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Prometheus (2012)

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Concept: Alien prequel

It turns out that a number of otherwise unconnected ancient civilisations did some art all involving a big tall creature pointing at the same star pattern. Coo, could it be a clue to somewhere we want to go to? The two archaeologists convince a dying businessman to put up a trillion dollars for a mission to go there and find some answers to some big questions. Don't let me down, boffins!

This being an Alien film, there are lots of agendas on board the ship, not all of them compatible with everyone surviving…

What’s good: Most of it looks fabulous. You get the sense that Scott and his cinematographer really want to be asked to do a BBC nature documentary or two.

When given a chance, some of the acting, in particular Michael Fassbender as this Alien's android, David, and Noomi Rapace as one of the archaeologists.

Some of the scenes, such as this Alien's John Hurt moment.

What’s not so good: Argh, the science, it burns! Let's start with the archaeology. These two's great idea is to dig in random places around the world to see if there are any artefacts that match their theory. Erm, why dig on a hillside in Skye in the hope that you might find a cave painting that matches a design found elsewhere?? This makes Indiana Jones look like an archaeology text book! Of course, they actually find it. Then, when describing their great theory en route to the relevant star system, the pair reckon that Mesopotamia has no connection to Sumeria or Babylon. (For those with equal knowledge of history, Mesopotamia is where modern day Iraq is and contained first Sumeria and then Babylon.) And that Mayan city isn't Mayan. The closer you look at it, the worse it gets: this is fractal fail. So it doesn't really come as a surprise that, on arrival, they raise no objections to the spaceship being plonked right next to the structure they want to examine. It's not like it could do any damage…

The rest is just as bad. The physics has some howlers (stars that close move noticeably over the 35,000 years of the story; when arriving at a new star system or planet, you need to slow down, not have your engines pushing you forward until the last moments of landing; the moon – with Earth gravity, by staggering coincidence – would be highly unstable that close to its giant planet), the biology has some howlers (the DNA, evolution, the CO2 levels are wrongly said to be dangerous, sex = alien infection), the medicine has some howlers (you do not run around like that after that's been done to your abdominal muscles, never mind the use of staples rather than anything more advanced), the geology has some howlers (somewhere with storms like that is going to look very, very different), the linguistics has some howlers, and that's before we've really started on the spoilers, or the questions like if it's -12 degrees down there, why can't we see their breath?

Most of the rest of the script. When the writers' credit came up, I just gave a little sigh that it could not be the originators of Alien. I didn't go 'Oh, it's co-credited to Damon Lindelof of Lost infamy'. If I had realised who it was, I would have expected more of the Lost-style 'OK, this makes no logical sense whatsoever, but I think it would be neat if…' random mess that we get. If someone can behave stupidly out of character, they do. Especially the scientists, who appear to be entirely untrained and prepared – it's 'let's go into the haunted building's dark cellar to investigate the screams.. one by one.. without a torch!' time.

There's a lovely comment from someone comparing this with The Thing. In that, a bunch of guys face an alien. They talk about stuff, they watch out for each other, and they generally do the best they can. There is nothing you can point to that was stupid given who they were and what they knew, and some stuff is very smart (trying to ensure the Thing can't get away!) Here the biologist, picked to be the first and only biologist on a mission to examine alien life, decides it's a good idea to attempt to cuddle an alien creature showing clear threat behaviour. Yeah, that will be a good idea. We know that at least one member of the crew wants an alien… were the rest picked to be so stupid as to ensure this happened, one way or another?

Music: The highlights are the quotes from the Alien soundtrack and someone singing a song. Apart from that, meh.

Miscellany: I saw it in 2D and while I've seen some 'wow's for the 3D version, I am not going to bother. That big thing coming down to crush someone? It still looks like a big thing coming down to crush someone… but in clearer colours and without a slight double image.

If I remember the figures on the screen correctly, 3.something x 1014 km means they're about 32 light years from Earth, having taken just over two years to get there. The 'how' of space travel was never the Alien films' strong point and there are lots of unanswered questions about it…

Somewhere, someone is working out what the apparent magnitude of the star(s) must be in order for them not to be visible by the naked eye from earth and what implications that has for the solar system they're in. I bet it turns out to be another science howler, but never mind, look at the pretty pictures.

Was the Isle of Skye under ice when the cave paintings were supposed to have been done? Yes, it probably was.

Overall: Given the negatives, it's surprising that it's worth seeing, especially on a big screen. But while I'm glad I saw it, I am sure the theatrical version is not the best Prometheus that could have been made from the material. If Scott doesn't do a better one, the faneditors will…

… Ah, and they have. See Xenomorph, an edit that rips out the mysticism. There are some problems – someone we've not seen in this version makes an appearance in one confrontation – but the results are much, much better than the official version.

Without that sort of brutal editing, Prometheus is to Alien and Aliens what The Phantom Menace is to Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back before The Phantom Edit: it looks great, but it is an insult to the intelligence of the viewer and to the legacy of the films that are the main reason for seeing it. Plus in both cases, the sequel is / will be worse.

TL;DR Alien meets Lost, and loses..

Film: 1.5/5
DVD: 1/5

I had high hopes for the DVD – it should have had a pile of deleted scenes and/or be 'director's cut' time, at least one alternative ending, and several commentaries. Nope, just a couple of deleted scenes.

Written by Ian

June 2nd, 2012 at 9:45 am

Posted in Cinema

One Response to 'Prometheus (2012)'

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  1. Ridley Scott is the only director I know who is capable of doing solo commentary to his films without running out of things to say, and being fascinating the whole time.

    I can't wait to see this. In fact, I have been waiting more than a year now. In just a few more days I am going with a friend. And I really enjoyed "Lost" so I'm up for it, howlers and all.


    6 Jun 12 at 3:30 am

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