The Videogum Movie Club: Prometheus
When I saw Prometheus this weekend, I went to this new-ish movie theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (which, for those of you who haven’t been there, is basically a Girls Theme Park) called Nitehawk, of course. Like, if you are going to open a movie theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it better be called Nitehawk. The thing about Nitehawk, the catch, because kids these days need a catch, is that it has smaller screening rooms, but with big, comfortable chairs, and there are tables in between every pair of seats, and menus, and a waitstaff, and golf pencils, and a bartender in the lobby and a BRUNCH SPECIAL. I went with some friends and we ATE BRUNCH while we watched Prometheus. What a world this is that we live in. Questlove was in the lobby. It was all v. v. cool. Admittedly, the waitstaff spilled an entire drink on my friend because the thing about movie theaters is that they’re dark. And people kept dropping silverware. And maybe the waitress could have picked a better moment to give us all our bills than during the climactic fight sequence between the SPOILER ALERT and the SPOILER ALERT. So, you’re more than welcome to take everything I say in this “review” with a grain of salt, much like I took my breakfast tacos with a grain of side bacon. There were obviously distractions. My friend Jon said that it was like turning a movie theater into a comedy club. But I think I got the gist of it. In space, no one can hear you LOL.
So, look, Prometheus was probably the most beautiful movie ever made. Holy shit. This movie looked incredible the whole time! When I was in college I had this one film class with this theory nerd who I just could not make heads or tails of. One time we were talking about movies and he said that he didn’t like movies where people talked or where anything happened (uhhh) and I said well what movies do you like and he said, no joke, “landscapes.” Well, OK! But actually I thought of him during the opening sequence of Prometheus because I could totally watch an entire movie of just those sweeping shots of incredible landscapes. So pretty! And then you throw a mid-century modern spaceship in there and a beefcake alien sake-bomb? A++ would do business with opening sequence again. So great.
And now we’re on the ship with our robot buddy and the whole thing is very Wall-E and we are ON BOARD. This is going great. This ship looks cool. Our alien buddy seems cool. Lawrence of Arabia is cool. All of it. Fist bump. And now we are arriving at our destination and everybody’s waking up and Charlize Theron is doing push ups which is foreshadowing for how she’s going to be a total BITCH, and everyone else is puking because of the future. The one crusty punk isn’t here to make friends, which seems kind of aggressive, and also who gets into geology “for the money”? But whatever. Let’s see what’s up! What’s up, guys?
Uh oh. We have hit our first SERIOUS PROBLEM! You see, some very pretty 28-year-old “scientists” have found some ancient hieroglyphs and wall paintings that suggest that there were aliens on Earth 10 million years ago, or whatever, and so now that the technology is available to
broadcast photorealistic hologram dogs on the floor travel to the distant planet, we’re gonna check it out. All of that is fine. Except, this movie, like lots of potentially complicated movies, establishes one of the movie’s basic conceits by simply having one of the characters say it out loud. “All of the cave paintings are the same, therefore the alien creatures CREATED US.” Wait, what? How did you get that from the mud pictures? I’m willing to believe that you arrived at the conclusion that Earth was visited by aliens a long time ago, but how do you know that ALIENS THEREFORE MADE HUMANS? That simply doesn’t track in any way whatsoever from the information you have presented us in your Minority Repowerpoint. “It’s a map.” “No, it’s an invitation.” How is it an invitation? At the very least it could be a map OR an invitation? Strike one!
And then more strikes. I mean, it’s Monday and the movie made 50 million dollars, so I’m not going to relay the whole plot. The whole point of the Videogum Movie Club in the first place is that we all saw the movie together AS A FAMILY. But there were some problems! For example: we know the robot has his own secret agenda that he’s not sharing with the crew, which is fine, that’s always a fun plot. But WHAT is his secret agenda? It never makes any sense. He wants to poison the one dude with the black liquid so that he puts an octopus baby in the one lady? Why? Why is that his secret plan? (Admittedly, I hated that one dude every single time he opened his mouth–world’s cockiest douchebag archaeologist–so it was fine that he got sick and I’m glad they burned him all up, but still don’t see the actual point of giving him eye worms.) Speaking of the black liquid: sometimes you drink it and it creates an entire species of creatures out of the waterfall, and sometimes you drink it and it gives you eye worms and yucky sperm, and sometimes you get it on your space mask and it allows you to turn into a bearded crab space zombie with face bumps and super strength? That black stuff is more versatile than Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap! (And combining the Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Black Evil Space Soap with the earlier point of people just suddenly knowing something based on nothing that we have seen or heard: how come Idris Elba comes back to the ship after one trip into the cave and suddenly knows that this entire planet was a military installation and that the aliens were making weapons of mass destruction and that the weapons of mass destruction then turned on them? That seems like a pretty good guess out of nowhere!)
And yo, you are in a creepy nightmare cave in space filled with oozing canisters of magic black liquid. SO MAYBE WHEN YOU SEE A SPACE SNAKE IN THE CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN YOU DON’T TRY TO PET IT? What is THAT all about? They actually do the same thing in the original Alien, which is obviously great and a classic and whatever, but it’s like you are all alone a billion light years from home and you see an entire room filled with spooky dragon eggs and you’re like “Hey guys, I’m going to slap on the top of this spooky space dragon egg, see what it’s all about.” What? No. “Look at her, she’s beautiful.” The fuck out of here with that! THE FUCK OUT OF HERE WITH THAT!
“Hey, you have one of those ultra-rare self-surgery machines!”
“Don’t touch that.”
“OK, I won’t touch it, and I bet I never touch it for the rest of the movie. There is no way this is a painfully obvious set-up for a later set-piece.”
“ALERT ALERT THIS ULTRA-RARE THREE-BILLION-DOLLAR SELF-SURGERY MACHINE ONLY WORKS ON MEN.”
As a general rule, and this is a pro-tip to all of the ambitious sci-fi action-adventure writer-directors out there who have ambitions of making great movies: if you’re watching a rough cut of your movie and it features TWO MONSTERS FIST/TENTACLE FIGHTING, you might want to take a step back and work on your movie some more.
“It’s too bad there isn’t a single talented actor over the age of 35. Oh well, let’s put Guy Pearce in terrible old man makeup.” – AHHHH THIS MOVIE SOMETIMES!
There actually was a brief moment where I thought that despite its many missteps (“I’m a black cowboy from the future with a shapeshifting accent of indeterminate origin, but if there’s one thing I love, it’s this antique Stephen Stills squeezebox.” Oh brother) Prometheus was going to redeem itself with a bold and intense ending. Remember after the one ship bumps into the other ship and Charlize and Noomi are running through the sad space desert and the croissant spaceship rolls over and crunches on Charlize and then it hits Noomi and she’s sitting in the dirt and her spacesuit says “Hey man, you’ve got 2 minutes of oxygen left, dude”? Now imagine for a second that what we see next is two minutes shot in real time of Noomi being stuck under this giant ship all alone in the vast expanse of space and her breathing is getting shorter and then she just dies and we don’t get any answers and space is scary and everyone dies. That would be a great ending! (This moment reminded me of when a similar thing happened in A.I. and the little boy robot got trapped underwater and was just going to be awake and conscious underwater for all of eternity or until his hydrogen battery died or whatever, and that would be so interesting and a great ending but instead the ice robots came and gave him a dream day with his fucking mom.) Instead other stuff happened, though.
Your honor, a sidebar if I may. My favorite review of Prometheus is this sentence from some Internet commenter on the thread for Richard Roeper’s review of Prometheus: “This alien concept of all the sticky fluids flowing and sharp teeth are old fashion now nobody will fall for it.” Nobody will fall for all the sticky fluids flowing. Too old fashion now!
Again: There were some really great ideas in it. And Prometheus was just so beautiful. Beautiful to the point of distraction, where it took awhile for some of the problems to even set in because you’re like, I know, but this is nice to look at! But then the problems got impossible to ignore. I think the best summation of the movie’s flaws came afterwards when me and my Movie Brunch Friends made our way down to a nearby bar and were sitting in the backyard having a beer and picking apart the movie as people do and my friend Jon suddenly remembered how the advanced species of space creatures who created all of mankind thousands of years ago and had super-futuristic spaceships filled with holographic security cam footage and everything used a SPACE FLUTE to start the engine on their spaceships, and then he, Jon, started playing an air space flute and went “DOODLEY-DOODLEY-DOO!” and then yelled “FUUUUUUUUCK YOU!” and I laughed until I cried. For real. Tears, my man. #Prometheus