03 June 2012
Erich Von Däniken’s admittedly bonkers book “Chariots of the Gods” (about extraterrestrial ‘engineers’ kickstarting the ancient civilisations on the third rock from the sun) is a fascinating read for 13-year-old sci-fi geeks. As far as pseudo-scientific treatises go, it’s up there with the best of them. Von Däniken’s ambitious and passionate approach to his theory is infectious from the first page until the end. So much so that it makes you wonder what else he has to say on the subject. Over a career of countless books, each featuring the word “gods” in its title, he has proselytized the notion that we have come from outer space.
Other examples in sci-fi lore have also dabbled on the subject (most notably the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica), but von Däniken’s conviction always seemed a bit far-fetched (pun unintended). Why would the gods that create or inspire the early humans be humanoids? Isn’t anthropomorphising the creator an aftereffect of Judeo-Christian thinking of the last couple of millenia? Surely, other ancient civilisations whose pagan beliefs and symbolism also reflected gods having made us in their own image, but they also had the imagination and balls to worship celestial and terrestrial things that resemble anything but a mammal walking on its hind legs. Perhaps this, or that his claims have always been based on projection rather than pure science, von Däniken has now become the butt of many jokes, only revered by the most conspiracy-theory-obsessed among us. Instead of going on about what he is convinced to be true, he should have done what his contemporary Thor Heyerdahl did - conduct experiments, however superficial they may be.
So, why this rather long preamble about a Swiss popular ‘science’ author? Well, Please-Don’t-Call-Me-Sir Ridley Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaiths and Damon Lindelof (who was called in to doctor the former’s draft) have decided at some point to turn “Chariots of the Gods” into a film. And market it like the second coming of Nebuchadnezzar.
Prometheus was never really meant to be a direct prequel to Alien (1979), nor was it a remake or a spin-off. Just a story that happens to share the same universe. And since universe is gargantually big, the commonalities would (in merely probabilistic terms) be infintessimal. But, you have to appease the moneymen (studios and the audience alike) and come up with a story and / or theme akin to one of the most celebrated movie franchises. For this and many other reasons Prometheus have become a prequel to the prequel to Alien.
This twice removed relationship would have worked in two ways: a) the expectations would be low and if by some chance the film ends up being great, they could always tie in with the mothership, i.e. Alien (this time pun intended), and b) they wouldn’t risk the chance of pissing off the fans who worship in the altar of the Alien films. Full disclosure: I rate the Alien series above any other lightsaber-wielding, fedora-wearing, ring-bearing, Shatner-mask-wearing etc movie franchises. It is simply head and shoulders above all others in more ways than one. Well, maybe except for the Godfathers.
But I digress.
So, now we have Prometheus - a prequel that’s not a prequel. A franchise entry that should stand separate from the rest. A film that would bring what made the first instalments of the franchise undisputed classics in cinema history and add a modern twist to it. A film that would utilise what current technology can achieve in film-making, in all facets of production. A film marketed so invasively, it would make an extra effort for fans like me to not find out more about it by deliberately missing the trailers in cinemas.
What did we get? A mediocre sci-fi at best and an insult and a completely unworthy addition to the cannon at its worst. And its worst is more frequent than its best.
Would I have had a different opinion if this were a real stand-alone film? Perhaps. But it doesn’t change the ineptness of the whole affair.
Any positives? Yes. Michael Fassbender is great as David the android and Charlize Theron is fantastic.
But, enough of that. Let’s move on.
Noomi Rapace (Shaw) and Logan Marshall-Green (Holloway) are scientist who are trying to make babies. They have finally found the last piece of the puzzle they need in a cave on the Isle of Skye in Scotland - cave drawings of people worshipping giant humanoid beings who are pointing at dots in the sky. Surely, that must mean that these giant beings are from outer space and they have created us humans and they are now showing us where they are form and informing us that when we are capable of interstellar flight we are able to visit them and worship them on their own world. It’s obvious from the paintings.
So what does a scientist couple do? Find backing from a business tycoon who provides a trillion dollars to find this planet and meet our makers. Which are called ‘engineers’ (hence the first paragraph). So, who goes on to this mission? Our heroes (ahem …), a couple of non-descript scientists, a company bitch, a robot, and several dispensible crewmen. Yes, obviously no government official or a UN (or equivalent) delegate, no one from Vatican, Mecca or Kathmandu … just some people whose roles as as muddled as the puddle they use in the Redneck Games. Surely, somebody must have thought of bringing a zoologist? No? OK. Maybe next time.
They find the planet after two years (the crew are asleep, the droid is watching Lawrence of Arabia … if anyone has figured out the connection between the 1962 classic and this 2012 garbage, please let me know in the comments below). They then find a landing strip (von Däniken would be really proud) and land Prometheus (the spaceship) there. The first expeditionary group then go right into a giant hollow mound / pyramid and find the room where all the alien eggs are hidden, along with a decapitated body of a ‘space jockey’. Of course somebody brings something back. And all hell ensues.
Or it doesn’t.
Look, I’m just a terrible blogger who has a gripe about one of his favourite films being moneyshot on, but this is by-the-books film-making at its worst. With the exception of Michael Fassbender’s truly creepy turn as David, the rest of the cast are give wafer-thin roles with no humour or drama. They just read their parts and hope the special effects carry the film. The effects do carry the film, but only so much. And don’t even start me on the make-up …
The story meanders from one scene to another without any coherent connection: if a character just performs a surgery on herself using a futuristic medical device, she would ordinarily be a little bit shaken up and wouldn’t start running like Usain Bolt. Not only that, when she sees another character (who has just incinerated a zombified crewmember with an epic blowtorch), she would probably tell about what she just did. Or he would tell her what he just did. Instead, he tells her about an incident where he wasn’t even present! Fuck me, this makes Alien: Resurrection look like Last Year at Marienbad. Hell, it makes the AvP’s worth watching.
This one just ends, leaving so many redundant questions unanswered. Obviously a plant for a planned sequel. Please don’t. Just, don’t.
On a final note: if a giant circular object is rolling towards you, just take a step or two to either left or right. It will just roll away from you and this may give you a chance for a place in the sequel.
I hated this.