Things I Learned From Movie X
By Edwin Davies
August 16, 2012
When it was announced that Ridley Scott was returning to science fiction after a three decade absence from the genre that made his name, the world nearly drowned in the ensuing wave of cautious optimism. Sure, he’d not made a good film in at least a decade, and he hadn’t made a genuinely great film since Blade Runner in 1982, and even then his best work in that period came from relentlessly tinkering with those early films and making them better like the Bizarro George Lucas that he is, but this was the man that delivered the one-two punch of Alien and the aforementioned Blade Runner, and that had to mean something. Even once it became apparent that the film was tangentially related to Alien, people didn’t completely lose their shit over it. After all, it was merely taking place in the same universe as that masterpiece; it wasn’t a prequel or anything like that, right?
Even setting aside Prometheus’s somewhat perplexing connection to Alien – all that interspecies breeding stuff gave me horrible flashbacks of trying to get the gold Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII, which is something no one should have to live through, let alone re-live – the resulting film was a flawed demonstration of everything good and bad about Ridley Scott as a director. Visually stunning, it may even be one of the most beautiful films of the last decade, and with the sort of rich, detailed world that is so sorely lacking in most modern science fiction, it was hampered by a script that struggled to balance its lofty themes and its genre roots. Essentially a bleak film about death and the nature of Man’s relationship with God, it was populated by characters who, despite being incredibly intelligent scientists, acted like teenagers in a Friday the Thirteenth sequel. Actually, scratch that: they acted like teenagers in a Friday the Thirteenth knock-off. Characters so dense, their actions could only be explained by assuming that they suffered some truly traumatic brain damage after being woken from cryogenic sleep at the beginning of the film. Prometheus wound up seeming like either a very smart film that got dumbed down massively, or a very stupid film with pretensions. Much like the crew of the Prometheus, we may never know the answer to this most fundamental of questions.
Yet despite the STAGGERING flaws of the film, there are lessons to be drawn from Prometheus, lessons like…
Logan’s Run is about to become a fantastic, terrifying reality
One of the most discussed aspects of the film – and when I say discussed I of course mean roundly mocked – was the decision to cast Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland, the dying billionaire who funds the ill-fated expedition to discover whether or not giant aliens named Engineers visited Earth and created Mankind. This was not merely because the role required that Pearce’s razor sharp cheekbones be hidden beneath make-up that made him look like Emperor Palpatine’s sickly cousin, but because casting a 44-year-old actor as an old man, especially someone with the name recognition of Guy Pearce, is pretty much guaranteed to distract people and take them out of the movie. Since the film came out it has been “confirmed” that scenes of a young Weyland were filmed, but that they were left on the cutting room floor, but that still doesn’t excuse the incredibly poor job they did on the make-up for the character. Admittedly it was probably cheaper than hiring a real old man to play Weyland – it looks like they spent about $5 on it in total, and you’re not going to get Terence Stamp in for less than $6 – but when you consider how amazing the rest of the film looks, any sub-standard effect is going to stick out like a badly rendered thumb.