The Establishing Shot: Some thought on Prometheus or we answer all the big questions of Prometheus AKA did the Prometheus marketing team do what Ripley couldn’t do? That is - kill Alien - A lots of spoilers Prometheus Review

Friday, June 08, 2012 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

PrometheusSome of you may think my thoughts, below, of Ridley Scott's Prometheus may be unduly harsh. They may well be but I expect so much more from a Director I hold in such high esteem and I could possibly be more forgiving of rookie talent not someone who may arguably be the greatest director alive today. My thoughts may read as slightly frenetic and out of context as they are cobbled together from disparate online discussions in a similar style to Prometheus's story line.

I am a huge fan of Scott and like many others rate some of his films as my favourite films of all time and even the films of his that I didn't enjoy are beautifully composed pieces of cinematic art. I can't help but draw similarities between the negativity around Prometheus and the initial negative feedback that both Alien & Bladerunner received on release - both going on to become enduring and much loved classics. I would be surprised if Prometheus doesn't go onto similar acclaim as it seems to be a film that may play well after repeated viewings and once you have no expectation of the plot you can get lost in the rich detail of the immersive world Ridley Scott creates - something he is the master of. But for now his Prometheus misstep has me thinking the following:

I wasn't going to post about Prometheus going with discretion being the better part of valour but Ridley Scott is one of my favourite directors and I'm trying to cover all of his films plus some private chats have left me enough text to to almost do a seamless copy and paste with a little tidy up much like Prometheus itself. I didn't like Prometheus, it was a huge disappointment. It continues the downward slide in Sir Ridley Scott’s judgement in making films. If you enjoyed it I'm really happy for you but I’m still waiting for Ridley Scott to return to the genre with an intelligent and challenging science fiction film, challenging in a different way from Prometheus that is...

On to answering the big questions left by Prometheus:

Is Prometheus worth the price of admission? 
No! Prometheus or as I like to call it The magic beans film is a mess. Well, if effects and visual look are the most important aspect of a film to you - then Prometheus is great, as it looks spectacularly epic and the aesthetics are flawless. But pretty much everything else is broken. Prometheus is a text book case of style over substance. Prometheus or  The magic beans film may have asked a lot of big questions ensured that a sequel will follow but in the months to come will anyone care? I suspect that that its core audience will be too busy; gooing, gaaing and pondering the great questions of humanity and its mortality posed by another great film coming up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (in 3D) to care, well that is until the shiny tinned lenticular covered The magic beans film persuades the weak willed to part with more money and time.

Prometheus film spoiler Michael Fassbender android David 8
Image: Here is a picture of Michael Fassbender as David 8 giving away vital plot details 

In Prometheus a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. They should have rather put their combined efforts into  looking for a coherent and engaging script. Prometheus is indicative of the most cynical of film making styles - its only purpose is to form a foundation and jump off point for the sequels and is treated as like the lowest rung on the ladder and merely a gateway into the Prometheus universe that will hopefully get better moving forward like almost every other series or trilogy in the last decade see: Avatar, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. All the intelligence has been dialled right back to allow the series to grow moving forward. Scott obviously wanted to cash in make an Alien trilogy but couldn't start it directly after the events of Alien as there was nowhere to go, so he had to create another gateway in that leaves enough hooks (I mean asks big questions) into the next films without actually being to different from the original Alien.

Any high concept or big questions Scott intended to ask with Prometheus are lost by incredibly lazy character development thereby reducing Prometheus to a sorely less than entertaining live adaptation of a Futurama episode. 

Prometheus is a disappointingly poor set up for the inevitable cash cows to follow, all we have got to look forward to now - is the reveal of the concept that the Engineers wanted to destroy Earth, because like the Alien we were a bio-engineered weapons that are out of control and will end up threatening their existence with the formulaic end battle of each film as the stakes are raised.

Prometheus movie spoiler star map
Image: Another Prometheus  image giving away vital plot details. But could this be a clue as to how the Six Charlies could find an Author?

Prometheus Poster
Image: Not content with spoliery images and trailers even the poster wanted to get in on the spoiler action

Is the marketing to blame for Prometheus being crap? 
Probably. Worst marketing campaign in recent memory. Prometheus’s marketing even beats out the dire John Carter and Avengers Assemble marketing – the difference is that the Avengers marketers could relax knowing they had a great film in the can. Prometheus’s marketing completely ruined the film initially starting with the most inaccessible viral campaign ever that frankly made me expect that Prometheus was going to be the most cerebral film to hit Hollywood in the last decade. During the early stages of marketing I actually proudly argued that Prometheus had the best marketing of a film in ages, engaging for those willing to look hard enough, excluding the unwashed masses.

Then it veered wildly in the opposite direction and started acting like new parents who have just discovered FaceBook and redefined the word overshare for us - by the time I sat down to enjoy Prometheus the IMAX experience (which was visually spectacular) I didn’t know that I had pretty much seen almost everything other than the filler. I suspect Prometheus could have actually been a good film had the ongoing barrage of imagery from the poster through to the clips and teasers and trailer (which I didn’t intentionally watch but couldn’t miss with the ongoing media blitz) leaving very little to the imagination. If you can avoid everything even the posters give vital plot elements away.

I suspect test audiences must have been confused forcing the Prometheus marketing engine into overdrive and not only promise something but deliver most of the promise through it's campaign leaving very little for the film to bring.

Prometheus film spoiler Logan Marshall-Green Noomi Rapace Michael Fassbender
 Image: Why should Michael Fassbender get to give away all the spoilers? Here is an image of Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway, Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender as David teaming up to giving away vital plot details or Six Charlies in Search of An Author

Why is Prometheus a mess? 
Time I'm guessing, it is way to ambitious to cover all the elements adequately in the 124 minute run time. Apart from the beginning and end the much longer middle bit consists of a poorly constructed rushed plot, well I say plot but really it’s a weak Alien remake (albeit a very good looking remake) and consists of another crew flying through space, landing on planet and despite being good enough to be chosen for a 3 year, trillion dollar space mission by the foremost authority on science, terraforming and cybernetics (Weyland Industries) act like a bunch of juvenile delinquents on a school trip, which is oddly ironic as Alien's blue collar workers come across as way more clever than these supposedly intelligent scientist types, and apart from exact details you can guess the rest of the film.

Prometheus is really not very good and a few steps up from the likes of Skyline and beneath Danny Boyle's Sunshine. The difference is the godfather father of Science Fiction Ridley Scott has more goodwill and a legacy to plunder. Although I prefer to believe the unlikely scenario that writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof convinced Scott that they had their fingers on the pulse and know what the kids like.

With Prometheus Scott has removed all traces of intelligent subtlety and replaced them with blatant exposition (never mind what happened before and how I came to this conclusion we are running out of time so here is an explanation as to what is going on), forced ambiguity (or did he?) and the most contrived stereotypical characters you can imagine. I personally took offence to the characters in Prometheus, just one of the many cack handed and lazy areas of the film - seriously? When spending a trillion dollars on a life endangering 3 year space mission one must be sure to hire the most inept and stereotypical crew available (the gung-ho hero, the jock, the cheerleader bitch, the anti social wasted stoner, the virgin sacrifice, etc., etc.) but all without the irony of The Cabin in The Woods or the nostalgia of The Breakfast Club . I’m no occupational psychologist but I wouldn't need a Voight-Kampff test to tell me that I wouldn't want to be in a confined space with any of these idiots for 30 minutes, never mind having to rely on any of them on a 3 year space mission.

One of the main aspects that made both Alien and Blade Runner pioneers in the Sci-Fi arena (apart from the astounding use of Science Fiction which in all fairness Prometheus excels at) is that Scott showed us that no matter how futurist the setting or how much science fiction is involved the human personality doesn't change and that some human truths are self evident. He seems to have lost sight of this and set this aside to be replaced with shiny graphics.

Despite the 5/5 rating Static Mass Emporium summed it up perfectly in their review: "Plot wise, many of the elements and questions are shrouded in what felt like misplaced over-ambiguity, whilst other forced and clichéd elements of the film could have greatly benefited from a touch of ambiguity." (or did it?)

Prometheus film spoiler Michael Fassbender android David 8
Image: Nope Michael Fassbender as David 8 is more than happy to overshare so here he is giving away more vital plot details 

Will you be disappointed because you were expecting another Alien?
Probably - but not because Scott wanted to make a different film that's good in it's own right like some are claiming. If anything Prometheus is an update of Alien with the guts and heart missing. The discussion about people being disappointed because they were expecting another Alien is as void - as Prometheus is basically a remake of Alien without the suspense and polished graphics replacing the edgy and dark ambiance.

I wasn't expecting another Alien just a decent film from the man who defined modern science fiction for me. Apart from the beautiful and interesting opening scene with nods to HR Giger’s design work start and the final scene which some may feel was tacked on (especially given the difference in locations between where Prometheus and Alien are set) which I quite enjoyed – there is sadly nothing new here, just rehashed (albeit beautifully rehashed), extended and polished concepts approached in Alien.

Does Prometheus raise big questions and is it thought provoking?
Yes! Prometheus is thought provoking, after about 30 minutes into the film I was provoked into thinking who exactly had Ridley Scott made Prometheus for? Certainly not me. I’m guessing that it’s for the noobs and kids that enjoyed the Star Wars prequelogy.

How did Ridley Scott sleep at night knowing he just stole my £30 for IMAX tickets & £20 for refreshments?

Would Ridley Scott also crap all over the original Blade Runner with the new Blade Runner film?

If anyone else had made this film the discussion on the questions raised by Prometheus would have been over the moment the credits came up and everyone realised what a piece of turd Prometheus is (albeit a shiny well polished turd).

Prometheus film spoiler Michael Fassbender android David 8
Image: David 8's over compensating for lack of human emotion and just in case any of the other crew gave anything away more than him - here is another picture of Michael Fassbender as David 8 giving away more vital plot details 

Will there be a sequel to Prometheus?
I hope so, and I hope Scott doesn't make us wait another 33 years for it because I would like Sir Ridley to prove me wrong and blow me away with an intelligent, challenging and adult science Fiction film reclaiming his well earned title of Godfather of Sci-Fi. Not this shiny rehash of Alien ideas which are hopefully all used up now.

If Ridley Scott was to continue in the opposite direction of intelligent, challenging and adult science Fiction film I look forward to Russel Crowe popping up as an Engineer in the sequel to Prometheus:

Prometheus²: The eagle continues to feed on the audiences livers while they are tied to their chairs. [this is of course a working title possibly to be re-titled Prometheusus if James Cameron steps in early]
Where Crowe plays a renegade disheartened Engineer that turns his back on destroying civilizations and moves to LV-441 (a small planetoid he inherits from his father) but gets back in touch with his badness after he cooks up some primordial sludge in the derelict pool on the planetoid. And we all ponder our own existence and life goals along with him just before the dragon tattoo girl arrives to kill him, leaving us all shocked that the great Ridley has jumped back to his former unpredictable greatness and left just enough questions to make us buy tickets for:

Prometheus³: Primordial Sludge or Engineer shit? The eagle starts on the audiences eyes this time as the shiny graphics are now meaningless
Scott really goes all out exploring the ambiguity of life (or does he?) in the one where the Engineers and dragon tattoo girl, after initially being in conflict, begrudgingly earn each others respect and team up against an even bigger threat THE ARCHITECTS. A super intelligent giant race (or are they?) that created the Engineers and all the planets and the universe and everything in the known (and hinted at unknown) universe (or did they?), The Architects are led by Riddles or the Emperor an earthling that discovered a back door in the time and space continuum by playing a flute and air punching in sequence and with his new clothes he convinces the Engineers and audiences that any old piece of shit film will do when you have enough goodwill to tide you over, Fox backing you and the best special effects creators in the business on hand.

But dragon tattoo girl is not fooled and after a long quest where; dragon tattoo girl, the Engineers with no brains and the android head with no heart follow the yellow cosmic dust to the Emperor she tells him "You have no new clothes like your ideas they are shit, the Architects all know you have no clothes but they refuse to acknowledge it”. Then all the Architects sing in time "The Emperor has no new clothes, we thought that special effects would be enough but now that we actually think about it his ideas are shit". The Emperor runs back to his castle and counts his money, the next morning he gathers all the Architects and all the Engineers and all the little wormy things and the dragon tattoo girl under his balcony where he shouts "I think there is enough to explore in further films, but I'm handing over the franchise to someone who might actually be able to do something interesting with it. Someone that might have ideas that didn't seem fresh 40 year ago and haven't already been explored in popular culture. Someone that might not actually have access to all the best distracting special effects in the world but will rather focus on ideas and characters and not think they are clever because they raise questions that have no answers and never will because I’m shifting from being an original creator to be more like the  guy who made 2001 which I coincidentally used to "inspire" Weyland's space room and his quest. But before that I want  to tell you the secret of the universe .... crash.... just as Riddles is about to reveal something fresh, exciting and finally worth the price of a film ticket (or was he?) an even bigger space ship crashes into his castle.

Oh no! it's the Newcastle steelworkers spaceship driven by the Hovis bread boy and other ghosts (or are they) of Riddles past who declare why 2012 won't be like 1979 but they are just as stumped as everyone else so instead tell everyone they inadvertently created the universe as a by product of some arbitrary thing left, ambiguous and vague enough to create a desire for the fourth film to be directed by the love child of Matt Reeves and Damon Lindelof (or did they).

But those that stay in the cinema till after the credits or play the hidden flute game on the Triple Blu Ray Editors version of Prometheus³: Primordial Sludge or Engineer shit? and unlocks an Easter egg are rewarded with footage of the camera zooming out of Riddles castle, past the silica storm clouds, off the planet, out of the universe, where it is revealed to be just one universe in a test tube along thousands of other test tubes in a warehouse and just as we are about to see that George Lucas and Ridley Scott's names are on the joint ownership title for the warehouse plot - dragon girl wakes up. It was all a dream and she is actually an 6 year old girl at home with her parents. But as she woke up she dropped her snow globe on the floor and it cracks, we zoom into a drop of water from the globe and see life within - once again raising the series in intelligence. But the audience is left overwhelmingly underwhelmed like the end of the film that started it all, the polished turd that is Prometheus.

In case it needs to be mentioned I have nothing but the highest respect for Sir Ridley who is a hero of mine, the above is intended for entertainment purposes only - if you are really seeking answers head over to http://www.liveforfilms.com/2012/06/06/a-theory-about-prometheus-and-the-space-jockeys/ or http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446714/board/thread/200066684 for some healthy discussion & Prometheus theories.

I'm sure that after repeated viewings of the 7 special edition director’s cuts with newly found footage & commentary Prometheus will still be a film that focuses on aesthetics and not ideas and has less heart than a David 8 android but will just seem better because everything else in the genre is even lamer and at least Ridley Scott is copying his own work.

You can go watch Prometheus in cinemas now or just watch the trailer below and save yourself the frustration of someone kicking the back of the chair in the cinema for 124 minutes.

Video: Prometheus Full Trailer 2 or the whole of Prometheus in 2:44

Prometheus has been playing in theaters since 1979 I mean 1 June, 2012 and you can blame the people below.

Ridley Scott, director of “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” returns to the genre he helped define.  With PROMETHEUS, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender