How Prometheus could have worked: an attempt at salvaging a train wreck

Warning: this post contains major spoilers for Prometheus. If you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, don’t bother.

I love the Alien films. Both of them. I therefore spent the best part of this year buoyant on little guffs of excitement that its prequel, Prometheus, was on its way and OHMYGOD IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME. I was delighted that Ridley Scott was back in his rightful place doing an Alien film and OHMYGOD IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME. I yelped with glee on discovering its cast consisted of some of my favourite actors all together in the same film and OHMYGOD IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME.

About half an hour into actually finally getting to see Prometheus, the crescendo of crushing disappointment began. It had absolutely none of the subtle brilliance of its predecessor. It was trying to do too much, far, far too much. It was an incoherent arse-splatter of special effects with a bunch of cardboard characters doing stupid things that made no goddamn sense whatsoever.

Ultimately, perhaps, its biggest undoing was its budget. Alien was magnificent due to its shoestring budget forcing it to be all about reaction rather than action. Aliens, while more a straight-up action flick, managed to be great as it was still within the constraints of the special effects of its time.

Meanwhile, Prometheus felt like Ridley Scott looked at his cheque and said “OHMYGOD THIS IS GOING TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME! I’m going to have a jars of alien-juice and aliens in someone’s eyeballs and a man possessed by zombie-alien-rage and some aliens that look a bit like snakes and an alien in someone’s tummy and gigantic white different aliens and a massive fuckoff facehugger and fuck it, let’s show a whole alien because we can do it with CGI and it definitely won’t look shit.”

Well, Ridley, thanks to all that, your film was a complete pile of shitting arses. And the CGI alien did look like shit.

The thing is, though, there were ideas in that film that could have worked. There were scenes that could have worked. Had Scott been constrained, he might have actually had to think about ideas rather than various high-budget body horrors happening to people we didn’t really care about.

In a conversation with Mediocre Dave–who possibly humoured me in any attempt to salvage that film because I paid for his cinema ticket–I began to think about how it could work. I will sell this pitch to Hollywood for a complete refund of our cinema tickets, a written apology from Ridley Scott for Kingdom of Heaven, and an evening in the company of Michael Fassbender. It will be much better and much cheaper than Scott’s Prometheus.

The premise remains the same: Noomi Rapace and her boyfriend who is probably a famous actor too find another cave painting and persuade some rich dude to let them go to a far away planet to find their ancestors. On this ship are also Idris Elba and Charlize Theron and android-Fassbender (who was by far and away the best thing about that film), and the rich old dude, who can actually be played by an old dude, because I’m not sure why they bothered with covering Guy Pearce with prosthetics. We don’t need to worry about any of the rest of the characters, and Old Rich Dude isn’t hidden away in a box, there in the open, having co-opted Noomi Rapace’s misson for his own, like he did in the film except without some shitty attempt at a plot twist.

Several themes will be explored in this version of Prometheus, many of which I suspect Scott was attempting at doing if he hadn’t got all overexcited by the myriad ways he could literally ram xenomorphs down people’s throats. It will explore patriarchy, a robot’s attempt at understanding human emotion and the perils of curiosity.

We’ll keep the scenes of the android studying languages, playing bicycle basketball and learning to be human from old films, because they were cool. The aesthetic of the ship, though, should be less swish, as should all the technology: recall this is taking place before Alien, after all. We don’t need any fancy drone-ball things. And when the humans wake up, it would be nice if they could establish some relationships with each other.

So then they all get to the planet, and Noomi and Boyfriend and Space Stringer Bell and Robo-Fassbender go and explore the big creepy Ancestor-Cave. Old Rich Dude and Charlize Theron stay aboard the Prometheus, with Old Rich Dude barking orders of where to go and Charlize Theron being pragmatic. Our characters have a poke round the cave, realise it’s terraformed and start taking off helmets while Charlize Theron perhaps suggests that this is a terrible idea.

But they do it anyway, probably with Old Rich Dude egging them on.

Down in the caves, they realise Something Is Terribly Wrong and the ancestors are all horribly deaded, and the water’s moving, and they get the fuck out of there. Unfortunately, by some accident, Boyfriend ingests some water.

Back on the ship, everyone’s very disappointed, except Robo-Fassbender who is kind of baffled by this. Crucially, though, they never leave the ship again, thus radically reducing the film’s budget and adding some dramatic claustrophobia. Also, this neatly does away with the utterly ghastly “meeting the creators” theme which never works, as is beautifully explained here.

In this version of Prometheus, Noomi’s infertility and the impact it has on her relationship with her boyfriend is better explored and discussed in more depth than a few lines before they have a misery-fuck. In general, there’s a lot more character development and dialogue other than “AAAUGH IT’S BREAKING MY ARM”. But, nonetheless, Noomi and Boyfriend have their misery-fuck.

Trapped miles away from any safety, Boyfriend realises Something Is Horribly Wrong when he notices Alien Eyeball Worms. Naturally, everyone freaks the fuck out over this (except, probably, Rich Old Dude, who is fascinated and curious), and pop him in Magical Medi-Pod, which gives him a once-over and reckons he’s all right. Charlize Theron is sceptical about this. Boyfriend and Noomi are terrified. Space-Stringer just wants to get the fuck out. Robo-Fassbender is politely baffled by mortality and sickness.

Naturally, Boyfriend gets progressively worse, and our characters continue to freak the fuck out as Something Is Dreadfully Wrong. Eventually, this all culminates in him shoving Noomi out of the way and getting flamethrowered by Charlize Theron. Who then airlocks him for good measure, which obviously rather upsets the people who are closer to him.

They check themselves for contamination, and Robo-Fassbender announces Noomi’s pregnancy to Noomi, who, of course, freaks the fuck out. Robo-Fassbender is befuddled, knowing about her upset about her infertility.

Off she goes to the Medi-Pod which is only configured for treating men, and therefore cannot give Noomi the abortion she desperately needs. With the right set-up, this can suddenly be metaphorical for patriarchal access to medical care: my Prometheus has already shown a bit of men exerting their dominance with Rich Old Dude and Boyfriend. And obviously, it’d be better set-up than what I puked out in a late-night blogpost. So she goes for the excruciating abdominal surgery and attempts to immolate the facehugging foetus.

Unfortunately, all this is in vain, as the bastard gets loose and crawls around the ventilation ducts generally causing a menace. We never get a good look at it, we don’t want to.

Ultimately, our characters realise what they have to do. Their ship lacks weaponry, and they can’t survive to tell their story because that’d fuck up the rest of the Alien canon. They discuss this. Perhaps Robo-Fassbender with his confused emotions proposes it. Eventually, they take the decision.

The film ends with the ship exploding and the “last transmission of the Prometheus” playing in voice-over.

In this slice-and-dice, I attempted to preserve as much of Prometheus as possible, while hacking out the very worst. Were I to cut any further, it would be two minutes of Robo-Fassbender walking round a spaceship.


16 responses to “How Prometheus could have worked: an attempt at salvaging a train wreck

  • The Unknown James (@unknownj)

    So, if I’ve got this completely straight, you’re proposing that Ridley Scott makes a reasonably low-budget movie in which the protagonists explore an alien planet, something gets into one of them, they retreat back to their ship, the thing gets loose, and more or less everyone dies.

    This definitely sounds like the sort of movie I would pay money for and/or already have.. :o)

  • Ben

    ‘Both’ Alien films? Alien 3 and 4 weren’t great, but they do still exist…

    • Matt G

      Alien 3 exists, but like the Matrix sequels, they never made Alien 4, or any of those ups they were always talking about – Alien vs Predator. Sad times, because surely those films would’ve been awesome?

      • Ben

        Without wishing to get my geek on too much – Alien:Resurrection is kind of Alien 4. And there are two Alien vs. Predator films too…

        • stavvers

          No. There are two films. Alien and Aliens. I have seen some proposed scenes from a hypothetical Alien 3 which might have been AWESOME, but it’s sad they only made two Alien films.

  • Otternator

    I hate to be utterly pedantic (actually you know I love it) but Boyfriend doesn’t accidentally ingest the water – Sexy Robo Fassbender slips one of the alien – let’s be scientific here and use the proper terms – ‘thingies’ into his drink. Which served to show, albeit in a crappy way, that things man created can fuck with man, just like things that the higher beings created can be fucked with by man. Or something. It could have dipped into some sort of philosophy but instead, as you rightly pointed out, chose to go the brainpunch route. I am puzzled though that you didn’t mention that every time the alien did something to someone which could have been done via say, the chest, or stomach, it chose to blowjob-rape them. Seems… unnecessary. And wrong on every level.

    Favourite implausible scenario: Noomi who, after being lasered open and stapled shut – not even stitched, or perhaps lasered up again, but STAPLED – can easily run headlong along a corridor with only a brief wince of pain.

    • stavvers

      I know that the alien eyeworm drink-spike were Robo-Fass’s fault in the film, but that made absolutely no goddamn sense whatsover, given the limited characterisation so far. So hence, accidental ingestion, because taking off the helmet is stupidity enough to get one killed in the alien franchise.

      And YES! Why have the aliens suddenly got all coy about anything but oral? And why is Noomi so proficient at running around with an open tummy? And did facehuggers always consist of six vaginas in a loose stingray configuration?

      • Alex

        Oh come on, the Alien franchise has always been about MAXIMUM FACEFUCKING. They couldn’t make the aliens into vaginal because the creators didn’t want some pervy monster-raping-a-fit-girl scene to give creepy titillation to whatever 4chan was in 1979, and they couldn’t make the aliens into anal because there’d be a contingent of homophobic pricks in the audience who’d mentally soundtrack any kind of anal insertion with comedy trombone slides. Throat-fucking both sexes indiscriminately is the only sort of alien sex they can have that definitely nobody is going to wank or cackle over.

        Also it wasn’t a proper facehugger it was some weird other version. Better size, more efficient and versatile in many ways but for some reason nowhere near as successful. Like BetaMax with vagina dentata.

  • Eirth

    I think your idea sounds far better, TBH I’m just back from watching it and I’m confused by the whole movie.

    Ok so there was little worms in the pots, but when them worms where swallowed you get eyeball worms the make your head explode, if the worms touch little ground worms they grow into big snake worms? Then if you get face sex from a snake worm it turns you into a super human who can put his legs over his own solders….

    Ok ye think this is where I got confused but wait it got worse. If you have eye worms and you have sex with you girlfriend she can have a baby octopus? then if that octopus is aborted it can grow to super size… then to top it all off, if a super size octopus makes face love to a 10 foot tall alien you get a classic alien with a messed up inner jaw?

    What the fcuk was with this film?

    also just to add to the whole confusion of my last 2 hours, why did the 10 foot albino drink a cup of tea to kill himself at the start could he not have just poured some blood on a rock or something?

    • Charlie

      Hahaha! Exactly thanks for summing that up for me.

      As long as we can agree that *science* fiction should have some credibility, err, scientifically, I would add to your list of confusions.

      So that *biologist* of the group sees
      * an albino white snake thingy
      * on a planet full of bodies piled up “like a holocaust”
      * and the only living thing he has seen so far
      * after being warned something was moving, “oh wait it’s gone now, nevermind”
      * and the creature, highly reminiscent of an Earth cobra,
      * has pointy, skin-piercing teeth, and is
      * showing aggressive signaling.

      The biologist then walks toward it saying “it’s OK little guy.”

      The aliens communicate with us by telling earth people in at least 7 earth locations about a constellation. There is one planet in that constellation capable of sustaining life. That planet, should we ever gain the technology to visit… happens to be a factory where xenomorphs of mass destruction are produced. Nothing more. Thanks for the pointers, dirt bags who created us. Oh, also, the owners were setting up to kill us coincidentally. Not impossible that you would point your creation to its own death should it evolve intelligently, I guess.

      A woman has her abdomen opened. (Or do baby squids live in a uterus while only double-jaws live in the abdomen?) Immediately after surgery, she not only limbos out of the machine, but runs down the hall, swings an axe, and, in case you aren’t confused yet, jumps across a cavern, catches herself with her arms (hitting her stomach into the rocky side) and then pulls herself up.

      The list goes on a while longer, but I will be satisfied with only these questions answered.

  • What is the worst film I’ve seen this week? « Mediocre Dave

    […] was kicked around with no resolution, then I left the cinema. I enjoyed it even less that Stavvers did, and she felt the need to rewrite the whole story. Scott gives the impression of having turned […]

  • Matt G

    I agree with pretty much all you say here. Robo-Fassbender (or shall we just call him ‘Bender’ for short?) was one of the few saving graces of this terrible, terrible film.

    Not only was it a bad prequel, but it was a bad film entirely in its own right.

    And people who are mistily enthusing about how it ‘fearlessly addresses some of the biggest questions’ (I’m looking at you Ebert) baffle me. It is a very straightforward and dull exploration of a very hackneyed idea: aliens come to earth and… YAWN.

    Chariots of the gods stuff is so cliched in SciFi – and ultimately uninteresting. As others have pointed out: who creates the creators. And also (at least this was alluded to in the film itself), the notion of ‘meeting your makers’ could be adequately and more interestingly explored by looking at Bender’s relationship with the old dude from Memento (who seems to have wandered into the film having convenienly forgotten that the scrtipt he was given to read was utter tosh).

    Ridley Scott can bite my shiny metal arse.

  • Joe Kittinger (@morelikewater)

    Stavvers, My review of your review is 3/10.

    Critisisms re CGI and the limits of technology are rather hackneyed. Everyone deploys the very best tech they can get their hands on at the time. (Unless you go for the niche Gondry treatment). The article you;ve linked to actually credits the CGI. Personally I thought the CGI and the alien was awesome.

    You missed out 2 alien flims

    Re God:

    (The meta criticisms in the post you site regarding god). The arguments contained in there are poor. This film actually has huge amounts in common with blade runner ideologically – something that seems to have missed many people. In this sense, as was very clear in the film, god seems to be a relative figure not absolutist.

    Also, if you want profundity read Zizek or Satre dont watch a Ridley Scott film.

    PROMETHEUS IS THE BEST FILM EVER MADE. EVER. 11/10

    • stavvers

      Mate. We’re talking about the guy who made Alien and Blade Runner. He can do profundity.

      Your comparison of Prometheus to Blade Runner suggests you have only ever seen the cinematic release of Blade Runner.

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