So I finally got round to seeing Prometheus the other day and I thought I would blog about it. As you can probably tell if you have looked at the rest of this site, I don’t usually do posts without photos I have taken and I don’t do film criticism so we’ll see how this goes. I can’t guarantee that there aren’t spoilers below the line. Also be warned, language in this article is not always child safe, I am ranting after all!
I really enjoyed the film. It was well made and very pretty. I loved the ways in which it was similar to or referenced the existing Alien mythology and the ways in which it was different. The locations were excellent and beautifully filmed, especially the rugged landscapes of Iceland. I also really liked the set design for the spaceships, just the right combination of futuristic shinyness and utilitarian harshness.
Having said that, I was frequently irritated by the plot and the characters in a lot of ways which I will now rant about.
For me, the film didn’t work properly as a whole and felt more like a series of scenes which, especially in the second third or so just seemed to be there to lead up to one more dramatic event or shock. As there were so many characters and little or no character development, and due to the fact that the twists came fast and without much buildup, these shocks had little effect on me. I didn’t care when the people who were stupid enough to get stuck in the alien facility in a storm and wandered around on their own and went into the room with the dead alien body and suspiciously oozing pillars AND decided to poke the huge worm thing that had suddenly appeared in an environment that had been sterile hours earler..erm I forgot what I was ranting about…Oh yes, I didn’t care when they died because they deserved to die because they were so damn stupid. And that’s in spite of the fact that they were my 2 favourite characters by that point in the movie.
I also didn’t care when the doctor who had been infected decided to sacrifice himself rather than allow whatever was happening to him to take its course because we had had practically no impression of what was happening to him, he probably had less idea than we did and we never got to experience any of his thought processes or emotions leading up to his decision. Since this event is a significant factor in his girlfriend’s mental state for the rest of the film, a lack of empathy for his character at this point is a pretty serious problem for me. Same is true of Captain Janek and his crew’s decision to sacrifice themselves to kill the Engineer ship which they did mainly on Elizabeth’s say-so with very little evidence or discussion.
I wish this film was out on DVD then I could screencap exactly which scenes made me mad but instead I’ve stolen a load of images from various of the internets 😉
Another pet peeve of mine is characters behaving out of character for what they are supposed to be and not following sensible procedures. I understand that these people are excited and are likely to want to circumvent procedure to get working on the exciting thing they have found and I even respect that film makers need certain devices to move the story along and that the human characteristic of ignoring the rules and doing selfish things is a great way to do this. Remember that these people should be among the intellectual cream of the planet, professional scientists, engineers, astronauts and high level corporate executives. Now, obviously these types of people are just as human and have the same desires and flaws as an average people but you would expect them to understand the importance of having detailed plans and contingencies for things going wrong.
From my point of view, the following things in Prometheus are, to my mind inexcusable and unnecessary:
– Landing a “trillion dollar” spaceship on an unknown, uncharted planet immediately upon arrival and apparently by eye as evidenced by the doctor on the bridge (and what the f**k is an archaeologist doing on the bridge of a spaceship while it is trying to land on an uncharted planet) jumping out of his chair and pointing out of the window (a window for christ’s sake in a spaceship entering a potentially hostile atmosphere!) at a feature that was probably visible from space and saying “land over there!”
– Leaving the ship immediately like a bunch of teenagers on a holiday in Ibiza legging it across the beach into the sea (or more likely the bar) without any thought of what they might encounter when they get there, how long they will be able to stay, whether they can get back, no plan or briefing about what to do when they get there etc, etc…
– Taking your helmet off in an alien construct on an alien world after only a few minutes and no apparent attempts to verify that there are no pathogens or parasites. He deserved to die immediately.
– Everyone else deciding that because he doesn’t drop down dead immediately, that it is therefore safe to take off their helmets too.
– And then letting them back on the f***ing ship after! They obviously had quarantine facilities and procedures and should bloody well have used them, the whole away party should have been decontaminated and then kept physically separated from the rest of the ship for several days. They all deserved to die because of that.
– The biologist and geologist getting lost on their way back and being trapped in the storm despite being the first to leave. It’s a good plot device and the fact that they both end up dead is a more pleasing way of doing it than the more traditional cliché of them forming a strong friendship bond through adversity. I have only one thing to say though, the geologist was responsible for mapping the tunnels for crying out loud, if anyone should NOT be getting lost in there it was him.
– Biologist playing with the snake/worm creature as if it were some kind of kitten or cute furry animal he was familiar with. This should be totally out of character. I’m going to assume here that this character is meant to be more of a zoologist than a biologist so I might be a bit harsh. But you’d have to be pretty mentally subnormal to try to make any kind of physical contact with a creature that you have only just met in an alien environment that you know nothing about, especially given the circumstances. He didn’t even seem to have any plan to capture or sample it he just wanted to touch it like it was some kind of cute puppy. That scene actually reminded me a bit of Nedry in Jurassic Park right before he gets blinded and eaten but I had more compassion for him, at least he was doing stupid things deliberately for lots of money and he wasn’t working in his area of expertise either!
How I would have done it differently
(disclaimer, I know nothing about making movies and only a very little about writing and I’m terrible at characters and dialogue but I do have strong opinions about what I like!)
If anyone is interested, here’s how I think it should/could have gone down and still made a decent and entertaining movie:
– Prometheus arrives in orbit and everyone wakes up just like in the original (BTW I loved the nod to Aliens where everyone is getting dinner and finding seats). The doctors explain what is going on and everyone discusses it (not sure how it is valuable to the plot that people don’t know what mission they are on until they wake up but it seems to be an Alien universe trademark). So far so similar. However, now the Prometheus goes into a parking orbit while it maps the surface of the planet and tracks weather patterns etc. It could launch a few satellites for comms and surveillance etc. This gives a chance for the crew to develop a bit of cabin fever to excuse any crazy behaviour later if required as a plot device but more importantly it gives the viewer an opportunity to get to know the characters going through their daily routine and get to care about them and their relationships
– Having identified a good landing point near the exciting looking artefact (which they could dramatically discover from space in the segment above) the captain takes the ship down and lands it nearby.
– The scientists want to race out like teenagers looking for sun, sea and sex on their first solo holiday but are restrained by the logic of Miss Vickers and Captain Janek while remote surveys are carried out. Geologist man can still have his moment in the spotlight with his “puppies” but they can be launched from the ship and go off to map things.
– Everyone spends the next few days analysing the data until they find the room with the severed head. I’d move the plot device with the broken sensor to here and have David go out to fix it because he is less likely to be contaminated/easier to fix etc. He could get trapped by the storm and be out of contact for hours to do all the dodgy stuff that he does. He could come back with the alien head to distract from the fact that he has also brought back the cylinder with the alien goo in it.
– David can then use the alien goo to infect Charlie, and possibly several other crew members since we have saved a few by not allowing them to do stupid things. The progress of the illness/infection/whatever can be much slower while they spend days safely investigating the artefact in sensible ways allowing the tension to build more slowly and therefore be more dramatic when Charlie/whoever finally dies. Second and third infections could conceivably be faster acting and more dramatic as David continues his research into the goo.
– At this point, probably because David has covered things up, it can be decided that it is safe for humans to go outside. They go in full suits cautiously, not hooning around in buggies like they are joyrding in the dunes on some beach in california, and they keep their suits and helmets on at all times.
From now on, the film can go pretty much as the original does. I would probably use a bit more treachery from David rather than stupidity from the characters to get people infected etc. Personally I would have liked to see a bit more military stuff, they obviously had weapons on board and people trained to use them, but that is just my taste.
Oh, but at the end, Miss Vickers escapes in her lifeboat quarters but gets killed by the alien squid off camera and discovered by Elizabeth later. And the running away from the falling space ship is limited to Elizabeth sprinting a short distance to the lifeboat before the Engineer ship hits the ground and getting into a suspension chamber to survive the blast wave of impact.
I think I’d probably end with Elizabeth hiking into the crashed ship recording her last message and looking for David rather than having her fly off in a fully working Engineer ship.
Other points and musings
(in no particular order here are some things that either struck me as odd or that I didn’t understand)
– At the very beginning, Elizabeth is seen clumsily excavating a small amount of rock from a tiny hole. As a result of peering through this hole, she sends a runner for Charlie. When Charlie arrives, she is standing inside a huge cave explaining the age and meaning of the paintings. There is no way she would have been able to see that this was important through this tiny hole!
– Was it supposed to be a surprise that Weyland was on board or that Miss Vickers was his daughter? And why are we supposed to care?
– How did Elizabeth manage to get into the secret room where Mr Weyland was being woken up and dressed. Surely since his presence was a secret they would at least have locked the door!
– How did Elizabeth manage to get to the medical bay without encountering anyone. I can’t believe that David would not have taken more effective measures to make sure that she was put in stasis than just drugging her and leaving her on the table.
– Why bother having the medical machine refuse to perform a caesarean on Elizabeth? The scene would have been just as dramatic and bloody if it had done exactly what she asked it to. I guess it was trying to build tension like the scenes in cheap horror movies where you can’t get your key in the car ignition and the killer is stalking you but like device designed to introduce tension in this film it really didn’t work for me.
– Where did Miss Vickers go for most of the film? I know that she is a kind of silent partner and is portrayed as a reclusive character but during several very important scenes where you’d expect her to be present she isn’t and then she does crazy things like grabbing a flame-thrower and going down to the cargo bay to incinerate infected scientists! I would have expected some kind of scene to establish at least that she was doing something dodgy or trying to find out what David and her dad are up to or just being arrogant and aloof and hiding in her room!
– On the subject of Miss Vickers’ room, since they had gone to the trouble earlier on to lay it on thick about her quarters being a lifeboat, why did they have such a supposedly dramatic scene at the end where she is struggling to get into an escape pod? Why not go to her quarters? I know they get pretty messed up on the landing but what’s the point of a lifeboat that doesn’t have somewhere that will protect a passenger from a violent landing.
– Finally, what’s with the absurd spaceship crash that’s a combination of Indiana Jones running away from the huge rolling ball and the idiotic driving away from nuclear explosions of so many dumb-ass armageddon movies?! Surely something that big falling from that high up would leave a smoking crater and no one alive for miles. And if you are willing to ignore that, all either of them had to do would be to deviate their run a little to either side and be missed completely by the ship.
Apologies for the rant!