What I'm Watching: Prometheus
Aww yeah, I bring you fire from the gods! And by that, I mean the hot new movie by Ridley Scott.
It should come as no surpise that I love the original Alien movie, from '79. I still remember pretty clearly watching it over at a friend's house, when my head wasn't covered in a blanket. I prefer the original to Aliens, even. Many people consider the sequel to be THE movie, but I lean more towards te first.
Now, before the hate mail starts (Although any mail would be a change from no mail, so knock yerselves out...), look at what I said. I prefer the original. I don't say I hate the second. Alien is one of my all-time fave movies. If I give it a 10 on a randomly arbitrary scale, I would put Aliens at an 8.5 to 9.
Alien is way more of a horror movie with scifi tones, and Aliens is an action movie with monsters and horrory tones licking at the edges. Thinking of them that way, it should be pretty obvious why I lean more towards the former than the latter. But the second is still really freaking good, just different, and telling a less interesting, to me, story.
And then there's Alien 3, and Alien: Ressurection. Yeah, let's just forget about those, shall we?
The first question to get right out of the way is...is this a prequel to Alien?
Answer? Oh hell yes. There really is no denying that. But it is less so a prequel to the other movies. What do I mean by that? Well, the later movies kinda diverge from the original, and do their own things, while Prometheus is very much in line with Scott's style, his themes, and everything else he set out to do with Alien. The two movies are cut from the same cloth, by the same person, and the rest spin out of that, but this brings things right back to home base.
So naturally, it should be no surprise that there are a lot of similarities in the story, and how things play out. But there are differences as well. This isn't like watching a sequel and they hit all the same beats. They kinda do, but in different ways, which is good.
If the original is a horror movie with some scifi trappings to it, Prometheus is a science fiction movie, with a few bits of horror lurking around. It's an inversion of the previous movie in that way, and for the most part it works.
Where it doesn't work, is that there isn't quite enough horror. The story never *quite* coalesces. The movie leaves you at a place where things clearly HAVE to continue. It's the first half of a story leading into the next movie. By that, I mean Prometheus 2, not Alien. Although, duh, it sets up that as well. With the way things end, it actually sets up two seperate franchises, and makes a very neat, divergent set of stories to tell. One of which has already been told, and one that is yet to be told. That's rather clever, but without that second movie, this is really just the story of a bunch of explorers landing on a planet hoping to find the origins of humanity, getting killed off mostly, and the survivors flying off to continue their quest.
It works as the first chapter in a greater journey of exploration, and since I believe that was what they were going for, the idea that not all answers are found, then I am not too upset. And since this movie is well told, well made, and well acted...then having a bit of a climactic fizzle...well, I can live with that.
The main cast were all great, and a subpar story told by a great cast definitely help bring it up. Michael Fassbender continues to impress, this time as the android David. Charlize Theron is perfect as the hard-ass leader of the mission, and Noomi Rapace is a sympathetic, curious scientist that started this whole ball rolling. Also of note is Idris Elba as the ship's captain, who brings a good sense of humour and cynicism to the cast, to keep things light aboard the ship.
It does answer a few questions from the Alien mythos, while leaving others WAY up in the air, annoyingly enough. It does have some great scenes in it, and hey! It's Ridley Freakin' Scott. He's kinda lost me in recent years, and I felt many of his movies of late could use a tighter edit to strengthen them, and there's a bit of that here, but in a movie with horror in its nature, then you want a slow pace. You want that tension. It also works well for the slow, langurious drifting of the Prometheus through space. These sorts of movies are where Scott's sometimes slow style actually work to their benefit. I never once found myself tapping my foot waiting for something to happen, even when I probably should, because it worked well for the pacing.
Sadly, for a movie that is the precursor to the Alien franchise, there's very little alien action. There are a few creatures here and there that attack, a proto-face hugger or two, but since this has to set things up for the first movie, it doesn't quite have the aliens to play with that we want them to have. If there had been more monsters to play with, paying things off in a more tangible way, then it would have been a stronger movie, I think.
I do like that now that we have the story of the Aliens out of the way here, and those adventures continue off in the previous movies, the Prometheus franchise can now go off and do its own thing, with its own creatures, and not be tied down to the past, which should make for a great sequel in a few years as things continue.
If you're a fan of the original Alien movie, Prometheus is almost a must see. It is very much a companion piece to that movie, and the two go hand in hand with each other. Like I said, it has much less to do with the other films, only barely having anything to do with the 1979 movie, so it might be of less interest. But it's still a solid movie that doesn't quite come together for greatness, and worth watching.
Also, I think that this movie makes the AvP movies completely non-canonical.