Warning: this post contains major spoilers for Prometheus. If you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, don’t bother.
I love the Alien films. Both of them. I therefore spent the best part of this year buoyant on little guffs of excitement that its prequel, Prometheus, was on its way and OHMYGOD IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME. I was delighted that Ridley Scott was back in his rightful place doing an Alien film and OHMYGOD IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME. I yelped with glee on discovering its cast consisted of some of my favourite actors all together in the same film and OHMYGOD IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME.
About half an hour into actually finally getting to see Prometheus, the crescendo of crushing disappointment began. It had absolutely none of the subtle brilliance of its predecessor. It was trying to do too much, far, far too much. It was an incoherent arse-splatter of special effects with a bunch of cardboard characters doing stupid things that made no goddamn sense whatsoever.
Ultimately, perhaps, its biggest undoing was its budget. Alien was magnificent due to its shoestring budget forcing it to be all about reaction rather than action. Aliens, while more a straight-up action flick, managed to be great as it was still within the constraints of the special effects of its time.
Meanwhile, Prometheus felt like Ridley Scott looked at his cheque and said “OHMYGOD THIS IS GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME! I’m going to have a jars of alien-juice and aliens in someone’s eyeballs and a man possessed by zombie-alien-rage and some aliens that look a bit like snakes and an alien in someone’s tummy and gigantic white different aliens and a massive fuckoff facehugger and fuck it, let’s show a whole alien because we can do it with CGI and it definitely won’t look shit.”
Well, Ridley, thanks to all that, your film was a complete pile of shitting arses. And the CGI alien did look like shit.
The thing is, though, there were ideas in that film that could have worked. There were scenes that could have worked. Had Scott been constrained, he might have actually had to think about ideas rather than various high-budget body horrors happening to people we didn’t really care about.
In a conversation with Mediocre Dave–who possibly humoured me in any attempt to salvage that film because I paid for his cinema ticket–I began to think about how it could work. I will sell this pitch to Hollywood for a complete refund of our cinema tickets, a written apology from Ridley Scott for Kingdom of Heaven, and an evening in the company of Michael Fassbender. It will be much better and much cheaper than Scott’s Prometheus.
The premise remains the same: Noomi Rapace and her boyfriend who is probably a famous actor too find another cave painting and persuade some rich dude to let them go to a far away planet to find their ancestors. On this ship are also Idris Elba and Charlize Theron and android-Fassbender (who was by far and away the best thing about that film), and the rich old dude, who can actually be played by an old dude, because I’m not sure why they bothered with covering Guy Pearce with prosthetics. We don’t need to worry about any of the rest of the characters, and Old Rich Dude isn’t hidden away in a box, there in the open, having co-opted Noomi Rapace’s misson for his own, like he did in the film except without some shitty attempt at a plot twist.
Several themes will be explored in this version of Prometheus, many of which I suspect Scott was attempting at doing if he hadn’t got all overexcited by the myriad ways he could literally ram xenomorphs down people’s throats. It will explore patriarchy, a robot’s attempt at understanding human emotion and the perils of curiosity.
We’ll keep the scenes of the android studying languages, playing bicycle basketball and learning to be human from old films, because they were cool. The aesthetic of the ship, though, should be less swish, as should all the technology: recall this is taking place before Alien, after all. We don’t need any fancy drone-ball things. And when the humans wake up, it would be nice if they could establish some relationships with each other.
So then they all get to the planet, and Noomi and Boyfriend and Space Stringer Bell and Robo-Fassbender go and explore the big creepy Ancestor-Cave. Old Rich Dude and Charlize Theron stay aboard the Prometheus, with Old Rich Dude barking orders of where to go and Charlize Theron being pragmatic. Our characters have a poke round the cave, realise it’s terraformed and start taking off helmets while Charlize Theron perhaps suggests that this is a terrible idea.
But they do it anyway, probably with Old Rich Dude egging them on.
Down in the caves, they realise Something Is Terribly Wrong and the ancestors are all horribly deaded, and the water’s moving, and they get the fuck out of there. Unfortunately, by some accident, Boyfriend ingests some water.
Back on the ship, everyone’s very disappointed, except Robo-Fassbender who is kind of baffled by this. Crucially, though, they never leave the ship again, thus radically reducing the film’s budget and adding some dramatic claustrophobia. Also, this neatly does away with the utterly ghastly “meeting the creators” theme which never works, as is beautifully explained here.
In this version of Prometheus, Noomi’s infertility and the impact it has on her relationship with her boyfriend is better explored and discussed in more depth than a few lines before they have a misery-fuck. In general, there’s a lot more character development and dialogue other than “AAAUGH IT’S BREAKING MY ARM”. But, nonetheless, Noomi and Boyfriend have their misery-fuck.
Trapped miles away from any safety, Boyfriend realises Something Is Horribly Wrong when he notices Alien Eyeball Worms. Naturally, everyone freaks the fuck out over this (except, probably, Rich Old Dude, who is fascinated and curious), and pop him in Magical Medi-Pod, which gives him a once-over and reckons he’s all right. Charlize Theron is sceptical about this. Boyfriend and Noomi are terrified. Space-Stringer just wants to get the fuck out. Robo-Fassbender is politely baffled by mortality and sickness.
Naturally, Boyfriend gets progressively worse, and our characters continue to freak the fuck out as Something Is Dreadfully Wrong. Eventually, this all culminates in him shoving Noomi out of the way and getting flamethrowered by Charlize Theron. Who then airlocks him for good measure, which obviously rather upsets the people who are closer to him.
They check themselves for contamination, and Robo-Fassbender announces Noomi’s pregnancy to Noomi, who, of course, freaks the fuck out. Robo-Fassbender is befuddled, knowing about her upset about her infertility.
Off she goes to the Medi-Pod which is only configured for treating men, and therefore cannot give Noomi the abortion she desperately needs. With the right set-up, this can suddenly be metaphorical for patriarchal access to medical care: my Prometheus has already shown a bit of men exerting their dominance with Rich Old Dude and Boyfriend. And obviously, it’d be better set-up than what I puked out in a late-night blogpost. So she goes for the excruciating abdominal surgery and attempts to immolate the facehugging foetus.
Unfortunately, all this is in vain, as the bastard gets loose and crawls around the ventilation ducts generally causing a menace. We never get a good look at it, we don’t want to.
Ultimately, our characters realise what they have to do. Their ship lacks weaponry, and they can’t survive to tell their story because that’d fuck up the rest of the Alien canon. They discuss this. Perhaps Robo-Fassbender with his confused emotions proposes it. Eventually, they take the decision.
The film ends with the ship exploding and the “last transmission of the Prometheus” playing in voice-over.
In this slice-and-dice, I attempted to preserve as much of Prometheus as possible, while hacking out the very worst. Were I to cut any further, it would be two minutes of Robo-Fassbender walking round a spaceship.