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LYT Review: “Prometheus” is Probably the Monster Movie You’ve Been Anticipating

If you’re the slightest bit superstitious, it would seem like a bad idea to call the home vehicle that sustains your life in the cold vacuum of space “Prometheus.” Yes, it’s bad-ass to steal from the gods, but let us all remember that the legend ends with the eternal punishment of a giant bird eating your liver every day. Not that the characters within this movie can be expected to know yet that the destruction of one’s insides by a violent carnivore is a hallmark of the movie franchise of which they find themselves a part.

In case there was any doubt, Prometheus is an Alien prequel, though it also ends with a deliciously mean tease for future films that are not Alien. And while we’re on the topic, from here on out let’s refer to the face-hugging, chest-bursting, acid-bleeding, glass-dildo-headed critters from the prior Ridley Scott sci-fi film as “xenomorphs.” It simply won’t do to use the a-word now that other creatures from different planets exist in this universe – even if you choose to go “lalalalala that never happened” when it comes to the presence of Predators (for better and worse, I accept all those movies as canon, and nothing in Prometheus directly contradicts anything from the Predator era… I think… depending on in which future year Predator 2 was supposed to be set).

It’s hard to spoil absolutely nothing about this movie – even the trailers have shown more than you think they have, but have done so without giving away the context, which is everything. Usually I consider it fair game to discuss a film’s first full scene, but not here – like the intro to Austin Powers in Goldmember (in effect if not in style or substance), it’s so unexpected and so damned cool that you need to discover it yourself. Its significance, even after the film is over, is something I’d love to discuss and debate, but we’ll all have to come back here after everyone has seen it.

The very first image, on the other hand, I can and will mention, as it’s the first of several tributes to 2001. Mimicking that movie’s first shot, it’s the Earth with a horizontal crescent of light on the topside, against a backdrop of stars. And here’s the cool thing – if you’re watching in 3D, every star is on a different plane. Scott shooting in 3D is a major part of the draw here, for those who like both director and style.

Then in 2089, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner/lover Holloway (Tom Hardy lookalike Logan Marshall-Green) discover something buried in a cave, and, again like 2001, there’s a sudden cut to a space expedition much later, the direct result of the discovery that ancient cave paintings from various times and cultures all point to one particular constellation, where one moon of a ringed planet (hi, Avatar!) is capable of supporting life. Given what we learn later, the reason why these paintings all lead there is also something I’d like to debate/discuss, but not now (for your sake). Meanwhile, in the useless trivia department, let it be noted that Liz Shaw was the name of one of the key companions to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who, and that “Elizabeth Shaw” is not dissimilar to “Lisbeth Salander,” Rapace’s most famous role to date (and one so different that her acting talents should be in no doubt at this stage).

As this is part of the Alien franchise, it’s probably no shocking surprise that once the moon is arrived at, the series’ other key hallmark kicks in – characters get killed off one by one. C’mon, you knew that. Thankfully, it’s no mere slasher; there are a lot of ideas at play. Those who dislike the film will undoubtedly dismiss those ideas as Religion/Philosophy 101 window dressing; those like me who love it can keep their eyes out for all the motifs. Religion versus science is the key dynamic, and things play out as a sort of twisted reversal of the Christ tale – rather than a god becoming mortal to better understand you, what if you learn that God always was mortal and doesn’t give a shit? Are you obliged to kill your gods once your development reaches a certain level? From the image glimpsed in the trailer of what appears to be a crucified xenomorph queen, to a nasty bit of Cronenbergian business that arguably mocks the Virgin Birth, or possibly the lesser-miracle birth of John the Baptist (the madonna-whore complex is also in effect; Sex equals death as surely here as at Camp Crystal Lake) and the ongoing use of the android David (Michael Fassbender, wonderfully cold and playful like a more ruthless Spock) to compare man’s attempts at creation to God’s, the human-deity relationship is Prometheus‘ preoccupation. Even the digital map the crew makes of hidden alien tunnels is green and shaped like a Christmas tree, with scanners as red baubles, referencing the religious undertones while bloodily riffing on the notion of opening surprise presents.

There are one or two things I’m not crazy about, and, fortunately, I can air those without giving away anything major. Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland, a man seemingly older than anybody alive in our era, is an odd casting choice, not because Pearce is bad, but because there’s no reason not to cast an actual old man in the role, save for that one viral video in which Pearce acts his age. As a result, it’s impossible to forget you’re watching a young man play at geriatrics (and, seemingly, at being John Hurt, though it’s not clear that this character would have a specific connection to Alien‘s Kane).

Also, a key line of exposition delivered by Idris Elba is cringeworthy, both because it’s so on-the-nose and because he shouldn’t be the character to have that piece of knowledge. And I could do without hearing the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” in any movie ever again, thanks.

So is it the film you wanted? If you were hoping for deep, dark visuals by Scott in 3D, a story involving the mysterious Space Jockey, or a goth take on 2001 and 2010 combined, this delivers. If you wanted a more James Cameron-style action movie, it doesn’t. Do you like movies that don’t spoon-feed everything, leaving a few loose ends up for discussion, or do you hate when stories leave things dangling? In fairness, this story is reasonably complete even with gratuitous sequel tease, but it certainly leaves many possibilities open (such as the reason for life on Earth; I like what I think the film’s implying in that department, but can’t be sure).

Prometheus is stellar slasher sci-fi for the cerebral gorehound. That’s me. Is it you?

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29 comments

  • I cannot understand how some people disliked this film! Compared to what? This is brilliant visually as the story is interesting. Yes, the script was a bit hurried, but that was because they wanted to get a lot into the film. Maybe it should have been made in 2 parts. Either way, it is certainly one of the best films this summer no matter what other think!

  • Really boring movie. Another “Hugo”, if you will. People want to be entertained when they go see a movie–on this point alone Prometheus fails miserably.

    The worst part of this movie is that the story is so stupid and riddled with plotholes that it insults your intelligence and just kills your suspension of disbelief.

    The best science fiction movie in the past 3 years remains District 9–made on a small budget yet was superbly entertaining and thought-provoking. Even “Moon” by Duncan Jones (another sci-fi movie made on a small budget) kicks Prometheus’ ass bigtime.

    Ridley Scott hasn’t made a good movie since Black Hawk Down. I think part of the problem is that he has not chosen good scripts lately. Visually, Ridley Scott is a genius but movie audiences want a story and characters they can relate to–Prometheus is such a huge disappointment in this respect. Nice visuals but no heart. Prometheus never connects with the audience at any point, and this is a real problem. Even the corny Dances with Smurfs by James Cameron was miles better than Prometheus because audiences could relate to some aspects of the story and characters.

    Honestly, since 1986′s Aliens, there hasn’t been a truly great sci-fi movie. Aliens just hit all the right buttons–great characters, great suspense and thrills, and great action. Who can forget Ripley in mum mode kicking the alien queen’s ass? It just connects instantly with audiences–there was no need for tons of meaningless semi-mysterious dialogue like in Prometheus. Everyone understands how ferocious a mum can get when defending her child, people get this instantly. There is nothing like this in Prometheus, just emotionless dialogue and characters doing stupid irrational things.

    Wish that movie directors in general would study Aliens and get back to basics. Seriously folks, this is not rocket science–people just want to be entertained. If you’re going to spend hundreds of millions on a movie, (1)don’t insult the audience’s intelligence and (2)make sure the movie is entertaining. Look at Avengers 2012, not a classic by any means but entertaining and it cleaned out at the box-office.

    Heck, even The Artist 2011 was way more entertaining than Prometheus–and it was made on a $15 million budget in black and white! If Blade Runner 2 is going to be more drivel like Prometheus, seriously Scott–don’t bother.

  • I don’t care who says this isn’t a prequel…by any definition, it is. It may not be a DIRECT prequel, but it’s the same universe and involves the same cosmic key players.

    Now, here’s what I love and couldn’t say in a review:

    Ridley Scott just got away with making a summer blockbuster that says we were created to be biological weapons parts. That’s pretty damned radical. Like the monolith in 2001, the cave paintings were designed to draw us when we were technologically ready – to play host to nasty primordial soup that would gestate weaponry in us. Our creation parallels the goals of The Company…those who made us wanted to exploit us as a weapon long before Weyland-Yutani wanted to exploit the aliens as such. So weaponizing everything is literally in our DNA.

    This is all there in the movie if you pay attention. And it’s a radical statement, especially from Fox.

  • Just saw it. It was shitty sci fi. Very beautifully done shitty sci fi, but shitty none the less. I enjoyed it, enjoyed AVP’s more, cause at least those didnt have more holes in the stories than Swiss cheese, and they didn’t try to masquerade as good science fiction. Does no one read good sci fi anymore? Could someone please give some to Ridley Scott.

  • The movie had the same big impact on me as Alien three decades ago, The meddling with DNA still haunts me after 4 days and is a scary but fascinating subject. I consider it one of the best movies I ever saw in this genre, one will watch again several times for sure, already I long for the next time.

    Some remarks on things I think were a bit flawed.
    The old man Peter Wyland looks a bit artificial indeed, but I assumed the extreme old age in itself was artificial so I could easily accept that. On the other hand the scene where Elisabeth Shaw simply rolls over to escape being crushed by an enourmous spaceship was a moment where I thought that it could have been edited more precise, it looks to easy a solution where another character doesn’t escape a similar faith.
    9 points out of 10 for me.

  • I think Sir RS wanted us, in the end of the movie, tell us that there´s a “Prometheus 2″ coming in two or three years. Sir RS wanted us to understand that this “P 1″ was the beginning of a new thrilogy (?).
    “P 1″ = from who does humanity belong ? (Sir RS shows what he believe).
    “P 2″ = from where does those space cowboys come from ? (Elisabeth Shaw and David goes there)
    “P 3″ = why did they chose planet earth and how did they find us ? (???? )…

  • I was unimpressed with the film, I found it boring and pretentious. There were far too many unanswered questions (or even questions the director had forgotten to ask – or was too scared to ask) undisclosed facts, and details left unexplored..

    A far more interesting film could have been made which would have explained the events leading up to the voyage of the Prometheus…because it’s certainly implied that there’s a lot we don’t know.

    It appears to be merely a marketing ploy to launch another movie franchise.

  • I think I went into the theater with reasonable expectations as I wasn’t expecting an epic SF masterpiece.

    I expected a visually stunning film with a reasonably good story from which a new franchise could be built.

    Alas.

    What I saw was a visually stunning film with a horrible script barely suited for a B-horror slasher flick.

    It felt like a top-chef in a three star restaurant using the finest ingredients followed a recipe by a 16 year old mcDonalds employee.
    “Dude, just chuck it in the deep fryer dude.”

  • If these Space Jockeys ARE the origins of life on Earth, doesn’t it make sense that they would be humanoids??? This is a good movie. Might have an imperfect script, but what movie is ever perfect?

    People venting here are just expressing the disappointment over what they were expecting.

    When you go see a movie, watch it for what it is and what it was intended to express, not what you would want it to be.

  • It was the first time i really had to think about what was going on.No james cameron style film here and its obvious Scott was doing all he could to not do an alien repeat either.The xenomorph image on the wall and the cylinders had me thinking that the so-called engineers were messing around with genetic material to possibly create a successor to the human race.Obviously from Xeno DNA and the hostility of the engineer towards weyland,david,and shaw would suggest a disappointment with man overall.Very good attempt at doing something different and i nearly liked it as much as Avatar.91% i give it.

  • Since this is playing in IMAX 3D; I’m convinced I don’t want to waste my $18 to see a movie that looks stunning to some; no true script to others; and an awful music score that’s annoying. Theatre operators have been hyping this movie up, but I’ve been trying to see what its all about. I think I’ll play it safe & see “Madagascar 3″ instead.

  • ElectroJoe, Joss Whedon had his shot at ‘Alien’, remember? It was far worse than this. I agree the script is weak, but I’m going back to watch in 2D, now my unrealistic expectations – and deflation caused by spoiling trailers – has abated.

  • Despite what the write said it is NOT a prequel ( Riddley says its not and Damon Lindelof says its not so to the author get your facts right.

    It’s visually stunning but not as menacing as the original “Alien” film.

    The biggest let down is the music score….. its bloody appalling !!!! I was expect more of the sound bites in the trailer.
    Its not scary , but there quite a few parts where you’ll jump out your seat.
    Go in with a blank mind and enjoy it.

  • I really wanted to like this so much, so there may have been a case of high expectations, but hey, it was Ridley doing the Alien film he had been talking about since the success of the first one!

    [SPOILER]
    When the head of a “Space Jockey” is revealed to be nothing more than a helmet for a very human looking alien was like Qui-Gon Jinn (Lliam Neeson) explaining that The Force was nothing more than microscopic “midi-chlorians”.
    [end SPOILER]

    Back in 1979 we were given a very different view of the universe to Star Wars where our place within it was totally insignificant, and that universe was cold and uncaring.

    In this instalment not only is so much of the technology readily conceivable instead of Alien, we are elevated to quite a significant place in the scheme of things.

    Where’s the cosmic horror?

    Why was I constantly thinking how much better the prequel to the thing was (and I think that the screen writers may have been watching those films a bit too much too).

  • Scott is now saying “It wasn’t my cut”. You’re FUCKING RIDLEY SCOTT. SIR Ridley Scott. That shit may have flown with The Ladd Company and “Blade Runner” BACK IN ’82, but you’re a bit long in the tooth for that now, boyo. They way people were salivating over this movie, he could have gotten away with 3 hours, easy, as long as it delivered. To be sure, a lot of this is a case of over the moon fanboy expectation that never gets satisfied, but across all the reviews everyone is saying the script is like bad fan fiction. They want to like it soooooo much, but you just can’t turn a blind eye to inexcusable inattentiveness to plot, dialogue, and coherence. Which I think is why people like Joss Whedon are so rare. He’s a fanboy AND he can write a script. Stephen King: great writer, HORRIBLE screenwriter. James Cameron: great visionary and innovator, should literally be shot if he goes near a typewriter or behind a camera lens again. Scott should have produced and been the guiding force behind production design. Hire a director and somebody that has a longer track record than “Lost” to handle your screenwriting. You’re in the twilight of your career, and this shit is canon to your fans. Again…… please be self-aware enough to play to your strengths and hand your well-documented weaknesses off to someone for whom they are strengths. It will make you a hero instead of the “It wasn’t my cut” guy. At 73 years of age and a nearly 50 year career, that is just…. sad.

  • Согласен с Карлом (Carl.H 14:45 – Yes, yes, yes!). Визуально фильм хорош. Истории не получилось. Слабый сюжет. Персонажи статичны. Не меняются. Есть проблема смысла.

  • It was first time a saw a movie in 3D. It was awesome ! And I have waited a long time to see what next “Alien-movie” was. Mr Scott gave us “Prometheus”. I think because I have very big interests in generally the Q:s the movie asks you, it was totaly awesome. Mr Scott surely wanted a new “spin-off”, so, if you can make your own guess, looking at the final scenes, there´s coming a “Prometheus 2″ in 2014/15.

    The only thing I missed in the film, was…
    Capain: “Are you a robot ?!”… “Capt ! In my cabin in 10 min!”. ..hmmm… what happened to that coming scene… ;) ? Well, I guess it´s up to each one to use their fantasy ;) .

  • I hated George Lucas for his hubris in writing and directing 6 hours of groan-inducing (albeit beautiful) prequels. I hated James Cameron for the same thing with Avatar. Looked great, immersive environments and design, but a ham-handed “Dances with Wolves” story that probably could have been better scripted by a 16 year-old. Scott doesn’t do scripts, but he does know how to storyboard and get the best people to get the look and feel right. Sounds like the bad feeling I got when I watched the embarrassingly over the top TED speech delivered by Pearce may be justified based on some of these comments. You’d think that after the way he got hammered for treating scripting and character development in “Alien” and “Blade Runner” he’d want to make his return to the genre an engine firing on all cylinders.

  • As an avid fan of Ridley’s since I first watched Alien way back when, I have to admit I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this film. Visually it was stunning, unfortunately this was let down badly by an awful script, a dismal storyline that made absolutely no sense what so ever in places and which was utterly littered with gaping with continuity errors. This was certainly not one of his greats and is not up there with Bladerunner or Alien. If I didn’t know better I would suspect he was cashing in on the Alien franchise to make a quick buck. Come on Mr Scott, you can do better than this !!

  • Watched it 3 times. Wednesday Real-D. Thursday Dolby 3D. Friday XPand. Real-D was miserable. Xpand great. And Dolby 3D SUBLIME!!!

    I’ve been a 3D sceptic since it’s arrival and only seen 3 movies, A Christmas Carol, Tron and Avatar, I like the “effect”.

    This was something completely different. Utterly immersive from start to finish and a gorgeous use of depth that I have never witnessed before. Scott truly is a magician with images.

    I enjoyed it immensely. Especially the great sci-fi theme, which made me think like hell. Those Space Jockeys are the best aliens I’ve seen in many years.

    A solid 5/6

  • As far as hentai goes, let’s be fair – EVERY Alien franchise movie involves unwanted penetration/violation (followed by “pregnancy”) by an inhuman organ. The sexual connotations have been part of Giger’s design since day one.

  • Only reason for anyone to see this is if you are massive fan of hentai. Cos if so, this is gold. Otherwise avoid this piece of crap flick by all means. In the theater i was in, one could clearly hear the sighs och laughs comming from the auidience when it just got too silly/bad.
    It had some moments that could have been a start of something interesting but it got spoiled everytime by the shitty script.
    so again, dont see this.(unless you love Hentai)

  • I’ve got ’til the end of the week before I can see PROMETHEUS arrives in theatres, so I can’t comment on a Film I haven’t seen (I just trust that Fox let Ridley Scott make a movie which doesn’t insult your intelligence – which, unfortunately, Fox let both the ALIEN & PREDATOR franchises become in the end) …

  • As a long-time lover of the Alien franchise, I’ve had my head spinning with the on-again off-again nature of this movie as a prequel. I’m excited to hear that it exists in the same universe, touches on the xenomorphs of Aliens, but that it begins to chart new territory for a new and exciting spin off – as long as it stays serious and believable. I’d not want to inhabit it, but this is one of my favorite cinema ‘universes”…