Movie review: “Prometheus”


The most frightening movie experience I ever had was in early 1980, when I saw “Alien” at the Avon Cinema in Providence, Rhode Island.



I saw it alone, by myself.



Luckily, I lived only about a block away from the theater. I walked home deliberately, trying not to make a fool of myself by running in terror. Once I got inside my apartment, I sat in the dark and shook for a while. I was completely terrorized.



Well, when I saw that Ridley Scott was producing this “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus,” Partner and I were in the ticket line in nothing flat. I wanted to be frightened like that again. I dreaded it, but I really wanted it; it was like anticipating one of those really horrendous roller-coaster rides that flips you upside down at 180mph and almost but not quite rips your head off.



Sadly, kids, I have to report that this movie is not “Alien.”



Mostly this is because we’ve already seen “Alien,” not to mention lots of other stuff. There’s nothing new here. Narsty creatures that get inside you and then bore their way out? Check. Octopus/squid things glomming onto your face? Check. Creepy black fluids that turn out to be alive? I think that was “X-Files,” actually.



Some of the acting is good. Michael Fassbender (the young Magneto in “X-Men: First Class”) is eerily charming as David, the robot crewmember. Charlize Theron is icily creepy as the corporate leader of the space expedition. Idris Elba is hunky and sympathetic as the big funny/sarcastic captain, with his concertina that used to belong to Stephen Stills.



Then there’s the rest of the cast. Two of the main roles – the two scientists who are heading the expedition – are played by Noomi Rapace (who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish versions of the “Girl Who . . .” movies) and Logan Marshall-Green (whom I didn’t know at all, but who, IMDB tells me, was a featured actor in both “The O.C.” and “24.”) They are both – hm – adequate. She huffs and pants a lot; he looks pained a lot. These two, who I’m sure are wonderful actors in other venues, are seriously miscast here. They don’t fit.



There are lots of other misfires in this film:


        The plot is miserably tangled. Just go online if you don’t believe me; you’ll discover people having heated arguments about what this scene or that scene meant. Suspense and mystery are good things; confusion and sloppiness are bad things. The abundance of confusing / irrational things in “Prometheus” made me think that the screenwriters just weren’t working things out, and thinking: We’ll figure it out in the sequel.

        The cinematography isn’t great. We saw the 2D version, but it was easy to see which scenes were meant to be 3D-spectacular: a huge sandstorm, a big virtual-reality planetarium scene, a couple of others. Then again, there were garbled closed-circuit camera scenes (you’re always seeing things from other peoples’ point of view, through a camera), and ancient holographic video, and it’s all pointillistic and strange, and hard to make out. Why? These are supposed to be advanced cultures, man. Don’t they have better video than this?

        A lot of time is spent on irrelevant details. Example: much time is spent on showing how robot Michael Fassbender admires Peter O’Toole’s performance in “Lawrence of Arabia,” to the point of quoting him, and trying to look like him. Why? No reason. It ends up adding exactly nothing to the movie.



And finally, and most damningly: it didn’t scare me. I was looking forward to having the bejeezus scared out of me again, the way “Alien” scared me in 1980. A couple of times during “Prometheus,” I braced myself – and nothing really interesting happened.



Wait until it comes out on cable, kids. Nothing to see here.


Ancient aliens


Partner and I like to watch those programs on Discovery and TLC and Syfy about Ancient Aliens.  You know: the aliens who built (or helped build) the Pyramids, and Machu Picchu. They designed the Nazca Lines. They fitted together the stones of Tihuanaco.  They brought Prescelly bluestone hundreds of miles, overland, to build Stonehenge. Our ancestors painted pictures of them, and told stories of them.



I am very happy to believe in alien life.  In fact, I think it’s silly not to believe in alien life.  The universe is utterly bloody vast, and it would be ridiculous to think that we were the only walking talking things in it.  I have two problems with the Ancient Aliens theory, however:



        Where did they all go? They were (evidently) all over the place in our ancestors’ days; now they’ve keeping a very low profile.  How come?  Are they afraid of us?

        Why in the hell would they come here? What do we have to offer? Water? There’s water everywhere in space; if they wanted water, they could probably mine comets.  Metal ore? Hydrocarbons? Nah. I’m with Douglas Adams on this one: the best thing you can say about Earth is that we’re “mostly harmless.”



I also have a problem with the UFOlogists who keep giving us humanoid aliens, and horse aliens, and elephant aliens, and kitty-cat aliens.  Alien life, if/when we find it, will probably be far more peculiar than we can imagine now. I’ll wager that it doesn’t even use DNA.  Scientists (human scientists) have already come up with a number of other molecules that can self-replicate. (Admittedly they’re amino-acid based, but it’s a step in the right direction.) The aliens, when we finally meet them, will be blobs, or sighing clouds of methane with rubbery coverings, or bundles of sticks, or potted plants.


And they will have absolutely no interest in building Stonehenge.


(But it’s fun to think about.)



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