All right ladies and gentlemen, guess what I saw last night? Yup, you guessed it: Prometheus. My mind has been completely full of fuck ever since – and it’s the good kind. I won’t get too spoilerrific for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I will say one thing: if you’re looking for a prequel to Alien, you’re going to be disappointed.
Prometheus has very very little in common thematically with the Alien franchise. Yes, it’s set in the same universe, but it’s not about a terrifying cat-and-mouse game like the first film, and nor is it an over-the-top popcorn-devourer like the second – and before you ask, the only two Alien movies I care to admit were made were the first two, kind of like with the Highlander movies (there should have been only one). Instead, the movie is a separate mythology altogether that just briefly runs in parallel with the kinds of things that you can expect from an Alien movie – horrific alien infestations, androids you may or may not be able to trust, corporate greed and the military-industrial complex, and tough black men that usually end up dead – and instead goes off in directions that left me sitting there with my jaw on the floor once the final credits rolled.
Prometheus is the kind of movie that only Ridley Scott could have made. All you need to do is look at the list of iconic movies he’s directed and you’ll realize we’re talking about someone who’s done not just Blade Runner and Alien but Gladiator and Black Hawk Down and Legend and Kingdom of Heaven just to name a few. This guy knows his shit, and even if you’re one of those people who weren’t particularly thrilled with the plot of Prometheus you can’t deny the power of Scott’s hand on the tiller.
Ridley Scott is the type of director that can do the big, sweeping spectacle shots and massive, complex action sequences while also being able to handle smaller, more intimate scenes that involve nuanced character interaction – something that another director like George Lucas simply can’t possibly manage, as his approach to actual real live actors is to treat them like trick talking meat instead of real people; unlike Scott, Lucas has a tin ear for dialogue and is practically autistic when it comes to believable social interaction. It’s no wonder that my favorite Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, was directed by Irvin Kershner and not Lucas (interesting note: Kershner is the only director to have been at the helm of a Star Wars movie, a James Bond film, and a RoboCop movie).
People seem to forget that you need actors to carry a film, not just crazy special effects – something that James Cameron capitalized in Avatar, as he used motion-capture technology with a high-enough resolution to capture his actors’ facial expressions in order to bring humanity what would have otherwise been just sterile computer-generated giant smurfs running around a forest. This isn’t to say that plot isn’t just as important – anyone who’s seen Dances With Wolves can pretty much tell you how the plot of Avatar is going to play out – but good storytelling can turn a boring story into an enjoyable one, while bad storytelling can turn, well, look at the Star Wars prequels; enough said.
In the long run, if you’re a fan of Ridley Scott, go see Prometheus. Just don’t go in expecting a chest-bursting good time – yes, there’s plenty of action, horror, gore, and violence, but along with that, Prometheus is a much more philosophical film than an Alien movie. Plus, Noomi Rapace has this weird thing going on where she looks a little bit like an alien herself.