Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
By design or accident, the Alien Tetralogy became interesting because each film had its own auteur or its own genre — Alien offered haunted house in space (and an uncanny double of the slasher), Aliens was a ‘Nam movie, Alien3 was a prison movie and Alien: Resurrection was. It simply was. So Ridley Scott decides he wants to go back and produce a new film in the Alien universe and make it a prequel — except for some reason it leaves the A-word off the title.
Prometheus is the Titan who is Greek myth stole fire from the Gods to give to humanity and was punished in various ways by Zeus. He’s also a figure that inspired both the Shelleys and apparently gets confused with Pygmalion. It becomes a parable of over reaching, so before long we get to Blade Runner and the Tyrell Corporation and Roy’s encounter with Daddy, which becomes awfully Oedipal in the blinding sequence and the alternate dialogue of fucker/father. Blade Runner is full of lines from Milton and Blake and cod Milton and cod Blake, and you really have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at Roy Batty’s pigeon. Hauer seems to want to take credit for some of the worse lines, but I blame the Guinness.
So we begin the prequel with Dr Liz Shaw, no relation to the scientific advisor to UNIT, and Dr Charlie Holloway, archaeologists who have entirely failed to find Luke Skywalker but have found a wall painting depicting a constellation that presumably is still in line a million years later. This is not the first one and before you know it, the two are part of a space mission to one of the stars (I’m not clear how they picked one out) that is run by the Weyland Company (you can boo now).
The ship is being tended by an android called David (which is clearly a nod to A.I* and Screamers) who will surely be nicer than any of the other androids we’ve met in this universe. He’s spending his time watching Lawrence of Arabia, which manages to be both longer and more interesting than this film.
Oh, and the ship is called Prometheus, because the old prune in charge of Weyland believes they are going to meet the gods, aka Engineers ((c) Larry Niven via Pratchett’s Dark Side of the Sun) and he wants to offer a “fuck you, irony” challenge to the universe in a blatant bit of what-could-possibly-go-wrong? overreaching.
When we reach the system, we’re introduced to the rest of the crew — John Luther who is affecting an American accent, the woman from Red Road, Timothy Spall’s son and an Ice Maiden, who is Rather Blonde to be Rachael, and turns out to be Weyland’s daughter. Or Tyrell’s niece. Of course, we are laying bets as to who will get written out first and those with memories of Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton will have flashbacks about the class structure on Weyland ships and vote accordingly. When it comes to it, there is an obsession with aliens entering through the mouth and a moment that Life was aspiring to rip off. David does something rather nasty to Charlie in a rather melodramatic way, in a blatant bit of what-could-possibly-go-wrong? overreaching. There’s a moment later when they suddenly remember quarantine procedures and they fancied a call back to Ripley being overruled in Alien. And tiresomely, I look at the clock and realise we don’t get a body count until the hour mark. Halfway.
But Scott is barely interested in the slasher narrative — he’s more interested in parents and children.
Having carefully established that she’s failed to get pregnant with Charlie, Liz discovers that she is with alien, because those fear of pregnancy subtexts don’t write themselves like they did back in 1979. Anyone with half a brain will recall the Plot Device in the private wing of the Prometheus and so she trots off to this to program a termination. Liz does have the grace to be in pain over some of the remaining screen time, but she is healing fast. It must be that alien DNA. Or was it DNA identical to humans?
Meanwhile, David has already rehearsed the meeting your maker conversation for us before we finally meet an Engineer and this goes about as well as Roy meeting Tyrell. Roy claims “It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.”
Actually, it’s easy, it just involves someone stronger than you and physical violence.
And so before you know it, we’re down to the Final Girl and obviously Freddy/Jason/Michael can’t be dead. Liz heads off to be alone.
And then we get shots of them driving through a forested landscape.
Nope, sorry, back on the Prometheus we get a chest burst and an alien being born. Just a brief scene. One that could have been cut. But clearly a scene that says “Give me $100,000,000 and I’ll explain what happened.”
* Scott had been offered Kubrick’s last script, but was fired after wanting to rename is Y.I.