The most important movie in my life was ALIEN… Here’s my ‘Prometheus’ review

I don’t’ usually write reviews of films on my blog, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts on ‘Prometheus’. When I was young, one film stood out as THE film that inspired me most, the one that convinced me I wanted to be a filmmaker. That film was ALIEN. I became a little crazy, studying everything I could get my hands on, which living in the North of England (pre internet) was, I can tell you, pretty sparse. Long trips to Manchester’s geek Mecca, fantasy bookstore ‘Odyssey 7’ were Saturday rituals (where I first met editor buddy Mark Talbot Butler too).

And so when I heard last year that Ridley was making ALIEN ZERO, to say I was excited would have been an understatement.

However, from that point on, things started to slide downhill… first rumours spread that it wasn’t a prequel, just something in the same universe. Then it was announced it would be shot in 3D… Gulp…

So for the record, YES, ‘Prometheus’ is a prequel. It clearly is, and I have no idea why anyone would think that it’s not.

So what of the film? There is good and bad.

First, very few filmmakers would have the guts to make ALIEN ZERO in the way that Ridley Scott has done – with echoes of Kubricks 2001 and very little nerve jangling tension we loved from ALIEN and ALIENS, ‘Prometheus’ is a welcome gear shift into more traditional science fiction traditions, filled with big ideas and imagery.

The world Ridley creates is, as one would expect, totally immersive and extraordinary, and very much an evolution of the ALIEN univers. The cast all look great too, though I think some of the actors were asked to do too much with too little on the page.

However, for me at least, there were a number of massive missteps.

First was the music. On many occasions it came wafting into a scene and demanded that I feel a certain way. Occasionally it was a laughably OTT. It lacked nuance, subtlety and confidence. I would have taken large chunks out, relying on the excellent sound design instead. Hey if Peter Jackson can change the composer of King Kong just weeks before delivering the completed film, Ridley could do the same too. No excuse here, it’s just poor.

Second was the script. Yes there are a number or large plot holes, and strange story side steps into what feels like another movie. But it was the explanatory dialogue that I found most shocking. I kept saying in my head… ‘Really? Did you just REALLY say that?’

It had the feel of a first draft script, or a lunch time rewrite to fix a problem. Maybe this is what it actually was, but I expected more from the combo of Ridley Scott, the ALIEN franchise and umty thrumpty millions of $$$. Really, it felt like first time indie film screenwriting or a studio taking over from a lesser director.

… Lines like (paraphrasing from memory here…) ‘I figured it out, it’s a weapons dump, I aint never gonna let that get back to earth ‘cos them aliens  have clearly set their ship on autopilot to send it back to destroy us all…’ and ‘(long meaningful pause ) …father…’ and ‘I am barren, I can’t have babies’ and ‘we’ve just found a single life form on this long dead alien planet, shall I take a look?’ – ‘sure knock yourself out’…. Jeez. Really?

The character of David, the synthetic human played by Fassbender (in the tradition of Ash and Bishop), was also a missed opportunity. While he was excellent, his character could have been forced into more difficult situations, given that he had state of the art first generation artificial emotions – what would have happened had there been a Sophie’s Choice moment for him? Alas, he just followed his routine, programmed by the big evil company.

The final moments could have also brought us full circle back to the 1979 ALIEN movie. Instead we got a strong pointer in the 1979 ALIEN direction, but in terms of audience satisfaction, I felt was a missed opportunity. Again, I don’t understand this resistance to acknowledging ‘Prometheus’ as a clear ALIEN prequel. Strange. (though I hear rumours of more ‘prequels’).

There are many story threads unanswered too, knowingly so. This is a choice and I didn’t really mind that, though I suspect it will annoy some people.

I could go on about all other manner of niggles too, but I think I will leave it with just the big two – the music score and the creaky explanatory dialogue that was written on the back of the script over coffee.

On the flipside, I did enjoy it enormously. It takes third place in the ALIEN franchise, behind ALIEN and ALIENS, and is way ahead of ALIEN 3 and 4 and the embarrassing AVP movies.

It’s admirable too, filled with ambition and ideas. Ultimately though, ‘Prometheus’ is good, not great… and we all wanted it to be great.

Will I see it again? For sure, I will be buying the Directors Cut BluRay when it finally arrives – and knowing Ridley, THAT cut will probably make a much better movie.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
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7 Responses to The most important movie in my life was ALIEN… Here’s my ‘Prometheus’ review

  1. Don McVey June 16, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    I felt pretty much the same way. Music felt like it was from Captain America or something.

    I think it’s supposed to be a different planet to Alien by the way. Alien was LV-426 while this was LV-223??? Not sure why he did that. Think there’s a prequel trilogy in the pipeline.

    The bit where she said she was barren made me physically roll my eyes. How on earth can anyone leave that crap in??? Like a crappy idea they have while brainstorming but it should have been chucked in the 1st draft!

    Also, I had a big problem with the black goo. I just saw it as a lazy plot device. Black Goo = Anything can happen.

    All in all, I enjoyed it though. Just massively frustrating that it wasn’t one of the best films ever made. Cause it had the potential to be!

  2. Martin Lejeune June 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m so tired of the last five minutes of every blockbuster these days being “Right, lets go and have a sequel”

    But if they do have a sequel it’s good they left time for a space jockey to end up in place for the Nostromo to find him later unlike another Fassbender prequel, X-men First Class where they wrapped everything only to announce another movie.

  3. Chris June 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    I agree Don, just should have been mind bending

  4. Andy Wright June 20, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Saw it last night… from the very opening scene, it was one mis-step after another. I’ve never left the cinema with my intelligence feeling so insulted – It was an embarrassment, simply put. Can’t really go into details without giving spoilers, but even down to the performances, music, dialogue, story… it smacked of film-making by committee, rather than a visionary director at the top of his game. I would honestly say I preferred The Phantom Menace to this (in terms of original directors returning to their roots) – and that’s saying something!

  5. Chris June 20, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    I agree Andy, though I choose to forgive some of the sillier plot devices / character motivations etc. As for Phantom Menace, honestly, I never hated it. I thought it was OK, and my experience is that kids love it.

  6. Scophi July 2, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    I disagree. Prometheus was a much higher quality production than any of the Alien films. You can see the maturity of Scott.

    Prometheus was one of those rare sci-fi’s that makes you think. I enjoy a good action movie as much as the next guy. But it’s not often I get to engage my brain as well my eyes and ears. Alien, on the other hand, was just a monster movie. A good monster movie, sure, but let’s not go overboard.

    The visuals in Prometheus were excellent…good use of props and sfx without going overboard. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the music and I’ve seen it three times.

    I get the feeling that this is one of those movies that people won’t truly enjoy because it’s too cerebral, not enough blood and guts. The same thing happened with Contact.

    And as for being a prequel, again I disagree. A prequel leads directly to the sequel. But Alien is not the sequel to this movie. Scott and Lindelof have already stated that if Prometheus has a sequel, it won’t be Alien.

    Morevoer, it really has nothing in common with the Alien quadrilogy…different stories, different cinematography, different purpose, different music (as you state), different feel entirely. Just because it’s set in the same universe does not mean it’s a prequel. Just as Iron Man is not a prequel to Thor, they are separate series. Similarly, Prometheus and Alien are separate series as well.

    A crossover is not a prequel.

    • Chris July 2, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Sadly, I still disagree, Prometheus is literally riddled with flaws and plot holes – the less you think about it, the better.

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