The trajectory of the Alien series has followed an eerily parallel path to my own life.
Behold, both Alien and I were born into this world in 1979 with great fanfare…and we scared the bejesus out of all.
We then went through a zany action-packed early childhood, with me waging wars with my GI Joe figures on my parents’ living room floor and James Cameron waging war on-screen with Aliens in 1986.
Then there were the awkward and painful teenage years that both I and the Alien series would rather forget. Cough cough Alien Cubed. Egads! Alien: Resurrection.
Then there was the turn of the century where we both kinda sold-out and lost ourselves. Ugh…Alien vs. Predator! What were we thinking?
But now past the age of 30 we both have grown introspective and retrospective, once again returning to the great mysteries of life and the age-old questions of where did we come from and why does our creator hate us? And thus, Ridley Scott comes full circle in his career and has bequeathed to us this ponderous and wickedly entertaining Prometheus.
Roughly 70 years in the future, two noble archaeologist/scientists (the memorable Noomi Rapace and the forgettable, oh, I already forgot the actor’s name) piece together an Erich von Daniken-style theory on our alien origins based on some cave scribblings and convince a ridiculously wealthy head of a corporation that just so happens to be in the business of space exploitation (yes – it’s the infamous Weyland Corporation) played by Guy Pearce in silly aging-make-up and full-on scenery chewing mode to venture to a far-away world they believe to be the home of our creators. Along for the ride are a decidedly icy corporate crony played by Charlize Theron, a crafty robot played by Michael Fassbender, a practical ship captain played by Idris Elba, and a slew of other people destined for fun and brutal deaths once the extraterrestrial shit hits the fan.
Fans of the original two films should eat this up despite a lamer than I would’ve liked screenplay and a clunky build-up to the action and gore. Scott delights in offering us glimpses into “how it all began” while leaving enough open-ended questions that allow for the mythology and the film series to continue for better or for worse. He wastes no expense with the immaculate set-designs, crystal-clear special effects and a retro-sci-fi-epic score. He’s also a smart and slick enough director to overcome the sometimes mawkish and philosophical script and finds ways to gives us a little bit of much-needed dark humor. Complimenting his skills behind the camera, the cast delivers their lines both good and bad with admirable dedication to make it work. Rapace, Fassbender and Theron are especially good and make you interested, if not full on care, about the fate of their characters.
*POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD! READ WITH CAUTION!*
Scott deserves further accolades for trying to top himself with the gross-out shock scenes. The stomach-bursting scene from his original Alien is legendary, and he goes way over the top in Prometheus with a self-inflicted….ummmm….shall we say…removal…of a…ummmm…squidbilly? The creepy-crawly-jumpy-grossies also include a bevy of primordial creatures including an ummmm…cobra screecher…a tiny eye-worm….a giant face-hugger…and of course a proto-xenomorph.
No good Alien film would be complete without a robot decapitation, girl-power survival skills on display and stupid stock characters going places they shouldn’t and doing things no sane person would do. There’s also some grin-inducing foreshadowing when Theron gives a little speech about a king’s reign ending…presumably to make way for….a queen? And of course there’s a giant mural of…the queen uncovered in the alien tomb. My best guess is that our lovely creators have been engineering all kinds of monsters across the universe and that these particular parasitic bastards evolve every time they infect a new series of hosts.
At any rate – despite some obvious flaws, at the end of the film Mr. Scott seems to be asking us, much like Maximus in the arena in that classic scene from Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?”
Yes, sir, we are! Thank you!
Written by David H. Schleicher
POST SCRIPT – While typing this review my life once again mirrored the series as a harrowing “big alien-like spider crawling up the wall jumps onto bedroom carpet leading to epic hunt and kill before bedtime” episode unfolded.
Running score: Schleicher – Thirty Seven. Spiders – Zero.
Meanwhile, the aliens will always be close to my heart.
The Alien-like creature at the end wasn’t a Queen. Didn’t have the breathing tubes on its back, nor the same mouth, and the Queen starts out like any normal chestburster in size, seen at the end of Alien 3.
I didn’t say it was a Queen – I said Theron’s speech about the king was foreshadowing (with a wink) the rise of the Queen in Aliens. There was no Queen in this film other than in the mural. –DHS
Goodness gracious, horrible skipping on my part, my apologies, it was late.
I like, too, how you went on an anti-xenomorph tirade on your blog. –DHS
I tried to restrain myself, but the nerd in me finally had something to get spastic about.
I saw it myself but didn’t like it enough to review it. Yet, I might write one soon.
I found the philosophical underpinnings in Prometheus a bit phony or pseudo, perhaps. I was expecting a lot more, specially due to all the “hype” and build up. In the end, YES! I was entertained but my intellect came out of the theater, none the richer.
Liked the analogy of the film with your life though 🙂
Prakash – I agree, the philosophical and spirtual underpinnings were pretty lame – but I don’t go into an Alien movie expecting that kind of depth. I want cool effects, gnarly creatures, action, suspense and gore – and this delivered all of that. –DHS
I agree. I never expected such depth in the past in any of the Alien movies, somehow this time the movie tag-lines and marketing made me think otherwise. For a moment, I just believed them. And that’s my crib: why portray/market movies with something they aren’t? Anyway! That’s just me 🙂
Yeah, I guess the previews were slightly misleading – but then what previews aren’t these days? –DHS
LOL. Well said. Completely agree. And am happy that you empathize with me.
Lesson learned Dave!
Always inspired by YOU. I’ve drafted something have not quite gotten around to the blog. In some ways I’m impressed–Breaking the double helix of DNA as the start of what could be potentially a wild Alien ride and underwhelmed by the attempts at theology. Will post if I pull something together.
Question: was Charlize Theron’s character a robot, the daughter, or both? Makes me think of the character in Blade Runner who at some point thought she was human but was really a ROBOT.
Dianne – I think Charlize’s character was Weyland’s flesh and blood daughter. They hinted that she “hooked-up” with Idris Elba’s character – and I don’t think robots can do that – and she also showed emotion (anger). But I do think they wanted you to think maybe she was a robot. –DHS
“I want cool effects, gnarly creatures, action, suspense and gore – and this delivered all of that.”
Mmmmm, no it didn’t. It was just plain lackluster, predictable, and empty-headed.
You point to this movie’s biggest fault — it’s script. The writing is SOOO bad. There were hoots of laughter at the dialogue in the theater I was in. The biggest laugh came when Noomi has that big, 2000 year old dead head and inserts something in it’s ear to “trick its nervous system into thinking it’s still alive.” Yeeeah. It’s dead. You can’t trick it.
But you let Ridley Scott off the hook too easily for the weak script. You say he’s smart and stylish enough to overcome the script, as though he had no control over its development. It wasn’t like Adolph Zukor just handed him a script and said make this. He had a hand and deserves some of the blame.
One thing I really liked is it explains the Aliens. For years I have gripped about how this organism — an organism that demolishes and decimates everything in its path — couldn’t possibly have evolved in any ecosystem. Thank you Ridley for finally explaining it in a way that makes sense.
Jason – Ridley Scott has never been an auteur – he’s never been a writer – strictly a visualist and ideas man. I don’t blame him for the script. And quite frankly, the Alien series was never exactly 2001 and Ridley Scott is no Kubrick, or heck, even a Christopher Nolan – so to expect more of this sci-fi-horror film is a bit unfair. This was never going to blow our minds. Bottom line – I had a fun time at the movies and I loved me them alien monsters. And that’s exactly what I wanted. –DHS
Well, I’m one of those weird people who think 2001 isn’t half as deep as people think it is, but I get your point. I guess I didn’t necessarily expect more in any philosophical or theological sense, but I wanted something new added to the Alien mythology and, to be fair, this does that to an extent. Where we differ is I didn’t have such a great time as you did and that made all the weak points you were able to overlook loom large for me.
Jason – I always forget you’re not a big Kubrick guy – bad examples on my part! –DHS
Quite ingenious… how you parallel yourself with the Aliens series of movies, not unlike Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children with the birth of a nation, India. 😉 And oh, how I admire your youth, born with Alien. I remember watching the movie with friends in the theatre. And that bursting-out is one of the most unforgettable movie moments for me. Very original, at that time. Anyway, I’m afraid I’ll have to skip the review part of your post until I’ve seen the movie.
Arti – LMAO – well, I have always considered myself a “dumb-guy’s Salman Rushdie” – so thanks! –DHS
ok… Prometheus, saw it yesterday as son brought his Dad for Fathers Day so I naturally tagged along. That’s a ‘family movie’ for us three, in its literal sense. I think it’s the genre thing, I’m not one into the Sci-Fi futuristic genre, reason: aren’t they all very similar? The Biblical reference came to mind as I left the theatre: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ok, maybe one thing new: instead of an involuntary bursting out moment, we have a self-help Caesarean section. And, thanks for recalling the Chariots of the Gods theory that was so popular in the early 70’s. Anyway, about Prometheus, kudos must go to Noomi Rapace, she carries the whole film and my interest. Very apt casting there… her physical agility, petite stature that stimulates audience empathy, and good acting. For her, I’d give a B. 😉 And thank you for an entertaining review.
[…] Haven’t I seen them all somewhere before? The whole idea of advanced ancient civilization, as one blogger mentioned von Daniken’s (Chariots of the Gods), or the enemy inside (literally), or a robot […]
[…] (Red Leaf – echoing the Weyland Corporation alluded to in The Grey and the driving force in Prometheus) looking to unlock the secrets of the beast’s DNA and its alleged paralyzing […]