Oh dear, not another Prometheus topic? Well, now that we finally have Prometheus on Blu-ray/DVD etc and have been able to watch it again, no doubt blogs and forums will be awash with further debate and opinion regards this divisive film. It may not be the classic we hoped for or the best film of the year, but it’s certainly the most debated and talked-about (I watched DKR and pretty much forgot about it, but I always find myself thinking about Prometheus, so it achieved, er, something). Is it really as bad as so many have said? Having now watched the Blu-ray twice and most of the lengthy making-of doc, I must say its fascinating to see how the rather rushed production impacted on the end result, and indeed created many of the problems people have with the film. Yes script revisions seems to be the major culprit, a second writer and revised approach creating any number of plot-holes, and mooted scenes planned but not shot would have likely improved the film, and some strange hell-bent fascination to cut the film to two hours would appear to have impacted on the pace of the film. I do think that what Ridley and his cohorts managed to bring to screen with the limited budget and timeframe is quite extraordinary, albeit somewhat misguided. I just hope that the proposed Blade Runner sequel at least gets a fairer timeframe- alas, I think it’ll suffer the same fate as Prometheus; I think Ridley Scott knows time is pressing (he’s in his mid-seventies, now) and has a resultant tendency to race into his projects these days.
I will say this- the Blu-ray looks utterly beautiful and the image quality is better than when I saw it at the cinema; somehow at the screening I saw it didn’t look particularly dark, something I put down to the lighting demands of 3D photography (even though I saw the film in 2D). On Blu-ray the darks are pitch-black and improves the mood considerably; the colours are full, the image sharp and wonderful, in short it is very, very pretty. And of course knowing what to expect, or not to expect, does rather lower expectations regards the story etc. Certainly the deleted/alternate scenes offer a tantalising glimpse at what may have been a Directors Cut (something it seems we won’t ever be getting, as Ridley seems bizarrely happy with it as it is). I think Prometheus is likely a few reshoots short of the great movie it ought to be. There’s a number of plot-holes that need new scenes to fix them (that Laurel and Hardy pair who somehow get lost spring to mind) and a few unshot parts that need adding such as David visiting Weyland during his youth-orientated dream (at least then there would be some point to casting Guy Pearce). Funny thing is, Ridley could still shoot that stuff if he wanted to/could convince Fox to fund it.
I really think that this is a case of a film just needing a six-month delay to tidy things up. I’d have even filmed a sex scene between Vickers and Janek in which Janek sees that Vickers is sporting a Weyland-fingerprint just like David has, hence discovering that Vickers is indeed another robot. The whole thing about creator and creation is the central subtext to the entire film, surely. The idea that Weyland, obsessed with his mortality and playing God, has created his own ‘children’ in David and Vickers is just begging to be developed. And having Vickers back in the sequel would have been a major bonus as Theron is the best thing in Prometheus for me. I’d have a sequel in which Shaw and David go off to Paradise and have another Vickers model lead a rescue/investigation team to the moon to end up fighting against the Deacon creature we see at Prometheus’ coda. Well, here we are dreaming up other Alien/Prometheus movies already.
Thinking along those lines, is Prometheus a good Alien prequel? Is it even the best of the Alien spin-off movies? People often decry Prometheus as if it was the unwanted sequel to Lawrence of Arabia; Alien may be a ‘classic’ but lets be honest, it was no Lawrence of Arabia, people. I doubt that’s what Ridley was trying to say by referencing Lawrence of Arabia during Prometheus but I think its a point that needs stating.
Indeed I think some of the comparisons between Prometheus and the first Alien movie have been a little unfair. The space of over thirty years does tend to brighten the rose-tinted glasses. Alien is little more than a b-movie. Think about the story and what happens. Think about the time it was made, and all the other awful similar films like Inseminoid, XTRO etc. that came out. I’m not aiming to belittle the film here- but just think how bad Alien would have turned out had it been directed by anyone other than Ridley Scott. It just doesn’t bear thinking about. Alien is a very simple, somewhat dumb b-movie elevated to potential greatness by the direction of Ridley Scott, the production design of such noted visionaries as Ron Cobb and H R Giger, and the evocative Goldsmith score. Without their contributions the film would have just have been a silly space movie, period. I think when people look back on Alien, its not the story, or the ideas, behind the film that they remember, its the mood, the design. Yes Alien is a better film than Prometheus- its clearer, more direct, simpler. But I’d contend that Prometheus is the more ambitious of the two.
As for the other Alien films, I’d say that Prometheus is superior to all of them. I hated Aliens back when I saw it in the cinema in 1986 and I’ve never really made peace with it. For me, its not an Alien movie at all, its a bug-hunt Starship Troopers movie. Alien’s deadly, unreasoning killing machine creature is replaced with a hive of stupid cannon-fodder ‘alien warriors’ directed by an egg-laying ‘mommy’ Queen. All that gung-ho space marines rubbish and idiotic Queen Alien nonsense. Give me a break. The popularity of the film doesn’t surprise me (it saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me). The same people who moan about plotholes in Prometheus seem to forget all that goes on in Aliens (the central conceit for one- the Company that directed the Nostromo to the derelict hear no more, but don’t simply direct another ship for another go, rather they ‘forget’ about it and fifty years later unwittingly wind up sending Terraformers there? Like, duh).
David Finchers’ Alien 3 was a return to form for the franchise but it was scuppered by production problems so huge it seems a textbook case of how not to make a sequel. Fincher disowned the film but its not-quite-directors cut version is a pretty good movie in my mind. At least the Alien is a deadly creature again and the gung-ho stupidity is put to rest. Its a ‘proper’ Alien movie to me, with wonderful mood and score. The less said about Alien:Resurrection the better, except to say its utterly unwatchable. I tried again a few years ago but gave up. And what to say about the AVP movies other than they should never have been made?
So Prometheus to me seems to be the best of the Alien spin-off movies. No, I’m not convinced about all that Space Jockey/bald guy in a spacesuit stuff either, but at least the film tries to ‘open up’ the first film’s premise to make something other than a b-movie horror flick. I think if Ridley Scott went wrong it was in just that. People hear Ridley is making an Alien prequel and expect the space horror film they have dreamed of since 1979, but Ridley got quickly tired of that in pre-production and clearly changed tack. I can understand that. Ridley is right to say that the Alien has been pretty much done to death in all the movies, its been diluted to Halloween boogieman status by the AVP films in particular, and what can you do with facehuggers etc that hasn’t been done? Prometheus couldn’t just be another Alien movie, it had to tell a different story. Unfortunately that seems to have alienated (sic) the majority of the films audience, and Ridleys change of heart in pre-production hurt the finished product as it messed things up, not being wholly one thing or the other.
I still hold out hope that Ridley can make a Prometheus 2 that ties up some of the plot strands and presents a fitting conclusion. I’m not sure that’s even possible but you have to hope? Rumour has it that Ridley might only be producing the sequel, as he’ll be too entrenched in Blade Runner 2 business (for what its worth, David Fincher gets my vote as the perfect alternative to Ridley).
Prometheus- Final Word? No, not bloody likely…