Judging Prometheus: How did movie with such a cool viral media plan turn out so badly?
As a stone science fiction nerd and longtime Alien franchise fan -- yes, I actually saw the first film in a movie theater with a dad who didn't realize watching an alien pop out of a guy's chest might scar a 14-year-old a bit -- I couldn't wait to see Ridley Scott's Prometheus.
The promise of seeing the man who launched this franchise return to similar ground was irresistible. But I should have been warned by the weird it's a prequel/no it's not conversations Scott and script co-writer Damon Lindelof have been having for weeks in the press.
If you haven't seen the film, you'll want to tread carefully here, there's spoilers ahead. I'm not going to go chapter and verse over every problem in the film, but let's just say that there are so many illogical moments and inconsistent actions that sci fi nerds will be rolling their eyes into the back of their heads halfway through the film.
(I'm betting future nerds base a drinking game on how many times crew members touch something after they've been warned not to. It happens that often in this movie.)
Thanks to commenter Beakie, click here to see an absurdly nerdy video listing all the stupid questions Prometheus raises and fails to answer. Imagine, if you will, almost all of these question popping up in my head as the film unwinds, and you have a sense of how aggravating it was to sit through this movie.
The original crew's mistakes in Alien made sense -- they were working stiffs surprised with the ultimate predator. But Prometheus is an example of something I've criticized often -- highfalutin filmmakers trying so hard to create art that they overlook the important basic requirements of storytelling in the genre where they're working.
I've seen materials online which maintain producers developed a Prometheus script which was a straight-up prequel, but Scott wouldn't agree to direct unless the story was elevated with the ideas he wanted to explore.
Along comes Lindelof with his idea that the movie shouldn't be a prequel; the resulting film ties itself into so many knots to acknowledge the Alien franchise without directly serving as a prequel that it makes little sense.
Frankly, these guys wanted the best of both worlds -- all the attention and anticipation of an Alien movie without worrying about fitting it into the canon. Result: instant disappointment for longtime fans and plot incoherence.
But one thing that made a lot of sense, was the film's social media strategy, including a few really cool videos featuring footage which doesn't appear in the movie.
In one, Peter Weyland, the head of the nefarious company of Alien legend, addresses a Tedx conference 11 years in our future, but 60 years before the Prometheus crew takes off on a Weyland-funded mission to track extraterrestrials who may have visited early man -- or done much more than visit us.
In another, Michael Fassbender shows off his letter-perfect portrayal of artificial man David in a promotional video filmed by the Weyland corporation.
Both videos make so much sense, I'm surprised they didn't land in the film somewhere (or not; perhaps they made too much sense). Given Scott's pre-Alien status as a consummate commercial director, it makes certain kind of sense that he would be so good at building sales tools around the movie.
Too bad the film itself didn't benefit from a little more of that vision.
Check out the video shorts below: