The Alien universe is dead.  Since James Cameron seems to have no interest in making another Alien movie and Ridley Scott, the originator of this corporate dystopia, has so badly misfired with Prometheus, there is no point in making another one.  Of course they will, but there will be no point to it.  In the history of Hollywood pointlessness has never stopped a studio chief from greenlighting a bad film.

The question now is what went wrong with Prometheus.  Ridley Scott is a solid filmmaker with a long list of projects over the years, most of them good, all but a few at least watchable, and at least two or three of them masterpieces, including Alien.  How could this giant of intelligent science fiction action fail so spectacularly?  I mean Alien 3 might be better than this.

The answer is that most usual of the usual suspects: the script.  Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof are trying for mysterious, masking the motives of the Weyland Corporation in layers of complexity.  Even their representative on the ship, Meredith Vickers, played by Charlize Theron, doesn’t have the entire big picture.  The writers try to replicate one of the most successful elements of Aliens, the realistic portrayal of the working class crew, but the crew of the Nostromo leaves a much bigger impression than that of the Prometheus.  

Instead of mystery what they wind up with is a mess.  There are some decent set pieces in Prometheus but they aren’t set up very well.  There’s almost no character development.  And there are problems of motive and logic.  When the geologist and the biologist leave the survey team because they are scared they get lost and are stranded in the pyramid during a dust storm.  So they go exploring.  They weren’t ordered to, and since they left the team despite the fact that the expedition leaders wanted them to stay, they obviously wouldn’t have obeyed an order to explore anyway.  But off they go on their own initiative, and of course bad things happen to them.  Any plot that relies on the characters being incredibly stupid to be moved along needs to be rewritten.  These scientists, supposedly smart people who know the risks, are going to remove their helmets in the middle of an alien pyramid?  Really? 

The worst thing, however, is the philosophical theme of who created us and why.  That might have been profound in the sixties but now even a smart high school kid would roll his eyes at the mention of it.

It’s sad to look back on the legacy of the Alien franchise and see how badly it’s been mishandled.  This was one of the great movie monsters, genuinely scary at its best.  Now it’s just a by the numbers moneymaker for greedy studio heads.


1 Response to “Prometheus”

  1. 1 Larry Tumblin June 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Just saw the movie with my wife. We agreed the fundamental problem was that a potentially high-brow, well-developed science fiction film with a prestigious director was populated with the cast from a 1980s horror movie. I mean…really…in the middle of 3D mapping the tunnels…while wearing a
    device that gives their coordinates…and being scientists qualified to crew a trillion dollar expedition…a geologist and biologist can’t find their way back to the ship…

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June 2012
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