SPOILERS: Prometheus Is One Of The Funniest Movies I’ve Ever Seen
I would like to start by saying that I have not seen all of the Alien movies. I have been informed by my more avid Alien-franchise-loving friends that this is okay. The first two are fantastic and the second two are crap. Prometheus, which is the fifth/first movie, depending on how bad you are at math and time, should be right up my alley. You see, despite the fact that I’ve already ruined the surprise, the movie does very little to pitch itself as an Alien movie. In fact, if you had never see any of the others, you might not even recognize it until the very end. The vague sense of mystery and the indirect nods are something I’m perfectly poised to appreciate. If I can stop laughing at the fact that the movie tried to scare me with an accordion.
That’s not a joke.
I get ahead of myself, though. Let’s take a step back. Wayyy back. All the way to the beginning of human civilization. It turns out that we were not the result of random, unprompted evolution. Nor by an omnipotent, omnipresent god. It was actually by a race of pale, black-eyed humanoids. We see one drink some alien fruit smoothie and promptly get sick, fall over a waterfall, and die. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what happens to me whenever I convince myself I’m going to start eating healthier and replace my morning caffeine with a fruit smoothie.
Cut to present day. Or whatever. It’s 2080-something. Before all the other madness began. We meet Baby Ripley, who does, in fact, have a name in this movie, but as it’s clear that her primary role is to be the sole female survivor right from the onset, yet appears too adorably sweet and naive to pose any real physical threat, she shall henceforth be known as Baby Ripley. No relation.
Baby Ripley has discovered ancient cave paintings that depict giant men pointing towards circles in the sky. She and her love interest—we’ll call him Victim #3 because, let’s face it, that’s all non-Ripley characters are good for in Alien movies—do the only logical thing one can do when they discover cave paintings: go to outer space. So begins the inevitable quest towards a buffet of glorious gore and tantalizing terror.
Haha. That was a joke.
Where other Alien movies might spend a lengthy portion of the movie establishing the variety of colorful characters on board the ship that we’ll eventually see dissected, dismembered, and disintegrated, Prometheus chooses, instead, to spend nearly ten minutes on David. David is a robot. No, not that one. David is a robot whose motives can best be described as “whatever the director needs to drive the plot forward.” In the beginning of the movie, he spends his time watching old movies, practicing foreign languages, and playing basketball while riding on a bicycle. As robots are wont to do.
Once the crew awakes, we meet the lot. Well, a couple of them. We establish that the guy with the mohawk is a jerk and, notably, the only person on the ship who is cranky after being in a stasis chamber for two years while flying light years away from home on a mission that they weren’t briefed for. Anyone want to take bets that he’ll be the first to die? We also meet the nerdy biologist, the black pilot, and the mega bitch that runs the ship. She informs our heroes that the owner of the company that financed this expedition did so because he believed that they might find the origins of their species. He’s dead now, so the company doesn’t care about that anymore. So what is her reason for flying halfway across the galaxy to a god forsaken rock that may or may not have alien life on it?
When the crew arrives on the planet, they discover an alien structure. Against better advice, they decide to investigate it with mere hours before nightfall. The primary reason that Victim #3, the archaeologist, wants to go on such a risky mission? “It’s Christmas. And I want to open my presents.” Apparently even a century after the movie’s release, archaeologists still think they’re all Indiana Jones.
The plan goes horribly awry when they discover that the giant superhumans they’d been looking for are all dead. They also discover canisters that appear to leak some black liquid. David, the robot, secretly takes one of these football-sized canisters back to the lab because in this scene the plot needs him to be suspicious. Meanwhile Baby Ripley takes the severed head of one of the aliens. But not before the mohawk’d grouch and the biologist decide to wander off. And wouldn’t you know it? A storm’s coming. Victims #1 and 2 get separated from the others and are unable to make it back to the ship, while David, Baby Riley, and some other people whose name we either never hear, or don’t care about, make it back just fine.
In the ship, Baby Riley examines an odd infection on the head of one of the albino superhumans by, and this is not a joke, “tricking the nervous system into thinking it’s still alive.” The over-sized severed head begins to pulsate and throb as if in pain before exploding. Meanwhile, David is conducting his own experiments, extracting a bit of black goo from one of the canisters which he then rather devilishly inserts into a drink he offers to Victim #3, because in this scene, the plot needs him to be evil. The love interest, by the way, is sad that they discovered their creators are all dead. Did I forget to mention that? It’s okay, so did the movie.
In an effort to prove to us that this plotline was there all along, Victim #3 whines to Baby Riley that his creators are all dead, and she informs him that they were right anyways. The superhumans have human DNA! We’ve found our creators! Victim #3 makes a crack about how apparently creating life is easy, Baby Riley informs the audience that she can’t conceive children, and the two have sex to celebrate. We will, once again, be taking bets if you can guess what’s going to happen when the goo-infected man and the infertile woman who dreams of creating life have sex.
Meanwhile, on the bridge, the movie tries to convince us that it is, in fact, a horror movie. Mega Bitch walks into the control room, examining a holographic model of the alien facility. We are told to be startled as the pilot suddenly makes a noise with the accordion. By the way, he has an accordion. By the way, be scared now. Are you scared? Okay, good. Now that this is done, the boss lady throws her weight around, callously and heartlessly, prompting the audience to find her even more emotionless than the robot on board. To the movie’s credit, the pilot has to ask, as well, “Are you a robot?” To prove she isn’t, she offers to have sex with him. Because that’s what Not Robots do.
While he’s distracted from his duty of monitoring their stranded colleagues, we find Victims #1 and 2 have given up on sleep and have gone back into the scary chamber with all the leaky canisters. There, they discover a slimy worm that doesn’t look in any way cute. It’s ugly, it hisses, and seems ready to pounce at any moment. Which is why the audience feels no sympathy for the biologist as he quietly coos the creature to “come here.” It breaks his arm and shoves itself down his throat. Mr. Mohawk attempts to cut the creature off of the idiot nerd’s arm, only to get the front of his helmet sprayed with acid blood and fall melting-face first into a puddle of black goo. This is the second most satisfying scene of the movie.
The next day, we find that Victim #3 has tiny eels crawling out of his eyes. Despite seeing this in the mirror, he decides to go about business as usual. The crew heads back into the alien facility, while David explores on his own. The crew find the now-dead whats-their-names. Victim #3 starts getting sick and they have to turn around, making the entire trip pointless. As they return to their ship, Mega Ultra Bitch meets them at the door with a flamethrower, insisting that Eel Eye isn’t getting back into the ship. To settle the dispute, he chooses to willingly get flamethrowered, setting the record for Least Time It Takes To Convince Someone To Be Burned To Death. A prestigious honor.
Meanwhile, David discovers a large room inside the alien facility, where he dances with holograms for a little while. In this scene, David gets a little help from the Plot Angels. Apparently the entire alien ship is fitted with room-spanning holograms that show the specific part of a room’s history that’s necessary to drive the plot forward. The Plot Angels and David team up to explain to the audience that this is a control room for a ship and that there is one living superhuman left.
Back on the ship, Baby Riley wakes up in a medical ward where David is performing some tests on her. By the way, David’s back here now. He informs her that she is pregnant so she does what any woman who always wanted to get pregnant does when she discovers she’s finally conceived a child: beat two orderlies in the head with a stick and rush to the Surgery Vending Machine to cut it out.
The Surgery Vending Machine may be my favorite part of this whole movie. Baby Ripley runs up to this machine and asks it politely for a C-section. It informs her that this machine is only calibrated for men. So, as a well-educated woman who understands the anatomical difference between men and women, she presses a couple of buttons, places the device in Manual Mode, and tells it she needs “abdominal surgery” due to a “foreign object.” The device performs one incision, shoves a claw machine hook inside her belly and pulls out a facehugger. It then rapidly stitches her up with what can only be described as a magic, wound-healing staple gun, and she jumps out of the surgery tube and sprints down the hall.
Apparently, major abdominal surgery is a “walk it off” kind of thing.
Finally, Baby Ripley stumbles into a medical ward where we discover that
Emperor Palpatine the old guy who owns the company has been on the ship the whole time. It turns out this expedition of his was to find his creators. He tells Baby Ripley that he means to meet the last surviving superhuman and ask it to cure his whole being-a-bajillion-years-old problem.
While this is going on, one of the dudes who got killed earlier is apparently not killed and he jumps up and starts killing everyone else in the laziest attempt to eliminate characters that’s ever been put in not just an Alien movie, but in any horror movie ever. There are flamethrowers and guns and one guy gets his face punched in. He will forever be known as “the least creative Alien death.”
So now that we don’t have any of those other pesky characters to deal with, The Emperor, Baby Riley, David, and some alien fodder get ready to explore the vessel one last time. Before they leave, the pilot tries to convince Baby Riley not to go. She explains that these aliens created us, then they tried to kill us, and now there’s only one left. “Don’t you want to know why?” The pilot offers an iconic line to summarize the plot:
“I don’t care.”*
The old man and his posse, which is not the awesome band it sounds like, head into the ship one last time. They awaken the last remaining superhuman and are ready with their questions: “Who are you? Where did you come from? Why did you create us? Can you save us from death?” The superhuman punches Palpatine in the face, rips David’s head off, and kills those people no one cares about.
So much for the meaning of life.
The superhuman lets Baby Riley run off—which apparently women who have just had creatures yanked from their uterus can do—and attempts to take off in his ship. Baby Riley calls up the pilot and tells him that if the alien ship leaves, it will destroy earth. The only way to stop it is to crash their own ship into the alien’s. The pilot hesitates only for a moment, and then decides to sacrifice the remainder of the crew and their only way home, all because the girl who said they should travel across the universe to find these creatures said so. Surprisingly, Captain Bitchpants is not cool with this plan, so she ditches the ship, only to be killed unceremoniously later.
So, the pilot crashes the two ships, and everyone is dead and everyone in the audience gets ready to leave. “Not so fast!” says the movie. “We still have Baby Riley and the severed head of David the robot to deal with!” The audience grumbles as they walk back to their seats. We discover that David’s head can somehow see that the superhuman is coming to kill Baby Riley. In her attempt to flee, she discovers that her facehugger offspring has grown to the size of a Hummer in the medical facility where she left it.
The superhuman catches up to her, but ends up caught in the clutches of the facehugger, which wraps its giant-squid-sized tentacles around the superhuman’s entire body, eventually, finally, impregnating it. Meanwhile, Baby Riley gets away to find David who tells her there are more alien ships and that she can get off this planet and go home. Because in this scene, the plot needs David to be altruistic. She tells David she doesn’t want to go to her home. She wants to go to whatever planet the superhumans came from.
Because, you know, it went so well for her the first time.
In the very last scene of the movie, as Baby Riley and David fly off to find the sequel in development hell, we get a glimpse of the superhuman’s corpse as it gives birth to the very first xenomorph. There you have it, Alien fans. You finally get to see a shot of a xenomorph. Just one. The first one. I guess. It’s never really made clear how it’s going to reproduce on a dead planet.
We also never find out why infecting a human with some black eel, then that man impregnating a woman, then that woman giving birth to a Kraken, then that Kraken impregnating a superhuman, somehow creates a xenomorph, but fuck biology. We got to see the gypsy from the second Sherlock Holmes in a two-piece bandage bikini. That’s all we really wanted, right?
Ok, sure, we might have also wanted some actual horror. Some suspense or tense build up. And maybe some creative deaths that shock and terrify us. And maybe we would’ve liked to see some kind of badass fight scenes. Or at the very friggin’ least we would’ve liked to see an alien in this Alien movie before the very. last. shot of the film. But hey, who cares about that when you can have accordion jump scares, a surgery vending machine, and a complete lack of Sigourney Weaver?
* This line was met, in my theater, with thunderous applause from an audience that had been laughing during most of the so-called scary parts. It was the strongest anyone resonated with any part of the movie. This includes the final scene.