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'Prometheus' movie review, trailer: 'Alien' prequel is scarily boring

PrometheusPoster_061012_optBY JOE TYRRELL
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
MOVIE REVIEW

In space, no one can hear you yawn.

More than 30 years ago, director Ridley Scott mixed technology and slime, sweat and acid-for-blood to create "Alien," a gothic sci-fi adventure that may well have ended manned space flight among moviegoers.

At once creepy and pulse-pounding, epic and claustrophobic, "Alien" took horror into new space and begat a string of sequels, one of which was good. Now, Scott has returned with "Prometheus," a prequel of sorts.

Scott's visual flourish has not deserted him. From other worldly settings in Iceland to production designer Arthur Max's spaceships and alien labyrinths, "Prometheus" continually offers arresting vistas and details, even in CGI.

The cast looks good too, with sleek leads Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender offering both templates for a cuter humanity and smart, nuanced performances that elevate the material. That's not to mention Idris Elba and Charlize Theron, though Guy Pearce, alas, appears as the Thousand Year Old Man.

Even the opening sequences promise another unusual journey. Speeding across a pristine landscape and climbing up a Niagara-like cataract, director of photography Dariusz Wolski's camera finds a cloaked figure. It is a monumental gray extraterrestrial, who doffs his clothes, swallows a pulsating gel and explosively dissolves into the waters.

Some time later, scientifically inclined couple Charlie Holloway Logan Marshall-Green and Elizabeth Shaw — no, not Dr. Who's Liz Shaw, but girl-with-dragon-tattoo Rapace — find yet another in a series of cave paintings, with a large gray hominid pointing toward a star map.

"I think they want us to come find them," Shaw says with a winsome smile.

Perhaps not.

The movie's strengths and flaws become self-evident soon thereafter. Playing the not-quite-human named David, Fassbender wanders an otherwise sleeping spaceship, monitoring the dreams of his traveling companions, watching "Lawrence of Arabia," practicing languages. Every moment suggests, "2001," "A.I.," "Silent Running," "Solaris," as well as Fassbender's audition to play T.E. Lawrence in the remake.

Some of these may be acknowledged as clever nods to the sci-fi audience, but the effect is a constant reminder of the movies one could be watching instead. That's even more pronounced when the spaceship Prometheus arrives at the distant moon that is its destination, the human crew awakes and serves up a steady diet of references to earlier alien movies.

There's the soulless corporate profiteer, the unruly grunts (who in this case are scientists without the big grants), the tough but jovial black commander, the android of uncertain allegiance, and the giant corporation whose priorities do not include the optimum health of employees.


The script by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof piles on more baggage in the form of Shaw's religious beliefs, presented as forcefully and clumsily as an airport Hare Krishna circle, and a just-for-the-heck-of-it billionaire seeking immortality subplot. When Holloway and Shaw reveal the reason for their deep-space voyage to the crew, she explains the evidence why the moon is the home of humanity's creators.

"Because I choose to believe it."

Unless, you're the Pope, that's the moment to turn around, program the ship for the return voyage, and climb back into your cryo-chamber for a nice sleep. But even this Chariots of the Yobs philosophizing does not sink "Prometheus." The initial exploration of the planet below revives interest, and again, the scenery is impressive.RapacePrometheus_061012_opt

But with all the spaceballs it already has in the air, "Prometheus" now tries to work in more references that set up the original "Aliens," a smart creature-feature that stood on its own, as well as its subsequent iterations. For some reason, Ridley Scott thinks he has a lot of 'splaining to do.

In the tradition of the Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, to say nothing of Lisbeth Salander, Rapace's Dr. Shaw makes for a rousing heroine, one who takes a licking but keeps on ticking. I would certainly pay money to see Noomi Rapace again, but preferably in more down-to-earth circumstances.

Dr. Shaw is stumbling through an overly complicated story. Like her character, "Prometheus" has trouble staying out of its own way. It has speculative philosophical elements, cosmic exploration elements, personal development elements, and business conspiracy elements. But even when "Prometheus" adds fire, the mixture of elements remains strangely inert. Despite its potential, it meekly goes where many, many movies have already been and gone.

Joe Tyrrell may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

ALSO BY JOE TYRRELL

'Snow White and the Huntsman' movie review, trailer: Fairy tale with an edge

'Dark Shadows' movie review, trailer: Johnny Depp gets support in Tim Burton dark comedy

'Chimpanzee' movie review, trailer: Good message outweighs fair cinematography

'Pirates! Band of Misfits' movie review, trailer: 3D animation is swashbuckling good time

'The Cabin in the Woods' movie review, trailer: Makes stereotypical horror flick look good

'The Hunger Games' movie review, trailer: Captures Collins' best-selling novel

'We Need to Talk About Kevin' movie review, trailer: Swinton conveys strength

'Wanderlust' movie review, trailer: Rudd and Aniston are a 'real trip'

'This Means War' movie review, trailer: Witherspoon, Pine, Hardy don't shine in spy drama

'Safe House' movie review, trailer: Chase that can be rented

'Perfect Sense' movie review, trailer: A reluctant romance in an apocalyptic world

'One for the Money' movie review, trailer: A smart, New Jersey-set mystery

George Lucas' 'Red Tails' movie review, trailer: Sells Tuskegee Airmen short

The Iron Lady' movie review, trailer: Meryl Streep brings immense skill

 
Comments (11)
11 Thursday, 21 June 2012 22:17
aaronearl
I watched the trailer for this film over and over again, thinking how kick-ass this prequel would be. But the movie stunk badly. It had excellent special effects and that opening scene with the engineer was AWESOME! The movie was great until it came time to deliver on its powerful suggestions. . . then, it just fizzled out with the force of a wet firecracker. The engineers--to whom we are introduced at the very beginning, as enigmatic, powerful, techno-masters who ritualistically sacrificed themselves to spread their genome throughout the cosmos--were nothing more then big, bald-headed villains who apparently had an alien problem of some sort. Of course, we can never truly know because, at no point, does anyone actually COMMUNICATE with them (duh!!!!). The stupid scene in which three or four crewmembers are killed by the one infected scientist-turned-zombie was extra STUPID.

Man. If Ridley Scott needed to make an Alien prequel that badly, then he should have come to me for a script. I certainly would have topped this piece of trash.
10 Wednesday, 13 June 2012 13:51
Tres Santos
This movie has GREAT visuals. That's where it ends. The story was obvious from the beginng. No suspense. Weak acting, bad dialog. No character development. However, I would see it in the theater just for the visuals. The 3D was not impressive nor weak. 2D would probably be just as good.
9 Monday, 11 June 2012 13:34
Movie-goer
My husband and I typically don't go to movies since it costs a fortune, on that note we also don't keep up with the latest and greatest of movies coming out. We kept seeing the trailer for this and since we go by trailers alone, it looked AMAZING! I had not idea that it was meant to be a prequel of any sort and Ridley Scott has not made a habit of disappointing me. Had I known then what I know now, I think that I would've enjoyed the movie better. I won't lie, I was a little disappointed by the obvious links and some of the (obvious to me) story twists and developments. I totally fell in LOVE with the original "Alien" and "Aliens" movies (the last few left more to be desired). So upon reviewing the storylines and using the knowledge that it wasn't meant to be COMPLETELY separated from "Alien" franchise. I'd have to say it was a pretty great movie. Worth the watch...NOT the best 3D movie, so keep your 7 extra dollars and just see the regular 2D version.
8 Monday, 11 June 2012 00:36
Yeah right
I disagree with this guys review. Besides, even if the crew had disagreed with the scientist's "i choose to believe" reason for goin out there, how would they go back? Just hijack a company's ship and come back and tell your boss that you'll do the job that you signed up for...but now you won't because you don't like the scientists with you...?
7 Sunday, 10 June 2012 21:27
Jett
Have the testes to admit there are those who have the ability to capture the collective imagination of those who care to believe what they will, and, though it was little noted nor long remembered, try hard to recall a time when there were those who actually placed a value on what YOU wrote
6 Sunday, 10 June 2012 19:03
MKSTEEL
Seems like a winner to me, I hope the make another film to bridge it to ALIEN better ;D
5 Sunday, 10 June 2012 12:58
PrimetimeG
I saw Prometheus early Friday afternoon...and it's a definite winner. This reviewer is just another in a long line of unqualified simpletons that can't resist the urge to unjustifiably trash a quality film, so as to sway movie goers away from something that they themselves do not understand. ALL films have flaws. NO film is, or ever has been perfect. Ridley Scott should be proud. All I heard from people before it's release was the fear that it would be an awful prequel. However, myself and the friends I saw it with were all blown away by the effects, android creepiness, and lingering questions that the director leaves you with. Prometheus 2 doesn't sound like a great sequel title, but the prospect of another film is tantilizing. The next time I see one of your bogus "reviews", I will just laugh that I spent the time reading anything that you've written in the first place. Credibility, pal. You've clearly demonstrated that you possess zero of it. So, enjoy your 20 seconds of fame. It's getting much harder to argue the fact that the Jersey Shore tv show (*YAWN*) IS, in fact, an accurate representation of the collective intelligence of that giant-waste dump of a state. Do not listen to this obviously biased "article".
4 Sunday, 10 June 2012 10:30
Daemon
I'd love to see your qualifications to review films. Oh, that's right, you don't need any... And your write up hammers that point home.
3 Sunday, 10 June 2012 09:30
Seth
I went to the midnight showing, and I usually go to bed at 11pm, I WAS AT HE EDGE OF MY SEAT! This guy is a moron!
2 Sunday, 10 June 2012 09:27
Mahk
I agree with the review. Seemed like a shotgun approach to ideas/themes in the hopes that some form of mystery or intrigue would stick. It wasn't a bad movie per se but, for something I was excited to see, I did leave feeling empty and a little disappointed.
1 Sunday, 10 June 2012 08:47
Dos Santos
That some lackluster moron who overly contrives this VERY simple story will then give it a bad review on the basis that he didn't get what was going on.

Only in Jersey.

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