I have just returned from watching Ridley Scott’s latest blockbuster Prometheus and I am so embittered, disappointed and dejected that I feel absolutely compelled to write down my first, visceral impressions of just how unforgivably horrendous it is.
I’m unashamedly a “fan boy” of the Alien franchise and yet I feel that even my admittedly partisan and perhaps somewhat narrow-minded view of the film will be shared by a fairly significant proportion of those who, like me, were unfortunate enough to go and watch it.
The main reason that I feel to utterly let down by the movie is because I had, until now, quite happily lapped up the various fragments of viral marketing that Scott’s advertising goons had unleashed on the internet. After watching the first ever trailer I was extremely excited, and my anticipation only grew and grew with every fake-ad, extended trailer or other scrap of eye candy that was thrown my way. The “David” adverts, so unnervingly reminiscent of Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia, had me virtually drooling over the prospect of what the movie could be. In fact, I think I would go as far as to say that the viral marketing for Prometheus was actually superior to the movie itself, such was it efficacy in generating such strong feelings of tension and excitement in only a few minutes of footage. The feature length movie is, by contrast, a downtrodden, incoherent, pretentious husk of an Alien movie, and one which utterly failed to trigger in me the feelings of shock, revulsion or excitement that its predecessors had done so well.
The main reason for this is that there is a huge void in Prometheus where what made the other Alien movies so engaging ought to be. Well, actually it’s not a void, because they haven’t just taken out the good stuff and left it at that. Instead, Scott has disemboweled his own franchise and stuffed its burst chest with copious amounts of vacuous Hollywood 3D visual garbage. The claustrophobia and the tension that made Alien so terrifying has been replaced with long, ostensibly awe-inspiring tracking shots of rural Scotland and the rather dull alien planet where most of the action takes place. Some of the shots could quite easily have been poached from “Lord of the Rings.” Maybe some of them were – it’s not as if anyone would have noticed, as the planet itself, which you would have thought might have been more impressive with the set-master Scott at the helm, is unforgivably bland.
The wickedly disturbing sexual subtext of the original movie has also been abandoned, in favor of a much more facile, vaguely Lovecraftian obsession with unsubtle computer generated tentacles. When my doe-eyed puberty-stricken 14-year old self watched a giant throbbing penis (let’s face it, that’s what it’s supposed to be) tear its way through John Hurt’s chest, I was absolutely terrified. Watching a large piece of spaghetti hump a badly rendered CGI bad guy at the more jaded age of 20 is considerably less scary by comparison. But it’s worse than that. It’s horribly underwhelming.
It’s not just lack of scares which makes Prometheus such a god-awful train wreck of a movie. The characterization, which had the potential to be something quite magnificent, is at best sloppy and at worst an utterly miserable failure. David, who was nevertheless played rather convincingly by Michael Fassbender, and is the best part of the film by a long shot, had the potential to be a truly engaging figure. Yet instead Scott has opted to present him as a two-dimensional evil robot, that actually had the audience at my showing giggling in the last few minutes of the film. Come to think of it, it’s an insult to Cameron to compare his characters with this one – at least his android, Bishop, was fleshed out far more substantially and used as a vehicle for a discussion of the “Big Questions” of what makes us human.
The ending was, of course, distinctly underwhelming, indeed I’m not even sure what actually happened at the end. I don’t mean that in a good way. This wasn’t an ending that had half the audience gleefully squealing “What the fuck” to each other, followed by a lengthy debate about the nuances of the plot on the ride home or in the bar. No, this is not that kind of ending. It’s the kind of ending that says, basically: “We’re going to leave this plot as open-ended as possible because we’re dead keen on making a sequel and turning it into a cash cow.” So it’s “Fuck you, audience that paid to see our movie instead of downloading it illegally (which I really wish I had done, actually). Fuck you for supporting our movie. But do be sure to come back in a few years time so we can say fuck you to you again, while taking your money at the same time.”
This is not to say that there were no good aspects of Prometheus. There were a couple of genuine scares here and there, though I won’t go into further detail for any spoilers. What I would say is that anyone who goes into that movie theatre with high expectations is going to be brought back down to earth with a very nasty thud. If, on the other hand, you take your seat expecting it to be quite a substantial disappointment, something which this rather rambling and spontaneous piece has hopefully reflected, you will probably have some fun with it.