A Noxious Burp: Ridley Scott Hiccups Alien Fumes in Prometheus
By Armond White
Now the Alien franchise becomes a Quintilogy–a purely market-drive neologism following the recent Blu-Ray boxset that labeled the first four Alien films not as a “Quartet” but a “Quadrilogy.” Prometheus is made with the same contempt for the public–as if anyone wanted or needed another repackaging of the sci-fi horror tale. Even the 1979 original (the best, seconded by Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection) was little more than what one critic condensed as “a gorilla in a haunted house movie.”
Prometheus could have been concocted by a publicist taking advantage of the current gullible film culture that believes the hype hoisting Ridley Scott as an artist (or even interesting). Scott’s sales record is all that makes fanboys take him seriously; his formulaic, stultifying, calendar-art-pretty movies certainly don’t. The mere fact that Prometheus gloms on to a legacy–it is a Prequel to the previous four films–is enough to convince the easily duped that something special is going on in this nonsense.
What’s going on is a plot that’s less coherent than any of the earlier films (even though it repeats them) with an unappealing cast babbling nonsense about Faith, Creation and Let‘s-get-the-hell-outta-here! The original film almost passes for art due to producer Walter Hill’s efficient adherence to genre storytelling and the unique exhibition of H.R. Giger’s unnervingly biomorphic designs for the monster and its space ship which simultaneously evoked outre genitalia and assorted seafoods. (The original’s signature motifs conveyed a palpable, nearly poetic fear of Sex.) Now, Ultrahack Scott reveals himself as little more than a production-design freak; Prometheus (convincingly shot in 3-D) lacks the atmospheric awe of the first film, the undeniably well-paced tension of James Cameron’s sequel and the rich, evocative splendor of Jeunet’s capstone.
Instead, Prometheus is marked by Scott’s typically shallow characterization, narrative confusion and disrespect for movie history. Not since the atrocious Wall-E has one movie so thoughtlessly trashed a superior film. This time both David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence are dishonored through the characterization of an ominous automaton, David (played by Michael Fassbender who quickly has come to emblematize crap cinema). David models his hair and speaking voice after Peter O’Toole’s classic enigmatic Lawrence and David’s lack of “soul” refers to the conundrum of Spielberg and Kubrick’s neo-Pinocchio conception–scoffed at here as “not a real boy.”
Just as Wall-E demeaned the spectacular movie-musical romance Hello, Dolly! to the delight of ignorant film geeks, Prometheus plays with our culture’s most profound artistic expressions of human ambition, merely for a series of unpleasant thrills: Noomi Rapace performing an abortion on herself, various decapitations, dispirited ruminations on religion and, finally, Guy Pearce in ludicrous Halloween make-up. It’s a foul repeat, a noxious burp. If you swallow Prometheus, you’ll swallow anything.
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