Prometheus (2012) – Ridley Scott (Dir.), Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba
DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers. Big ones. I’ll let you know when they’re coming. I promise. I don’t usually give this disclaimer, so you know I’m super cereal right now. Super cereal.
To begin, here is a dramatization of my experience watching Prometheus.
I’m at a party. Drinks are flowing. I know a girl is here. A girl I’ve been dying to meet for ages. I’ve seen her photo on Facebook. I know her parents, both incredibly smart and famous. Everyone and everything tells me we’re going to hit it off. Love of my life potential. Sipping some shitty keg beer, I spy her across the room, gently twirling her gorgeous hair. She’s alone, looking into the crowd. I’m sweating around the neck. Under the arms. I’m a fucking mess. Like a champ, I toss in an Altoid and take the plunge.
“Hey…I’m Andrew. You’re Prometheus, right?”
She smiles. “Hi! It’s nice to meet you!” God, she’s beautiful. Everything I could ever want in a girl. Hits every button.
“I know your parents. Your mom, Alien, is just amazing. Her work on expanding concepts of gender stereotypes as applied to space travel and science fiction artistic design is unparalleled.”
“Oh my god, I know, right? My mom is amazing. I want to be just like her.”
We both drink. It’s going well. She’s smiling. “So, what are you studying here?”
“Comparative religion.” The music is loud. We’re shouting, but we don’t mind.
“That’s so cool! Any particular focus on anything?” Her eyes…oh god, her eyes.
“Yeah! The meaning of life and where we came from.” God she’s incredible. I want to put my mouth on her mouth and do the dangerous tongue dance.
“And where do you think we came from? Are you a creationist? Deist? What?”
“I think we come from aliens.”
I pause. I drink. The little Mooney gets a little less excited. “Oh…cool. What do you mean by that?”
“Well…like…we come from aliens from outer space. They’re like gods, but not. They’re aliens.”
“Sure. I could get down with that. But who created those aliens?”
“Other aliens. Or maybe…maybe…the same aliens. Think about that.”
I finished my drink. I really need another one. “That’s really, um, really interesting. Do you have a background in molecular biology? Or chemistry?”
“No, no, no. I suck at science.” She laughs. She snorts. I laugh too. There’s a silence. A really, really long, ball-shrinking silence. “So…you wanna go make out?”
I sigh. I look at my watch. “Sure. Why not?”
Prometheus was meant to be my savior. A taut, intelligent sci-fi blockbuster sent by the gods to elevate the summer movie-going existence to a higher plane, to wrench us from the jaws of such shit-shows as Battleship and Abraham Lincoln: Super Serious Broody Vampire Hunter. However, just as Elizabeth Shaw dives into the darkest depths of space only to come up short, so did I. Instead of a god, I just found a collection of Popular Science headlines stuffed into a pretty package. And it is pretty. Holy god. See this bitch in 3D and drool, mortals. For Ridley Scott will fellate your eye-testicals with such delicious skill and fervor that you’ll have to hold yourself back from making out with the screen. But, for all of its beauty, this thing is dumb as rocks. It tries, it really does. And it fails. Not spectacularly. Most people will leave the theater thinking “Huh, that was cool.” But they’ll be left unsatisfied, like a meal of greasy sweet and sour chicken. Tasty and empty all at once. A spiritual and emotional carb-fest.
This is really two movies. The first half and the second. While the former is blessed with imagery of space that would make Neil DeGrasse Tyson wet his schoolgirl panties as well as psychological and metaphysical potential, the latter is a mess akin to the aftermath of a locker-room icy-hot taint-smearing contest. It’s as though the screenwriters got to a certain point, a well-ordered, clever script in hand…and then suffered a painful bout of plot-hole exploding diarrhea. I’ll get to that latter in the aforementioned ‘SPOILERS’ section (see, I’m warning you like a good boy).
What makes this whole experience all the more agonizing is that there is so much going in its favor. The centerpiece of the film is David, played divinely by Mr. Michael “If I Were Gay…Hell Even If I Weren’t, I Would” Fassbender. As with all movies in the Alien franchise aside from the two sorely underrated and extremely well-made AvP mov- (okay, sorry, couldn’t keep a straight face. Fuck those movies), Prometheus includes a ‘synthetic being’. Now, Alien first introduced the concept of a less-than-benevolent robot causing human deaths. Aliens capitalized on Ripley’s fear at first, but subverted it by creating cyborg-Jesus, Mr. Lance “Hey, Is Anyone Hiring?” Henriksson, the nicest android on the seven space-seas. Prometheus goes deeper and darker. David is a conundrum, left to his own devices for 2 years while everyone else takes a nap that induces puking upon awakening. We’re given a five minute montage of this physical oddity of a being wandering around the spaceship alone. It is, hands down, the most compelling stretch of cinema this movie has to offer. David is complex beyond belief, a slave and a teacher at once, homicidal (sort of) and a savior, daddy issues, soul issues, people issues…all the while coming off as the perfect gentleman. I haven’t seen a physical performance from an actor like this in years. Fassbender, I will have your babies. Meaning…when you have some, I will steal them and breed them to be a super-race.
For a sci-fi film, we’ve got some hefty acting chops on offer. Like, prime-cut, nubile, slaughtered lame chops. Charlize Theron (my future wife, along with Eva Green) is icily sexy as hell and unrelenting in her corporate bitchiness. Idris Elba, the result if you put Tyler Perry and Samuel L. Jackson through a talent juicer, is wonderfully charismatic as the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ captain. Even the no-names on offer do it up, classical-style. Of course, the counter-point to Fass-I love you-bender is Noomi “Chick With A Dragon Thing” Rapace. I am so glad she’s escaped the event horizon of character stagnation that could have so easily sucked her into the black-pidgeon-hole, a place riddled with the corpses of Matthew “Ferris Bueller” Broderick and David “Baywatch” Hasselhoff. Her performance, through all the shit she has to do, is visceral and immediate. Everything you could want in an attempted body-space-horror classic. I want to see her more. And everywhere. Get on it Hollywood.
For the first hour or so, we’re bombarded with textual titillation, thematic fertility, emotional anticipatory foreplay. They sow so many seeds that it could have blossomed into a veritable rainforest of fanboy/intellectual brilliance. We have the juxtaposition of the human search for their ‘creators’, while relying on the help of their created David, a sorely disenfranchised and neglected child of the new age. While the scientists put so much work into ‘why do we exist’, David asks the same question only to be offered: ‘because we could.’ We get the conflict between creationism and darwinism, both sides arguing that the discovery of creators will discount the other. We’re given a haunted-temple, filled with the corpses of ancient super-beings, severed heads and a forest of pods reminiscent of the egg farm in the original Alien. Things get creepy and violent after a long first act and Mr. Scott gives us one of the most breathtaking sandstorms ever seen on film. So what goes wrong? Well, Damen “Blue Balls” Lindelof worked his magic he must have learned on Lost and fucks it up royally. Every single theme is reduced to its basest form. Ridley Scott did everything right, other than his creature design. It’s a feast for the eyes, if not for the mind. The acting, cinematography, scenic pacing and lighting is all pitch-perfect. If only the whole thing made some goddamn sense.
Alright, those of you who have not seen it, I’ll meet you at the bottom. For the rest who sat through it, join me down Rant Lane. So, without further ado:
Alright, now the uneducated riffraff is gone, let’s talk. Fill up your glass, get comfortable. It’s gonna be a hard one. What goes wrong? Well, the most inspired moment in the entire film, plot-wise, is when David infects the unfortunate Holloway with the Venom-Evil-Super-Human juice. Shit was getting realer than fag-hag night in Boys Town (I don’t think that’s a real thing, but it should be). The movie derails itself entirely when Theron turns Holloway into a man-sparkler. Yes, we do have Noomi Rapace’s super-cool self-cesaerian…but what came of it? A shitty little squid, anus-monster? That’s all your monster-department could crap out, Ridley? You gave the world the face hugger. Not only that, but Noomi cuts herself open, stitches herself up and then gets back to it. There are no fucking repercussions. If she didn’t wince every time she did anything, I’d have forgotten the whole creature in the stomach thing even fucking happened! Even when she figures out David intentionally fucked with her…she just kind of accepts that. WHAT? Another thing, why couldn’t we have two real characters stuck in the evil-temple overnight to fight the space worms, not just evil-Shakespeare-with-Hipster-glasses and Brit-Hick-9000?
Also, who the fuck thought it was a good idea to cast Guy Pierce as a dude who’s a thousand years old? AND why did his face look like a fucking whale’s vagina? I have questions, Mr. Scott. At that point the film splits into 3 parts. We have the old dude trying to become young again, along with some serious Oedipal undertones…the creation of a new race of aliens running about a spaceship…AND a random-ass zombie movie. I’m sorry, when the British Hick dude returned after his pretty sweet death at the hands of the cobra-penis-worms as super-zombie, I almost threw shit at the screen. He comes in, out of nowhere, kills a bunch of red-shirts, and then gets his shit wrecked by Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba. What the fuck was that? Not only did he look like brainiac dumped in retard-juice, but the scene had no consequences. It happens and then it’s over. There was no fucking point.
Finally, we have the middle finger to the fans hoping for brand continuity. I’m sure if they just thought having the ending mirror the beginning of Alien was just too hard, but anyone, ANYONE who remembers Alien clearly recollects that the ‘Space Jockey’ is in the pilot chair with a hole the size of a chestburster. In this movie, he ends up in the ship way out of the way and his entire chest cavity has opened up. Come on guys. You’re smarter than this.
In all fairness, the concept that we inevitably wish to destroy that which we create was pretty interesting. They simply didn’t do anything with it. The motivations of the ‘engineers’ was beautifully unclear until one of them woke up and turned into space-Michael Myers. The prospect, though, of a sequel Prometheus 2: Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender’s Head Adventures in Space! gets my balls a little wet. Well, a lot wet. Drenched with fanboy orgasmic potential. Make it so, Mr. Scott. Make it so.
So, what are we left with? Something beautiful. It’s not as mentally deficient as most of the cinematic sludge out there…but it could have been so much more. Like Inception, it could have redefined the blockbuster film. Instead, it succumbed to the same cliches, smearing itself with predictable fecal matter like a toddler left alone in a bathroom. It gives us great performances, even one that might be remembered. Otherwise, this is another Avatar, ultimately forgettable. You could have been so much more Prometheus. You could have challenged. You could have questioned. Instead of being the love of my life, you’re a fling. You’re a one night stand. As I lie awake in the bed, thinking on everything you said, everything you promised and how it simply won’t be fulfilling, I pull my arm away, crawl back into my pants, lying creased on the chair, and sneak out the door. I glance back one more time, holding onto that fleeting hope that I’m wrong, that you actually were everything I wanted…I simply had no idea what my deepest desires were.
And then I remember that fucking part with the super-zombie.
I turn away. I leave. There isn’t going to be a second date.