Why should you read the following 3,500 word review of Prometheus?
Because when I was jobless in Hollywood, I once sat outside Stan Winston Studio holding a sign that read “WILL DESIGN ALIENS FOR FOOD”. Had anyone looked closely, they’d have seen inspired masses of tendrils and skeletal structures, creatures that formed each letter, every one of them having taken hours to draw. They didn’t look closely, the first man who came along told me to leave or he’d call the police. Thus ended my career in creature design, which had begun in the womb.
No seriously- My Mom saw Alien when she was pregnant. Great movie to watch if you have something growing inside you, though she didn’t know the plot before it came out. And I wouldn’t give an credence to such an event effecting the fetus if not for the obsession I had with H.R. Giger and his revolutionary beast as a child.
I grew up on Alien. The movie was my church, Giger was my priest. I learned to draw, and drew Aliens. I learned to write, and wrote Alien 5. I learned to make movies, and I moved to L.A. Sadly, that city’s gates aren’t open to new ideas or new people. So as an artist, I’ve evolved well beyond Giger and Dali worship and produced a massive body of work, written novels, made movies, illustrated comics all my own. But the Alien franchise never let me in. I could only watch.
I watched Alien 4 end the series. I watched Predators cheapen it. I watched Ridley Scott claim he’d return to save it. And opening midnight on IMAX 3D, I watched Prometheus. Why should you care what I have to say about it? Because of all the fans in that packed theater, I was the only who had could have saved it.
This review is intended only for people who have seen the film. It relies on a knowledge of the film. It will ruin anything good about the film for those who haven’t seen it.
To cover the obligatory technical side and make way for my real interests:
The visual effects were flawless. Nothing looked fake except for smoke, as has been par for CG effects since day 1. I don’t know why Cameron didn’t film practical elements for Titanic in favor of cartoony smog, I don’t know why ILM’s hookah vapors haven’t been surpassed in terms of particle rendering, that’s just life and every movie in the last 30 years has had fake looking smoke.
But the ship, the planet, the aliens, the sparkles in the snot, the claws on the surgical system, everything that can look real in a modern movie looked real. Showcased in vibrant, sleek cinematography in the most realistic and unobtrusive, immersive 3D since Avatar. The film is a visual symphony of landscape and light worthy of any grand masterpiece by Storaro or Kaminski.
The music was perfect. More memorable than most modern movie music, intense when it had to be, inspiring when it had to be, Alien when it had to be. That brief musical reference as the hologram came on turned Peter Weyland into Harry Seldon for a second. That’s what a score can do in the right hands. Ridley and Tony Scott have always put music to the best of uses and Prometheus is no exception.
The sound design rumbled and creaked and burst with originality (No Wilhelm screams or T-Rex roars out of these cast and creatures. Seriously why did Avatar’s mega panther thing have to have a T-Rex roar? Brought the whole movie down) and effective sparsity. This is smart sound design, and justified fully the price of my IMAX ticket. The free poster helped with that too.
To say that Prometheus is well made is an understatement. It is one of the most ambitious and perfectly executed works of cinematic production ever accomplished. It’s one of the few films to merit comparisons to 2001, as so many others have tried. But it earns that much, from the design of the worlds, human and otherwise to the details that make those worlds feel lived in, there is nothing missing from this film’s setting and how its rendered onto the screen. There are flaws, massive ones, but they are not with craft of this film. Inasmuch as film is a science, Prometheus is as good as it gets.
As for the art:
As Arthur C. Clarke showed with Rendezvous with Rama, the idea of learning about an alien world is fascinating even if we never see them, nobody gets hurt, nothing happens. Rama is 200 pages of nothing happening beyond exploration. And it enraptures anyone with a brain. The exploration in the first act of Alien was worthy of that. Worthy of Lovecraft. Prometheus has that spark too, big time. The first half hour of this film is great Sci-Fi. Great hard science fiction that’s great for all the reasons science fiction can be great. David is great. Fassbender does a great job making him great. I’ll stop typing that word now before my G key breaks off.
The questions about what happened are compelling. The Mountains of Madness inspired material is well served (Guillermo- It wasn’t too close to Mountains of Madness. Make your film anyway). The prickly alien holograms, the events in the caves, the still unexplained giant head, all brilliant. All top notch. Compelling, exciting, fascinating. I could have used with a bit more Giger inside that dome instead of rock, but whatever. One of the film’s highest moments is that it gives us the answers we sought for 30 years and they don’t disappoint. They outdo our hopes by one spectacular suggestion:
Many fans thought that the Alien was a bioweapon made by the Space Jockey’s species. It was practically canon, now it’s canon. This film confirms it but adds the sickening realization humankind was created just to be its test victim, or gestation chambers at best. Fuck yes! Film doesn’t get any better than the revelation behind David’s line. I realize of course that other people got other things from it. Good for them, they can write their own reviews. I saw Prometheus to learn the horrific secret behind the series and I got what I came for. A climax. A cinematic, conceptual orgasm.
The foreplay had some illogical character decisions, assumptions, all the nitpicks of a common Star Trek episode. It had material better suited to AVP or Alien 4. The fact is, any real Sci-Fi fan has lived in nitpickable worlds all their lives. Not even Heinlein is immune. Real Trekkies can watch the dumbest fucking episode ever written and note the plot holes- But not care. What’s the trick to enjoying Prometheus? Not to mind that it hurts. No movie is perfect. Prometheus is very far from perfect, a shame as it had potential beyond potential. But I really don’t care if the scientist shouldn’t have taken his mask off. I’ve seen a thousand scientists take their masks off or beam down to unknown worlds or this that or the other thing. And let’s admit it- We love to nitpick. And it’s a good thing, because Hollywood today is full of the dumbest, least creative, worthless writers and hack scum that ever seized power in a medium.
Prometheus, as a 2012 film, has dumb parts. David touched everything. Characters acted for plot rather than character. People take their helmets off. People do things they don’t know they need to do. Etc. I won’t go into all of them because they’ve already flooded the net. After watching any good Star Trek episode 50 times, I tend not to notice Data’s cat changing species between shots. I notice Data’s Asimovian brilliance as a being. In Prometheus, I admired David’s Data-like innocence and inhuman, yet utterly human distance form the events before him. His views on his own god. His brief chat with HAL9000 at the beginning. The spectacular effects work on his severed head. The 3D conversion of Lawrence of Arabia, which I’d see in theaters and the way the business is going, probably will before 2020.
The thoughts about the relationship between gods and their progeny are well done beyond measure. The questions asked, why did they decide not to use us for test subjects after all, why was the Engineer so upset when awakened (Might have just answered my own question there, if some old dude and his robot and a religious chick woke me from my eternal slumber to ask for pills and the secrets of the universe, I’d slap the fuckers silly too).
Idris Elba and Charlize Theron delivered a sort of performance you don’t see often today. They don’t have the stage presence of Fassbender, one of the very few actors in his generation who does, but they have the knack of exposing their character through lines that shouldn’t logically let them do so. Subtext abounds. Rapace exemplifies an archetype of scientist, a sort of woman and a sort of thinker who works in a manner too complex to type, but is clearly described by her expressions in every frame. The side characters have life to them, even if it’s nothing more than an accent and a look of concern. The film is very well cast, And it hurts when they die. Not as much as Alien or Predator, but far more than any thriller since.
The twist with Weyland was damn cool. Why had David acted as he has, why would a trillionaire spend his money on such an endeavor, why has everything happened the way it’s happened? Because of the human lust for immortality. The base will of an old man who will pay any price to survive. In the context of scientific hopes and religious yearnings, Weyland comes out as a nasty old clog in the system, and is himself one of the more impressive creature effects of the film (Though his makeup looked great on the ship, it didn’t look so good in the hologram). His daughter’s reveal was meaningless and expected, didn’t object to it, didn’t love it. Wish people said “Dad” in movies more. Father is weightier but who call’s their father “Father”?
I wish he had more than a head injury to go out on. Prometheus stole from the gods and get his liver eaten daily. Weyland, the true Prometheus of this film, got slapped by Zeus before he got his hands on the flame and died. Perhaps I’m just a sadist, but in a movie called Prometheus I want to see some titan punishment meted out. I wanted liver for dessert.
I’d have liked more from the Engineer, but I realize the point is he yields nothing. Still, for god to just slap and behead people then fly away is a bit thin. This is a genius, not a movie monster. Yet it acts as a movie monster. Similarly, with the film firmly placing itself in the Alien world, I’m disappointed it didn’t go full prequel. Had he been deep throated and then boarded another ship and left, Alien would have been set up perfectly. Flawlessly. But they didn’t want to go full prequel, and in doing so denied a most poetic ending in favor of reboot potential. Which they’d still have with Lisbeth flying off into the sunset, but instead we got a disjointed cameo from a too-familiar beastie in the wrong place. Not that I was sad to see it-
The fact is, the Aliens are the reason I love this series. Ripley’s a good character. The Marines are awesome. Every film in the universe has its merits, but I’d be lying if I said I was in it for anything more than I was for the greatest creature design in history. I saw Prometheus for more than creatures and I got more than creatures out of it. But I anticipated it beyond all other films of the last ten years because Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger were making monsters again. To be clear, Giger only contributed a couple neat murals to this one. His output today is nothing like it was when Alien was made, I don’t believe he’s picked up an airbrush in decades.
But to step into Giger’s shoes is the dream of any creature designer, and many have done us proud. Cameron’s design for the Queen Alien is brilliant. Stan Winston and ADI grew up making the variants seen in the franchise. Taking off the dome, putting the dome back on, sharpening the tail, breaking the ankles, shifting the back tubes, evolving the toothy throat and sinking it into new horrific wounds. Prometheus shows us the Engineers unmasked. The genesis of several new creatures. It’s the most extensive look to date into the machinations we only saw teased in the original Alien film. And as the IMAX screen burst forth with state of the art perfectly filmed eye candy:
The creature design was the film’s most disappointing aspect. Not the Giger designs of course, seeing those again is the absolute highlight. The film even has an homage to some of his work for Jodorowsky’s Dune, which is watered down from his vision but still haunting.
The new creatures however, are the plainest, dullest crap I’ve seen in recent years. The Engineers, being human by plot necessity, aren’t too much of a problem. Their skin and eyes and size and suits are all well and good. I’d objected to Scott’s mention early in the production that the Space Jockey was a man in a suit. I still do to some degree as notion of a pilot grown into his ship was one of Alien’s great concepts. But this movie had another concept in mind and so I could accept that.
But the worms. Smooth plain white worms. Not translucent enough to merit interest. Not detailed or new enough to make them interesting. Not scary enough in form or concept to be viscerally frightening or disturbing. Plain worms with subtle genital connotations ala Dreamcatcher, but not on par with Giger’s perversity or sexuality or even McCreery’s blunt audacity. Freud works for any worm entering an orifice. Consider Giger’s worm designs for Species and unused wyrm designs for Reign of Fire. He can make a worm sickening beyond how sickening worms are. Prometheus worms were white and had flaps.
A man becomes a monster. Once infected, the human to beast transformation can go a thousand ways, some of them dull, some of them brilliant. Sadly, this one is dull as dirt. He gets lumpy and blotchy. The plainest possible thing you can turn a guy into. The potential here is so fully wasted I can’t even point to where they should have gone. He just turned gross and mean B-Movie style with no attempt at design or artistry. Pathetic.
He and the worms were side stories though, just side effects of the black goo that the writers seemed to have stolen from X-Files. I suppose that and the vase design are also lost opportunities. But I’d forgive all that if the film had something new and amazing for the main course.
The extraction surgery didn’t hit me as particularly effective as body horror but I’m in the jaded minority there, the audience squirmed like mad. I’ll rank the sequence as good horror. But the thing that gets pulled out, the big reveal- A squid. A 4 tentacled plain white squid. No, obviously this couldn’t have appeared then and there as a face hugger. The realization of what it is, though not rewarding to othrodox students of the previously established life cycle, was a great moment. So it can’t be a face hugger, but how sad is it that it’s a completely uncreative, uninteresting, unfrightening, unsickening design. In both birth and adulthood, it’s nothing we haven’t seen a billion times before. Tentacles, teeth and slime. Not sure why it had teeth.
The original facehugger and chestburster were innovative in their specificity. The facehugger had fingers. With fingernails. Joints. Lungs. It was plausible as life but shocking in its inhumanity, unearthliness. Grotesquerie. You didn’t want that damn thing on your face. The chestburster was sinister in its genesis from Bacon’s Figures at a Crucifixion. Giger’s designs were actually far sicker than the one in the film, but the one in Alien was iconic. In Prometheus, it’s a squid. It turns into a bigger squid, and turns the engineer into Jack Sparrow as a result. The creature designers should be ashamed, if any were even hired. It’s as if they bypassed artists and told the moldmakers to make tentacles, worms, pale guys with Giger suits and a bumpy dude. The opposite of the bold move to hire the sickest artist in Switzerland to make us afraid in 1979.
The squid is dull and useless, but the ultimate insult is the final shot. I’d have been happy if there were no Aliens in the film. I’d have been happy if there were. I won’t even comment in this section as to whether the last shot was a good or bad idea, but because it is in the movie, only as to the design: It was Gary Larson’s Far Side spoof of Giger’s Alien. It was what a kid draws when someone describes what Giger’s Alien looks like. I know this because before I saw Alien, my Mom told me what the monster looked like and I drew, at age 10, what you see in the last shot of the movie. The pointy head, the detail-less frail body.
But at least I got the mouth right. The instant you see that yes, there’s a Xenomorph with a capital X in this movie, the one thing you want to see is the grand icon of horror, the inner mouth. Or something even sicker. Something to make this proto-Alien even more amazing. Nope, just a buck toothed upper jaw. The final shot of Prometheus is an insult to every surrealist artist alive, and as a damn good one myself, I hate whatever scumbags got the creature design job on this Holy Grail of creature films and botched it so spectacularly. Fuck you for squandering the chance we all dreamed of, to follow Giger himself. And I’m damn disappointed in Scott for allowing it, be it for thinking the creatures were cool, or even for thinking the slick simple look of them was warranted for a new aesthetic, in which case Giger’s work should not have been included to overshadow it.
Giger’s ship design is stunning. As surreal and as effective here in its inhumanity and perverse disfigured forms as it was in Alien. So why is there a flying saucer in the opening scene? Why, when we see a species defined by Giger’s twisted shapes later in the movie, are they flying in the plainest, least inventive cliched of all possible spaceships? The sound design and motion and epic 3D cinematography make the saucer an ominous presence, but it’s still a dang saucer. Had it been a derelict style ship or even better, a new twisted design, it would have been all the more ominous. It would have been astounding instead of disappointing.
Giger’s presence in the film serves only to show how great it could have been. Imagine if the domes were his designs from Alien. Or the real designs from Dune. The Harkonen castle design in Dune stabs you in the damn chest. It scares you. It hurts to look at, it’s offensive. Blasphemous! The rusted out shadows of the basic concept make this movie frightening. Imagine if they had the balls to do it for real. Imagine if they used Giger’s unused concepts for Alien here. Short of Giger’s- Mine.
I could have done better than a goddamn squid. Forgive my immodesty but that’s not the boast of an armchair quarterback, I’ve spent 25 years as a surrealist artist. First in study, then emulation of Giger and Dali and Escher, then developing a sense of style all my own and finally putting it into films and paintings and more. Look at my Gallery and you’ll see the ships and creatures that should have made Prometheus frightening and intriguing and visionary. See what I can do, and lament the bastards of Hollywood who never looked at my portfolio before kicking me out. And if you find my claims are unwarranted, you hate my artwork, you love the damn squid, so be it. But you’ve read all the above, you might as well see what this artist thinks was so important.
Still, for all that could have been, we must focus on what is. A heavy dose of Giger in action. The ship, a bit different but flying. The telescope emerging from the floor. The walls. The murals. Giger is in this movie and that’s a thing to celebrate. It’s rare to see such vision in a modern film, and though this is basically the same material we saw already, it’s the instant highlight of the year just for dipping its feet into that font of dreams. It’s a reminder of the power of a true artist, a surrealist. It’s a testament to just how much Giger did for Alien. How important the Xenomorph design was to modern cinema, modern culture, and modern nightmares.
Seeing his genius alongside the other critters in Prometheus dulls them but helps one appreciate just how brightly that dark old star can shine. His leavings are the best imagery to grace cinema in the last 30 years. And Prometheus is where they live on, in 3D. So for all my anger and disdain, Prometheus remains one of the most amazing films to lick my eyeballs. I’ll see it again in theaters. I’ll buy it. I’ll watch it over and over. Debate its intricacies, its flaws, its merits. Hate it, love it, argue it, defame and idolize it. Scott gave us much to discuss, so let us praise and punish him! That’s what we geeks love to do, right?
Giving the audience what they want: It’s like stealing fire from the gods.
- justapsychoticchameleon reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up
- justapsychoticchameleon likes this
- forgedhalo likes this
- whatsoeverpleasesme likes this
- pixelgatherer likes this
- fleuretty69 likes this
- davereed likes this
- theoverlookcaretaker likes this
- blueberrybuttfuck reblogged this from sharkchunks
- wutiswat likes this
- blueberrybuttfuck likes this
- rufti likes this
- superkhrys reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up and added:
- atreem likes this
- flashfrozenpatchworkedandfallow likes this
- jammerskrik likes this
- tstape likes this
- devil--bitch likes this
- ieatatpanerabread likes this
- hegemonicpennydreadful likes this
- spiralout-keepgoing likes this
- semisweetshadow likes this
- beneathher reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up
- werewolfsquad likes this
- cannibalculture reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up
- cannibalculture likes this
- runtisgruntle likes this
- hayyybee reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up
- ilikemygrungelikeilikemysteak likes this
- goggles898 likes this
- theburnlab likes this
- spadesslick reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up
- spadesslick likes this
- dontmakeitstupid likes this
- skywiper likes this
- lili-ish likes this
- ianantimatter likes this
- gtfoyourcomputer likes this
- hackedy likes this
- ithinkimasofa likes this
- yohjithewarrior likes this
- sharkchunks reblogged this from facts-i-just-made-up and added:
- ani-kun likes this
- facts-i-just-made-up posted this