How does the sci-fi shocker rate next to the rest of the 'Alien'
A word of warning, folks: We get into spoilers here. "Prometheus" has been out for nearly a
week and we assume that most regular Parallel Universe readers have rushed out
to see it. If you haven't, you should. While audience and critical reactions to
the movie are wildly mixed and even divisive, "Prometheus" is the kind of film
that needs to be seen on the big screen because of the majesty and clarity of
its visuals alone. And while we're not proponents of 3-D, this is one of the
rare films that works in the format.
But "Prometheus" is also a film with a lot of problems, first and foremost of
them its connection to the 1979 classic "Alien," from the same director, Ridley
Scott. Since "Prometheus" began its development as a prequel to that film, and
is still sort of an indirect one, the movie has come with a lot of baggage
attached: Can it live up to the masterful blend of sci-fi and horror that Scott
delivered in "Alien"? Can it expand the series mythology in a meaningful and
quality fashion without seeming like just an attempt to resurrect a moribund
The "Alien" brand was certainly in a state of suspended animation before this
(and that's being kind). Out of six films (four directly in the series, and a
pair of related movies), only two qualify as truly great. The rest live
somewhere between mediocre and near-unwatchable -- which is perhaps why Scott
finally felt the need to step in and rescue the name that made his.
So where does "Prometheus" rate against the rest of the series? Well, despite
a strong first half and the much-vaunted introduction of big, cosmic ideas about
existence and the origin of humanity into the movie, "Prometheus" devolves in
its second half into an all-out shock horror show, with images and incidents
flung constantly at the audience whether they've been set up properly or not.
The film's bigger themes are mostly left unaddressed, and as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
(Noomi Rapace), sole human survivor of the doomed "Prometheus" mission, flies
off into space at the end to find the home of the alien "Engineers," the viewer
leaves with a feeling that they've just watched a long trailer for another movie
that might come out in two or three years.
But having said that, "Prometheus" is still far better and more entertaining
than a lot of its sister films in the series. Let's look at how it stacks
"Alien" (1979): The original and still probably the
best, Scott's elegant, spare "haunted house in space" tale creates a palpable,
almost unbearable atmosphere of dread and tension. It introduced one of the most
frightening original monster creations in film history, and took a stock sci-fi
plot and gave it a modern, glossy visual splendor. No "big ideas" necessary.
"Aliens" (1986): James Cameron veered away from the
horror aspects of the original and devised one of the best
military-vs.-the-monsters movies ever. He also added depth and dimension to the
characters, especially heroine Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and added new wrinkles
to the backstory of the aliens themselves.
"Alien 3" (1992): The feature directing debut of David
Fincher ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), this third effort went through a
tortured development process and a truckload of scripts and directors before
eventually settling into a hodgepodge of half-baked concepts and a story that
has logical holes big enough to pilot a spaceship through.
"Alien Resurrection" (1997): An eccentric French
director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and a geeky American writer (Joss Whedon) add some
unique stylistic and plot twists to the franchise, including a bizarre new turn
for Weaver's Ripley, along with some great visual imagery, but "Alien
Resurrection" shows a lot more promise than it actually delivers.
"Alien vs. Predator" (2004) and "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" (2007): The
long-awaited match-up between these two signature monsters was a major
disappointment. Although the first "AvP" had some interesting ideas and
sequences, it was mostly a dreary, generic dud, while "AvP: R" was even worse,
believe it or not. Both films were made by directors who came of age in the
video game era, and it shows. No need to break it down: "Prometheus" would own
both of these even if Ridley Scott directed it with a blindfold on.
Geeking Out On...J.J. Abrams Directing 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars'
J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' is set to open this week, then begins the task of directing a new 'Star Wars' film for 2015. Check out this episode where Kurt argues why he's the man for the job and how it's enough already about the lens flares. Also, a few other "double dippers" in the dueling franchises as well as a few others.