WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS IN THIS PROMETHEUS OVERVIEW
By now, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is old news. Film critics mostly adored it, fans have been divided by it, and Scott himself is riding the high, doling out DVD/Blu-ray news and continuing to release viral videos with what I imagine to be a smug, self-serving look plastered across his face (see below — that’s a good example of how the British do it).
Enjoy it while it lasts, Sir Ridley, because I’m here to tell you that history will not be kind to your film in my little Prometheus overview. Sure, it’s a visually stunning piece of work that delivers scene after scene of fastidiously designed science-fiction world building. Yes, it sports a strong ensemble cast of some of the finest actors of this generation — Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pearce, specifically. Of course, it bats around some heavy themes regarding mankind’s origin and possible apocalypse. And, to top it all off, it fleshes out the world Scott himself created in 1979 with his seminal Alien, even giving us a glimpse into the DNA origins of the Xenomorph itself. However, it doesn’t take a 5-year-old to understand that, despite strong ingredients, Prometheus comes together about as well as the worst entries in the Alien franchise.
After years of waiting, avoiding news spoilers, and writing articles about the Alien franchise for Yell! Magazine building up to Prometheus, I left the theater the weekend of June the 8th feeling cheated out of a quality story that an Alien prequel rightfully deserved. What I watched instead was some sort of half-assed riff on H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness fused onto 2001: A Space Odyssey, with elements of the Alien mythos thrown in for good measure.
What disturbs me most about the film isn’t the intense sequences of body or cosmic horror — its how half-assed the film’s screenplay turned out.
I’m no expert on the works of screenwriter Damon Lindelof (above) or Jon Spaihts (below), but their resumes don’t exactly dazzle me. Yes, Lindelof has the benefit of having LOST under his belt, a show that captured America’s imaginations initially before petering out at its end for everyone but ardent fans. His contributions to Cowboys and Aliens sported some strong characters and a wonderful mix of story elements that recalled Hawks, Ford, and Leone in their prime, but the film lacked original or innovative science-fiction elements.
Spaihts, on the other hand, seems to be billed by movie news sites as big-budget sci-fi’s up-and-coming golden scribe. This is in spite of the fact that his only other produced credit besides Prometheus is The Darkest Hour, a matinee level take on War of the Worlds whose audience seems to exclusively be 13-year-old boys. Then again, I saw The Darkest Hour in theaters and have to say, I don’t even think they were particularly impressed with that film’s screenplay (or acting or direction or special effects, for that matter).
Still, setting their prior work aside, one cannot argue that there had to be enough talent and imagination between Lindelof and Spaihts to craft Prometheus into a watermark horror film with the help of Sir Ridley’s sleek, stylish hand. So what the hell happened?
A screenwriting clusterfuck, that’s what. I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to decide where to begin, but let’s start with Prometheus‘ characters. They are predominately one-note, each saddled with a few quirks that are supposed to coalesce and form personalities. Let’s delineate this further in this Prometheus overview, shall we?
Idris Elba’s character flies the ship and plays the accordion (and apparently loves Stephen Stills, a reference that works about as well here as “In The Year 2525” did in Alien 3).
Charlize Theron’s frigid ice queen Vickers has secrets and lurks around a lot. She may also be more human than human. Maybe. I’m talking Ian Holm stuff here, people.
Sean Harris’ Fifield has a mo-hawk, is anti-social, and loves geology.
Logan Marshall-Green’s scientist Charlie Halloway is gung-ho and attached to —
Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, another scientist whose quirk is — gasp — her strong Christian beliefs, despite hypothesizing the world was created by pale extraterrestrial giants.
What’s the rest of this Prometheus overview have in store?