Alien vs Prometheus

I first saw Alien in a friend’s house on, what I later realised to be, an early illegal Beetamax copy. I was twelve and to be honest because the copy was so bad frankly I didn’t really know what was going on. The memory it left me with was an unimaginable monster with acid for blood. Even at twelve this was an exciting concept. When James Cameron took the helm in Aliens, as we know, the character of Ellen Ripley became a household name. She returned in the weakest member of the franchise Alien 3. It was a very messy affair. At one stage it was going to be set on a wooden planet inhabited by monks, an entire script was written until one of the producers asked “A wooden Planet?? Really?” Though it still had it’s moments, notably Charles Dances sudden exit and that final scene where Ripley effectively ended the run. Until, that is, when they decided to rebuild her for Alien: Resurrection where we saw the lighter side of the seemingly eternal battle of Ripley Vs. Alien or Xenomorph as it has come to be called.

In summary

But I loved them all even the crappy ones. I own the box set, Alien for the sheer terror and that first chest burst, Aliens for “Get away from her you bitch”, Aliens 3 for we ran out of ideas but we need to make another and Alien Resurrection for the fun.

Alien Universe Themes

Ships that had character, the “Synthetics” or “Artificial People”, becoming heavily armed or climbing into a body enhancer in a terrible hurry, cryogenic sleep, in fighting, very, very long space journeys, opening fire and hidden agendas.

Prometheus

From the Greek Legend about the immortal who first created man from water and clay and then proceeded to steal fire from Zeus and gave it to man, he was brother to Pandora of the box, they were a family of menaces. I digress.

First Half an Hour Plot

I sat with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Wanting to enjoy it but scared that it would not live up to the butterflies in my stomach. At least I hoped they were butterflies. The opening shot was Ridley Scott “Movie Magic”, nothing like you had ever seen in an Alien movie before. The camera flies over a landscape, mountains, rivers, an eerily still lake and over a gushing waterfall, you can imagine that each still of that opening is a picture in itself.

Then we happen upon the buffest albino the screen has seen since the Da Vinci Code except this albino is certainly not human. He drinks something that is about to disagree with him unpleasantly and we are given a rapid tour through his internal system and shown a crumbling strand of DNA.

Scott has our attention. The story moves rapidly from there to archaeological dig in 2089 where Archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) confirms she has found a constellation which claims to be the origin of life. So the Space Ship Prometheus with 17 crew aboard is sent to investigate.  All this takes place circa 30 years before the first Alien movie.

Back to the actual review

So the backstory to how it all began had begun. If you know the Aliens movies already you will see how Scott begins the strands that run through first two movies. If you don’t know the Alien foreground what you are watching is a fairly decent science fiction movie which succeeds where others like Sphere and Event Horizon and Mission to Mars failed to deliver.

All of the above elements from the other movies are present and so fans will not be disappointed. But the main themes here are the struggle between Science and Religion as well as an alarming number of the crew who seem to suffer from issues relating to their Fathers.

The Weyland Corporation gets some back history as well. One of the reasons this movie came into existence was the die-hard fans pre occupation with the massive being from the first movie (nick named Space Jockey). They finally get some sort of pay off.

The cast are more than adequate but still could have been better with the exception of Michael Fassbender who plays David, the artificial person, an android that could easily be the brain child of 2001’s HAL or a grown up and soulless version of his namesake David from A.I. Fassbender performance is particular, creepy and somewhat hypnotic. In a nice touch he delivers the most humour as he reflects and defends his position amongst humans. The other performance which caught my eye was Idrid Elba as Janek, Captain of the Prometheus, while the other characters are rushing around being astounded by their discoveries, he takes the piss and gets away with it until called upon to do his duty. Charlize Theron and an almost unrecognisable Guy Pearce also put in decent performances.

But still there were patches where I thought the filmmakers could have tried harder and even though we are talking about a film set in the Alien Universe (as there have already been four other films) on a purely human level there were some suspensions of disbelief that may come across as lazy.

On the other hand maybe they tried too hard to make it a stand-alone movie and still part of the franchise. Maybe they tried too hard to make it philosophical and an action movie.

Even though it may be flawed, it is still worth going to see in the cinema.

On a final note maybe, just maybe I missed Ellen Ripley a little bit too much.

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10 responses to “Alien vs Prometheus

  1. My feeling about this movie is that it started many story strands and failed to follow up on most of them. I find this so strange for a filmmaker of Ridley Scott’s calibre. I would like to list my assertions below, anyone who wishes to comment, I would be happy to hear your thoughts:
    1): Why would the alien race of ‘engineers’ deliberately create humanity, leave a roadmap on Earth to LV-426 so that we can find them, then decide to eradicate us as soon as we show up looking for our maker? This question is asked by Elizabeth Shaw herself during ‘Prometheus’. As the central unanswered tenet of this film’s premise, this is a catastrophic and unforgivable failure: if the spine of the story fails, can it be held up on sub-plots alone?
    2): Who or what was chasing the ‘engineers’ down the corridors of the installation all those years ago? A revived ‘engineer’ who has been asleep for 2000 years (not explained) decides to fly to Earth personally, to deliver a catastrophic payload? Why not just send a bomb with a ‘Greetings from LV-426’ postcard? We will never know. No traces of infestation were found by the Prometheus crew, apart from the oozing urns. But hey wasn’t there more than one installation in that valley at the beginning? What was in them? Aw darn, more questions.
    3): Why does Wayland appear at the beginning, then again at the end of the story to simply run amok on an unnecessary and unresolved sub-plot McGuffin: the hunt for eternal youth? The reveal that Charlize Theron is his daughter was a surprise because we had no backstory and no investment or understanding in who these characters are to each other – again, this makes no sense and begs more questions than answers – like “Why bother?” His death at the end seems pointless and wasted, as does the significance of his ‘my daughter – my creation’ reveal. More questions and more confusion. Another opportunity for making sense or layering this origins story is ignored or fudged.
    4): The android David (Michael Fassbender), ‘infects’ Holloway ( Logan Marshell-Green) with some of the seeping ooze (DNA). We never know why this has taken place or for what purpose. The remains of the two crew-members who were earlier ‘infected’ in the cave, are never examined. In the Alien film, we know that Ash, the android played by Ian Holm, has instructions to ‘infect’ a member of the Nostromo crew and return a live specimen back to Earth for examination. This exposition is also central to the earlier film. We see the android on-board the Prometheus has a relationship with both Meredith Vickers and with Wayland himself. Yet we fail to discover who he is really working for. David’s role as favourite or rival offspring is un-evolved. Again a resonant ‘origins’ plot line is begun and abandoned, leaving the audience to ‘fill in the blanks’.
    5): Holloway, having knowingly exposed his girlfriend to a contamination hazard (he realizes he has been infected when he sees a bug crawl from his eye, post coitus) ‘selflessly’ demands to be put to death as they scramble aboard the Prometheus to escape a storm. Why does he show some act of selfless valour here at this late stage and does not chose to warn the woman he supposedly loves, earlier on? Probably when he is covered is gaping sores it is too late to hide, so a little redemption last minute? The character seems unbalanced to me. Anyway, Fassbender has wreaked havoc and we never understand why because it is a plot line that is forgotten while more muddle is being created. The ‘pregnancy’ surely was a fluke of nature and could not have been expected. Unless you have seen the earlier films.
    4): Captain Janek of the Prometheus (Idris Elba) is supposed to be the no nonsense, worldly, ‘every-man’. He is also sorely underused and fails to ground the teenage shenanigans of scientists playing with biological weapons of mass destruction. He agrees cheerfully to sacrifice himself and fellow crew members to save the Earth. Unfortunately, because the character and the plot are so thin, we don’t care. And we are supposed to care.
    5): Elizabeth Shaw, single handed, flies an alien technology – designed for a crew of four – to discover her origins plot, even if it takes a whole other movie!
    I mean, come on?

    • All of the questions that remain unanswered will probably be resolved in the proposed sequels.
      I think there has been such mixed reviews that mirror your anguish Conor that they know they have an audience for these sequels. When I came out of the cinema I thought they had been on the same planet that Ripley & Co. land in “Alien” by after a little investigation it turns out not to be the same one.
      It is all about trilogies these days.

  2. Conor … q1 is as important to answer given where it ends … we will find out is the implicit promise … q2 I can live without the answer … it was just a mechanism to introduce the crew and audience to not alien looking life forms to set up the DNA …. my mine beef was the god dilemma that ran through the movie …. as that wasn’t even a qn in earlier films it seems like a flimsy contrivance IMO

  3. I do like Conor’s post. I was terribly disappointed with the movie’s direction after the first section. It rapidly desecended into a cliche-filled horror fest. Pathetic considering this is the guy who gave us the great films Alien and Bladrunner. To me, the unanswered questions can only be forgiven if you answer them and propose greater ones. The ‘origins’ story line was subsumed by the Alien origin tie-in which is a massively wasted opportunity. The albino was another missed opp. I mean not a single interaction other than a killing rampage and irrational departure which made little sense. The “Father’ bit was to me so predictable, and so was the pregnancy. They telegraphed that a mile away. And the two idiots Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wandering around in the cave, give me a break. A trillion dollar expedition, and they can only find high school dropouts to run the show? Holloway was another total jerk that had no business heading this expedition. The guy barely graduated. And Guy Pearce with terrible acne? Come on, I mean, you can’t get a heavyweight elderly actor to give this some gravitas? His story line was so flat and one-dimensional. The rich tyrant that wants to live forever, ZZZzzzzz….. then you have the totally overdone android that works for the bad guys whose head gets ripped off but keeps on ticking. Dude! You’re parodying yourself, don’t go to the well so often. I could go on and on but the main feeling is one of being rather cheated and led like a lamb into sequel-land from the get go and I don’t respond well to that kind of dishonesty. I really hoped the beginning was taking us to new heights of sci-fi screen storytelling, but once again, as a devoted sci-fi fan, I was let down. Why when there are SO many great sci-fi stories out there, can’t Hollywood make a good one more than once a decade?

  4. Thanks for taking part in my most successfully commented upon blog.

    It seems that from the start Project Prometheus was doomed.

    I shall rank these comments in order the franchise now exists.

    Fifthly, A prequel to an already popularly viewed failing franchise is directed by it’s (let’s call him) ‘Creator’ who is now thirty years older and probably has not the energy to be as meticulous as he used to be.

    Firstly, Why call it an Alien prequel and then half retract the statement? If they could have just kept their mouths shut, made the film, released it and let the public make up their own minds I believe it would have been much more widely accepted as a good movie.

    Secondly, though I am currently in love Social Media, like any relationship it has its downside and the hype that built up on various sites about Prometheus is one of them. With his in mind and the fanatics who chewed over each piece of marketing that was released the pedestal grew higher and higher to such a degree that it could only but disappoint.

    Thirdly, if they are going to make prequel sequels they should have warned us and so we would have been expecting it to be open ended.

    and

    Fourthly, Ripley was such an iconic figure that an Alien movie without her is like a sandwich without the bread, the plate or even the knife. Filling just randomly sitting on the kitchen table.

    And still I want to see it again.

  5. I don’t want to see Prometheus because I fear huge disappointment. I like Alien for the disgust factor, love Aliens for the palpable fear and the tough chick factor, disliked the remainder of the series immensely.

    • Hi Julia,

      you will be quite disappointed, even though it is quite disgusting, there is little fear and one (maybe two jumpy) moments. But with that in mind it is still an enjoyable scifi and, as I said, nearly worth it for Michael Fassbenders creepy role 🙂

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. Michael Fassbender scares me always. 😛

  7. Pingback: Oblivion – Tom Cruise – Review | beanmimo

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