The Alien formula (enter cave, encounter creature, return to ship and deal with stowaway) is remarkably effective and possibly played out. So what happens when the prequel Prometheus presents a similar scenario?
With Prometheus, the highly anticipated follow-up ala prequel to Alien (1979), many of the original brains are on board including director Ridley Scott. This time archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is on an exploratory space mission to find who she believes is responsible for life on Earth, an alien race she calls the “Engineers.” Joining Shaw are android David (Michael Fassbender), and rich girl Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and a crew of too many aboard the titular science vessel.
It’s with a heavy heart that I can’t sing the praises of the film which I had calculated would be the best Hollywood would have to offer this summer, if not all of 2012. The cinematography, art design, and some performances are the boundaries of that praise.
The beauty of the 1986 sequel, Aliens, is in the exit from the sci-fi horror subgenre and metamorphosis into a sci-fi action film. Let’s be honest, horror sequels do not work… at all. They’re formulaic. A new group of oblivious folks happen upon Camp Crystal Lake or Elm Street and have to catch up with the knowledge of the viewers. Alien³ (1992) played more like the first than the second; it’s Alien on ground for that matter. Afterward the series attempted to adopt the spirit of Aliens to various degrees of failure.
Creatures, hornets, even lions attacking and devouring humans don’t require much explanation or motivation for their actions. Hunger and instinctual survival are commonplace motivations that audiences can accept without issue. When the creature is a giant, advanced humanoid that has created technology and civilizations—there better be a heck of a motive. Prometheus prods audiences into anticipating a sequel, which may never happen, for the answers to questions raised by this foul script.
As the plot continues to unravel, there is a combined effort to askew all continuity with the ’79 film, leaving me to believe that this isn’t the same planet and if that truly is the case we have no business being in this theatre. I suppose I could write a prequel to Rocky that doesn’t feature Rocky Balboa but since Joe Sixpack is a boxer he serves the same purpose and the big reveal could be that it takes place in New York City. So long as they visit the same pet store, it’s a prequel.
Somewhat boldly, Prometheus doesn’t adhere to the Alien formula. No, these scientists can’t make an exciting movie out of an expedition because they’re too busy traveling to and from the site and ship. Try and imagine Aliens had Ellen Ripley repeatedly returned to the Colonial Marine’s spacecraft, only to head back to LV-426 because Newt got lost in the tunnel. Better yet, think about Alien if the crew voted to quarantine themselves to the plant and consider their company’s intentions. Prometheus could very well be the worst film linked, even vaguely, to Alien and that’s saying a lot these days. At least Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem had the familiar creatures. *½