I love the first four Alien films. That's right. I even appreciate the one where Fincher cut his teeth on directing a feature...and the one where Winona Ryder runs around all doe-eyed and weepy. And I've been excited about Prometheus for months because Ridley Scott's Alien isn't just my favorite film in the franchise, it's one of my favorite films. Period.
The problem I have with Prometheus is that it's completely devoid of the elements that make Alien great in the first place. And I'm not complaining about the fact that alien-esque lifeforms don't show up until about halfway through the movie. I'm also not complaining about how Charlize Theron's character doesn't really do anything except get squashed once she FINALLY gets her ass off that damn ship and onto the planetary surface where all the action is taking place--though that is a valid complaint.
What I love about Ridley Scott's Alien is its simplicity. At its core, Alien is a movie about the survival of the fittest. Watching it for the first time is almost a primal experience. The plot is easy to summarize: one vicious alien ends up on a spacecraft with six vulnerable humans* (plus one android) and only the strongest will make it to the end of the movie.
However, it's not really that simplistic.
See, Alien is also full of metaphors and messages. One could argue that each character represents a different side of mankind's nature. You've also got the notion that corporate power is inevitably lethal to humanity. And, in Ellen Ripley (brilliantly portrayed by Sigourney Weaver) you've got the first female character to kick ass in an action movie--which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider the decades of male-centric heroism in the preceding history of cinema. It's groundbreaking.
What's absent in Alien? Lengthy discussions about how the characters feel about what's going on in the plot. There's no time for that shit. They've got two options: fight or flight. And as an audience we're on the edge of our seats waiting to see who will live to share their feelings about what happened once the credits have rolled and we've left the theater. And that's my problem with Prometheus. For a movie so complex, there are too many scenes where somebody tells you exactly what their character is supposed to represent.
Michael Fassbender: I'm the handsome android created by Man who will help Man find his Creator. Did I mention that I'm created in Man's image so that he will be more "accepting" of me, his Creation? I just wanted to make sure that you, the audience, caught on that I'm here to mirror the theme of conflict between a Creator and its Creation...and the Creation's conflict with its Creation...and the Creation's Creation's desire to be viewed as equal to its Creator...and that Creator's desire to... Okay, okay. You get the picture. I'm also very handsome.
Charlize Theron: Shut up, Robotic Brother. I'm the stone cold bitch who represents the evil corporation back on earth. I'm going to stay inside my bubble of security while the more daring scientists explore new worlds while I scoff at their belief that they'll discover something worthwhile. Oh, and if they do happen to find something during their pointless exploration, I will be prepared to exploit their discoveries for my own gain. See how I wield this flame thrower? I am the master of my own destiny. I am the one who decides what will and won't survive.
Noomi Rapace (clutches cross): I humbly represent the turmoil that resides in every man and woman on the planet earth. I have Faith that a Creator exists, yet I still struggle with questions about my place in the universe. I wish to have all my questions answered, as does...
Logan Marshall-Green: I'm the dogmatic scientist who believes that research can explain away the theological mysteries of the universe. I can...AAAAAH!!! AAAAAAH!!! I'M GETTING BURNED ALIVE!!!!! GAAAAARRGH!!
Charlize Theron (clutches flame thrower): Take that, mother fucker!!
Apologies for that tangent. But, if you made it to the end of Prometheus then obviously you're the type of person who doesn't mind sitting through some lengthy tangents to get to (what you hope will be) a sensible point. And here it is:
As an entry in the genre of overtly pretentious sci-fi films, Prometheus is ten times better than, say, Avatar. But as a prelude to one of the most-groundbreaking anthologies in cinematic history, this Creation probably should have been deconstructed and redesigned by a different set of Engineers.
*And one very fussy cat.