The spring of 2012 was a heady time. I had just bought a cute little Spaniel puppy who was bringing joy and frivolity to the house. My new house was basking in the unseasonal hot southern English sunshine. And in just a short couple of months from then I knew I would be settling into my premium seat at the local multiplex with Chris to watch Ridley Scott’s long awaited masterpiece. The one we’d all been waiting 30 years for. The man who gave birth to the Alien franchise was returning to his roots to finally answer our long burning questions; who was the Space Jockey; how did he get there?; where did the Aliens come from?; and how did they evolve to be so parasitical? Excitement welled in my chest cavity waiting to burst through. It was the closest I ever felt to being John hurt. The summer of 2012 would be glorious.
Skip forward to 1st June 2012, the beginning of my supposedly glorious summer, and things are not going to plan. My cute puppy was now a whirlwind of destruction and chaos, pooping on anything she wasn’t in the process of chewing (she’s an angel now). My house was getting battered by unseasonal wet weather, forcing large areas of southern England to resemble the lost City of Atlantis. And at around 2250 that evening Chris and I walked out of the multiplex with heavy hearts, looked at each other with disappointment and sighed. We both knew the conclusion of what had just happened. Prometheus had failed to deliver in spectacular fashion. It was going to be a long night…
Now before I start thrashing out why I felt so short changed by what Ridley Scott farted onto the screen that night, I feel it’s only fair to recognise one point in the film’s defence. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fanboy, and we are notoriously hard to please. When a franchise seemingly promises to address issues long discussed by fanboys it is, more often than not, opening itself up for scathing internet criticism. We may not like long exposure to the sun or unnecessary exercise, be we know how to write scathing, biased and mis-informed reactionary pieces on internet forums. That said, my arguably skewed perspective doesn’t make the film any less shitty. And here is why.
1. Don’t market it as an Alien’s prequel and then tell everyone after it’s not:
There are some directors whose work I’ll watch regardless. Christopher Nolan is one such example. Ridley Scott, on the other hand is not. He has a patchy record at best. For every Bladerunner there’s an A Good Year. For every Gladiator a Kingdom of Heaven. Had Prometheus been a standalone Ridley Scott sci-fi movie about the roots of humanity I would have probably reacted something along the lines of “pfft” and maybe waited for it to come out on DVD. I most likely would have caught it on steaming for free in a year or so. But it wasn’t. It was sold as a long awaited prequel to Alien. I didn’t need this to be the beginning of a whole new franchise involving people I didn’t yet care about. Do that somewhere else with different, original source material. No, I wanted this as sold to me. The origin story of a franchise I already loved. The missing piece of a complete puzzle. It doesn’t help when your expectations are set and then you spend chunks of the movie going “hang on that’s not the planet referenced in Alien”.
So when I heard Ridley Scott THE DAY AFTER GENERAL RELEASE going “oh no, this isn’t a prequel to Alien. No no. This is set in the same universe as Alien, but it is at least……three movies removed from Alien.” Wait…did you say set in the same universe? Isn’t everything set in the same universe already? This one? What a bunch of horse shite!! I heard that as “Well we knew we’d get more people interested by calling it an Alien prequel, rather than a new Ridley Scott sci-fi because, lets face it, I’m not as good as I used to be. Plus this way most people will HAVE to come see the next two or three once they’ve seen the first. Stupid fanboys.” Prometheus is essentially in the Star Wars episode 1 school of film making. Doesn’t matter how shit you make the first one, if the fanbase is big enough the majority will feel obliged to come see the rest because now they’re invested.
2. You’re asking questions you butt can’t cash Scott. Wait, does that make sense? Ah, who cares
This same universe (what a dick) we all inhabit poses some pretty bloody big questions that some of the finest minds in our history have not been able to quantify or articulate. Until Ridley Scott that is. Move aside Descartes, Ridley Scott is about to explore the philosophy of mankind’s constant quest to understand it’s self identity in an articulate and meaningful way. Oh, no, wait. Scratch that. What he actually going to do is take what should have been a fun Alien horror movie and turn it into a 2 hour A-Level philosophy coursework assignment about our need for strong father figures, that poses more stupid questions than it has stupid answers for. Sorry, Ridley I didn’t quite catch that…….Oh that was a purposeful ploy to ensure people had to watch the next one or remain frustrated. I see. Well that’s all fine then. Arse. And while I am on the subject of father figures…
3. We’re all descended from roided up Vin Diesel apparently
It’s a short one, but why would I want to believe humanity is descended from what are portrayed as sociopathic, pumped up Vin Diesels with anger management issues. To be fair though, explains A LOT about some people.
4. I hated the entire crew and wanted them all to die
Apparently when the four, yes four, people credited as writing this got together they all agreed on one point. The whole crew must be detestable.
The great thing about the first couple of Alien movies, particularly the first, was the sense that everyone on board was a working schlub. Someone who if it weren’t for the fact they were floating around in space you may go to the pub with. The dialogue was conversational. You could relate, empathise with them. It meant when they met their demise you felt bad for them, or at least didn’t want them to die. Everyone in Prometheus is either a Grade A dickhole or so bone crushingly dull that not only did I not care if they died, I began actively hoping they would die quicker so I would a) not have to deal with them anymore and b) it meant I was closer to the end.
One of the worst moments of terrible non-characterisation was as follows: the criminally underused Charlize Theron, who has spent the entire movie so deadpan she flirts with comatose, has a weird non-descript conversation with Idris Elba’s Captain (who is so cliched he is a heartbeat away from going “arrrrrrrr”). Then he propositions her and without much discussion they go away and have sex. Nothing before to suggest that would happen. Nothing in her character to account for something so left field. And worse, nothing after. The whole thing had literally no purpose. I wanted to throw my shoe at the screen. And I like my shoes.
5. The script seemed to be written with crayons
There was some of theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee worst expositional dialogue I have ever heard in a movie of this supposed quality and heritage. I can only suppose that the writers decided to go on a huge bender in Vegas and left the script in the capale hands of their 4 year old kids. I remember wanting to poke myself in the eye for relief during an exchange between the two main doctors where a conversation about the existence of God is used to crowbar a a brief exchange about her not being able conceive. It feels really out of place and just bad, bad writing. Then I realised I was not being cynical, it was purely there to set up a scene 30 minutes later. And the scene was visceral enough it didn’t need some stupid secondary emotional level about her not being able to give birth. Dumb.
6. Ridley Scott is Ageist
As the likes of Frank Langella, Christopher Plumber and Christopher Lee continue to point out there is a wealth of Octoganerian (or close enough) talent that you don’t need to make young people look old. So why in God’s name did they have to make Guy Pearce up to look like a human Spitting Image puppet?!? It’s not like it’s even an in joke or nod to the fanbase that Guy Pearce has some relevance. It’s just really really pointless, kinda weird and almost offensive.
7. The only non human is the character with the most humanity
Now those of you familiar with our work know we like a bit of Fassbender around here. He is a firm favourite at Shoving Buddies HQ. But even he didn’t have to work hard to be the best thing (as usual) about Prometheus. It says something about how terrible the rest of the characters are that the Android, the least human most calculating entity within the crew, is also the only one who shows depth, shades and conflict. Unless I am missing something then that seems kind of retarded.
8. Finally….I hate Prometheus most because I am probably going to have to watch the next one
My name is Dylan and I have a problem. I am a fanboy. I am addicted to franchise movies in which I invest far too much personal time, money, emotion and energy. This is no exception. For all of the above, for all my shoe throwing, head banging, eye poking frustration I am in it now. And the only way out is to see it though to the end. Because part of me hopes that this is a Star Wars Episode 1 situation. Yes this may have been a crushingly disappointing experience after so much anticipation but maybe the next ones will be better. Maybe the closer I get to the end of the Prometheus timeline touching the beginning of the Alien timeline the better it will become. In order for that to happen though two things will need to happen; Ridley Scott will need to bog off and they need new script writers. As neither of things are likely I hold out little hope. But who knows. Maybe Prometheus 2 will be the film I was waiting for all along. Stranger things have happened right?………….Right?