June 4th, 2012

Hmmm.  A baffling mess, sadly, and the more I think about it the more incoherent it seems.  It’s a kind-of-prequel to Alien, in which a mismatched crew (again) working for a sinister company (again) land on an unmapped planet (again) and investigate some mysterious HR Giger inspired ruins (again) with horrifying xenomorphic consequences (again).

Beware of spoilers, all!  From the mysteriously incomprehensible and unnecessary double prologue on, the plotting never really seemed to make any sense to me.  A mysterious alien race of engineers has created mankind but also wants to destroy them, apparently failed to do it but then, it would seem, gave up, using a biological goo-weapon which sometimes infects people and turns them into super-strong psychos, sometimes impregnates them with alien-y spores, sometimes makes their heads explode, sometimes produces goo-snakes that throttle them and sometimes … doesn’t really do anything.  If I was an ultra-intelligent progenitor race I’d hope to come up with a slightly more reliable bio-weapon.  There are attempts to shroud all this in tantalising existential profundity which really didn’t work for me, and attempts to shroud it in pseudo sciency mumbo jumbo about DNA that worked even less.  It had important stuff to say about, like, parenthood and creation and that, but I’m danged if I can tell you what.

I don’t know if it was just that I lost enthusiasm for the project generally, but the problems seemed to go well beyond plot and into the minutiae.  It looked great, there was some fantastic design work, the ubiquitous and ever-reliable Michael Fassbender was excellent as synthetic David, Idris Elba continues to be a really charismatic and watchable actor, but otherwise the crew scarcely made an impression.  They hardly registered as characters, and exchanges between them were usually cardboardy, and sometimes downright risible.  Noomi Rapace, who’d been so good in the Swedish Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, seemed totally lost here.  Why make her pretend to be English?  Why give her that execrable hair?  Why make up Guy Pearce to be a hundred and fifty?  That never, ever works.  Are there no competent actually old actors around?  People who can look aged without seventeen kilos of paralysing latex and therefore, you know, act and look old simultaneously?  Charlize Theron’s character did push ups and looked pissed off about stuff, but as far as I could tell did not do or say one thing in the entire film that was of any use.  Strange.  Baffling decisions abounded – We really don’t like the feel of this dead alien city, so even though we’re paid professionals and scientists investigating the most important discovery in human history, we’ll leave the group in a sulk and strike off on our own, then we’ll get lost even though one of us was responsible for mapping the place!  Yeah!  There were even odd moments where basic editing and continuity discipline seemed to lapse – Noomi, impregnated by an alien spore, is being sedated by two hazmat suit wearing crew members, then she fights them off, runs away and conducts the surgery to remove it herself in a surgical surgery machine conveniently introduced earlier.  Probably the strongest scene in the film, on a superficial level, but no one bothers to follow her, or tries to stop her, or really even mentions it afterwards.  Bizarre.  I now strongly suspect my wife of malingering, as well, since following her Caesarian Section she apparently had to spend several days in bed unable to, you know, turn over, while Noomi, aside from the odd grunt and clutch at the belly scar, is perfectly capable of running a four minute mile a couple of hours after the procedure.

But without doubt the greatest mystery, the one which perplexed me and my wife right from the opening scene, was never explained.  What insidious message was being sent by making the mysterious engineers look so freakishly much like China Mieville?

I sadly couldn’t find a still of the engineer in the flesh and had to make do with the giant stone head, but it’s perhaps just as well as you literally would not have been able to tell the two pictures apart.  Maybe.

A bit dull and silly, all in all.  Nowhere near as dull and silly as the Star Wars prequels, but something of the same sense of a creator having lost their grip on the subject matter, picking over the same ground while struggling to tie up loose ends that were never meant to be tied, ploddingly explaining elements of their creation that defy explanation and, indeed, would be much, much better left ambiguous…

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on June 4th, 2012.

57 comments so far

  • Lloyd says:

    Think you’ve nailed it with your observations here, though the sci-fi pickings have been so slim for the last decade, and I think Ridley has done more to fill the void with this than Cameron did with Avatar.

    I honestly don’t know what you could do with the Alien franchise that could escape the shadow of the original and stand up in its own right?

    I think this would stand up a lot better without the burden of Alien hanging over it and perhaps also without the expectation that comes along with a heavyweight director such as Ridley Scott.

    Would we be lamenting this so much if this was an unknown director without the “prequel” expectations? I doubt it, it’d probably be hailed as the best sci-fi film of the 21st century… Well maybe.

  • Dan says:

    Brilliant review, you totally hit the nail on the head. I would also go as far as saying it was dull, boring and a long two hours. Big shame really because it looked fantastic.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Alien obviously casts a long shadow over this, but that’s partly because it insists on revisiting so much of the very same ground, way more than, say, Aliens does despite being much more explicitly connected. Obviously there’s a big element of disappointment because, hey, it’s Ridley Scott and he’s directed two of the best SF films ever, but I think even if it had been a different director and, er, a different film, in a sense, the flatness of the characters, the incomprehensibility of the overall plot and the sloppiness of some of the detail would bring it in a long way short of classic status. The alien in Alien made sense, it had a life cycle you could understand, likewise the motivations of the company and its employees. Neither the engineers or their goo or for that matter any of the humans in Prometheus really seemed to behave in a consistent way. Far too much hand-waving going on.

    I know a lot of people don’t think much of Avatar but, boy, I thought that was vastly superior. At least it hit what it was aiming at.

  • Dave says:

    Completely disagree.

    I thought the storyline was clear and interesting, not dominated by special effects, with enough surprise moments to keep the audience entertained.

    Of course there are plot devises such as Shaw being able to move around after a Caesarian, but considering the amount of medication she was taking and assuming medical advances over the next 84years, the only silliness appears to be those trying to draw attention to it especially as even today, people are capable of extraordinary physical acts if terrified and running for their lives.

    Overall the entire cast was excellent, especially Rapace and Fassbender and I very much hope we get a sequel.

  • Matt says:

    Yeah, agree with everything you said. I’m starting to really wonder if Scott has lost his touch because Robin Hood was totally average as well.

    As for Avatar, it was unoriginal, cliche, and heavy handed, but it ‘worked’ well, as formulaic stuff often can. Definitely better than this in my opinion.

    Joe, did you happen to see the Avengers, and are you planning on giving us your thoughts?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Oh sure! You’ll be telling me next the engineers weren’t deliberately made to look like China Mieville!

    We wanted to see the Avengers but it was on too late. On such considerations does the reviewing roster around here hinge. I’ll let you know if I get to it, but it might well be when it’s left the cinemas.

  • My dislike of superhero guff, however well done, leaves me with lean pickings in the current SF-orientated film landscape, so I desperately want films like this to be made. But it does have serious faults, regardless of comparisons to the original, and these have to be laid squarely at the feet of the scriptwriters. What with “Lost” and this, Lindelof seems to have problems tightening up ideas into a coherent whole. The plot too often falls into the hoary old trap of having everyone act like idiots in order to allow things to happen (hey, let’s not monitor our communications, even though two personnel are trapped outside the ship!), and the crew dynamics never feel right – why are the personnel of top-dollar corporate project Prometheus even more ramshackle and psychologically incompatible than that of grubby space tug Nostromo? Just so many problems muttering away in the background.

    I liked Avatar less, but different strokes.

  • Ben Cooper says:

    “Charlize Theron’s character did push ups and looked pissed off about stuff, but as far as I could tell did not do or say one thing in the entire film that was of any use”…errrm, she did push-ups and was Charlize Theron….and she did push-ups. Whilsty being Charlize Theron.


  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Lots of spoilers, everyone!

    Alright, alright, the Theronian push ups were seriously Charlizey, I’ll give you that. And her hair was even more ace than Noomi’s was … not ace. But she did absolutely nothing. A small amount of bitchy exposition which David could have done just as well. Cooked Holloway (thank heavens for that) which anyone else could have done, it was a totally logical call. Had sex with the captain, I guess, though that never went anywhere. Sneered at her father, utterly meaningless, as we knew nothing about her or her father. Then ran away and was crushed by a giant rolling donut she could have relatively easily got out of the path of, it seemed to me.

    The dysfunctional crew was a particularly interesting one since it seemed to underline a strange need to hue very close to Alien when you could more effectively have done something different. Why would they have had any trouble recruiting the best and brightest for this supremely well funded and fascinating mission? Why did they have to be told the purpose on arrival, rather than recruited specifically for the task? A set of clean cut professionals with perhaps a couple of weird geniuses would have made much better sense and been a lot more interesting. It would also have made the really left-field knee-jerk decision, by not only the captain but also the rest of the crew, to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of humanity a little easier to swallow.

  • Phillips says:

    I think any film that relies on its characters making stupid decisions in order to progress the plot has lost before it begins.

  • Lloyd says:

    I enjoyed Avatar, I just think they could have done more with it. Calling the planet Pandora for one, and mining for Unobtainium? Was it written during the writers strikes? The audience is spoon fed so much in that film, it doesn’t give you any scope to interpret characters motivations, politics or goals. The villains were more one dimensional than a Disney film. I don’t want to jump on any bandwagons but that film revisits unintentionally or not, a lot of ground covered by Dances With Wolves, and it does it with a similar amount of subtlety to James Cameron’s other films.

    Joe, I don’t think that Prometheus deserves classic status, that was more a statement on the lack of any real claimants to the sci-fi crown this century. I mean this years only other big sci-fi blockbuster has been John Carter of Mars, a film already proclaimed Hollywood’s biggest ever failure, a film so catastrophically poor performing, Disney’s CEO resigned as a result.

    Whether or not Prometheus is deemed a great movie, it is a step in the right direction, and so long as it is a commercial success, that can only be a good thing for a movie industry that seems devoid of creativity and unwilling to take risks.

  • Ian Cooper says:


    Spot on with how I felt.

    What worries me was that it would have been relatively simple to fix the majority of these problems. Reduce the size of the crew from 17 to 8 or 9 so that we don’t have so many bit parts and the scenes all earn their keep. Too many scenes that revealed character go nowhere – the Darwinian bioligist in conflict with Noomi’s Von Daniken “Stars are Gods belief”, the captain playing Steven Stills squeeze box and seducing Theron.

    A fix would have been to spend the effort from those on plausible motives for later actions. Expend effort on some unifying theme across the stories, something about parenthood and its responsibilities, that could have been brought out: Noomi’s infertility, the creation of David, the Captain’s self-sacrifice etc.

    Sadly Lost was my only feeling at the end of it

  • FlyMonkey says:

    I have to say that I have yet to find a sci-fi series that matches the insight and depth of the Riddick series. Also Joe, more whiskey and books please!

  • JamesM says:

    I heard Scott wanted to do Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War a few years back, which I thought could have been amazing. Then he said he was retreading old ground with this and I was really disappointed. Looks like only more disappointment is waiting for me when I actually see it. I don’t get why he felt this was necessary.

    Scott has annoyed me for about a decade now. He’s an amazing director, his films are visually stunning, but then he works on these shoddy scripts. You’d think he’d make sure the script, the foundation of his work was sound before doing something like this.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I agree there ain’t been a lot of great scifi around. I thought Star Trek was junk. Moon, maybe?

    Ian Cooper,
    Many of the crew barely figured, but even those that did seemed underdeveloped and inconsistent. As you say, dead ends. The captain, for example, had a fair bit of screen time, but nothing that really explained the way he chose to act at the end. Guy Pearce wasn’t really present enough to register. Charlize, lots of screen time to no purpose at all.

    There are very few films not starring Vin Diesel that would not be hugely improved by the addition of Vin Diesel.

    I dunno how it happens, I guess one is forced to wonder – maybe he isn’t that good with script? That Robin Hood was really very bad, I’d mercifully forgotten about that. I think in the focus on the director it’s easy to forget that films are the massive ensemble efforts of a big group, and you’re never sure who’s responsible for what on a given project. And then maybe people just lose their touch a little. You’d never believe that the same man responsible for Star Wars – so deft, so nimble, so witty, could be responsible for the unbearably ponderous self-regarding stodge that was the prequels.

  • JamesM says:

    And Riddick FlyMonkey…really?

  • Cara says:

    I need to go see this movie. It’s been hyped up a lot and like so many hyped up movies are, it may well be shite, but I still want to see it for myself. I loved the Alien movies, well, the first two at least. Even liked the 3rd, but then I also enjoyed Firefly, which only got one season, so what do I know.

    I’ll remember to bite my tongue so not to shout out loud when I notice China Miéville’s head.

  • Graham says:

    It was better than Avatar. Avatar was dances with wolves in space…. I do hope your affection for it doesn’t mean Red Country is Fantasy Dances with Wolves?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I was just thoroughly entertained by Avatar and hugely admired the groundbreaking technical achievement. Lack of originality in the plot didn’t seem much of an issue for me. You could make that exact sort of comment about loads of films – Fistful of Dollars is just Yojimbo in Mexico, but they’re both superb (and you could argue, essential) films. Ran is just King Lear in Japan but neither of them is exactly a waste of time. Maybe Avatar wasn’t deep but at least it wasn’t pompous. Affection is probably the wrong word, I haven’t felt much inspired to see it again and I expect it’s one of those films that’s a lot less impressive on the small screen. But as far as cinematic experiences go it was a big thumbs up for me, where Prometheus was a qualified thumbs down.

  • Geoff says:

    I thought it set itself up as the first in the prequel trilogy to the Alien series well enough (from a plot perspective). Bear in mind that it took place on a different moon to Alien/Aliens, so that crashed engineers ship isn’t the one in those films. One hopes the familiar Alien life-cycle will come about in Promethei/Prometheus3.

    As for the engineers, I had presumed that they breed planets full of humans to then infect with the goo so they have awesome weapons to use in the war against, say, Predators. Of course, the Predators will end up wiping out the engineers in the third film, which is why they’ve never annihilated Earth (as a mark of respect).

    Charlize isn’t dead either; she’ll be back to save her brother and Noomi in the next film. She is, after all, a more advanced android. However, that Cthulhalien will stow away on her ship to continue the xenophobian menace.

    And Noomi will end up birthing the first Alien Queen at the end of Prometheus3, as it bursts from her chest whilst she’s piloting an engineer ship, dressed in that engineers spacesuit, crashing on LV-426 and setting up the rest of the films.

    Perhaps I’m reading too much into this.

    I did like the nods to Alien and Aliens from the identically-shot scenes and the reuse of dialogue. I went into the film expecting it to be awful though, so was pleasantly surprised.

    Agreed about the unnecessarily large cast. Perhaps they’ll have more screen-time in the three hour-long Special Edition though. And the extraction of the squid face-hugger (another Miéville reference?) could have been handled more effectively.

    It is very possible that I’ve created an intricate fantasy to explain away an awful film, but they did land on LV-223, so here’s to hoping.

  • Graham says:

    I think (hope) what they want to do if they get the green light for two more films is to draw a parallel between the engineers creating us and then some of them fearing what we could become and wanting to destroy us and our creation of androids and how we could fear them replacing us. That could be pretty interesting. I do agree that trying to capture the feel of the “Space truckers” crew the first Alien film had failed miserably, as yes that should have been a mission of elite professionals gagging to get some extra-terrestrial action.

    I don’t think the bio weapon was quite as silly as you suggest – it was evolving to a) kill people and b) spread in the best way possible. In the plague form then quarantine is all you need hence the evolution into the Alien. I think the engineers apparent lack of non-bio weapons would be a reason we might give them the willies – am I reaching a bit hear? I like that the film has sent my imagination off on one. The film Contact didn’t manage that!

    As for Avatar – I think the fact that it has no merits that make it enjoyable the second time around, the fact it spawned the current 3d fad (3d is cack and pointless) and that it didn’t match up to the hype have clouded the fact that yes it was quite impressive on the first watch. But for big silly Sci fi give me Independence Day, Star Trek or a Marvel film any day over Avatar. For intelligent Sci Fi then I loved Moon and Source Code (Duncan Jones is certainly someone to keep an eye on) or Chronicle or the Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

    Batman, Spidey and the Hobbit still to come this year 🙂

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Graham, Geoff,
    Hadn’t even realised we were potentially talking about three films here.

    On the silliness of the weapon – I sort of see where you’re coming from, but for a species extinction agent it seemed pretty hard to contract. People sniffed it and stared at it pretty close, wandered about without their helmets on, that infected alien head was all over the ship, David wasn’t too careful where he smeared it, and nothing. For that matter Shaw had sex with Holloway, who was infected, and didn’t get infected herself, at least not in the way he was. Once the alien fetus was removed she was apparently fine. That’s a pretty darn plot-specific contagion you got going on. A common or garden airborne microbe approach would have been vastly more effective, I’d have thought. If the aim was to create a weapon really dangerous to humans they had a seriously convoluted way of going about it.

    As for the engineers fear of non-biological weapons, it seems they need not have been too afraid of human ingenuity from that standpoint. The guns were bloody useless.

  • Aaron Tomey says:

    “Monkey” and “Vin Diesel” go together perfectly, seeing as Vin Diesel appearance proves that we are related to apes.

    And fuck, I feel so out of place right now. I have to wait until the eighth to see the film. And from what I understand, it’s just a creepier, more morbid Alien.

  • Jon says:

    We’ll I saw it at the weekend and thought it was great…..

    OK, so the character definition wasn’t great – but it is a 2hr long film designed with a young (15+) audience in mind, its not a 3hr epic.
    Who ever cast Guy Pearce should be shot, unless of course there is an alternate motive of a follow up film featuring a young or robot version of Mr Wayland….

    But – at least it was si-fi film with a bit more substance to it than a pure horror or just shooting aliens which we are inundated by every summer – it is as a si-fi film should be, thought provoking and meaning full. It manages this whilst still pleasing the masses (though not many of the critics) and warranting a big budget, $135 million! from its producers. The only decent si-fi film of the last 25+ years has been Moon, which incidentally had a $5million budget and so could afford to be more niche.

  • Hi

    I had to say I rather enjoyed the film. If the boys at IMDB are to be believed this is the first of a trilogy of “prequels”. Although this isn’t a prequel. Its just set in the same universe, just a few years earlier.

    I believe that Ridley stayed close the the original theme of Alien and brought the franchise up to date in a way that the AVP movies never could. I only watched the first one ans that was bad enough!

    Anyhoots. I enjoyed the film and I don’t mind admitting it 🙂


  • Fireclown says:

    Ok, just reading the first paragraph you seem like you forget one thing! Who said it was any type of Bio-Logical weapon? Thats all presumption! Who says the planet wasn’t inhabited by a faction of that race that wanted to destroy all life and there are others of their race that stopped them 2000 years before it happened? Hence the planet being abandoned! Oh wait, thats presumption too! He is complaining about a part of the story that wasn’t explained. It doesn’t need to be explained does it? Imagination is a great thing, so are sequals. And…. it’s not a prequel damit!

  • SwindonNick says:

    It is going to be one of those films that promises so much and then feels like a let down. I have been looking forward to this for ages but the reviews (including yours) all tell me it is a bit messy so I am going to go but I kind of know it will be fantastic to look at but I will come out knowing an opportunity was lost.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Hey, you shouldn’t mind admitting you enjoyed it. I wish I had. Your mileage may vary and all that. No doubt there were things to like about it but for me the frustrations outweighed the satisfactions considerably, and expectations were high. Oftentimes with these things either something grabs you, and you accept the weaknesses, or it fails to grab you and suddenly you see the joins everywhere. I started seeing the joins.

    I make that the second paragraph. And it was the captain said it was a biological weapon in an infodumpy little speech towards the end, but it seemed the clear understanding of the crew, noomi and several of the others by the end. If you’re saying the film’s so vague there could be any one of about fifty things going on and there’s no strong counterargument, then, yeah, I’d have to agree with you, but I’m not sure that’s an argument in its favour, necessarily. If you’re saying you found all those unanswered non explanations mysteriously tantalising, as per Sean, I’m glad for your tantalisement. I remained untantalised.

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    I can’t read the review yet because of spoilers, but I’m really hoping it’s just a case of having unattainable expectations. The sci-fi genre has been severely lacking for awhile now, despite the occasional gem like Moon. I was really hoping this would be the film to reignite interest in adult science fiction films.

  • AntMac says:

    China has his faults, but beauty is not one of them.

    Talking about excellent sequels 🙂 did you ever read the most amazingly excellent short story by Peter Watts, called “The Things”, Joe?.

    It is online to read for free at Clarkesworld.

    Absolutely the best sequel I ever read in my life, and the punchline is the awesome.

  • Jacob says:

    “Your mileage may vary”

    So Joe…in order to be a good writer one must invest one’s time in learning the ins and outs of TV Tropes slang? Or did these things exist prior to the creation of it?

    The secret has been revealed.

    That being said, I am still going to go see it. Looks too good to pass up. And let’s be honest: There aren’t that many movies worth seeing these days…

  • AntMac says:

    They are tropes because they exist long long long before the child exponents of TvTropes sieze on them and endlessly chortle to themselves at their wonderful inventiveness.

    And yes, they have got an amusing website and some interesting writers, but EVERYTHING about TvTropes is someone elses work. They are like a bunch of magpies with a thesaurus back at their nest.

  • Ben Cooper says:

    @Joe – Any chance that you could write a Prometheus sequel where Charlize doesn’t die after her ridiculous peine-forte-et-dure-avec-donut but comes back as a female version of Inquisitor Glokta then hunts down and “relieves” Elizabeth Shaw of that stupid fricking accent in a suitably Abercrombian manner…?!

  • Ben Cooper says:

    Oh, and slightly off-topic…I managed to use the phrase “Get some f#*cking brio in” on one of my sales calls. Hope you don’t mind!!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I think there are many women and not a few men who would strongly disagree with you on the subject of China’s beauty…

    I’d thought of Your Mileage May Vary as a perfectly standard saying derived from fuel efficiency tests, part of standard internet parlance. But everything ever is on TV Tropes. There’s a page for The First Law identifying about sixty tropes. I don’t see that as either a good or a bad thing, necessarily. See earlier quote about originality.

    Ben Cooper,
    I’d say my chance of being invited to contribute has not been increased by this review.

  • Gary says:

    Great review Joe. I’ll wait to rent it then. Much like the cringeworthy Star Wars Prequels and the last Indiana Jones film (both of which irritated the hell out of me) I might just have to pretend it doesn’t exist…

  • Ben Cooper says:

    @Gary – IMO, it’s worth seeing at the cinema if only for the 3D and for the loopy awesomeness of Michael Fassbender.

    Oh, and the aforementioned Theronised Push-Up Scene.

    Despite Joe’s review, it’s certainly not as bad as the Weapons-Grade-Horrendousness of Lucas’ abominations.

  • Graham says:

    What’s your opinion of 3D Jo? Does it pull you into the action or alienate you when you think “ahh yes, that’s a bit of 3d right there”?

    I just don’t think it works in films with plots.

  • After some brief consideration, I think the problem can be boiled down to the following –

    Why Everyone Dies In Alien:
    1. Betrayal by the Company and its agent Ash

    Why Everyone Dies in Aliens:
    1. Betrayal by the Company and its agent Burke

    Why Everyone Dies In Prometheus:
    1. Failure to establish proper chain of command
    2. Failure to establish proper expedition plan
    3. Failure to observe proper quarantine procedures
    4. Failure to observe proper watchkeeping procedures

    In Alien/Aliens they die despite themselves, because they were set up, sent into a terrifyingly dangerous situation by people who cared nothing about their survival.

    In Prometheus they die because of themselves, as they are reckless and incompetent. And that’s why it’s not very good.

  • Ed Knight says:

    Graham, you’ve absolutely nailed it there for me. Character deaths in Alien/Aliens felt powerful because you felt like if the playing field were level then the characters would have had a chance, but the betrayal and misinformation they were fed caused their downfall

    The staggering and illogical incompetence of Prometheus’ cast (as Joe pointed out, these guy should all be at the absolute top of their game) left me rolling my eyes. I’ve seen drunken frat boys in slasher films behave with more sense.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Gary, Ben,
    I would say this is nowhere near as bad as the Star Wars prequels. Nowhere near. But then expectation was a fair bit higher.

    1st Graham,
    I think rare is the film in which 3d is of any use. I think it worked in Avatar because the visuals were carefully constructed around it, and it was used as part of the effect rather than just tossed in there. But it has costs, actually, it’s an extra thing to concentrate on, so the editing has to be much more sedate. Some of the faster cut action sequences in Avatar became hard to process. So I find the current approach that you can have a film that works in either a bit weird, honestly. I watched Prometheus in 2d, though, because my wife doesn’t have binocular vision so none of it works for her anyway.

    2nd Graham,
    Points well made. I think you could add that in Alien and Aliens people also die partly due to exacerbating factors arising from the personalities of the people involved, which is just as it should be. This doesn’t really apply to Prometheus since the people don’t really have coherent personalities. For prometheus you could add in rather incomprehensibly evil behaviour on the part of David as a death reason, I think. But it’s undoubtedly true that the slovenly wage-slave crew of the Nostromo actually run a much tighter ship procedure wise than do the crew under direct cold corporate oversight in Prometheus. Quarantine procedures were pathetic on there.

  • Jon says:

    Haveing had a few days to think about the film (please see earlier comment, June 4, 2012 • 6:42 pm). The only real flaws i can come up with are these:

    1. One of the open scenes shows the ship 3.29×10(to the power 14) miles away from earth iirc (please correct me if im wrong), or in simple terms 3.29 x a hundred trillion miles away aka approx 50 light years. Then they take about being in status for 2.5years – so unless Einstein is completely wrong, they were tavelling 20 times the speed of light with no mention of this……

    2. Why wasnt there a containment protocol at the space jockeys ‘lab’ – even our most basic biological research labs have containment of one form or other, and for one that gets so easiliy contaminated (they only had to walk in the room to set things in motion) it would be mental to think that they wouldnt have such a thing for such a dangerous substance. In addition to that why on earth would the space jockeys in the hologram want toget into that room! and away from what ever it is they they were running from – surly they would run to the space ship, the only means of escape

  • James says:

    The Star Wars prequels weren’t bad Joe, they were evil.

    They took an absolute good – the originals, apart from the fecking Ewoks – and poisoned the whole damn universe with their unbelievable garbage.

    13 years from The Phantom Menace and I really should move on.

    No signs I will though.

  • Ben says:

    Excellent review! I quite enjoyed the film, but what irritated me is how they so clearly attempted to make the film a direct prequel to Alien, but then veered away at the last minute.

    For example, they went to great pains to explain why the alien craft crashed in such a position on the surface of LV-426 – but then they change the name of the planet to LV-223.

    They also clearly feature the Space Jockey (albeit at half the size). They go to the bother of showing him getting into the phallic ship control gun thing, right where he’s found in Alien – but then he gets OUT of the chair and goes hunting for Noomi Rapace…

    The other plot holes make a lot more sense once you realize that Mr. Weyland is actually Old Biff from Back to the Future 2.

  • Jon says:

    Ben – Its two different planets – two different space craft….
    The space jockey in Prometheus is not the same as the one in Alien – The space jockey has to get in the chair to fly the ship. The one in Alien died whilst sat in the chair flying its ship hense why it crashed (on a different planet) and set up the story for Alien.
    Whilst Prometheus is set in the same universe as Alien, its not a direct prequel, its not ment to explain any part of Alien, its only a prequel in time line, and has been made to produce a seperate set of films with a different story line than the Alien/s saga.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Ben, Jon,
    I don’t know about this not a direct prequel stuff – a lot of it very clearly does bear on Alien. I mean it goes a long way towards trying to explain what the Space Jockey was in Alien, and it seems pretty clear from the chest-bursting behaviour that the weapon-goo is the source of the ‘Alien’, in one way or another. I too found it a bit weird that they seemed to be setting it up as the craft they found in Alien, and then slightly didn’t bother. There was something of a satisfaction to watching the two converge and then … they didn’t.

    If it is indeed a separate set of films with a different storyline, I think you’d have to say the storyline here was hauntingly reminiscent of Alien, even to the point of recreating a lot of very similar sequences and situations. See 1st paragraph. You’d have to say – or at least I would – that Aliens, which after all is very consciously a direct sequel, is much less in the shadow of Alien than Prometheus is.

  • Hawkeye says:

    It is clearly a prequel, directly. And I liked it. yes there were holes but the visual’s were way above par and the acting was overall good. I thought Noomi was fine and I still think she could pull off a role as Monza. It set’s up for a sequel or another prequel or whatever but I ope they do it.

  • Wout says:

    Hey Joe,
    After reading your review and all the comments I had to ask… Did anyone else expect some sort of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade action’ with the Guy Pearce character? Where he would ask the surviving engineer to make him young again and the engineer would let him pick out a cup from his giant cup collection, no? Because there had to be a reason why they would cast a forty year old actor to play an ancient billionaire with one foot in the grave.
    Needles to say I was very disappointed with what actually did happen…

    It wasn’t all bad though. I liked the soundtrack! And the cinematography! And the general idea of the movie. *Spoiler Alert*
    Being a huge Alien and H.P. Lovecraft fan, I always assumed that the aliens were some sort of bio-engineered weapons that turned against their immortal creators. During the prologue we see the engineers using their talents to create life on earth. Why? Who knows? An experiment perhaps? Millions of years later we discover that they are conducting a whole different type of experiment. They are engineering something to destroy life. Why? Because blowing stuff up is fun, right? But they are not quite there yet. Just like their previous experiment (creating life on earth) it doesn’t always work out. Like you said Joe, sometimes it’s a tentacle monster and sometimes it’s not. The hieroglyphs of the Alien-like-creature on the spaceship’s wall suggest that the engineers clearly had a specific design in mind for their bio-weapon. Although it didn’t have any tentacles now that I think of it. Perhaps the engineers grew tired of all the tentacle mishaps and felt it was time to test their thousand-something prototypes on their favorite ant farm, Earth. And see what comes out of it. Ironically, before the engineers reach Earth, at least one of the prototypes proves to be very effective by completely destroying its immortal creators. And I bet it didn’t have any tentacles.
    Anyways, this is my long way of saying that I didn’t have any problems with the weapon-goo story angle.

    I think Ridley Scott wanted to reboot the Alien franchise after seeing the horrible direction the movies were going (yes I’m talking about Alien vs Predator). Alas, the end result is a bit of a mixed bag. I remember having the same feeling after watching the theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven. Let us hope there will be a 3 and a half hour director’s cut of Prometheus released that actually shows some story and character building.

  • Hawkeye says:

    Regarding the plot/theme and why the “creators” were trying to kill us. The movie started with the engineer/creator guy drinking the wormy drink which made him dissolve into the water which then in turn appears to create life out of his own body/dna. This looks to be what created life on earth and probably many other planets. Fast forward to Noomi not being able to have a baby. This is a metaphor for humans not creating life as the engineer’s do, just destroying perhaps. This is why (I think) the engineers turning on us earthlings, as we have not advanced to their level of creating so therefor we have been a failed experiment and need to be destroyed. The engineers create the bio-weapons in the form of the “aliens” but they are overwhelmed and destroyed themselves by their own creation (another metaphor?). No idea if this is what Ridley Scott was thinking but it’s what comes to my mind.

  • RaH says:

    Maybe Ridley’s just a genius PR manipulator:

    1) almost re-create the plot of your most famous movie
    2) almost set it in the same place
    3) deny most direct connections to 1 & 2 above
    4) change any new plot threads to tie in with 1) whilst still doing 3)
    5) have an ending completely contradicting 3)
    6) drive muliple threads of discussion on many sites – the only thing worse than being talked about etc….
    7) say but I can prove it is all different – there’s no cat ( not said this yet – but who knows… )

  • Spassvogel says:

    It introduced a whole lot of ideas and then completely failed to do them justice. They hinted at old man Weyland treating the robot David “more like a son” than his own children, which might explain Charlize’s character being a withdrawn hardass, but that they never really explored it. It would’ve made more sense if she had done her speech about the natural order, you live, you die, and your heirs replace you” and then later he had been infected and she had killed him herself. They tried to set everything up with some big ideas about “where do we come from” stuff and faith vs science, but even those are barely touched upon here. So what you’re left with is a bunch of well-designed visuals and poorly drawn characters who are seemingly ruled by plot convenience. Does any character’s actions really spring from some established character trait? I don’t know! They barely draw those characters. Certain things just pulled me right out of the movie–like Rafe Spall’s space-biologist basically sticking his hand in the mouth of the cobra-like Lovecraft worm, or the failure to run slightly to the side to avoid the large object rolling in a *straight line* at you. The only character moment I was really able to intuit was when Idris Elba asked Charlize whether she was an android and she answered by having sex with him. Even then, maybe Idris was just her beard.

    Anyway Joe, great review, I felt much the same way. I think my disappointment was proportional to the hype and anticipation that this project has generated since it was first discussed many years ago.

  • Robb says:

    Visually, Avatar was a pretty movie, but it sucked. Hard. I will give James Cameron props for his mass marketing skills, but he’s really just an over hyped director with a lot of money to throw around.

  • MrBase says:

    The most amazing thing was still

    If you merge DNA from a squid and a BIG human, you got an Alien 🙂

    Don’t try this at home

  • slayerformayor says:

    This film had only one problem for me. Lindlehof. I loathe this guy. I hated Lost…a lot…especially as the series progressed, because Lindlehof and Co. continued to write themselves into corners. I’ve never seen a writer spend so much time asking questions he never intended to answer. He just writes himself into corners and flat out doesn’t care. A carrot-on-a-stick writer.

    I love the look of the film. I thought it was edited well. I thought it was directed well. Pretty much everything about the film was top notch (I even disagree with your assessment of Rapace’s performance; I thought she was fine) aside from the script. Definitely a huge problem, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying it.

    Was Prometheus disappointing? Absolutely. A film as hyped as Prometheus most likely would never live up to the expectations fandom has placed on it. But I can’t say that I was bored. It was entertaining.

    I guess the problem with Prometheus was that it was set up to be as cerebral as Sci-Fi like Moon and Solaris…2001, even. But…it missed that mark. I never thought that after seeing Prometheus, that in recommending it, I’d suggest leaving one’s brain at the door.

  • slayerformayor says:

    For the sake of pedantry, I spelled “Lindelof” incorrectly.

  • Morgan says:

    Proterdeus: Awful

    District 9: Amazing

  • Set says:

    I agree with Morgan. 100%.
    However! The movie DID give us this:
    Enjoy! lol

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