Prometheus and the Problem with Making Prequels

Name one prequel that you wanted? Seriously. Name one prequel that you asked for? A movie where you sat around and thought, “man, we need a PREQUEL for that joint!” Seriously. Take a minute and think about the last time you needed a prequel.

I can’t think of any.

That’s because prequels are stupid.

They’re stupid because it’s an obvious and sad attempt by movie makers to pull on the heart strings of fans. It’s like trying to get a girl to like you by telling her the story about when you first fell in love with her. If you don’t have a good story, and if the first time you fell in love with her was when you followed her home from the bus stop, it might not give you the reaction you wanted.

You make one, you make a sequel, you try and not use up all the awesome creative energy you had when you first made the movie, but when the energy is gone, you stop and make something new. Or, you try and push through with what works because it worked. Ultimately, you have to know, creatively, when to walk away.

Prometheus suffers from having to hold the weight and expectations of the Alien movies. The weight ended up being too heavy, and it collapsed.

I want to be clear, though. Prometheus is a good movie. It is. I liked it better than any other Alien movie but the original Alien and it’s up there with some of Ridley Scott’s best work. But the movie wasted too much energy trying to create the Alien mythos. That’s the problem with prequels. It’s sprinkling salt on last week’s left overs. No one wants that.

Prometheus is about a group of scientists, funded by a corporation, that goes on a scientific expedition to find the beings that gave us their wonderful, wonderful DNA. Once the crew gets to the planet, they look around and of course all hell breaks lose.

It turns out that the “Aliens” are bio-weapons, which has always been hinted at but never fully confirmed. That’s why, in none of the Alien movies did the Aliens consume their victims. They just killed them.  Either they were designed that way by the “Makers” or that’s how they are.  The Aliens weren’t the only creatures, either. It looks like our “makers” wanted us all dead, and were going to send a ship full of monsters to do the job.

“The Makers” created us and then “The Makers” tried to send a ship to destroy us.  The central question, one that comes up near the end of the movie, is why did “The Makers” change their mind? It’s sort of like asking a parent why they are cleaning up the wall art their two year old kid did, but, whatever. As far as thesis questions for movies go, it’s a pretty good one.

There is some inspired acting in the film and the movie looks gorgeous, with some scenes that made me close my eyes. I mean, I have seen some very gross stuff in movies, but this movie was pulling out all the stops. The part where Ellie gets operated on by a robot, and the robot pulls out s squid monster, pretty much almost made me puke. The second time I almost puked is when the matured squid monster ate the mean Maker guy. I honestly shut my eyes for that whole thing.

Even though the movie was brilliant in many ways, you could feel Prometheus was held back by the urgent need to be a prequel, by it’s mission to create the Alien franchise in some odd reverse, even though the Alien franchise was already created.  There are scenes where Noomi Rapace even looks like Ripley.  What’s the point of making a new movie that is constantly trying to connect itself to a movie we’ve all seen and enjoyed? Retrospectively? It’s like spending your fifties going through a horrible experience with broccoli, and then getting into a de-aging time machine so that you can artfully explain to your parents why you don’t like broccoli.  I mean, you just don’t like broccoli, and not every thing needs, or deserves, an explanation.

So, one of the biggest complaints from critics (And Ian Buckwalter’s review hit it pretty solidly on the head)  is why Prometheus didn’t break new ground. The answer is that it is a movie built on the remains of other movies. If you leave the theater feeling a little like you sort of saw it all before. Uh, yeah. You sort of have.