Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Alien 0: Prometheus

Right now Spoony's Vlog is playing in my headphones as I type out this movie.  I need to know.  I need to understand.  This is a pounding unbreakable need inside my head to come to grasp with this unfathomable problem, this paradox in the very fabric of humanity.


I cannot understand how the reviews for "Prometheus" can be at all mixed.  Because I loved the heck out of this movie.  I was pretty much captivated from beginning to end.  And I've already reserved a place on my Best of Year List 2012 for this movie.  Perhaps this just a result of being the prequel to one of the most popular SciFi franchise of all time, "Alien", you're going to run into dissatisfaction no matter what you do when touch something so sacred.  Of course, the "Alien" franchise has been screwed over repeatedly, and in ways far more painful and invasive than this, but I'll get to that in a minute.  I thought "Prometheus" was great.  It was part high-minded SciFi, and it was part creature feature.  And if you're mad about this movie turning into a monster movie, what the heck were you expecting?  This is an "Alien" prequel!  If there weren't monsters, the whole thing would have been pointless.

Ridley Scott was the original director of the original 1979 "Alien" movie, a movie so scary it made my eight-year-old uncle at the time run screaming from the theater in tears.  He's come back* to the series after almost twenty-five years, with some brand new ideas to explain the origins of both the Aliens and all of mankind.  Basically this becomes a SciFi search for our very creators, only this meeting with God doesn't quite go as well as anybody hoped.  It goes so bad that it accidentally gives birth to the Alien menace, that's one terrible family reunion there.  People get eaten, some interesting concepts are brought up, there's something of existential crisis where we learn how little our creators think of us, all in all, its a great ride.  Plus, there is fantastic acting, even more fantastic special effects, and yeah, people get eaten.  Unfortunately, no, you're not going to know all the answers about everything, so nitpickers are pissed.  A lot is left open, including all the really big questions.

Which is fine by me.  You know what that means?  SEQUEL!  YAY!

Let me do a brief history of the Alien series, because, why not?  Its interesting stuff.  So first Ridley Scott makes "Alien" in 1979, and it is good.  It was a great idea for a movie:  have a monster movie where lots of people get eaten, but set it in space, where nobody can hear you scream.  Haunted houses suck, but it really sucks when you can't leave that haunted house because you're dozens of star systems away from any help.  Then in 1986, James Cameron makes "Aliens", one of the greatest action movies of all time.  So naturally, there were plans to make "Alien 3".  This is when the story turns bad, really fast.  It takes about eight years for the studio to get "Alien 3" - I mean, "Alien³" - made.  And after they rejected about four scripts, including one from a person no less great than William Gibson himself, they gave poor David Fincher the worst script imaginable, and he has to somehow make this crappy movie.  "Alien³" is actually a movie I rather like, but the film has all kinds of problems, and lots of people outright hate it, including its director.  Then things got even worse with "Alien Resurrection", an entirely generic stupid action movie which pretty much killed the franchise entirely.  Still, I gotta recommend "Alien Resurrection" for the same reason as "Alien³", its just so silly you have to experience it once in your life.  Star Sigourney Weaver was done, having suffered through enough crappy Alien movies to fill up a lifetime.

Then "Alien vs. Predator" came.  And that's a movie so friggin' bad that I can't even recommend it out of irony.  "Alien vs. Predator" is an ozzing infected pimple on the ass cheek of a dead Nazi's bloated rotting corpse.  So what did the studio do when it came out?  They made another one.  Which was even worse!  RrrrRRRrrrRRRrrr!!

With a series that's gone from such highs to such lows, it was difficult to tell where "Prometheus" was going to land.  I pretty much knew from the beginning that this movie was either going to be one of the worst movies of the year, or one of the very best.  It also didn't help that Ridley Scott kept fluctuating back and forth to the press over whether this is actually a prequel to "Alien" or not.  This can be clearly seen in how the movie doesn't even have the word "Alien" in the title - but I've fixed that for this post.  Prequels pretty much universally suck, especially ones made decades after the fact.  This wasn't going to be a movie where there could be middle ground of merely being good like last year's "Predator 3", this was either classic or untold disaster.  The plot only really features the Aliens as the monsters, not even the main villains.  And the aliens you see are all various stages in the bizarre evolution of these creatures towards the classic recognizable horror movie star.  The main plot, however, is about something else entirely.

Actually, the plot is frighteningly similar to the first "Alien vs. Predator", at least in broad strokes.  This is a far more intelligent movie than that one, that goes without saying.  Two archaeologists find the same rune across the planet that points us to a far away star system with an Earth-like planet where they believe a race of aliens called the Engineers live.  As in, they engineered us**.  The mission they embark on with the spaceship, The Prometheus, is basically a journey to meet our creator, as in God.  After many years in space, they arrive at the alien planet, and find nothing but a ghost civilization.  God has already died.  But he left us some presents:  evil black ooze.  Oh, and this is when it gets even worse.

There's also the interesting dynamic about mankind looking to find the race that created them, but they bring along an android, their own creation.  This android is named David and is played by Michael Fassbender, and he pulls together by far the greatest performance in the movie.  He sits around watching humans have their disappointing meeting with God, when his creators don't give a second though to him, which sadly, seems to be exactly what the aliens think about us.  Back to Fassbender's character, he manages to be both wildly robotic and cold, at one point killing a member of the crew in a surprise experiment with alien Black Oil, partially out of curiosity as to what will happen, and partially because that character is an idiot and a dick.  David is a fan of "Lawrence of Arabia", basing his haircut off of Peter O'Toole in that movie.  He's robotic and cold, but still smiles warmly.  I know I said Charlize Theron's performance in "Snow White and the Huntsman" was the best performance of the year, I need to amend that now, its Fassbender in this.  He's so enigmatic, you're never sure which side he's playing, and yet, evil or not, I'm on his side.  He deserves the Oscar he inevitably won't get.

Oh, speaking of Charlize Theron, she's back in this movie, playing a super intense military officer.  She opens the movie having gotten herself out of Cryo Sleep, already doing push-ups.  I was hoping she'd turn into a badass military villain like the Colonel from "Avatar", really no such luck.  She is, ultimately, the only one who manages to take a decisive move to stop the alien infection from taking over the crew, but I think that was supposed to make her a villain.  I think the guy she set on fire was an asshole, so I'm on Charlize's side.

The rest of the cast is decent, including the heroine.  There are, however, about ten more crew members than this movie needed.  With about seventeen humans in this movie, its impossible to keep track of everybody.  The Captain was super pimp.  The heroine does everything she can to stay alive, including ripping herself open in the most intense scene of the entire movie.  Still, a lot of the people had to fall into horror movie stupidity in order to get the plot to move.  There's one scene where two male crew members commit deep movie heresy - they break every single horror movie rule short of having sex with each other.  Guess what?  They're the first to get eaten.  Their stupidity is unbelievable.  There's also Guy Pierce in this movie, wearing the worst old man make-up ever.

And despite the grand existential ideas that the plot considers, it never really answers any of them.  I think that's mostly left for the sequel to take-on, assuming they do make a sequel.  Personally I'd like to see an "Alien 5" which links up the "Prometheus" and Alien branches of this grand SciFi franchise.  I can accept not knowing everything, but I would like to see the big stuff answered eventually.  Like, why did the aliens make us?  And why do they hate us?  A sequel is needed, but for now I'm satisfied.

Oh, if you're worried about the monsters, don't be.  What monsters that do appear are perfectly serviceable and scary, if they're not full Alien Aliens.  As long as they look like vaginas, they fit this universe, I say.  However, the movie does end on a proper money shot of the classic Alien bursting out of a chest.

More importantly though to "Prometheus" in terms of being a good or bad movie, it is gorgeous.  This is one of the best looking SciFi movies ever.  The special effects bar has been raised in a huge way, I feel.  A lot of people went Gaga over "Avatar", including myself when I saw it, but the effects in this are so much more believable and impressive.  But importantly, the effects aren't the movie.  A lot of SciFi movies lately are just collections of the best special effects that money can buy, swallowing any hope of story or characters.  This has both of those things.

Yeah, "Prometheus" might not be as ground-breaking or deep as some people expected.  But that's not a huge problem, I came in expecting a decent smart monster movie, and that's what I got.  Plus amazing performances, nice scares, and yeah, some satisfaction in people getting eaten.  Visceral thrills should match high-concepts more, I think.  Is the script perfect?  No, there are holes here and there.  But does it kill the movie?  Not at all.  Just learn to enjoy things, people.  I love "Prometheus", this was excellent.

* He's also coming back to "Blade Runner" to do a sequel/remake/whatever.  And as much as I liked this, please, don't touch "Blade Runner".  Unless it stars Rutger Hauer entirely, that move needs to stay where it is.

** They never bother to explain how the Hell these scientists jumped to the insane conclusion that mankind was Creatively Designed by intelligent alien life.  A few characters even point out how little this makes sense, but no explanation is given.  This is just one of those things you have to accept in this movie.  Its like in a zombie movie, dead bodies in terms of raw biological engineering, cannot move.  You need a heartbeat to keep yourself going, there's a reason for all those processes inside us, we're very complex organic machines.  And dead people are machines that have stopped working, its impossible for them to go.  But yet they do anyway in the movies, because its a movie, you gotta let some things go.  You can decide to check out of the movie and nitpick forever, or you could just watch and have fun.

The science in this movie is stupid, but its not a movie that ever pretends to be scientifically accurate.  Its Science Fiction for a reason.


  1. My main issue with the movie is that it presents high minded concepts and ignores them for Hollywood stupidity. It earns points for Fassbender and the visuals, everything else was just disappointing or silly. There'll be much better movies this year.

  2. Personally I like the movie, which was surprising seeing that I was the only one in my group of friends who thought this was going to bomb. But as the plot started to pick up I loved this movie. Yeah the there are some plotholes and not every thing is explained, but that just gives me a excuse to use my imagination to fill them in. I just hope that we weren't genaticlly created by aliens too. Other wise I've been a goody two-shoes for not.

  3. Hey Blue, I'm pretty sure you're going to ignore this comment, considering it's about Bleach, but in an interview about the final Manga arc, Tite Kubo recently revealed that Grimmjow is, in fact, alive and may become an ally to the good guys. Just thought you may want to know.

  4. I haven't watched the movie yet. For one U don't know whether iy's out in my country. The other reason us that I might have to watch it when it's out on DVD/ Blueray. If I watch it in the cinema I may scream like a little girl and the shame could be lethal.

    Spoony and Milesdisliked it, you, TJ, Gallen and Brad liked it. So far Spoony is probably wrong. Miles, though godlike in his ability to tolerate Spoony, might have agreed to make the vlog end sooner.