.. PROMETHEUS Film Review..


James WF Roberts

This review contains spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers so if you wish not to be spoiled do not proceed.

If you have seen the film and you have been spoiled already…please feel free to read.

I have a confession to make, it is humiliating and sad. However, I don’t think I am the only one of my age group to make this claim, being thirty years old, thereabouts, I saw the sequel to Alien, Aliens first. And even that terrified me when I was roughly 8 or 9 years old. I have watched the original film a few times now, as well as the sequels and those hideous Alien versus Predator movies—which do have some merits as entertainment and for it’s last outing, having the dubious honour of having one of the most vile and heinous scenes if not just in monster-movie history, than movie history ever. You know what I am talking about, the Predator—Xenomorph hybrid implanting pregnant human women with their it’s demonic spawn.

So, we have had to endure a lot, when it comes to this franchise, and I fear we have to endure a lot more. Anyone who has seen Prometheus, will surely know that they have set enough things up to have another six sequels and still not answer everything that leads up to the encounter on the Nostromo and Ellen Ripley becoming one of the most realistic and heroic figures in modern mythology.

I want to ask you a question. Think about it, take your time and think about it clearly. Do you remember the first time you saw Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien? Do you remember the claustrophobia, the intensity, the derelict and magnificent crashed spacecraft on planet LV-426? Do you remember being on the edge of your seat? As the motley-crew of space miners ventured inside the space ship, when we wittnessed one of the most magnificent of Speculative Fiction creations—the Space Jockey, fossilized, vaguely humanoid, elephantine siting in the pilot’s seat in the middle of the ship, it’s ribs exploded out from it’s chest, a warning to all, not to go any further…do you remember thinking what the hell could do that to something so big? Do you remember the realism of the dialogue, the humanity of the characters? Do you remember John Hurt laughing at one of the numerous sexually explicit jokes of Yaphet Kotto (Parker) and he writhes in pain…and…you know the rest.

Ridley Scott made his bones in Science Fiction, or what in Literature, is known now as Speculative Fiction, in the thought provoking, claustrophobic, and perhaps doomsday prophetic visions of the technology driven fictive/futuristic worlds of Alien and Blade Runner. And this movie has none of those qualities. The style, the metaphors, the intensity of the original Alien film has always been on the decline, and you would think that the man who gave us the original film, what come back to show us how it’s been done. Sadly, this reminded me too much of Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls and the prequels to the Star Wars saga, the great ones might be losing their touch, or worse have actually lost their touch—and what are we left with every Hasbro game or toy being turned into a movie? I can’t wait for Attack of the Hungry, Hungry Hippos on New York City—coming to a cinema near you.

Almost every good idea that you thought could never be used again, is now being used up, and used is the optimum word here.

One film website, that I will not mention, has coming attractions for the next 12-18 months, there are almost fifty prequels, sequels, re-imaginings or re-boots. I kid you not. Total Recall, (which is a trailer at the moment) is pretty out of the bag…but in George Carlin-esc list, these are the classic and not so classic films that will be re-made, or re-booted in the next few years: Dredd (as in Judge Dredd); ‘Red Dawn’, Dirty Dancing’, Akira (anime)’Annie’, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, ‘Carrie’, ‘Child’s Play’, ‘Evil Dead’ ‘Fletch Won (as in Chevy Chase franchise)’, ‘House Party’, ‘ Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘Pet Sematary’, Point Break’, ‘Robocop’, ‘Short Circuit’, ‘The Birds’, ‘The Crow’,’The Orphanage’, ‘A Star Is Born’, ‘Barbarella’, ‘Death Note’, ‘Drop Dead Fred’, Starship Troopers (this franchise just released another sequel so hardly a time for a re-boot), ‘The NeverEnding Story’, ‘The Seven Samurai (which is ironic in itself as almost every western, or war film from the late 50s to the modern era, Magnificent Seven, Three Amigo’s etc, Kelly’s Heroes etc find their orgins in this film); ‘ ‘WarGames’,’Battle Royale’,Time Bandits’,’About Last Night’,’American Psycho’,’An American Werewolf in London”Commando’,’Creature From the Black Lagoon’,’Death Wish’,’Escape From New York’,’Heavy Metal’, ‘Lethal Weapon’ ( I kid you not!), ‘Overboard’,’Porky’s’,’Romancing the Stone’,’Scarface’ (Al Pacino’s 1983 version of “Scarface” was itself a remake of a 1932 gangster film. So this isn’t exactly blasphemy, it’s more like inevitability.);’The Bodyguard’,’The Phantom Tollbooth’,’The Warriors’,’The Wild Bunch’,’Westworld’,’Yellow Submarine—apparently a live action verison…again I kid you not.

Ridley Scott, takes us back at least a hundred or so more years, since we were last in the canonical Alien universe, in Prometheus, as he pulls back the curtain on the thirty-three year old mystery and what is revealed is one of the most horrific and traumatizing films I have seen in a long time. That’s right! A totally pointless, vacuous prequel to the series he started, trying to be a mash up of Chariots of the Gods, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet, while it contains all of the illogical meanderings, and narrow mindedness of the former, with it’s supposition that humanity and all life on Earth comes from outer space, it lacks the mastery, the style and the mystery of the latter. Don’t forget it is never explained why we were created by those ancient Aliens in 2001…it was always left open.

This was always going to be a hard film to make. Either it was going to be a direct prequel to Alien; which is a dicey enterprise anyway, or it was going to be what it turned out to be…and to be honest it’s more like a compendium, an aside to the Alien, or rather Xenomorph universe.

The lack of originality in this film, almost breaks your heart. It flirts around with the suspense, which is always fun, but none of the strains of plot, sub-plot and coincidence actually go anywhere at all. There is too much reliance on what we have to expect and the metaphors and philosophical concepts, as grand as they are, are not pulled off very well at all.

Ridley Scott is one of the best world-makers around. The film is beautifully shot, the Alien planet is breathtaking, the Space Jockey’s (or Engineers) spacecraft’ s quite a sight to behold. The technology the Humans use is quite amazing as well, though there always lingers that problem with prequels and time-travel in SciFi films, that the technology in the past is better than the state-of-the art present/future tense technology—it’s tricky getting your head around that. Look at the much, and well deservingly maligned Star Trek Enterprise franchise, the Star Wars Prequels etc; they are all set decades before the original movie or television appearances of the original character’s are even born but they have better gadgets…that is just a tedious mistake that I have grown weary of.

Though, I guess the argument in Prometheus could be made that these guys are working for the big boss of Mother. Of Weyland, well the man himself, actually. And in the first one they are on a refinery, the second one a half destoryed colony, then a penal colony and then outer limits research lab, so I guess not all of the locales in this Universe are designed to have the best of facilities.

I hated the script. As a writer, my fame has not approached me yet, but as a writer, every time I go to the movies or see a DVD I long for good dialogue, good fleshed out ideas and tension, and exposition that isn’t clunky and obvious. A good director, like a good actor is nothing without a decent writer. And this is one of those situations where the writing is lacking, something, I couldn’t quite put my finger on…oh yeah that’s right, sparkle and shine.

The original Story of Alien, was written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset, with the screenplay written by Dan O’Bannon and two collaborators who were not credited at the time, David Giler and Walter Hill. This time the writers who Scott teamed up with, have rather hit and miss reputations in Hollywood already. Damon Lindelof is a vexing writer at best, and a rather lame absurdist at worst, is created, rather dubiously for helping to ruin, ABC America’s hit series, LOST with a nonsensical final season and the mother of all cop-out endings. And few will argue that his script for Cowboys & Aliens was anything but canned and clumsy. So, if your goal is to make an ambitious, provocative science fiction film about human origins, this might not be your guy.

The writing collaborator to this abomination, is sci-fi writer and some have called him a hack as well, Jon Spaithts, (The Darkest Hour) who tried to realize Scott’s dream of melding the Alien universe with Erich Von Daniken’s ancient astronaut thesis, Chariots of the Gods, which any real historian or philosopher will tell you is a load of utter crap anyway, and is just another secular religion for the modern age…Mother Nature or a divine spirit of will or energy is too clumsy and too ridiculous an idea of human creation to fathom, I know we are born from Extra Terrestrial sludge or garbage…sorry I can’t help myself with that, bugs the hell out of me and idiots on the Internet and at parties I sometimes go to always try to railroad me into believing in that crap…look at the space helmets in pictures man…. they are not space helmets. Ancient civilizations don’t depict accurate images of humans or animals because they consider it to be blasphemous much like modern day Muslims feel the same way about Mohammad…

Sorry, I will get back to the review now.

While stunning to look at, Prometheus contains none of the class or the evenness of tone of the first Alien, nor the substance of the lofty subject matter it portends to explore. It is a silly movie, filled with characters and situations that aren‘t remotely believable, driven by blatantly obvious plot developments and devices.

There are moments of this movie you will no doubt, feel what I felt. I felt like Milhouse from the Simpons….squeezing all tight. Holding my breath…’when are they going to get to the fire works factory….

Beginning with a prologue set sometime in Earth’s prehistory, meant to explain how the planet was seeded with human DNA, we are soon introduced to paleo-biologists Elizabeth and Charlie (Noomi Rapce and Logan Marshell-Green) in the year 2089. They have just discovered mysterious cave paintings in Scotland which suggest prehistoric human contact with extraterrestrials. Using clues found in similar sites around the world, Elizabeth and Charlie become the nucleus of a scientific voyage to a distant Earthlike planet that may hold the answers to the single greatest riddle of our species: Who are we, and where did we come from? Joined by an android science officer (easily the third best actor in the film, besides Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron; Michael Fassbender), a devil-may-care captain (the wasted Idris Elba) and the usual stock-standed cast of disposable characters, our scientists set sail on the cosmic waters on the spaceship Prometheus to this distant world and ultimately find themselves in a story line, stolen from a plethora of really good and some not so good science fiction from the last forty years. SPOILER ALERT: Some of the films that elements, imagery, symbols, characters, concepts, designs and themes from, in particular order: Mission To Mars, Dark City, Contact, Stargate, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indeed, finding a single original idea in the entirety of Prometheus is a chore.

Where Scott and Co have innovated and embellished on these stolen ideas, is making the characters and the motivations so stupid and lame, I am loathe to think of a high-concept science fiction film of late that has such unbelievability to it, except maybe The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Imagine you have woken up after sleeping for two years and being told that you are on a search for the origin of our species, of our culture, of our very souls and all the morons around you can say is, “I’m only here for the money”. At points this movie is like the average cast of a Big Brother or Survivor-style TV show being put in Alien and 2001 and running around…at points I was almost praying for a Chest-Burster, or something really bad to happen to a couple of the more annoying characters, and God answered my prayers.. I will not tell you how they meet their demise though. There is no feeling in this movie. The audience, I feel simply doesn’t care what is going to happen to the characters because there is no warmth. No motivation, and frankly The Avengers, which I saw only recently has more believable interplay, dialogue and heart than this movie could muster.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why the characters are so totally unfazed by by the philosophical weight of their mission and discoveries — do ridiculously dumb things. When they see black alien ooze, they touch it. When they find a giant severed alien head, they bring it on the ship and perform inexplicable experiments on it in an open environment with no protective clothing. When the answers Charlie seeks are not immediately offered by the alien temple — which would be an earth-shattering discovery in its own right — he foregoes further inquiry and gets drunk. When members of the science team are lost in a gigantic, danger-filled alien structure, the mission leaders all go have sex. When a giant wheel-shaped object is rolling toward a couple of characters, they don’t run right or left, but stay directly in its path, like the security guard and the steamroller in Austin Powers, my mate I saw this movie with noticed that, and said that, and I have seen it on several other reviews so I am stealing it.

Then of course there is the most excruciating part of the film…the big reveal of two major plots, which are pretty obvious when you think about them, are either done when one of the main characters is unconscious, and that the majority of the cast don’t seem to be that fazed about being sent to their deaths, basically and being lied to.

Not to mention that a large amount of the back story and the driving plot of the film are reliant on things we learnt in Alien versus Predator, anyway. And, sadly AVP, delivered the continuity so much more effectively.

Then of course there is the most excruciating part of the film…the big reveal of two major plots, which are pretty obvious when you think about them, are either done when one of the main characters is unconscious, and that the majority of the cast don’t seem to be that fazed about being sent to their deaths, basically and being lied to.

Not to mention that a large amount of the back story and the driving plot of the film are reliant on things we learnt in Alien versus Predator, anyway. And, sadly AVP, delivered the continuity so much more effectively.

But, the characters are not the only half-baked things in this film. The symbolism of Prometheus was a really sticking point to me. The Titanic ‘engineer’s’, were so barbaric in their interactions with us, their supposed creation that it is really annoying. And the ending is absolutely stupid…but I am not going to go into that as it is basically a set up for another string of sequels I am sure. This is not really a prequel to Alien. It’s a different planet entirely. And what is born at the closing moments may or may not make much sense anyway…and was almost laughable, like a man getting out of a jumpsuit. If they created us by the way, who created them to be so moronic?

Apart from having spaceships–and technology that conveniently shows pixilated holographic recordings of their fate to people who happen to drop in and push the right buttons–there is nothing advanced about them. They weren’t even smart enough to keep their deadly bio-weapons safely locked-up, choosing instead to keep them in jars on the floor. This is the equivalent of keeping buckets of poisonous snakes, viruses, and toxic waste next to where you keep lollies, chocolate and chewing gum in the family home. What advanced race would be that careless?

Some may argue that this is the point of the film–the cynical notion that all civilizations, on Earth and elsewhere, ultimately become warlike and self-destruct. Open up a history book and turn on the news, and I can see their point. I would suggest, though, that in the case of Prometheus, what’s responsible for the vacant barbarism of the aliens is merely the limited imaginations of their authors.

Themes like scarifice and honour and duty are running throughout this movie. But, as we don’t really care about the characters the sacrifices are pointless.

A part of the film that I totally missed until I saw a review Online is that apparently these creators got mad at us 2000 odd years ago and that is what makes them want to destroy us, so lots of people have been jumping on the band wagon about that, saying it’s a Christ metaphor blah blah blah…I guess as someone with a philosophy degree who studied world religions, I didn’t pick up on that as there is nothing Christ like, from what I could see about anything that the Engineer’s do.

For further reading on those ideas, please go here: http://popsciencereview.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/symbolism-or-not-prometheus-is-still.html#more

Still bugs me while I write this, at how pointless some of the dialogue is, as it isit barely fuels the story along, characters who barely interact at all in the movie, suddenly hatch a plan to save humanity…BLAH! Where’s the antecedence that leads up to it? Hmmn? In the first sequel to Alien, Aliens we are all given nods to what’s going to happen later, I mean Ripley being told about the death of her daughter and she goes to rescue her later, the Fork-Lift loader thing… it’s not hard to do if done correctly.

I missed the end of credits, but apparently there is a thing at the end of the credits, which raises way too many questions. But, also answers some…maybe Prometheus is a sequel to the two AVP movies and a prequel to the Alien film? I mean there are lots of crossovers in the is franchise, maybe that’s what they are trying to do…the fact that they are on a totally different planet and the Suits don’t really seem at all that surprized to see them could be a good plot point in that direction. And, just as an aside point, in Predator 2 when Danny Glover is on the spaceship, you see the skull and the remains on the trophy wall, of a Xenopmorph…but by that stage the AVP comic books had been running for a while anyway. So, maybe all of this crossover crap has been deliberate by some from the get go….

Some of the more deliberate metaphors of the film seem a little tedious in hindesight, the crew of their ship echoes the human crew in how they sleep in their statis chambers and a few other things as well…

GO and see this if you must, but I am sad that this movie was so teriible, if it had to come out at all, it should have been better…everyone expected so MUCH MORE!

For a far greater breakdown of how Promethues and Alien are linked together please go here.


Prometheus was supported by a marketing campaign that included viral activities on the web. The campaign released three videos that featured stars from the film, in character, which expanded on elements of the fictional universe and received a generally positive reception. Prometheus was released on June 1, 2012 in the United Kingdom and was released on June 8, 2012 in North America. Which I have posted throughout this review as I think they explain everything a lot better than the film does, which again is sad in itself.

In closing I think I prefer the Titan myth rather than this film…I imagine the several dozen video games, novelisations and comics that come out of this film might be engaging.



About jameswfrobertsdapoet

Emerging Poet and Writer. From Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. I present a show called Crazy Talk/Word Berserk, on www.phoenixfm.org.because I believe in what Phoenix has to offer. No where else will you get the diversity of Gospel, Country music shows, Koori themed shows and Poetry and Experimental music? My father, Bryan did a show on 3CCC in the 1980’s called the Keyboard Hour for a bout 8 years, until he died. That is partly why I joined Phoenix but mainly it’s because of the diversity we offer people and also I really do feel that we are an important vehicle, an important voice for the Community at Large. My interests are Poetry, Literature, Music, Movies, Cultural Awareness and Philosophical pursuits. My show is basically a Late Night Radio Show for Artists, Poets, Musicians and Creative Thinkers of all types to come and inform, enjoy, entertain and inspire each other. So join me and my guests from the local Artistic Community to be inspired, to be entertained and informed
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