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Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus': The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Well, "Prometheus" is in theaters. And if nothing else, it's been causing more furious debate — in multiplex lobbies, in bars, online — than most movies in recent memory. And The Playlist head office has been a war zone, with some loving the film, some loathing it, and some (like our review) falling somewhere in the middle. Name-calling and threats of physical violence have ensued.

For all its flaws, the film is a fascinating one, whether you love it or loathe it, with enough ideas and plot holes to ensure that it'll be talked about for some time to come. With the movie now screening around the world and drawing pretty substantial crowds, we wanted to dig in a little deeper, so we've drawn up a list of the good, bad and ugly aspects of Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic. Check it out below, and if you haven't seen it yet, stay away: major spoilers lie ahead.

The Good

1. Michael Fassbender
It's becoming something of a given that Michael Fassbender is the highlight of anything he's in — the actor's terrific performances in everything from "Inglourious Basterds" to "X-Men: First Class" have been some of the more indelible turns of the last few years. And while the actors are all doing their best with the material that they've been given and some make serious impressions — Idris Elba brings a lovely blue-collar charm to Captain Janek and Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green are an appealing lead duo — this is absolutely Fassbender's show. David is by about a million miles the most interesting passenger on that boat, giving a multi-faceted, pristine, physical performance that melds Peter O'Toole, David Bowie and Rutger Hauer into something entirely new. Whereas other actors flounder with the script holes (Sean Harris is a great actor, for instance, and isn't to blame for the fact that his character changes personality from scene to scene), Fassbender somehow uses them to his advantage, never quite letting on whether his David is faithful servant, malevolent mutineer, curious trickster, or something else entirely. And the answer is: all of the above. If nothing else, the examination of robo-life here bodes well for Scott's "Blade Runner" sequel.

2. The visuals
Even if “Prometheus” sent you into a blind nerd rage, causing you to angrily snap your 3D glasses in half Lane Pryce-style, you have to begrudgingly admit that “Prometheus” is a genuine thing of beauty and wonder, filling you with honest-to-space-god awe instead of the empty golly-gee-whiz that usually accompanies most Hollywood behemoths. (When you’re watching “Battleship” and thinking of how complex the particle simulators must have been for all that debris, you know things are amiss.) From the outset, the scale and scope of “Prometheus” is overwhelming – not just in the prologue with its glacial IMAX-y photography of Iceland, but the sets inside the titular spaceship and the grungy caverns inside the “pyramid,” including the now-infamous room with the giant head and detailed murals (which include some familiar, xenomorphic shapes). Even during the movie’s most problematic stretch – its somewhat chaotic and unfocused third act – there are things to goggle at that push beyond mere spectacle, stuff like the collision between the ship and the Engineers’ crescent-shaped craft to creature designer Neville Page’s beautiful, aggressively sexualized monster. Scott is in “world builder” mode when he’s doing sci-fi, and the production design, costumes, and creature effects all add to this world (we loved, in particular, David’s opaque “dream goggles”). And Scott’s great eye for detail and spatial geography is enhanced, greatly, by its 3D presentation, which emphasizes depth and nuance instead of things flying at your face, working particularly well in sequences where the pyramid is being mapped by flying “pups,” and in the abortion scene, when you feel like you’re really trapped in that pod. It’s undeniably Scott’s most visually lush film in a while, something you kind of have to acknowledge even if you hated the film.     

3. It's admirably progressive
For a giant summer sci-fi movie, “Prometheus” is packed with some pretty nifty ideas. Obviously there’s the huge, existential question at the heart of the film – where did we come from? It’s a question that seems to permeate the entire movie, whether it’s the pair of scientists searching for grand cosmic architects (one a believer, the other a skeptic), or the robot looking for his place in the world; powerful, thought-provoking stuff. And it’s sprinkled throughout the movie in varying layers – the Engineers’ initial attempt to destroy humanity happened 2,000 years ago, with some speculating that it could be linked to the crucifixion of Christ (something Scott has since confirmed was included in earlier script drafts, with JC turning out to be an Engineer). Even without Space Jockey Jesus, suggesting that our origins lie with something other than a Judaeo-Christian god is a pretty bold central theme for a summer blockbuster. The movie is progressive in other ways too, thanks mostly to its spiky gender politics, which culminate in an operatic manual abortion by our main character. That's right: it’s a $150 million summer movie where you root for your main character to get an abortion. We can picture Fox News anchors sharpening their knives for the attack on Monday. (It goes along with the film's overwhelmingly feminine tone/aesthetic, exemplified by its sleek, womanly spaceship and strong female characters — in addition to Noomi, there’s Charlize Theron’s icy corporate shill). And the monsters are aggressively sexualized in the most button-pushing way possible – from the worm-like monster that, when it attacks, simulates forced oral rape, to the giant beast at the end with orifices not unlike vaginas – it’s the stuff of Freudian nightmares. Even if you don’t like the movie, you have to give it props for being so damn outré.  

4. That surgery scene
"Prometheus" might be something of a mess as a whole, but there's no denying that many, if not most, of the scenes are pretty damn entertaining when taken on their own (it's just that they don't make much sense when strung together). And arguably the film's most unforgettable moment is the surgery scene, when Elizabeth Shaw realizes that she's pregnant with the fast-growing child of herself and her mutated dead boyfriend (despite having seemingly been sterile before now), and takes the opposite route to "Juno" by trying to dispose of it as quickly as possible. This entails her hacking into Meredith's medi-pod, getting it to slice open her belly, and remove what seems to be an angry squid from her womb. It's a neat nod to the chestburster scene of the original, which also plays into very basic, universal fears going back to "Rosemary's Baby" — I have a living thing growing inside me, what if it turns out to be something horrific? And Scott's in top form when he shoots the scene — there can be no doubt that this was the one that landed the film the R-rating. There are issues with how it fits into the film around it — why does Kate Dickie's doctor not pursue her? Why does no one react to her afterwards? And why is it virtually never referred to for the rest of the film (we get that Shaw's a steely heroine, but at least show that you remember that shit happening)? But as a sequence, it's up there with anything else we'll see in the summer.

5. The marketing
Maybe this is damning with faint praise, but Fox's marketing department definitely deserve a round of applause for this one. A dark, R-rated sci-fi horror film, without major A-list stars (Theron and Fassbender are names, but aren't reliable box office gold), opening against an animated blockbuster taking up 3D screens, and for all intents and purposes an original idea (they could only make the "Alien" link by association, but then again, no "Alien" movie has grossed over $100 million before). But the campaign for "Prometheus" wasn't just effective, it was mostly a pleasure to watch (with one major caveat, which we'll explain later). Some of the best trailers of the year, and viral spots that actually extended the universe of the film, with top-notch production values and all the big names getting involved (it was, in the end, the only chance to see Guy Pearce under all the old age make-up). For the most part, it's a textbook example of how to serve difficult material, and for all the film's flaws, it's hard to be too upset to see a film as ambitious and weird as this doing so well in the midst of summer, especially with films like "Dark Shadows" and "Battleship" tanking.

The Bad

1. It's got a horrible, muddled script
It's always tempting when a film doesn't work to blame the writers, and there's no way of telling which ideas Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof contributed, and no denying that either way, they were acting at the behest of Scott. But while we're reluctant to point fingers, there's no denying that the finished product of "Prometheus" is a mess, script-wise, and that most of the film's crippling flaws come from that. While it raises intriguing ideas, they're mostly underwritten, undefined and undercooked, confusing ambiguity with profundity in a way that's undeniably reminiscent of the worst of Lindelof's "Lost" (a show on which Lindelof recently said he had no real desire to explain the mythology of, which certainly carries over). The dialogue is pretty patchy throughout, character motivations are dictated by plot rather than human (or robot) behavior, and subplots stack up without really being followed through. But most crucially, there's simply too many unanswered questions, and not in a "What's that intriguing space jockey creature" from the original "Alien" kind of way, but in a "the filmmakers don't care enough about this being coherent" kind of way. What exactly is David up to when he spikes Charlie's drink with the black goo? Is the plan to smuggle back the alien life form in Shaw's belly, as suggested by David when he tries to put her back to sleep? But how could he know that they'd have sex and conceive? And how did he know what effect the goo would have? And why isn't this made clear? There's a difference between building up a mystery and just being aggravatingly withholding, and all too often the "Prometheus" script ends up being the latter.

2. Third act turns into dumb action-adventure at the expense of the ideas
Only worsening the script problems is the way that the film abandons most of its thoughtfulness as it drops into the third act and becomes a dumb-as-a-rock sci-fi horror that feels like it could have been directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Throughout the film, there's the sense that the spectacle is being shoe-horned in (what's the point of the storm sequence, exactly, other than to provide a few money shots and to give a reason to separate Fifield and Millburn from the rest?). But it only gets worse in the third act, best demonstrated by the attack by a mutated Millburn on… well, some people we've never seen before, pretty much. There's no stakes, because his victims are essentially strangers. It feels out of nowhere, because last time we saw the character, his helmet was melting over his face, which seemed to be the definitive end of him. It feels dumb of the characters to open the door with open arms to him, when they've already had to put down one mutant in the shape of Holloway. The make-up design makes him look like an extra from "Ghosts of Mars." And the overwhelming feel is that it exists only because it's been ten minutes since the last action scene. And it continues on — the confrontation with the Engineer is rushed, scrappy and vague, and while the spaceship collision is a nice hero moment for Idris Elba and his crew (and actually motivated by character and plot, for once), what follows is disappointing. Charlize Theron is kept alive for no reason (what was she going to do on the surface, exactly, except wait for die?) other than to be given one of the more unintentionally hilarious deaths in screen history, squished like an ant under the plummeting Engineer craft. And that the surviving Engineer (who's survived… how, exactly?) then stalks Shaw, who he's basically never met before… just to be a dick? It's entirely possible to be a tentpole that deals with big ideas, but when the third act is as stupid as the one here, the spectacle and the food for thought simply cancel each other out.

3. It suffers from prequel syndrome
Here's the thing about prequels: most of the time, we simply do not give a shit. We don't really want to know how Anakin Skywalker went from annoying moppet to Darth Vader. We're particularly uninterested in how Father Merrick first came across demons. And we have no desire to see how Robin Hood became Robin Hood in Scott's last film, "Robin Hood." They invariably hurt the mystique and integrity of the earlier films, and that's certainly true here. Part of the reason that the Alien was so terrifying was that it embodied the unknowable — a seemingly impossible-looking creature that seemed to want nothing but to kill everything, that couldn't be reasoned with. That was frightening. Knowing that it's the grandchild of the girl with the dragon tattoo only lessens one of cinema's most iconic monsters, rather than enriching it. Being a prequel also lessens the suspense; we know that there's no chance that the engineer will make it to Earth with its payload of black goo urns, because we know from future Alien movies that Earth is still alive and kicking a hundred years into the future, so the outcome's never in doubt.

4. Disappointing design of the Space Jockeys
For the most part, the design work is stunning (although again, the old prequel trick of more advanced technology in the 'past' is glossed over). But there's one fairly major disappointment, which is the look of the Engineers themselves. Scott has been open that the question of the enormous, helmeted 'space jockey' scene in the original "Alien" provided inspiration for the new movie. And yet it's hard not to be disappointed when those elephantine helmets come off to reveal… a giant, bald, albino Vin Diesel-looking motherfucker. We get that they should be vaguely humanoid if they sacrifice themselves to serve as our creators, as the opening scene suggests (although surely we should look exactly like them, if that's the case?), but any hint of them being truly alien is lost, and sheer size aside, they're not particularly menacing. Maybe they'd have served as a testosterone-y prequel to "Dark City," but it's hard not to feel deflated by the solution to that particular mystery.

5. The characters are almost all underdeveloped and/or extraneous
One of the benefits of the original film was that rich supporting cast, with a bevy of character actors like Ian Holm, John Hurt, Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton, they brought depth to the crew of the Nostromo. Here, despite a fine cast… not so much. Of the more notable figures (and there's plenty of redshirts knocking around purely to get killed off late on), Sean Harris' Fifield, the world's least likely geologist, is wildly inconsistent, Rafe Spall's Millburn is mainly kind of annoying (and never convincing as a scientist) and Kate Dickie's Ford has literally no characteristics of any kind. it doesn't help that Scott's eye for casting is off, particularly when it comes to nationality: why are Brits Idris Elba and Rafe Spall given ropey American accents, while American Patrick Wilson and Australian Guy Pearce dodgy British ones. Even Shaw herself goes from an English-accented child to a Swedish-accented adult). And what's curious is how much even the bigger cast members seem adrift, in part because they're often inessential to the story. Logan Marshall-Green is charismatic, but doesn't have a lot to do before he gets mutated: we get that he's arrogant, and disappointed that he doesn't find what he's looking for after two hours of looking around a cave, but there's not much to the character beyond that. Charlize Theron's mostly given one note to play (other than her beguiling scene with Idris Elba, maybe our favorite one in the film), with a daddy-doesn't-love me arc that's obvious to even the dimmest audience member from the first reel. And just when Guy Pearce is revealed to be on the ship (and why exactly does he feel the need to hide? Dude's a trillionaire, he can pretty much do what he wants on his ship, surely?), he's quickly dispatched. And lord knows what Patrick Wilson's doing in the film — we assuming there's more on the cutting room floor, but even so, it's the biggest waste of a good actor since Danny Huston stood around the background of "Clash of the Titans."

The Ugly

1. The characters are all idiots
Reasonable, right-minded people go to museums and slowly walk through each room, reading the plaques on the wall, observing paintings, examining every detail. Casual laymen, we’re talking here. So it stands to reason that scientists on a new planet should have this curiosity amped to eleven, right? If that’s so, how come all of the scientists in "Prometheus” walk around like children at a Chuck E. Cheese’s? Let’s grab this, let’s squeeze that, oooh, what does that do? It’s hard to not watch “Prometheus” and spend 60 percent of the film’s runtime thinking, “Please put your helmet and/or mask back on.” As Charlize Theron’s Vickers explains, this is a trillion dollar expedition, so maybe a little caution should be considered. A biologist reaching out to a new lifeform is one thing, but a biologist who's already run like a coward away from the possibility of alien life, reaching out to pet a cock monster with sharp fucking teeth deserves to die gruesomely. And there's so much more beyond that. How does the geologist, the guy whose job it is to make the fucking cave map, get so badly lost? Why do they go back to the scariest room in the building to sleep out the night? Why does a conscientious captain like Idris Elba decide to go for a roll in the hay with ice queen Meredith Vickers after seeing a lifeform pop up in his maps? In fact, why doesn't he try and talk Fifield and Millburn out of the cave, given he's looking at a giant map? (And yeah, we're aware of the storm, but he could have helped earlier. Also, that storm is such a terrible deus ex machina of a plot contrivance.) Why does Shaw react to her boyfriend's death and having a squid cut out of her by putting a suit back on and going back into the cave of death? It's behavior dictated entirely by what the writers need to move the plot forward rather than anything else, and it made us want to rip up the seats at the filmmakers' sheer contempt for the audience.

2. Too much given away in marketing material
As strong as the marketing was, we started to suspect near the end that we'd basically already seen everything that the film had to offer. And indeed, we had: virtually everything from the Engineers to the deaths of several characters was featured in ads and trailers by the end. Particularly annoying was the extent to which the final takedown of the Engineer's craft by the Prometheus was so prevalent in the advertising (right down to featuring on an international poster for the film), presumably because it was the biggest effects things-go-boom money shot they had. It's of course possible to avoid trailers and TV spots (less so in our line of work), but still, placing that scene so front-and-center again drains the film of any suspense whatsoever. In an age when "The Avengers" and "The Hunger Games" become monster hits despite keeping much of their third acts under wraps, it's hard not to feel a little dissatisfied when you can recreate most of the movie by reconstructing it from trailer footage.

3. The instantaneous transition of Rapace's character to a blubbering wreck when children are mentioned
For all the provocative progressiveness of that abortion scene, and for Scott's long-noted love of strong female characters, the maternal aspect of Elizabeth Shaw's character still strikes a sour note. She's a brilliant scientist, resourceful and ass-kicking under pressure, and seems to be in a true relationship of equals with Charlie Holloway. She even has an open-minded but firm religious streak that seemingly can't be shaken even by the revelation that we're created from alien lifeforms (Or can it? One brief scene aside, we don't really get her reaction to the whole God-is-dead-and/or-wants-to-kill-us-all thing). But one mention of children, or the lack of them, and she's reduced to a whimpering mess of tears. We get that the film is trying to talk about progeny and the birth/life cycle and all that, but it's possible that an independent woman like Shaw had maybe just made the decision not to have kids, right? If you're going to weaken your character into a caricature of women-are-there-to-have-children, at least get some drama out of it: you could have had a beat where Shaw finally gets what she's always wanted, and is then forced to abort it. But like everything else in the film, it's underdeveloped and rushed, the character simply carried along by the plot to the next set piece.

4. It's pretty much all set-up for the sequel
One of the major plagues of the blockbuster tentpole these days is the desire to spend much of your film setting up further entries to come ("Iron Man 2" and "John Carter" being particularly egregious examples of late). Scott and co. have been clear that they're planning for at least one more installment, but we dearly wish that the set-up wasn't quite so cynical. Much of the pre-release hype revolved around the idea that the film was going to answer big questions: Where do we come from? Why we were created? But the film scarcely answers the how, and barely brushes on the why, preferring instead to hold real explanations — for who the Engineers are, why they created us, and why they seemingly wanted to destroy us, for a future installment where Shaw and David's head journey to their homeworld. We're not against leaving some doors as yet unexplored, but what you learn in "Prometheus" is fairly minimal (maybe it would help if the characters actually reacted to their discoveries by being anything other than blase about them), and it's hard not to feel that the filmmakers have pulled a bait-and-switch. And that's even ignoring the dreadful bait-and-switch coda with the baby alien, which played to audible groans at our screening.

5. Ridley Scott made "Alien," but has he actually seen it?
There's a school of thought that says that, as "Prometheus" is being described as an entirely separate entity to "Alien," that a comparison between the two is unfair, and that the new film should be judged on its own back. There's also a much larger school of thought, of which we're proudly a part, that suggests that "Alien" is a much, much better fucking movie than "Prometheus." Scott's trying to have his cake and eat it too, playing down any parallels between his 1979 sophomore feature, and yet borrowing its structure and littering its spin-off with references to the original, not least that final coda. He was a hungry, lean young(ish) director when he made "Alien," and the film was a tight, focused, terrifying and pure experience set around a rich world. Here, Scott's trying to cram dozens of ideas into one film, many of which would be better suited to his "Blade Runner" sequel, and where "Alien" was like a shark, this is closer to the octopus-like monster that Shaw's spawn grows into — messy, formless, limbs waving around in all directions. Perhaps Scott would have been well-served to rewatch his original before he started on this one? 

6. "Prometheus" Has Its Own Midichlorians
Despite the fact that Damon Lindelof says prequels are generally pretty dull because they simply tell the details to events we essentially already know (and he's dead right), going as far as to take some knocks on George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequels, "Prometheus" has its own type of mystery-ruining Midichlorians — the microbal stuff that explains the Force in the 'SW' series and for many, totally destroyed the mysticism that surrounded the Jedis "religion," i.e., it's all a bunch of bacteria and not that special. While not the exact same thing, "Prometheus" does take away a lot of the mystery in "Alien" as well and shows the direct lineage to the alien birth. Alien goop is put into Charlie's drink by the android David, he becomes infected, he has sex with the supposedly barren Elizabeth Shaw and their collective DNA mixed with this goop becomes a proto-alien baby. That proto-alien baby grows up (super fast) ingorges itself into one of the Engineers and voila, all those various DNAs mixed together equals the xenomorphs we love and adore. Sure, there's still lots of questions left unanswered, but to say "Prometheus" isn't really a direct prequel is kinda bogus (and yes, the events of both films take place on different planets, but c'mon, the outcome is the same — Aliens fucked up the Engineers and now you know how they were born).

— Oliver Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang, RP, Drew Taylor, Gabe Toro, Simon Dang

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Comments

Devon

Bravo on your article. I think you hit the nail on the head as a very observant writer. However, as a die hard Alien fan, I believe that they could've done far better than Noomi Rapace. I gave this a very long hard look at who could've really pulled off the part. I went through countless actresses in my mind. But one stuck out. If you take a look at Wes Cravens "Scream," Neve Campbell's character in that movie, experiences several moments of being absolutely terrified out of her skin. When she is, her eyes glazed over in complete fear, much like Sigourney Weavers did in the original Alien when you can hear her heartbeat racing at the very end. Plus, she's a good actress. Two things you really need for Prometheus. An actress who can show complete authentic fear in her eyes and look genuine when doing so, and someone who can act. If you're not sure about my idea, take a look at the movie Scream and tell me I'm wrong. I don't think Noomi Rapace was nearly as convincing to me as a fan, as I would've liked to have seen. And I also think the writer was spot on when he said the script was just thrown together in one big mess.

Opha

At last. Someone has expressed my thoughs about the film, word by word. A very complete review. Thanks! With so many people enduring the film, I was starting to worry about my mental sanity.

Rparsons

Oh the plot is quite simple and elegant:
Humans did not evolve, nor did God make us, instead, some very tall angry bald white guys from space made us with their space juice, which comes from a plain looking jar, that jar being prone to leakage. Yea, the aliens need a little work on the whole 'Tupperware' technology thing. Being the angry sort of sleeping pale aliens with fancy space ships, they intend to come back to earth and just kill us all with more space juice which they apparently like to drink while relaxing near a river. Why do they care about earth? Oh let's just say they need more planets to store their jars of space juice.

Geo

Prometheus is sort of a mess of a film. It gets some moments just right (like the surgery scene), and then misses on all levels in so many other ways. The old man was a complete misfire, not to mention the make-up job. Looked like the old age make-up from the original George Pal Time Machine! These are minor issues though. The real problem is the strange unawareness of the crew about each other and what's going on in the ship. If you compare the crew interactions and relationships in Alien with those in Prometheus, it becomes very clear how bad Prometheus really is (or just how great Alien is!).

syn

i liked everything about it except the unconnected pregnancy scene. the rest of the film had me captivated until that point. i dont understand why they couldnt have just added, like, 5 more minutes worth of script/screenplay to connect it all better…

example:
doctors should have ran after her immediately… it should have shown her lock the door and encrypt the lock or something… then it should have done the abortion sequence… then they should have finally got to her and drugged her up only to awaken her in the presence of weylan….or… something!! it could have been completely a dream sequence or something… i dont know they could have done SOMETHING. lol the fact they just left it completely unconnected does not work at all and i cant believe they let that go. other than that, i really did like the film.

my two cents.

Chased

Was the movie a success? Depends on the goal. There are some out there obssessed with the idea of one rubber suited Alien chasing a crew through a ventilation system ( big button pushing ms dos super huge spaceship) with blow torches and flare guns….( which cloud be viewed as flawed an unrealistic) Or those who prefer "oh my god….soooo many holes in the script stupid prometheus"; the real story is how easy it is to be a purist poser with no credits in film making and rip a movie. No matter what was done someone would have been a critic either way. Ridley Scott keeps you coming back for more of his…."sigh fye"…..you can't get enough of it. An you will see the next one…..get over the inevitable…you're either a sucker & a poser…or a fan.

AAAHHHHHH the big mouth hurts….but the little baby mouth that nibbles my insides is incredibly painful…:) I knoooooooooooow

Truth

And NO NUDE SCENE for Charlize? Another stupid thing to hate on this crap movie.

Truth

Another stupid monster horror movie disguised as Sci Fi.

SyFy channel crap couldn't have done it any better.

This movie is aimed at dumb rednecks and non scifi lovers.

Jason

This review should remove the "Good" section as it's points are mostly weak; the most valid one is the visual design, which, while "good" – in the sense of being noticeably expensive – do very little to offset the shittiness of the script, acting, direction . . . basically everything else. What an utter and complete piece of shit – couldn't believe Ridley Scott made it!!!

Pasquino

Prometheus is disappointing. Very. The plot resembles a potholed road with some holes so deep it requires a leap of faith to keep going. The plot lines themselves seem to have been adapted from a Star Trek file (easily identified disposable characters) or reused from Alien (talking heads and a feisty female). Originality in hard SF movies died after Silent Running! In a nutshell: a clunky movie made interesting through good special effects.
Pasquino

eena03

I´ve re-watched Alien 1979 just before Prometheus and I remember thinking: "Wow. The director takes his time. He stays in the scene. It´s half of a movie´s length through and it´s still not the thing. He doesn´t care about the audience and its popcorn. Great production design. Great alien creatures. It´s epic." If you just reverse all these things you will get "Prometheus": "Wow. The director is in a hurry. He jumps from one scene into another. You know what´s the thing already in opening credits. He wants the most stupid person on Earth to understand his story. Cliche pf a production design. Cheap trashy monsters. It´s nothing but trash."

CJ

by bf worked on it and he said Noomi was a constant Diva, Charlize was a moron always trying to act "cool" with the crew. Said on top of their way high wages they got even more money for "personal expenses" for their Iceland travels. Which meant they all went to Blue Lagoon and flew in the helicopter when not working! what a waste of time! Apparently the crew who worked on it have NO IDEA about cinema and will not even support independent film making! They don't even know about Dario Argento! what a waste!

Keith Richard Radford Jr

I personal find the thought "Oral Rape" a bit hard to swallow being that the Jaw of an individual, even child can maintain the bite force of about 1700Lb's per Sq. inch and anyone that did not want to do what they are doing could sever the member from the body in one simple movement leaving the person injured beyond the capacity to do anything but try with both hands to stop bleeding. This is a position which gives all power to the person doing the act, not like vaginal rape which can produce a child and put the raped person into a position of having a quandary/dilemma/morally there is no power taken only pleasure given.

Jerry

There'll never be another movie as good as "Alien" because…there just can't be one. It was as much about the time and place of its creation, and how it seemed so unique and fresh.

I thought Prometheus was about as awesome as a modern-day "Alien" movie made by the guy who made "Alien" could be. He should get credit for what is good about this movie, and people should relax a bit more about some of the plot intricacies and character development.

Corporal Hudson

Dear Oliver Lyltelton, boy you said it. I really think you hit the nail on the head. A great review!

I wanted to add that the black alien goo seems like such a rip off from the X-files movie! It just insults our intelligence.

Alien and Aliens were GReAT because the creatures were so well designed, even today we can look at them and think to ourselves "what the hell is that thing oh my god!!" But in Prometheus, what "aliens" do we have? The pilot is basically a vin Diesel, which shows a lack of creativity almost.

The "Xenomorph" in Prometheus is either a little swimming cobra…. or a giant squid-face-hugger-substitute… which is not so terrifying and makes us think "is that the best they can come up with?" Any one who has seen a documentary would know what a snake is, or what an octopus or squid is. But the xenomophs from the original alien movies were truly unique. Prometheus falls flat in surprising us.

yes Ridley Scott should consult his earlier work… if he even did it….

FirstV

Theron's Ass is worth going to watch alone. That body suit is very well fitting.

Heath

Thanks to reading this I know understand a bit more about the snake creatures. I didn't figure that they had mutated from the "common earthworms" crawling around the goo. So, thanks for that…. but…. what are "common earthworms" doing on an alien planet? Ughh… back to square one.

Spammy

"a giant, bald, albino Vin Diesel-looking motherfucker" ???

Someone needs to brush up on greco-roman art.

Steve'o

Like everyone has they're own assholes, everyone has they're own opinion. Prometheus was a fucking kick ass movie. Yeah, there were some flaws in it I think in some of the characters. But the story itself ''Awesome''. Ridley Scott has out done himself again. You have to watch Alien to appreciate Prometheus! Ridley don't listen to angry fans or stuck up ass critics. Their Trippin!!!

Bill

I thought the movie was really good and thought provoking.
Don't pay too much attention to the critics, they're kind of like wine snobs.
Good job Ridley. Can't wait for the follow-up. Hurry, I'm 70.

Jordan

While I agree with most of your stuff, there's a lot of complaining that's absolutely stupid.

Angry about there being action scenes? LOL, it's like going to an MMA fight and being angry over the violence. Yea, the plot was lacking, but to literally complain about every action scene, even the five minute long ones, is just silly. Action scenes are not the devil, but more should have been added to the plot/character development.

Your disappointment over the alien's appearance is strictly subjective. I thought they looked awesome. Yea, they look a lot like us, get over it. They gave off the air of perfected original forms with their awesome physique. I was nearly hypnotized by the alien in the opening scene.

Your prequel syndrome is once again subjective. I don't see how the understanding of where the aliens come from makes them any less menacing (to me it doesn't). Also, this prequel happens to do something that most can't. It raises its own story and questions (where did we come from and why) allowing it to be a new story all its own.

I'm not a fanboy. I left this movie with more of a dissapointed feeling than one of satisfaction. But I thought everything this movie had, it had very well. It simply lacked all that it should have had (plot, character development, more answers).

Prometheass

Agreed. The visuals were spectacular, but the script was terrible.

*Spoilers*

You have the supposed crème de la crème of scientists on a trillion dollar mission that are complete morons. A scared scientist and geologist who get lost going back to the ship when they just 3d mapped the insides. Then said scared scientist suddenly finds an alien cobra cute in their black-goo campsite; goo which also acts completely inconsistent. It's surprising he didn't drop trou to let the snake have its way with him. Not to mention you have an advanced species that flies a recorder (flute or whatever) powered spaceship. Who does that? Oh, sorry Steven Spielberg. But that's not all! Towards the end, some genius decides to let the two characters have an object falling length-wise towards them, and have them run parallel from the ship rather then perpendicular from it! Brilliant!

I digress. Maybe this movie needed more Michael Bay explosions, vague Damon Lindelof story telling, with J.D. Shapiro to co-write. All the while as I sit and wish the movie ended with a 3d visualization of the crashing alien ship followed by a real prop and that lands on my head and crushes me to death. If this trend continues, I can definitely foresee the most popular movie in the world being a flatulent ass for 3 hrs straight… in 3d IMAX, of course.

marion

This is something that has been on my chest for a very long time in regard to spoiler alerts. I have seen several different productions of the film King Kong more than 5 times and I have seen different productions of the movie Titanic several times. My point being that I knew before going in to see these films how they were going to end. The ape will always die, the ship will always sink and yet I never failed to be entertained. I guess that I am stupid because a film has never been ruined for me by knowing the beginning, the ending or the middle before hand. I understand other people's point, it just doesn't bother me.

Erin

Umm, has anyone heard of inserting "plot spoiler alert" in the sub head, as to NOT ruin the entire plot for those who have yet to see the movie! Hello?

marion

Alien was filmed 30 something years ago and did quite well for itself. A good film but I, myself did not get a boner while watching it so it was not the holy grail of scifi for me. The film Aliens was much more entertaining, suspenseful and really put some zing into the genre with Ripley being a real badass. I like Ridley's work and can appreciate his desire to revisit where he left off with the first Alien. Seriously though, it's like trying to wring water from a stone. There is no story real there to capitalize on and so now we must grin and bear the ensuing drivel of a storyline. It's a new day and time for something else that's cutting edge and awe inspiring. My summer entertainment was centered around watching this film, I knew within the first 15 minutes of viewing my heart started to sink and it did not recover. I am so past caring about anything and everything to do with the "alien" and the predator for that matter-no more PLEASE. I understand that it's hard to walk away from a good thing, but the I am too tired of open ended movies that leave you hanging. Prequels and sequels sometimes work, sometimes not, this film would have been a better vehicle had it been a totally fresh concept with no past tie ins at all. With the film Prometheus, if Ridley were to sit down with me and explain everything that was happening in the film, It still would not have made me any less sleepy viewing it. I don't have to fully understand a film to be amused, entertained, or interested to connect with it. I sincerely hope that this film will end the Alien "mystery" that has kept everybody awake at night.

john12

In space, everyone can hear your dissapointment… This movie was supposed to be great, but it failed spectacularly. The overly-eager marketing campaign ruined any sense of suspense that might have been. The charcaters, every single one, were throw away, including Shaw. The creature design, the one thing that could have saved this shipwreck, was absolutely TERRIBLE. The Engineers looked like sky-blue translucent Sylvester Stallones, and the big organic flesh tone squid at the end? Stupid. I'm not joking when I say that even I could have made a better proto-xenomorph alien. Ridley Scott, you have failed us. Alien Ressurection, as bad as that movie was, was more coherent and satisfying than this rubbish.

john12

testing…

Mark

In Alien, so much was made of the possibility of a contagion entering the controlled atmos of the Nostromo. On the Prometheus it seemed to be a free for all. All it took was for a knock at the door and someone shouting "Avon calling" and the hatch is open to any and all-comers. If you see something foreign, reach out and touch it. Guys that headed east away from a possible entity are then trying to "pat" the snake like alien later on. As characters go, their motives would change at a whim. I am sick of spectacular 3D being an excuse to make a film without structure, without characters we can love or hate and without believable actions that fit what the characters would do in those situations. In 1979 a classic Sci-fi called Alien was made that thrilled us with its dark half-images. It has endured as a classic of its genre. This will not.

Grego

Your #2 on the "Bad" section is indeed correct, the third act is sloppy. However, some of the points you make can easily be explained by my interpretation. The Sean Harris character was weaponized by the goo his face fell into. It wasn't the end of him, and they needed to show what happened to him to explain what the goo was – as Idris later puts it, a weapon of mass destruction. Earlier in the film it turned common earthworms into penis/vagina-like snakes, and later it turned Sean Harris into a monster.

As you note later on, the goo transfers from Halloway to Shaw, who then produces a baby. You knock the idea of showing the Alien at the end, and it does seem unnecessary, but a point of interest here that I don't see anyone mentioning is that I believe that the only reason the Alien's can reproduce is because it was partially produced from an actual human womb. Notice how the penis-worms attack like the face-huggers do, wrapping themselves around a part of the actor and then heading straight for his mouth. In that scene, the worm does so to kill. But later, after Shaw has given birth to what becomes the big squid creature, that creature has the same fighting style, wrapping its tentacles around the engineer and eventually entering its mouth. But this time, it doesn't seek to kill it, but instead seeks to impregnate it. And does. I don't see many people, or any, talking about this. I like the way the film subtly shows this evolution of the Alien after all. Its a combination of super intelligence and strength (Engineers), reproductive capabilities (Humans) and is an absolute destructive force and weapon (BLACK GOO.)

jones

I never write comments on the Internet. I felt compelled in this case. This movie disallowed me to care about any of the characters. I can talk analytically about it, but something wells up in me and just wants to scream "This movie f&^%ing blew!" Wow did it suck. They are getting away with something here. The script disrespects it's audience. It cheaply prods and provokes, or it thinks it does, by suggestion. But it doesn't follow up anywhere. It leaves messes. Zero continuity. Guy Pearse, why? So he can play an old stogie Brit who gets unceremoniously smacked by a massive gay Engineer who is supposed to be smart but looks like a bouncer with anger-management issues at a techno club. Why do they have that big Engineer head in a cannister area for fellatio snakes? Is this movie insane? Why is fancy-pants fassbender so space-sassy if he's an android? Is that how they program Weyland son droids, clever, demonic, flip-flop wearing, space-sassies? Did he overwrite his own programming when he was a head in a duffel bag wanting to help out the abortion refugee scientist? Is this an idiot flick? Am I insane? Those Engineers were DUMB. The first one swallows on the rocks and snaps apart, hey cool what a movie! That creamy milky big boy just offed himself after painting on a cave wall to come visit, he sounds cool let's check him out in the spirit of science. Oh, but it's so thought provoking, we may be from somewhere else and
heaven may be speculative. That's deep man, wow, I am blown away. You are scaring me with your intellect, oh wait, some random quadipus with like a dozen vaginas just porned out an Engineer who was trying to kill the scientist for being around when his space earring ship got busted up. This movie is what my dog does when he squats in a meadow.

Ri

Im so glad I'm not the only one annoyed. Im not the only one that found it strange that upon entering the cave these scientists (?) didn't go over to touch the walls or see what the structure was made of. AND why vickers dumbass could run sideways. It had so much potential. I should have known that douche Lost writer would muck it up. I wanted to like it but the more I think about it the more it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Chandan

I think you have done a terrific teardown of this classy sci-fi movie ( i wouldnt say horror movie as was the case of Alien v1979..!).
I also loved the screenrant review where they have reviewed much of the thesis behind the engineer and alien creature v0 and v1 connections..;-).
I just dont understand why the so intelligent Losty Damon and the maverick Ridley fail to notice the loooseness and shallowness of several characters.. and a ludicrious (should i call it laughing stock.. for this kind of thriller???) role of Idis Alba..He is supposed to be the captain.. and he cant even manage what the heck his crew are doing and getting into.. and forewarn them in advance..
But, over all the 3D experience of watching this flick is utterly satisfying.. and i enjoyed Prometheus more than the Avatar 3D or Avatar 1080p put together.
I only hope and wish RS would iron out these petty chinks in his forthcoming sequels to this prequel.. The idea of origin of Greek Engineers .. sounds fascinating and i was so relieved that our Dear David lives on at the end of the movie..

DTD

What if Dr. Shaw is the space jockey from Alien?

JGH

What is the big fricking deal with Alien already? Almost all your complaints about Prometheus apply to Alien as well, which was also far less limited in scope, less intelligent, less frightening, and much less entertaining. Prometheus supersedes it in almost everything, especially entertainment value and intensity. Christ, you overcritical snobs.

anon

aces!

Robert

Excellent review. I will see the film a second time at some point this week, but ultimately Prometheus was a huge failure in my eyes. The review said just about everything I loved, and hated about the film more eloquently that I ever could.

Aliens was probably my favorite movie growing up as a teen. I also hold Alien in high regard. And as the review points out, it's as if the team of people who made this film never watched Alien, or Aliens. That sounds harsh, but you're reminded of it in every conversation, action sequence, and alien encounter.

As the review so aptly noted, Ridley Scott is trying to have his cake and eat it too. If it's not an Alien prequel:

– don't milk the Weyland corporation's involvement in the film. It's just way more interesting in Alien, and Aliens. (Guy Pearce is miscast horribly, and he's one of my favorite male actors).

– don't have the lead character essentially try to become Sigourney Weaver, she's going to fail.

– don't use direct lines from Alien or Aliens (this happens twice in the film, and I'm confident it was intentional, and even if it wasn't that's not an excuse).

– don't highlight the technology in the film unless it's going to contribute to the story in a meaningful way (example: Cryosleep dreams. exception: medical bed)

The only thing that this film does better than it's predecessors is create a visually stunning world full of cool looking technology, architecture, and landscapes. But this should be a given considering the thirty years of advances since the original alien.

If their is a follow up to Prometheus, just get James Cameron to do it, please.

Uplander

Did they cast Logan Marshall Green because Tom Hardy was unavailable filming The Dark Knight Rises? Because that's who he look like. Some of the supporting characters weren't developed in any way. There were characters who died in this movie whose name I didn't learn and who had no dialogue.

zinjo

I love the reviews on this site, too often you echo what I see and then highlight things my mind has yet to process. To lie to the audience by telling us Prometheus ISN'T a prequel and then dumping the proto-alien at the very end is insulting. Up to that very point I was thinking that they managed to brilliantly imply that the aliens were in fact bio-weapons of mass destruction. Then as you so eloquently describe, we get meticholrians!

I was so hoping for a genuine "Spin Off" story, related but not tied to the franchise, but alas no. I wanted to see the Yutani Corporation sponsoring this mission (you know the pre-merger competitor to the Weyland Corp.?), which could certainly explain why the hardware was so state of the art. I wanted NOT to see a proto-alien. I wanted the characters to be interesting and "smart" as they should have been. I wanted to understand WTF the openning sequence meant! Did the Albino Deisel die from the goo or did he disintegrate to form the bio matter to jump start life on planet Earth… me still puzzling that one out.
I wanted to be treated with respect as a paying cinema viewer and I received none fo the above.

Mike

I guess the biggest criticism I could level is that it opens more questions than it answers, but it's evident now that the two-part idea never really went away as Scott & Fox tried to make us think over the past year or so. The other is, yes there isn't enough development or consistency with the characters, but then if we look back on Alien we can see that Prometheus got itself in trouble so to speak by hinting at the characters motivations and backgrounds within the body of a thriller film whereas Alien just let the shit hit the fan and had its characters fight it out. I mean really, what do we actually learn about any of the characters in Alien other than John Hurt's character is a wide-eyed explorer, Yaphet Kotto & his companion are disgruntled laborers & Ripley is a tad too fond of the cat Jones but still a badass. The lack of character development or the question as to why the rest of the crew weren't concerned with Shaw at the end didn't bother me because all hell was breaking loose, but Prometheus sets itself up to more criticism in this way because of its expanded cast & opening up of bigger ideas it didn't intend to fully answer. Is it perfect? No, the screenplay could have been tighter, and a smaller cast could have placated the concerns of consistency, but overall it certainly is an effective thrill ride & a stunning film in the visual department & I'll give them a pass if they can fix some of the mistakes with the inevitable 'Paradise' follow-up.

griff

Excellent post-mortem of this beautiful disaster. Another discrepancy (as long as we're piling on) was the transformation of Charlie from mystic-scientist to depressed lush. The guy spends his entire life searching long-dead civilizations for clues, travels for two years into space, sets foot on the greatest discovery in human history, looks around for six hours, and suddenly get's all boozy and "…it's all for nothing" because he didn't find God on His Throne? Talk about tough to please.

Uplander

This article hits the nail on the head, it was a well directed, well designed, well acted mess that was sunk by it's flawed screenplay. Here's a question why does Fifield, a geologist who designed the probes who search the alien installation get lost in the structure?

Buzz

Except the proto-alien we see at the end isn't the xenomorph we love and adore. It's a not-quite-the-same xenomorph that, since this is LV223 and not LV426, has absolutely nothing to do with the xenomorhps from the original films.

Egads

'Problem is, according to the film itself, there are no mixed DNA's – everbody and everthin is '100%', 'Perfectly' matching Human DNA, and has been for millenia and eons (which is, of course, hilarious, as some geneticists are even now working out what impacts the Spanish Influenza epidemic had in permanently altering gene frequencies in the worldwide human genome). Prometheus wants to have its pseudo-scientific cake and eat it too – toss Darwinism and Mendelian genetics completely overboard, but appeal to them to authenticate a Space Jockey paternity suit, but then jettison them again to have some sort of Lamarckism-on-steroids mumbo-jumbo origin myth for Xenomorphs. Just pitiful – screenplay plotting 'inspired' by Erich Von Daniken via Trofim Lysenko….

pmarnash

Oh, one more thing. The music in Prometheus was, indeed, awful! Uninspiring score, awful mix and no "music off" button on the screen. That actually might have helped.

Nah. It wouldn't have.

pmarnash

Finally. Someone (all of you in the comments as well) turns the lights on. I for one simply cannot imagine what Mr. Scott was thinking when he thought this script was "the one." Mr. Lindelof needs to go back to any UCLA (or USC) screenwriting class and understand the skills of character development, plot, pace, story rhythm, dialogue, reveal and drama. Better yet, perhaps he should just quit his day job.

roshacla

Amen to everything here. I found this movie to be awful. The main failings of this movie lay with the awful script and Scott, who directed this movie as if it was his first feature film. Ridley falls into every modern cinematic trap from rushed poorly thought out "get to know the characters" sequences (the scene where Shaw cries about being infertile and where Vickers calls Mr. Weyland father are baffling) to shoehorning in intense scenes without any real rhyme or reason (the abortion scene). Also of note was how poorly done the sequence where Shaw's boyfriend got fried was. Everything about that scene from the characters' reactions to the framing of the shot was poorly done. Several people in the theater laughed while he was getting torched because the way he reacted was so silly looking.

Also of note was the music. My god, this movie might have the most inappropriate, terribly generic score ever inflicted on cinema. The music almost always represents the opposite mood of what is happening in the scene and the constantly repeated "hopeful" coda is never used at appropriate moments. Prometheus would have been much better if it had no music at all honestly.

There are dozens of plot holes, inconsistencies, and just plain stupid decisions I could bring up, but it isn't worth it. The fan boys can find a way to make anything make sense. But the point is, even if this film had a satisfying, consistent plot (which it doesn't) it would still suck. Prometheus' problem isn't its dumb as a rock story, it's everything else.

Travis Mills

Excellent article. Excellent. I can't say that enough. You touch on everything that works and doesn't work in the film (for the most part). The most devastating really is the writing, which is extremely poor. I would have liked to see more comparisons made in your article between the plot points of Prometheus and Alien (Aliens). The film seems to basically borrow/steal most of the frame and good moments of those films and recycle them into a boring mess.

tk

"[W]hy does Kate Dickey's doctor not pursue her? Why does no one react to her afterwards? And why is it virtually never referred to for the rest of the film (we get that Shaw's a steely heroine, but at least show that you remember that shit happening)?"

Honestly, what frightened me most about this entire movie was that no one reacted to what happened to Elizabeth. That was what left me horrified and gave me nightmares. I'm curious how much of that was intentional and how much of it was weak editing/script.

jimmiescoffee

notice all the bad and ugly comes back to lindelofs shit script? the jesus stuff is initially intriguing and off beat, but ultimately not very "progressive." lets just hope and pray (wink) that Scott wises up and doesn't let good old damon anywhere near his 'blade runner' project.

Peter

Many points are valid: I eventually started laughing at how many times some variation of the line "Don't Touch Anything" was said and then quickly ignored. However, I really enjoyed the film, and didn't mind some of the "bad" and "ugly" points you listed. I DID want to point out one thing – the Space Jockey and the aliens are NOT the same ones that they come across in the original "Alien" movie. If you remember from that one, the Space Jockey was sitting in the driver seat of the spaceship with his chest burst, not in some Earth-pod somewhere. Obviously they have created these creatures essentially as WMDs that they couldn't really control, and so the same thing that happens here happened on some other planet as well…leading to the series of Alien films.

Another plot hole of sorts you didn't cover. This is based on what happened in the space ship / cryo chamber of the space jockey. So David comes in there and triggers the system and essentially identifies that they are coming from Earth, so the Space Jockeys know what planet to go and destroy. But, if that's what the Space Jockeys want – to be awakened once they are discovered so they can go destroy the civilization, then why have the rest of the building there that is set up to essentially kill anyone that comes into it. This concept of aliens having a gateway where if a civilization Without the android there, they may have never gotten far enough along to wake up that guy.

Overall, I did really enjoy it, but I do agree it doesn't hold together very well, with too many ideas and not enough consistency between the ideas.

Christopher Nolan

Uhm, that's all subjective, Playlist… And the film DOES hint at why the Engineers created mankind if you put on your analytical glasses. Look at the scene in the beginning with the Engineer and the scene with David and Holloway at the bar; there's your answer.

JasmineK

Hang on, what was so indelible about Fassbender's turn in "Inglourious Basterds"? I wish the media wouldn't buy into the hype over an actor. They did it with Colin Farrell and now it's Fassy. He's damn good, but genius he ain't.

Brendan

Generally a fair sum-up. I'd only quibble that the "alien" we see at the end of the film isn't a literal ancestor of the one we saw in 'Alien', as the ship they found in that film had crashed far before the events in Prometheus.
It's another strain on the same evolutionary path – perhaps something like the relationship between humans and chimps, but it doesn't directly lead into the events of 'Alien' in the way you seem to be assuming.

Aaron

I wholeheartedly agree with your observations here. Don't get me wrong…Prometheus entertained the Hell out of me, but it's biggest downfall came from the script department. Where Alien's storytelling unfolded in a more organic way, I could blatantly see the screenwriter's swinging from one plot point to the next with little attention given to the characterizations. Alien let the viewer marinate in its moodiness; Prometheus felt pushy like being rushed through a museum exhibit. My biggest beef: Shaw shows little to no reaction following A) an alien getting excised from her body and B) her husband being cooked like a marshmallow over a campfire. Ridley Scott's still a badass, though, and I'll continue to watch anything he makes.

Zatopek

Agree with everything. Also like to add that not just Space Jockey design, but all the creature design is really uninspired with the octopuses, snakes and the velociraptor-alien at the end.

rotch

The two elements I hated the most are absent from the 'ugly' list: 1- Casting Guy Pearce as a 90 year-old guy with terrible make-up instead of an actual 90 year-old guy for no apparent reason. 2- That god-awful score, which played 'awe-inspiring' when it should've been 'doom-inducing'

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