Josh explores Ridley Scott's prequAlien.
FRANCHISE ME: PROMETHEUS
Great stuff, as per usual. The analogy that Alien is a dark room whereas Prometheus is a bright one with a box it won't open is spot on.
I think the reason why the movie fails for me as a monster movie is that there are too many monsters and more than one location. The other films, for their variable quality, at least went to the trouble of trapping their characters with the creatures so they had to deal with them, a la a traditional horror movie. The Prometheus is always parked outside and relatively safe and ready to fly away whenever they want, so the only thing keeping our heroes in conflict with the monsters is their being really, really bad at the task they have set for themselves. The proverbial cabin in the woods doesn't generally have a police station next door, for good reason. There's an attempt to get the creatures on board, but the zombie doesn't get past the door and the squid, after its horrific removal sequence, is contained and ignored with distracting ease.
This relates to the problem with the goo doing whatever and there being too many creatures. The original took a single creature and delivered lots of different designs/sequences within its lifecycle. You get a variety of scares while maintaining a consistent threat. The alien is on the ship, its dangerous, and if we don't know exactly how it will strike, dread can still be built out of that constant danger.
What's the main threat in Prometheus? The goo? The problem with that is, well, its goo. It's not terribly hard to avoid it if they weren't so terrible at scientist-ing. The penis cobras? They are in one scene, and never leave the room which the heroes have no particular need to go back into at any point. The squid? A closed door negates any threat it poses until its time to help the protagonist. The zombie Fifield? Is in exactly one scene and even that requires them to open the front door for him before he can pose a brief danger to some redshirts. The space jockey? He doesn't show up until 3/4 of the way through, although the threat he poses stretches across 2 consecutive scenes, which is more than the rest of the creatures can muster. The C-section scene is the most effective sequence, imo, not just because it is one that shows us something we haven't necessarily seen before, but because it and the post-crash jockey attack are the only parts where the human characters don't have a very simple option to avoid the monster entirely.
You touched on this a bit in the article with how the goo is a poor story catalyst, but I think the problems are bigger than that. The film wants to switch over to creature-feature whenever its bit off more than it can chew on the cerebral sci-fi side, but as a horror flick, it's just constructed incompetently.
So, if the engineers "engineered" life on Earth, does that mean they have maintained exactly the same level of technological advancement for over 350 million years?
Does it mean life actually evolved at a significantly faster pace (screw the fossil record, I guess)?
Or does it mean they traveled back in time and seeded Earth with life?
And if any of these theories is the right one, why is the "engineer" at the end of the movie reduced to a grunting haymaker throwing troglodyte? Where is his fucking ray gun? His psyonic abilities? So this guy was god? a pissed off gorilla? Thinking back on it, I wish Fassbender would have done his version of the charades scene in Young Frankenstien. "Give him a sedative!"
Seems like the Prometheus crew would have been just fine had they taken a few MMA fighters rather than the inept security they had.
I know ,I know, I'm putting way more thought into this than either Scott or Lindeloff did.
The reason everybody hates AVP but wants to see it reviewed is because Josh does a nice job of intelligently analyzing crap and the analysis becomes more interesting than the crap.
Thank you for pointing out the vacuousness of the whole middlebrow LOST, fake profundity thing.
The way that M. Night is parodied with the "What a twist" catchphrase- Lindelof should be parodied with "No one knows why!"
"We were made by aliens" is interesting for maybe a few moments of your adolescence, and the line of reasoning should stop at "...but then, who made those aliens?'*. It's the kind of false epiphany that marijuana users frequently have. "The album is called Dark Side of the Moon...it has a song called "The Lunatic". "Luna is the MOON, man!".
*Sorry, "2001: this goes for you too. If smarter aliens made monkeys smart, why are the smart aliens so smart, etc. I know the answer: MINDFUCK ENDING=IT CAN MEAN ANYTHING
Thank you for this... I'm still giggling as I picture it.
So, update -- I had always intended to take a little break from Franchise Me in July while I wrestled with meeting the deadline on my current book (it was met), but then I became swamped with other projects this month that kept me from being able to put in the time necessary for Franchise Me. But I plan to hit the ground running on the column when I return from Burning Man after Labor Day.