Monday, April 24, 2017

From Whence We Came

Year: 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender 
Run Time: 2 hours 4 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

This damn Alien franchise just refuses to end! I know it’s still shorter than most of the marathons I do, but damn has it been an excruciating stretch between Aliens and now. This is a marathon where I really had to lean on my completist instincts as a crutch, otherwise I might have abandoned it long before a single Predator came into the picture.

It’s unbelievable that the five short years separating the Alien pseudo-prequel Prometheus from Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem were enough to revive any sort of public interest in the franchise, but the return of original director Ridley Scott seemed to have been the spoonful of sugar that lured butts to the seats. I have my doubts about the man’s consistency (never forget the dude directed Exodus: Gods and Kings no more than 3 years ago), but Prometheus is at the very least enough to get me tentatively excited about the upcoming Alien: Covenant, a feat I wouldn’t have thought humanly possible.

Even I, a staunch sequel advocate, find it hard to justify keeping this franchise on life support.

Anyway, Prometheus is set in the late 21st century, following a scientific expedition to a far-off moon that may be the location of a settlement created by the Engineers, a race of giant albino aliens that created humanity. Exactly how or why humanity has come to this conclusion is beyond me, but anthropologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are leading the expedition from the starship Prometheus, funded by a generous grant from the late business mogul Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in utterly tacky old age make-up).

The crew includes the ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba), the stern corporate representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the bumbling scientific duo Fifield (Sean Harris) and Milburn (Rafe Spall), and the humanoid synthetic David (Michael Fassbender), who – like all androids in this franchise – may not be entirely trustworthy.

His trustworthiness is inversely proportional to his beauty.

Prometheus is not a masterpiece. Heck, it might not even be a great film. But it’s so much closer to the tone and spirit of the original Alien than the half-dozen films that came before it that it’s a real breath of fresh air. Here is the sense of sweeping sci-fi grandeur that doesn’t undercut the claustrophobia of the main narrative. There are the irresistible jabs toward visceral, exploitative horror nestled in the stately cinematic atmosphere. It’s a Ridley Scott Alien picture through and through, and that is a good thing.

Frankly, Prometheus is a beautiful piece of work. The production design is a spectacular expanse of organically inhuman architecture and sweeping spacecraft curves that imply a world that’s itching to become the one we see in Alien, set centuries of technological development later. It’s a beautiful dollop of sci-fi blockbuster filmmaking.

There’s just one thing it isn't very good at: being a prequel to Alien. And I’m no whiny fanboy complaining that nobody on this crew was named Ripley. Fundamentally, Prometheus is on a completely different thematic journey than any other Alien flick, as varied as they all have been. This film, as scripted by Jon Spaihts and Lost’s Damon Lindelof (ah, there’s the rub), takes a decidedly philosophical tack, exploring the meaning of the creation of life. It chews on this theme in scene after scene, eventually spitting it out when it becomes too tough to swallow and throwing in a big ol’ monster instead.

Which, honestly, I prefer.

Prometheus just doesn’t seem to have any clue what it’s about, other than the occasional spot of sci-fi mayhem. The inception of the Xenomorph is a mere afterthought, and the creation plot line fails to gel with anything in its own movie, let alone the whole franchise. Oh, but that sci-fi mayhem is pretty incredible.

Although the film’s zombie element is one of its farthest diversions from the franchise it’s attempting to resurrect, it’s still visually and viscerally stimulating, and a late scene in a surgical pod is beyond reproach as a sublime nugget of grotesquery.

It’s a beautiful movie that allows ugliness and horror to penetrate deep into its being, and that’s exactly what an Alien movie should be, space albinos or no space albinos. It thinks it’s far more intelligent than it really is, but at the very least it’s light years better than everything we’ve had to wallow through since Aliens, 26 long years before.

TL;DR: Prometheus is an excellently crafted sci-fi thriller.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 768
Reviews In This Series
Alien (Scott, 1979)
Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
Alien 3 (Fincher, 1992)
Alien: Resurrection (Jeunet, 1997)
AvP: Alien vs. Predator (Anderson, 2004)
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (Strause & Strause, 2007)
Prometheus (Scott, 2012)


  1. Bllllarrgh.

    OK, OK, in fairness, it is one of the most incredibly handsome productions of the past several years, the kind of thing where it wouldn't take anything more than a merely adequate screenplay to catapult it to straight to a 10/10. But God, Prometheus is just so dumb, I can't ignore it even though Ridley Scott is working so hard to let me.

    1. There ain't no denying it's mighty stupid, but that's never really bothered me. Also, congrats on winning this week's Alternate Ending prize!

    2. I guess you commented your favorite environmental movie on Alternate Ending, because on the podcast you were randomly selected to receive a free Amazon movie rental. They do one of those every week! You just have to email

    3. As you know, I'm so, so behind on every podcast.