I went to see the highly anticipated Ridley Scott movie Prometheus last night hoping for an alien-sized epic, but instead I got a squid. Maybe if the squid was breaded and deep fried or if I had just dared to imbibe another flaming scorpion bowl of Tranquility packed with another liter of vodka, it might have been tolerable. It is the day after the movie and I am still angry. In fact, I woke up angry, so I owe it to myself and others to exorcise this two-hour science blunder from my system.
To preface this, I’d like to mention that I have a fantasy novel to write. I am somewhere between 70-80K words short of completion, so taking the time to write this pains me, but alas, it must be done. For my peace of mind, so I can sleep at night, I must tell you exactly why this movie sucks.
Let’s start at the beginning. The film opens with a sweeping fly over a deserted planet. We angle over waterfalls and canyons, then dip into rocky valleys. It’s impressive, grand–majestic. A shadow of an alien ship looms overhead and a robed alien (with a rather impressive physique) stands at the edge of a waterfall. I naturally assume it is an alien planet. At no point is there a recognizable reference to earth. It’s nice that the reviewers and the fanboys tell you that it’s earth in hindsight, but if it is not properly justified in the film, it’s anyone’s guess. I went to the movie with five people. Half of us assumed it was earth, the other, an alien world.
Alien man takes out a metal pod, opens it and drinks the substance. Within a matter of seconds, his body dematerializes. He falls into the churning water of the waterfall whereby his DNA is broken down and released into the world.
So far so good. Prometheus in the ancient myth gives mankind fire. The DNA in the churning water with the black substance didn’t seem like a benevolent, life-giving substance to me, but O.K., the movie is just beginning. We then cut to 2089 on the hills of Scotland where an archeological excavation is taking place. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her assistant/love interest Charlie (Logan-Marshall Green) discover a series of cave paintings dating back 35,000 years. The paintings depict a series of discs that are possibly constellations or extraterrestrial ships. We learn that the discs are positioned like “all the others.”
The evidence points to alien contact. Contact, of course implies, that the aliens have been coming to Earth and having some kind of communication with Earthlings for a while. The communication seems benign enough to give Dr. Shaw the impression that these “engineers” as she calls them, want us to find them.
The film then cuts to an android who idles about the empty halls of Prometheus (the ship) with his pet basketball. A series of shots offer a heavy-handed homage to Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey as the obviously named Robot David talks to a female-sounding equivalent of HAL. As a fan of Kubrick, I enjoyed the empty halls and the Data-like performance of Fassbender whose idea of fun involves prying into Dr. Shaw’s dreams. Creepy.
The ship comes to a halt outside of what we are told is a very faraway star system. Charlize Theron is the first to be defrosted from cryo stasis, but unfortunately her icy, robotic performance never thaws. Ms. Vickers is as one-dimensional as they come in terms of characters. She is completely emotionless throughout the entire film, delivering great lines such as “don’t all children want their parents to die?” The captain at one point even asks her, “Are you a robot?” It’s a pickup line that works wonders, and one that we can only hope is true based on her lack of emotion.
Dr. Shaw shows a weak constitution by proceeding to puke out a lung after hyper-sleep. The captain erects a whole Christmas tree (not the first nor the last Christian reference in the film) before Dr. Shaw gets her wits back. I find this rather odd considering that she turns into bolting, leaping, superwoman after having performed a C-section on herself later on in the film.
The briefing goes by pretty quickly. A venerable Weyland appears in a hologram projection to inform the crew that he has funded an expedition to follow Dr. Shaw and Charlie’s hunch that they will find the “creators” responsible for the human race. Charlie’s presentation shows a bunch of slides where the strange cave paintings with orbs align. This is the only proof they have that these purported engineers exist and that they have been to Earth many times in history. When confronted with obvious question like why would they create us, all Dr. Shaw can say is, “I believe.”
Dr. Shaw gets called to Ms. Vicker’s office to be told that she is not really in charge of the mission. No real surprise there, but I suspect the real reason the scene exists is to introduce us to the operating module (only a dozen in existence) and Ms. Vickers’ nearly impregnable, self-contained life support escape pod.
Towards the end of the movie the uber-safe pod gets dropped like a heap of junk metal to the planet’s surface along with the smaller escape pod, so I’m not entirely sure why they spent the time explaining this cabin was so high tech.The thing doesn’t even land with the door closed. Give me a break! What kind of dumb escape pod gets ejected from a ship only to crash land? Maybe they hadn’t perfected this technology yet. Escape pods programmed to drop to the ground instead of heading home? O.K., I’ll buy that if maybe they didn’t crash!
But, I digress. The Prometheus lands in valley that appears to be some kind of alien landing strip facing a gigantic ziggurat. At no point do I buy the excitement. Everyone seems ho hum. They take their scooters and begin exploring. The irritable geologist releases his “pup” drones to 3D scan the installation.
And the little flashing, floating orbs are off! Great, nice piece of tech, love it. Not sure why they didn’t have these back in Ripley’s days. I mean Ripley and the team of marines had to rely on flat schematics of the colony to get anything done. Hugely inconsistent use of technology here. If you are gonna base it in a logical universe think for a minute! Stop and think!
The drones begin to do a great job of mapping as the team winds their way through the labyrinthine halls of the alien structure. 3-CPO, err, I mean David, the protocol droid finds it fairly easy to read the alien language (he’s been studying all of the Earth’s ancient languages for this purpose), and activates a hologram showing what the last alien inhabitants were doing when they went kaput.
Hey this is great, let’s follow the diagram instead of having to do any real exploration work to learn about this culture. The team quickly arrives at a massive door that has cut an alien’s body in two. Oh, wait, did I mention that prior to this the whole scientific team took off their helmets?!
People take more precautions on Earth when opening a mummified sarcophagus!!! How stupid are these scientists? Hey, durr durr this place has an atmosphere that is breathable. Let’s go ahead and take off our helmets. Nevermind that there could be foreign bacteria that may kill us on the spot or give us the runs. Let’s just go ahead and be comfortable because the audience doesn’t want to see our helmeted faces. Dear Mr. Scott, when movies and stories do dumb things like this, that aren’t even plausible, they insult my intelligence and I don’t like it.
What kind of stupid scientists are these to violate every scientific procedure in an alien planet, inside an alien structure? As soon as the helmets came off I was already on guard. Oh boy…this is only gonna get worse, and it does! This movie does not disappoint in the bad to worse department.
It’s at this juncture that the geologist of the group throws a fit. I came here to study rocks not dead bodies, I’m going back to the ship. One would think that an unexplored, rocky, alien world would merit his interest but the guy just rage quits. Never once does he take a sample of rock or even pretend to be interested in geology. They are SURROUNDED by rock! This character is really useless. He leaves and takes another guy with him, none other than the group biologist whose job is to study the dead bodies! I can’t even tell you what the purpose of the inept biologist is–oh wait, I know it’s to play fetch with the strange cock-like appendage that comes out of the black goo. Let me ignore the humanoid specimen to play snake-charmer! Right!
The best part of the geologist/biologist team is that though they leave early, they get lost. How can he get lost when he released the mapping drones into the caves? Did he just not bother to check which way was out? What was the use of the mapping drones if you can’t even use them to get yourself to the front entrance?! What is worse is, when they have to camp for the night, guess which room they pick? The one with the dead bodies–the very same scene that caused them to abort the expedition in the first place!!! This is utterly ridiculous and a perfect example of drunken script writing. These aren’t plot holes, they are plot chasms that are unforgivable.
Back at the fallen alien body, in spite of Dr. Shaw’s warning, bad robot David opens the door. Inside the room they find the dead alien’s head and a gigantic statue of another head surrounded by what looks like eggs or metal canisters. Needless to say, it looks ominous. Again, David ignores the warning and touches the black goo. Hmmm organic. Interesting, let me bag this sucker and take it back to the ship. Robot has a separate agenda, did we expect anything different?
Storm hits the planet at around the same time the door to creepy room is opened. Apparently opening the door has awakened earth worms and whatever else lurks in the canisters. Maybe if the biologist was still around he could have shed some light on all this, but no, no one seems to be interested in taking soil samples, earthworms, etc. On the ceiling, the team points out a strange mural that begins to desintegrate and we are fed some eye candy that has no bearing on the story.
Moving on, the team makes it back to the ship where they are decontaminated. Not sure why since they were walking around with their helmets off for quite some time. As Dr. Shaw is examining the alien head, her boyfriend is drinking and sulking cause the most significant discovery of mankind is not good enough for him. “They weren’t alive,” he says. Well shucks, sorry dude, but aren’t you the guy that gets excited over a 35,000 year old cave painting? I must have not understood that correctly early on. Everyone on the Prometheus acts like they have landed at QuickCheck, certainly not at what is one of mankind’s most brilliant discoveries. When faced with a pile of alien bodies on screen, the captain tells geologist and buddy, yeah, yeah stay warm boys, as he goes to thaw, ahem, shag Ms. Vickers.
This movie does a terrible job of harnessing angst, fear, excitement, curiosity, you name it. It is so one note it’s hard to put into words. After the head explodes, Dr. Shaw discovers that the alien DNA is an EXACT match to human DNA. Her boyfriend is mildly excited and they have sex. Having been poisoned by alien goo by bad robot David, Charlie gives sterile girlfriend a squid baby.
Let’s get back to the DNA for a moment. Let’s assume that the planet in the beginning of the film is indeed earth. OK so millions of years ago, the alien sacrifices himself and throws himself into the water, seeding the planet with DNA. His DNA then morphs and we get single celled organisms, which grow up to become dinosaurs, eventually evolving into the whole of the planet’s species. Shockingly, however, the DNA is not just a close match but a PERFECT MATCH! WOW! Amazing.
The slides at the beginning of the film suggest that the aliens who seeded the planet have made sure to come back to Earth on numerous occasions. It is even hinted that they have been the ones who have given us our earthly early languages. They came down and communicated with ancient man, taking the time to communicate their whereabouts in space. Their signature can be found in Sumarian, Egyptian, Mayan, and Aztec carvings. The engineers have taken an active role in our culture, that is of course, until the brilliant captain makes an overreaching statement by saying that the ziggurat is not only a ship, but a biological weapons facility.
They find the stacked canisters of evil squid goo stacked wall high, yet no explanation is given as to why in one particular room they are assembled in a circle around a god statue. If it is a chemical plant, why would they have put these canisters in this room in some symbolic formation complete with a mural? If their journey and purpose was to destroy Earth, why didn’t they do so 35,000 years ago or maybe 3,000 years ago? Why not a nuke or something more certain? Why squids, a life form that is clearly way more toxic than humans! No information whatsoever is offered to these pressing questions.
Worse, why does an alien ship carrying the equivalent of metal biological nukes, not have anti-aircraft defenses or a way to shoot said weapons at a target? Is the single alien that escapes gonna land his ship and uncork each and every canister over Angel Falls? The Prometheus is able to crash into the alien spacecraft unimpeded.
Speaking of Prometheus. It’s pretty clear at the beginning of the ship that the sophisticated AI can run the whole show by herself. Why then, do the captain and two crew members stay onboard to their deaths? Can they not put the thing on autopilot and get to the escape pods? Was self destruct invented a thousand years later? This is simply terrible.
Ah, the best part: Squid baby. I am leaving the best for last. Dr. Shaw’s boyfriend is burned alive by Ms. Vickers and no one really reacts. Once inside the ship, she finds out she is pregnant. David sedates her for cryo but doesn’t do a very good job apparently. Dr. Shaw, demonstrating uncharacteristically strong constitution, fights her way to Vicker’s surgery pod to give herself an abortion. Turns out, the medical device is ONLY programmed for males. Can someone please tell me how this makes sense? Why would a medical machine not have the capability to serve both men and women? It didn’t add tension to the scene, it just made me go, “huh?” Why is it inside Vicker’s pod if it can only service men? Weird.
O.K. chick gets in, stabs herself with some more numbing drugs and proceeds to get her stomach cut by a robotic laser. The claw comes down and extracts screeching squid baby before her C-section is stapled shut. Let me tell you those are some staples. They give her +30 hit points each and there were at least 30! O.K., O.K., for all of you none gamers, the staples must have granted this woman superpowers. Fresh after this surgery she bolts from the room. I don’t buy that she is in pain or drugged up at any point. Between fake sighs she performs Olympic feats of dexterity and strength! It is so unbelievable that I just found myself waiting (and hoping) for the moment that this woman DIES. You have to really push me very far for me to wish death upon a main character.
No one bothers to ask this woman what is wrong with her. It’s as if the huge cut in her stomach is not a very big deal. She stumbles into a room where the old Weyland is being fitted to make a trip to the alien ship. Why is the old guy here? This character is not needed. He provides zero in the way of furthering this plot. I don’t understand why he was such a big secret or why it’s “old makeup” and not a real old guy. Here I was thinking he was gonna revert to youth and I was gonna see some kind of cool unaging effect, but no. We don’t get anything of the sort. We get some dumb philosophizing right before alien beefy boy rips android’s head off and proceeds to kill the old guy. Way to go Scott!
Android says some mumbo jumbo and gets his ass handed to him. Security team is one-shotted, yet, bleeding, stapled lady bolts down a hallway, jumping across gigantic chasms as the alien driver makes a b-line for Earth.
About that Earth thing, was this alien dude just waiting for humans to show up so he could bitch slap them? Guy wakes up from a 2000 year old sleep and picks up where he left off? You can just hear zombie brain going, “Muusst killl hummaannnss.”
In her state of physical duress, Dr. Shaw runs out of the ziggurat and across shifting grounds all the way back to the ship. I was stunned at the kinds of jumps she was making and the length of the distance she traveled at top speed. She screams at the captain of the Prometheus telling him to stop the alien ship. Not only does he take her word for it, him and two crew members commit a happy go lucky suicide doing it. Autopilot anyone?
The alien ship comes crashing down from the sky, crushing Charleze Theron who is too stupid to run SIDEWAYS instead of straight and nearly killing Dr. Shaw who should have died ten minutes ago.
Dr. Shaw has her little nervous breakdown which is completely fake then teams up with Bad Robot David, the man responsible for killing her boyfriend. Serendipitously the evil alien, who we learn is coming for her, is taken out by squid baby. Baby has grown into a gigantic Kaiju with flailing limbs and a chest pussy? This movie has more endings than Lord of the Rings. Just when you think it’s over Dr. Shaw manages to outlive the giant, evil alien and the squid face hugger, rescue the decapitated android head and ….yes….wait for it….FLY OFF ON AN ALIEN SHIP to confront the aliens on their home turf.
WHAT???!!! Why?! Can she just die already?
Oh, yeah, and alien the monster is born.
Kill me now.
There are other things I found detestable like the lack of motivation David has for contaminating one of the leading scientists on the expedition with squid goo. I don’t understand why they made the trip with them to begin with if the idea was just to get them killed or impregnated by evil squids. I thought the reason they were brought along was to offer insight or to shed light into the alien race. Not so, apparently.
If it were any other director I could chuck it up to “oh well!” but this is Ridley Scott! This is a director venerated by every film enthusiast on the planet. He has demonstrated time and time again that he can tell a brilliant story! He’s made some of my favorite films, classics like Blade Runner, Tristan & Isolde, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Alien, Thelma & Louise and more! This movie is not bad just in comparison to his other films, but one of the worst sci-fi movies I have ever seen. I would put this right up there with Battlefield Earth! Save your money and pray that Ridley Scott doesn’t touch Blade Runner. He has gone the way of Lucas.