discover that the humans have continued to evolve for thousands of years and now have come to him. He's faced with a question of what to do, so he tries to learn about the humans and decides he must wipe us out after all for __ reason. (Or you can go ironic and he and do some sort of, he meant to save us, but things went wrong).

I think that would be a much better film all around.

And even better movie would have been: the Engineers are clones who were created by some race that has since died out (at the hands of the Engineers). The Engineers create us in an attempt to recreate this perfect race of supreme beings that created them. But they don't like how we turned out at all because we aren't the perfect beings they expected, so they come to kill us, but things go wrong (see above). It then turns out that we are the same race as the people who built the Engineers, but the Engineers can't accept an imperfect creator, so they want to wipe us out and keep trying until they "get the formula right" and they create the perfect creators. Kind of a "man creates God" idea.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, the idea of the whole "kill humanity with the xenomorphs" idea is kind of stupid. Since they clearly can do what they want with DNA, why not just invent a 100% lethal virus? They have created a Rube Goldberg killing device in the Aliens who will end up making the planet into a murderous mess. Just make a killer flu.

AndrewPrice said...

Ty, It's totally cliche. It's become so common that it offends my intelligence at this point. It's like anyone who wants to make their movie sound deep but doesn't know how just needs to toss in a couple obvious Christ allusions and then everyone acts impressed because they got the meaning of the film.

If you want to see the idea of Christ as an alien, check out John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness." That's got a really neat idea in it (plus, it's a genuinely scary horror movie).

Prince of Darkness

They offer a built in explanation for why people wouldn't know the truth -- basically the early church lied and covered up Christ's origins. And they turned his warning of genuine evil into an idea rather than a being, and humanity ran with the idea as a theory more than a reality. It's a neat twist on the idea.

tryanmax said...

Prince of Darkness is a great counterpoint to Prometheus b/c it is the type of movie that raises questions, but it doesn't dictate what the questions are like Prometheus does. I guess that's the real cheat behind Prometheus. The writers/directors throw up all these questions that they don't answer and declare a it thought-provoking movie. But what really makes a thought-provoking movie is one that raises questions which rock fundamental ideas and answers them in such a way as to raise additional questions in the minds of the audience.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Well said. Prince of Darkness does that exactly. It throws out this "big question" and it seems to answer it. But in the process, it exposes all these other questions that make your head spin when you leave the theater. And it gives you clues and leads and things to guide your discussion, but it doesn't tell you "this is it. See ya."

Prometheus really hits you in the face with the questions it wants you to ask. They are very generic. And then it has one set of characters say "true" the other say "false" and then it sends you on its way. There's no depth at all, no tantalizing clues to consider, and nothing really to take away except do you agree or disagree.

That is why POD stays with you and keeps you thinking as your mind turns over it's ideas and why you still remember it years later because it got you thinking about a lot of things:

1. Imagine if Jesus was an alien. Think about whether that could be covered up and how. Where did he come from?

2. What if "Satan" is a real being in an alternate universe trying to break through? Are there other secrets like this out there in other basements?

3. What does all of this mean about the nature of evil? What about the nature of Christianity? Has the church "babied-down" good and evil to the point that it's meaningless?

4. How bad would it suck to be trapped on the other side of that mirror?

But compare Prometheus, which I suspect will be largely forgotten because it leaves you with nothing to consider as you leave:

1. Imagine if aliens created us! Ok, done.

2. Why would our creator aliens want to kill us? Don't know, must wait for sequel.

3. Is there a God. Yes/No.

Drive safely.

Post a Comment