Del and Mladen review ‘Prometheus’
Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios.
“Prometheus” Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron. Directed by Ridley Scott. 124 minutes. Rated R.
Going into “Prometheus” I warned myself against indulging expectations; I had, after all, been savoring this moment since learning “Alien” director Ridley Scott was returning to the creepy, Gigeresque universe he so famously created in 1979.
Coming out of “Prometheus” I again warned myself against expectations: The movie was probably not as disappointing as my gut reaction would have me believe.
After much reflection, I can’t help but feel “Prometheus” is so much less than it could have been. Visually, the film is gorgeous. But the script is a muddle, the score incompatible with the movie’s tone, and some of the casting decisions simply don’t work.
The plot is straightforward. A pair of archeologists (Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw and Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway) discover a kind of star map in the glyphs of ancient terrestrial civilizations separated by time and distance. A corporation builds a starship, the Prometheus, to visit the location denoted by the map, so that the company’s founder can discover the secret to life … and perhaps extend his own. Once there they find mankind’s progenitors were not as paternalistic as they expected. All manner of wriggling, predatory horrors put human beings at the bottom of the food chain as they plan a planet-wide buffet.
The film’s exteriors are lush, sweeping and grandiose, but the interiors convey nothing of the shuddery claustrophobia evoked by “Alien.” The technology seems far advanced from “Alien,” which takes place after “Prometheus.” I don’t have a problem with that: The Nostromo was a tired old factory ship with outdated technology; “Prometheus” is a brand-new ship of exploration, likely equipped with the latest gadgets and gewgaws, despite its 30-year handicap.
Michael Fassbender delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the amoral android David, and Charlize Theron is icily cool as the daughter of the Weyland Corporation’s founder. Less impressive are Sean Harris as the expedition’s geologist, and Rafe Spall as the team’s biologist. Neither display the kind of intellectual curiosity peculiar to scientists. Worse are Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, who are completely unconvincing in their roles as the expedition’s ostensible scientific leadership. Ridley Scott has a love of strong female characters, but in “Prometheus” Rapace seems lost and dependent, besotted with a perpetual starry-eyed, doll-baby affect that seems incongruent with that of a true Scott survivor type. And let’s not talk about the film’s science, or the scientific method. “Prometheus” abandons even the most cursory protocols any scientist worth his salt would follow.
But that’s partially the fault of the script, which at times tries to take “Prometheus” into the realm of “2001,” while mostly devolving to “Starship Troopers” or even “Lost.” Blame that on co-writer Damon Lindelof, an alum of “Lost,” who seems stricken by the idea coy logic flaws represent depth. A true brain tease provokes curiosity, not irritation. Gone is the stark, narrowly focused conflicts of “Alien,” “Blade Runner” or “Thelma and Louise.” In its place is a taco-pizza-cheeseburger of a story that satisfies nobody.
“Prometheus” may have strands of “Alien” in its DNA, as Scott hinted during the movie’s production, but it’s a recessive gene. You see little of the “Alien” genius and lots of what I would call “current” storytelling, which seems less satisfied with delivering a credible tale than setting up a sequel.
In space, nobody can hear you scream. But in movie theaters they can hear you crying foul, and that’s what I heard.
When I need Del to be merciless, he delivers a review that searched for a bright side to a dim movie. Del, can you hear me screaming in Fort Walton Beach, though we’re a couple of miles apart?
It was good “Prometheus” didn’t come with a money-back guarantee for the audience because the production companies that financed this unfathomable film would go broke. My review is short because I stopped paying attention to the movie about halfway through it’s all too long runtime.
“Prometheus” was billed as the prequel to “Alien,” one of the finest movies of all time, and that was a severe error. Though directed by the same man, Ridley Scott, “Prometheus” and “Alien” are worlds apart.
“Alien” is a sci-fi horror movie, pure and simple and completely engrossing. “Prometheus” is just gross, while suffering from an identity crisis. Is it sci-fi horror like “Alien” or sci-fi action like “Aliens”? In fact, it’s more like “Hostel” meets “Event Horizon” meets “The Human Centipede.”
Almost from the beginning, the movie starts to meander toward the unexplained.
There are 17 people aboard spaceship Prometheus, which is about 10 too many. Only a handful of the 17 characters are developed and all of them are, at best, mildly interesting or, at worst, unlikable.
There are metallic vases oozing black liquid, an aggressive slug breaking an arm and then swimming down the victim’s throat, and an absolutely foul scene were one of the protagonists endures a vividly portrayed Cesarean section inside a healing chamber and then fights the creature just pulled from her abdomen.
None of the scientists behaved like scientists, including the decision to reanimate in the open the head of a hominid-like being because it looked like something abnormal was growing from it when its owner died.
In “Prometheus,” events just happened that seemed unconnected or arbitrary. The story lacked cohesion. It failed to explain the reason our creators were so unflinchingly hostile to us, their children, so to speak.
“Prometheus” could have explored the questions it awkwardly raised. Is there God? Can science and religion co-exist? Is mankind a controlled experiment with Earth the incubator? Instead, we get a mish-mash of themes and banal dialogue.
There are no Oscar contenders in this movie. Not for script. Not for acting. Not for score. Hell, not even for visual effects. The movie was disappointing.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.
“Trucks” stars Timothy Busfield as Ray, Brenda Blake as Hope, Brendan Fletcher as Logan, Amy Stewart as Abby, and others. Directed by Chris Thomson. Rated PG-13 with a 95-minute run time. See it on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Apple TV and Vudu.
To recuperate my manliness after Del forced me to watch and review “Barbie” and “Wham!,” I made him watch 1997’s “Trucks.” And, what a film it is. From its big rig practical effects to the bonkers scene involving a Tonka-looking radio-controlled toy truck, the movie plows through your disbelief and eye rolling like a convoy of rabid Teamsters through a school zone.
Here, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Del wants a movie summary in each review, so I’m giving you one, like it or not. “Trucks” is based on a Stephen King short story. In “Trucks,” trucks come alive, herding people into crappy buildings in a dusty town not far from Area 51. The trucks terrorize the huddled humans and, when needed, run over or otherwise murder a few. The self-driving, bloodthirsty machines, who talk to each other by flashing their headlights and switching windshield wipers on and off, are animated by … I’m not sure. The victims talk about mysterious satellite dishes erected at the nearby Air Force base, aliens attracted to Earth by SETI, a stolen election for president, the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, and, wait, I think I’m confusing one government conspiracy with another.
“Trucks” has flaws that go unremedied. There’s no nudity. The swearing is mild. The violence is not as graphic as it could’ve been, though the fire axe-wielding hazmat suit scene in a disaster response van is pretty damn terrific. And, let’s not forget the toy truck and mailman incident that unfolds about half-way through the film. It’s imaginative. It’s ridiculous. It’s carnage laced. In short, it’s perfect.
“Trucks” also has flaws that get remedied. For example, the killer trucks are autonomous but have no way of refueling themselves. So, through much of the film, I’m like, “Stupid rednecks, sit tight until the monstrous machines run out of gas.” Then comes along our principal scared, bewildered, and desperate protagonist (“Ray” portrayed by Timothy Busfield) who notices that the trucks had chances to kill him but didn’t. Why? Why did he live while some of his fellow captives died? Well, the trucks signal the answer to him. You see, Ray is the town’s gas station owner. The machines spared Ray because they needed him to refuel them. If he didn’t, they’d splatter his son and nascent girlfriend all over the desert sand. Come on, concede that’s a clever way for the trucks (and the movie’s plot) to overcome their lack of hands with opposable thumbs to pump diesel.
Because “Trucks” is based on a King short story and King often sways toward the bleak, the film’s ending is somewhat discombobulating. But, don’t worry, the ending is nothing like the heavily traumatizing conclusion of another movie based on King’s writing, “The Mist.”
I was confused.
Fifteen minutes into “Trucks” and still no Emilio Estevez. What the hell was going on?
A quick dive into the Internet Movie Database disabused me of my mental fog. “Trucks” is not “Maximum Overdrive,” the cheesy ’80s-vintage scifi-horror movie directed by none other than horror author Stephen King. Instead, “Trucks” is a cheesy ’90s-vintage scifi-horror movie based on the same short story, “Trucks,” that inspired “Maximum Overdrive.” And that story was written by none other than horror author Stephen King.
That’s about as clear as my soap-scum infused glass shower doors.
I’d describe “Trucks” as a genre hybrid, falling somewhere between a classic ’50s big bug movie and a Robert Rodriguez grindhouse gorefest, Why anybody thought “Trucks” was worthy of a remake escapes me, especially when King wrote many other memorable stories – the one about the guy who drinks bad beer and turns into a giant escargot comes to mind every time I pop the tab on a can of Natty Light. But then, why are there 27 “Children of the Corn”s or 91 “Lawnmower Man”s? The answer, of course, is that Americans have no bottom when it comes to schlock.
And that’s what “Trucks” is – schlock. It’s one of those movies that’s so bad, it’s good – except “Trucks” isn’t good. It’s terrible, and Mladen owes me big time. At least when I make him watch something out of his comfort zone it’s something decent, and good. “Trucks” is a Baby Ruth bar floating in the swimming pool of moviedom. The acting is awful. The script is laughably inept. No cliché is left behind. And there are plot holes big enough to … ahem … drive a truck through. It’s like watching political aides trying to teach Ron DeSantis how to eat pudding with chopsticks. In other words, it’s a mess.
Here’s an example of the breathtaking dialogue:
Teenage girl: “Why does everybody keep dying?” (Hmmm? Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that they’re being RUN OVER BY TRUCKS?)
Old man: “I don’t know. I’m just an old hippie.”
The trucks, we are told, have been brought to life by either Area 51, a toxic gas cloud, the Earth sailing through a comet’s tail, aliens … or maybe “Trucks” is a cautionary tale, warning against the unintended consequences of electing a fascist as president of the United States and then letting him skate when his crimes become public knowledge. Either way, I think everyone involved in the movie sailed through a comet’s tail because if “Maximum Overdrive” proves that horror authors should stick to writing horror stories and not directing horror movies, “Trucks” proves that even dedicated filmmakers can sometimes screw up, and “Trucks” is a Godzilla-sized Phillips-head of a screw(up).
Mladen didn’t assign a letter grade to “Trucks” so I’ll assume he’s giving it an F. I’ll be generous and award a D- seeing as how it’s truer to the short story than “Maximum Overdrive.”
When they come out with a scifi-horror movie titled “Night of the Killer Prius,” I’m there. But “Maximum Overdrive” and “Trucks” is a two-movie convoy of 18-wheeled schlock. For a vastly superior killer truck movie, check out “Duel.” Meantime, I’ll stick to the passing lane.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.