Prometheus – or “Why make an Alien movie if you’re not actually going to make an Alien movie?”

I don’t often get to the movies so I really enjoyed my trip to see Prometheus for the novelty alone. And then I thought a bit more about what I’d watched…

There are a some well established rules for Alien movies. You need to introduce a group of varyingly annoying characters, then you need to trap them in tunnels or corridors and let the Aliens pick them off one by one until only the plucky female survives. It’s extra fun if you have a fancy map that shows you where the Aliens are in relation to the stricken victims and a dismembered android helps too. Ridley Scott knows these rules, he pioneered them. Accordingly he spends a lot of care setting up Prometheus as an Alien film. So much so that the first half plays like Ridley Scott’s tribute to his own original Alien. Prometheus takes its time to establish all of the requisite ingredients for a trusty Alien showdown: Spaceship lands on planet; tunnels are investigated; historic victims are discovered with mysterious chest cavities. The cast ask the question: What the hell happened here? The audience squirms with anticipation: the table is set and dinner is about to be served.

But dinner is not served. About when the question “what the hell happened?” gets asked, the film puts the brakes on and tries to be something a bit different. Unfortunately, this different film is not quite as good as it really needs to be to warrant dispensing with the trusty Alien rules. “What the hell happened here?” is never answered and the film instead pursues some other elusive Big Questions which, by the open-ended closing credits, just aren’t that interesting.

This is not to say that Prometheus isn’t a lot of fun to watch. It’s not at all boring. There are some fantastic scenes and a sub-brilliant Ridley Scott film, Robin Hood aside, can still be well ahead of most other films. I just wish that the screen writers had figured out which movie they were trying to make and stuck with that. By the end of the film it’s hard to figure out which part of the story was the red herring: the Alien, the Big Question, or the entire movie? Either way all suffer. Aw, Ridley. It could have been so much greater.

And finally, (possibly a very minor spoiler alert) if you’re going to crash a spaceship, spectacularly, then come on, at least make sure that the stuff lying around on the deck isn’t still sitting in the same place after the dust settles. I’m looking at you, Michael Fassbender’s head.