This is the third time I’ve seen PROMETHEUS. I saw it twice in the theater. It’s one of the most divisive movies in the history of outlawvern.com comments, and I wanted to see how it played after sleeping on it for a while. I still like it and think that its great filmatism overcomes its underlying stupidity. But I’ve got a few new thoughts on it.
We’ve discussed alot of unscientific things these scientists on the Prometheus do, but one I don’t remember thinking about before is that they’re totally jumping to this conclusion that humans were engineered. All they’re going on is the “DNA match,” that “their genetic material predates ours,” but doesn’t that seem more like we evolved from them than they purposely created us? I guess they’re going on the cave paintings, which they assume were made by the Engineers and did in fact lead them to this planet. But I don’t know, I don’t feel like this Engineer theory has been adequately proven.
I tend to think of this movie as having weak characters, but actually most of the main characters (Noomi Rapace as Shaw, Michael Fassbender as David, Charlize Theron as Vickers and Idris Elba as Janek) are interesting, it’s the other chumps that drag things down. My vote for Biggest ALIEN Series Douche Since Paul Reiser doesn’t even go to a Company stooge, it goes to fucking Dr. Charlie “I just want answers, baby” Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), Shaw’s boyfriend and co-archaeologist.
Man, I hate this dick. This is the guy who discovers a bunch of cave paintings that he uses to convince a rich guy to fund a mission across the universe to find the aliens he thinks created man. They actually find one of these aliens dead and bring its fresh severed head back to the lab… and he sits on a table with a bottle of vodka and pouts like a kid that doesn’t want to be at church! He admits that this is “the most significant discovery in the history of mankind” but he’s acting like a baby because he says they’re all dead and he “wanted to talk to them.”
Well guess what Charlie, we don’t get everything we want. This guy is such a maroon. I don’t care who you are or what you’re trying to do, if there is a giant alien severed head in front of you for the first time you are gonna be curious! That’s number one. And number two, why the fuck are you assuming that they’re all dead? You went down a tunnel and went into one room. There is a whole fuckin planet here you haven’t looked at. Your lady friend even said exactly that when asked if they were all dead: “I don’t know. I just got here.” There is not one single reason to believe that they’re all dead. In fact, they’re not all dead, we later find out. You are a fucking idiot, bro.
Also, not cool to tell your girlfriend “Well, you can take your father’s cross off now” when you discover something that you think disproves the existence of God. You love this girl, right? And you know that her religious beliefs are what connect her to her dead father and give her hope for her life? Yeah, so tread lightly on the whole ha-ha-we-just-disproved-everything-that-has-ever-been-meaningful-to-you business. That’s common sense, by the way, something we expect you as a decent adult human to have known for many years, you should not have had to find that out from a movie review. Just so you know.
#2 stupidest person on the crew has gotta go to Rafe Spall as Millburn. In his defense, he knows that his tattooed geologist pal Fifeld (Sean Harris) is a moron. “On behalf of scientists everywhere,” he says, “I am ashamed to count you among us, Fifeld. Really.” But this is also the guy that discovers the alien dick monster and says “look at you, baby!” like he’s talking to a newborn puppy, gets all in its face like he’s gonna rub noses with it. Riddick would’ve known how to handle this thing, but you don’t. Back the fuck off, dumbass.
But PROMETHEUS is not as much about those characters, luckily. It’s about Shaw and her insistence on believing things she can’t back up (that there is a God, that the Engineers created us, that Dr. Holloway isn’t a total douche) and it’s kind of about this dysfunctional Weyland family. There’s the father, who is so self-obsessed that he initiates mankind’s contact with its creator and then makes it all about himself. Also, rich enough to pay a bunch of people to go to sleep for years traveling into space with people they’ve never met on a mission he’s not gonna explain to them until they get there. Kind of a dick move in my opinion. But they’re adults, they could’ve said no.
Then there’s the son (robot), who tries to impress his father but also admits he wants him to die. And the daughter, who tells him she’s waiting for him to die so she can take over, who is jealous of the robot. I always dug that scene where the hologram of Weyland calls David the closest thing he has to a son and she looks jealous. But I don’t know if I picked up on David looking jealous when he talks about her. They both know that they can never be to him what the other one is, and they can’t stand it. Also he’s one of those terrible parents who says shit in front of the kids that he damn well knows is hurtful to them, and they gotta sit there and take it. Talkin about his robot not having a soul, jesus. Why did he even bring that up?
Man, there’s a great moment I don’t think I properly appreciated before. When Weyland is revealed to be alive and on Prometheus, Vickers comes in to see his reaction to successfully finding man’s creators. He says he’s surprised she came, he figured she wouldn’t since she was so against him doing this. “I thought you wanted me to,” she says. She’s so hurt. Motherfucker! Sleeping for years, traveling this far, now she’s gonna get squooshed by a giant rolling alien bone ship, all for this asshole who doesn’t even care that she’s there! Figured she wouldn’t come. Well you should’ve fuckin told her not to, you dick! Would’ve saved her alot of trouble. Fucking Janek is pretty much the only worthwhile thing she does out here. Oh, and burning Holloway alive with a blowtorch, that was good.
[By the way, I used to think it was weird that they had Guy Pearce in old man makeup for this character, but I think I get it now. It’s not like he’s 70, the guy looks like he’s supposed to be 105 or something. They could get the oldest actor in Hollywood, they’d probly still have to put a bunch of makeup on him to make him look like that. And frankly if you are an 80 year old actor you should draw the line at having to sit in the makeup chair for 4 hours every morning. And is it gonna look that much more real anyway? Might as well get a younger guy who happens to be a great actor that Ridley Scott probly wanted to work with.]
I like Vickers and her blowtorch technique, but she takes after her father. Every single other survivor happily volunteers to die in order to stop the Engineer ship from taking off to destroy earth. Vickers is the only one who scrambles for her (five star, by the way) escape pod. You know what, it looks like you guys have this trying to save the entire planet of earth thing under control, I think I’m gonna hit the road. She doesn’t even wish them luck.
Shit, even fuckin Holloway sacrificed himself when he realized his infection could ruin the mission. She was the badass who strutted out and burned him alive to protect the ship. She should’ve learned something from that. Look at this coward!
Reminds me of one of the all time great scenes in cinema, from one of the all time great movies, ON DEADLY GROUND (1994, d: S. Seagal):
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PROMETHEUS was only a year ago, and I wrote a pretty thorough review, and plenty of followups in the comments. So instead of trying to expand on that too much let’s look at the idea I think Mouth pointed out, that it’s kind of like a slasher movie. I’m also jonesing big time to end this Summer Movie Flashback series and get into my traditional October horror binge, so this will help ease me into it.
Now that I’m looking for them I see that there really are alot of horror tropes in here, slasher and otherwise.
Like so many horror movies it takes place on a holiday. They land on Christmas and leave on New Year’s (Eve? Day? I forget). There’s even a Christmas tree. Not Christmas music, though.
The space ship Prometheus, especially when only David is awake, is big, empty, quiet, lonely and sterile, a classic horror location. Think of the hospital at night in both HALLOWEEN IIs and in VISITING HOURS, or the big empty hotels in THE SHINING and THE INNKEEPERS.
Of course the structure they go into in the LV place is a more obvious horror location, a mountain shaped like a skull, a dark cave with skeletons in it, weird occult symbols, spooky statues, worms, snakes, coffins. Even a guy that wakes up out of the coffin, like Dracula! And tears a guy’s head off!
While they’re in the cave they get separated, and call out each other’s names a bunch of times, that’s a classic. Unfortunately there’s no “Come on you guys, this isn’t funny!”
Fifeld and Millburn even have to spend the night in the spooky cave, next to dead bodies! And it’s almost like it’s haunted, because they saw the holographic security cam visions of now-dead Engineers running in fear, and they seemed to think they were real. The only thing better would be if an eccentric rich guy (Guy Pearce) was offering them a million dollars if they can last through the night.
Oh, but the reason they’re stranded is even more of a horror tradition: an “incoming storm front.” I’m surprised their car didn’t break down.
The slasher movie archetypes come in with those supporting characters I was complaining about. They’re assholes to each other for no reason. On a space mission like this, or a trip to a cabin, you’d think they’d try to put together a group of people who get along, but that rarely happens in the movies.
Also there’s the drugs, alcohol and sex. Dr. Holloway is the drinker, and bad shit happens from it (David poisons him and tiny metal things come out of his eyeball – completely deserved). Fifeld is the smoker – he sarcastically says it’s tobacco, which is probly supposed to mean it’s pot, but in my opinion it’s futuristic menthol supercrack. Whatever it is he inhales it and then gets dickmonstered about two minutes later.
The sex is only mildly slasherish though. In one case (Holloway and Shaw) sex = near-death, because it impregnates her with a fast-growing alien octostarfish baby. In the other case (Janek and Vickers) there are no direct consequences and it’s not mentioned again. Also it’s off screen. (Good for him, though, using the old “prove you’re not a robot by fucking me” gambit.)
[By the way, this is off topic but my hat’s off to Elba’s performance when he asks her if she’s a robot. In the script he’s probly just trying to get laid, but Elba plays it like he’s really nervous to ask her, like he really doesn’t know and has been wondering for a long time. Good shit.]
Remember when they go into the cave and they realize that somebody started terraforming the place, there’s breathable air in there, Holloway recklessly takes his helmet off, and they all laugh at how crazy he is and then follow suit? That’s the skinnydipping scene. We’ve seen scenes like this, right? One or more hotshot in the group wants to show off and push the envelope, does something crazy and everybody shakes their head and joins in. Peer pressure. Like they sneak into THE FUNHOUSE at night, for example.
There’s a looking in the mirror scene. Dr. Holloway gets infected, he feels that something is wrong, looks at himself in the mirror, sees something horrible.
And then he keeps it a secret, just like somebody who’s been scratched/bit by a zombie/vampire/werewolf. He knows he’s changing, but he keeps it to himself for a while. When it’s getting out of control, as mentioned before, he makes Vickers burn him alive. That’s a classic. It’s the “You know what to do, right? Don’t let me turn into one of those things” scene.
And of course the biggest one is Shaw as a badass Final Girl, the one who observed what was going on before everybody else, who tried to tell them, who runs around nearly naked, covered in blood, cut open, limping, giving herself shots of painkillers, still kicking ass. She runs and trips and still gets away. She even runs around with an ax, as is the tradition.
So I can enjoy it. It’s a big crazy beautiful movie with the kind of dumb horror movie I like underneath. I wish some of these characters were a little smarter, but it’s almost like those frustrations make it more interesting to analyze. I don’t know if it’s a movie glorifying faith or criticizing people for stubbornly ignoring the facts in order to support their preconceived conclusions. Shaw is so identifiable that you figure you should take it at face value when she keeps talking about “because it’s what I choose to believe,” and yet, at the end of this movie she’s on a suicide mission with a treacherous talking severed head in a bag because she chooses to believe she deserves to ask more questions to the weird alien giants who, last time she tried to ask them questions, crushed several people with their bare hands and chased her off. Plus, her even coming here almost wiped out the Earth and she had to convince her friends to kill themselves in order to clean up that mess. She’s not the best poster girl for faith.
Man, I hope they figure out how to make that sequel! I’m sure she’d put his head back on his body, not sling it around like a bowling ball, which is too bad. But it would still be interesting to find out what the fuck that movie would be about. If they don’t know they should call up Jodorowsky, I’m sure he could suggest something.
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other movies that came out that summer: DARK SHADOWS, BATTLESHIP, MEN IN BLACK 3, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, TOTAL RECALL, THE BOURNE LEGACY, THE EXPENDABLES 2, PREMIUM RUSH
highest grossing movie that year: MARVEL’S DISNEY’S JOSS WHEDON’S THE AVENGERS
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Thanks for reading along with the Summer Movie Flashback series. Next I’ll be playing some catch up with reviews of some other movies I’ve watched over the past few weeks and then I’m gonna watch about a million horror movies, or as close to a million as I can fit into my off hours during October. Actually probly closer to ten or fifteen horror movies. I don’t know. We’ll see.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.