I'll own up to something right off the bat here, so everyone knows where I'm coming from with this. I am a HUGE "Alien" fan. The "Alien" franchise is one of my favorites of all time, right up there with "Star Wars." And while I didn't see them as a child, the "Alien" movies helped define my taste in both the science fiction and horror genres, and was a big part of my adolescence.
I'm such a big fan I even like "Alien Resurrection." Now, don't get me wrong, that is a terrible movie, but I still inexplicably have fun with it despite how terrible it is. "Alien Resurrection" is a glorious wreck of two trains, one carrying Joss Whedon writing a story about cloning while not knowing how cloning works and the other carrying 5,000 gallons of KY jelly. And he had the gall to come out and say that the reason it sucked was because all the actors said their lines wrong. Did he read his script? What an asshole.
Yup. Totally Sygourney Weaver's fault right there...
I'd been keeping on and off again tabs on "Prometheus" for years, ever since it was called "Alien 5." Then Ridley Scott changed the name, it became a prequel, then it wasn't a prequel, then it was, and it just kept going back and forth until I stopped listening. It was too painful to hear every time they made a big change. Eventually I walled myself off from it and kept in the dark. The only thing I allowed myself to see was the trailer when it was first released. And it looked so good that out of all the movies coming out in 2012, the only one that I was more excited about was "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
Needless to say, the expectations were sky high.
I ended up seeing "Prometheus" twice, in actuality. I saw it on opening day, but I realized I couldn't write a review of it at that point, because I didn't really know what I thought. I knew that I didn't hate it. I knew that I enjoyed myself, but I didn't know if that was because of my "fan-goggles" or not. Perhaps the fact that I was practically wetting myself with joy every time I saw something familiar was tainting my opinion of it.
So I went back and watched it again a few days later. And I'm happy to say that "Prometheus" improves drastically on a second viewing, and it confirmed my original thoughts on the film: "Prometheus" is really, really good.
Whoa! They made a "Mass Effect" movie? Sweet!
The thing about "Prometheus" is that there's a lot of ideas going on in it. Any movie that asks the question: "Who are we and where did we come from?" and attempts to give some answers is biting off a big mouthful to chew. Aside from that, there are recurring themes of evolution, rebirth, and parricide that really give "Prometheus" what I have to be snobby and call "an intellectual edge" that makes it a much smarter film than any film in the "Alien" franchise to date. Not to say that "Prometheus" is better, or that the others weren't "smart," but they were horror/action films. "Prometheus" is a before anything else a sci-fi film.
Not really knowing where to begin, I'll just start by saying that the cast was phenomenal. I was happy to see that Noomi Rapace confirmed my suspicions that her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series was simply the result of a horrible character, and that she is actually a very good actress. I enjoyed her greatly in "Prometheus," although it is inevitable that comparisons to Sygourney Weaver will occur, since she is the Ripley character of this one.
Is she as good as Sygourney? That's impossible to say since Ripley and Beth are two completely different characters. I'd say that overall Beth isn't as emotionally (or physically) strong as Ripley is, but the way Noomi plays Beth, she never comes off as weak - just realistic. In fact you could argue that Beth is far more logical and intelligent than Ripley since she thinks about things instead of acting out of blind emotion (re: running back into the alien hive to save Newt). Perhaps that evens things out. Ripley is a badass, Beth is smart.
Noomi is also looking a HELL of a lot like Kari Byron in this. Ridley Scott must have been reading my "wish list."
Oh baby. You can bust my myth any day. Awww yeah... #needsgirlfriendbadly
And of course, adding to the lovely factor is Charlize Theron, playing the corporate jerk who doesn't really care about any of the crew, kind of like Paul Reiser's character Burke in "Aliens." Between this and "Snow White and The Huntsman," she really can play wicked quite well. The real star here, though, is Michael Fassbender, who seems to be on a mission to completely dominate every single movie he is in. His portrayal of David, the ship's synthetic (robot) is, in a word, stunning. He had a lot to live up to, filling the shoes of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen, but Fassebender is a mack-daddy, so of course he pulls it off.
And if you squint really hard and huff a lot of paint, Fassbender kind of looks like the love child of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen.
I know there has been some division among fans, however. Honestly, I don't get it, but if someone wasn't paying attention, they might come away with misconceptions since this is not really like the other "Alien" films, at least at first glance. There really isn't any horror element to it, at least not in terms of what we've come to expect. Whereas the other movies were essentially slasher movies in space, "Prometheus" is more of a suspense/drama. The gore, for the most part, isn't really there like in the others, there is less emphasis on action, and there is more of a sense of mystery and discovery than tension and dread, although those do make themselves known on occasion.
But at the same time, there are a lot of similarities, particularly in the pacing department. It begins slow and it takes it's time until a nasty discovery is unveiled which threatens the crew. Slowly they begin to get picked off, just in this case not by a monster in the conventional sense. There is the equivalent of the chestburster scene, and although it is much later in the film, I would say that it's far more intense since the scene in the original was much quicker. A corporate betrayal is uncovered, and the ending is actually quite similar in a lot of ways. There's also a "fourth act" confrontation, which "Alien" basically invented. Hell, even the android's severed head starts talking.
And for being not as action-oriented, there are some legitimate squirming-in-your-seat nail biting moments that I imagine would be especially rough for anybody who has ever given birth. C-Section nightmares all around, kiddos.
Nobody can watch this scene and tell me later it wasn't intense as all hell.
So I guess I don't understand where the split comes in. It may anger some to hear this, but take it from a person who is quite protective of the series: This is not a betrayal. This is "Alien" with an intellectual spin on it, and there's a lot to talk about in it.
When I talk about an intellectual spin and "big" ideas, dig on this:
According to "Prometheus," a race of aliens ("The Engineers") created human life on Earth by sacrificing one of their own into the primordial waters. In fact, that is presumably what's going on in the very first scene. The very first scene of the film is the beginning of life, and "The Engineers" are for all intents and purposes, God.
When the crew find the alien ship on the distant planet, it was on a course for Earth. It's reason was to wipe out all life in order to start again. It had been sitting there for around 2,000 years. Now, "Prometheus" takes place less than 100 years from now. Can you think of something possibly God-related that happened about 2,000 years ago that might make the creator of human-kind upset? Something that might make them say, "Ok, you've all had your fun, but you all suck, and it's time to start from scratch" perhaps?
That's right. "Prometheus" drops the hint of the idea that Jesus was an alien. That's a big idea.
"Prometheus" may be upsetting for someone looking for a movie just like what the rest of the movies were, but was that really all you wanted? Getting the same thing over and over again can get boring, and I personally didn't want to see Ridley Scott get back in the directors chair only to do his best James Cameron impression. James Cameron is the guy doing the best impression of James Cameron, anyways.
I guess what I mean is that if all you wanted was to see "Aliens" again, throw in the DVD of "Aliens." After all, there really was no improving on that one anyways. When I get Ridley Scott, I expect a high level of quality, and hopefully some interesting intellectual angles. And that's exactly what I got.
Well, that and a whole lot of creepy H.R. Giger looking architecture.
THE BOTTOM LINE - "Prometheus" was not what I was expecting, but that didn't stop it from being very good. It's a fine entry into the "Alien" franchise which gets better with repeat viewings, since there's a lot to take in, and I dare say it's objectively the best of the series since "Aliens." If it doesn't make my Top 10 of 2012, I will be shocked. Its biggest problem is that it will feel very hollow if it's not followed up on. This NEEDS a sequel, or even better to be made into a trilogy to be linked into the events of "Alien." Highly Recommended.