By MarkWahlberg 71 Comments
So I didn't know anything about this movie going in. Deliberately. I avoided all the hype, the trailers, the threads you guys made, the reviews, etc. I saw this as a new sci fi movie by the guy whose work in that genre consists of 2 of my favorite movies ever. I knew it was supposed to be semi-related to the Space Jockey from Alien, but that's it. I wanted to have everything be uninfluenced when I saw it, to avoid spoilers or letdown. I know there's a couple threads about this movie already, but those guys aren't really talking about what I want to address. Which is how bad it is.
And holy balls, is it bad.
Ok, it's not all bad. The opening sequence is intriguing. The special effects are hella dope. Idris Elba is always fun to watch, and Charlize Theron is purty. Even the 3D was done in a tasteful, impressive way that supported the overall aesthetic. Other than that, though.... man. If it wasn't so high budget, I'd say this was a Syfy Channel Original, not Ridley Scott's latest.
It's like someone wanted to do an 'homage' to Alien, but they thought 'homage' meant 'use all the basic story beats, and rejigger them a little just so it's not blatantly obvious even though it still totally is'. Almost all of what happens in this movie has a direct correlation to what happens in Alien, which is a terrible idea because it automatically sets itself up for comparisons. And of course, it does not come anywhere near the level of that film. The rest of it, what's not stolen from Alien, is still a bevy of the most trite, overused sci-fi cliches since the genre began.
Let's start with the basics. The underlying premise of the entire film is that ancient civilizations knew about aliens, who possibly created us. So, yes, the central idea for the entire movie is Chariots of the Gods. We are off to a great start.
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE: The main (?) character is a scientist, who believes in God! HOLY SHIT. You mean we're going to talk about faith and religion versus logic and facts? That's never been done before in sc-fi! And by never, I mean almost always. Don't worry, though: they don't actually have any discussions, they just make a basic nod to it, as if they knew you'd heard that conversation before and didn't actually need them to have it...
Which is actually how most of the film operates. None of the characters are actual characters. They're just versions of people you've seen in a dozen other scifi movies, and the only motivations they have are reduced to a single sentence or two, repeated occasionally in case you forgot. Some don't even have a point. The token Asian guy just sort of stands there watching everything the whole movie; he's supposedly an engineer, but I don't think he ever did anything for the entire movie. Like, at all. Other than die at the end. Also they have a fake Tom Hardy, which is automatically -10 points.
Likewise, every plot point is something you've seen in a dozen other movies, reduced to the point where they don't even feel the need to explore it. And not in a mysterious way, it's just sort of there. Want mysterious ancient constructs? Got those. Want tentacle-y monsters? Got those. Space zombies? sure. Space truckers? We got one with an accordion! What do any of them have to do with anything? Nothing, really, other than that the God Aliens actually think we kind of suck, so they made these other aliens to eat our faces, except they got their faces eaten first. Clearly the work of a superior intelligence. And of course, because we must leave no scifi trope untouched, we end it with an old rich man trying to live forever, who gets promptly killed by his supposed saviors. The two reveals about how Weyland was on the ship, and was actually Charlize Theron's dad, were so blatantly telegraphed that I was actually confused when the movie acted like they were big plot twists. The only surprising thing about this was when I realized the old man was played by Guy Pearce.
As the movie progresses, the story starts to splinter into several threads as different people have their own interactions with the aliens. But after a while, they kind of stop checking in on each other, or explaining what's going on. Like, the religious scientist lady I mentioned earlier has a self operated emergency abortion at one point (possibly the highlight of the film, because it's fucking nuts), but never tells anyone else about this. She just gets up, finds the rest of the crew and is like 'ok, what are we doing now?' Even though some of them knew she had an alien baby inside her, they don't ask 'hey what happened to the babything?' The robot guy ( yes, there's a robot, so naturally they have the 'does robot have soul?' theme that has never been done before in any scifi story ever... right?) knows about it, but he's just sort of like 'haha, you aborted the baby I was desperately trying to save, that's so silly!' This is the most absurd example, but not the only one.
The worst part about all this is that the entire thing ends up being an explanation of the source of the Aliens. That's it. They took one of the things that didn't need to be explained from a well regarded franchise, and found a way to explain that one thing, while ignoring all the parts of this story that you're actually supposed to flesh out. So... congratulations? The movie ends with people avoiding a giant wheel by running in the direction it's moving, instead of getting out of it's way, which is a pretty apt metaphor for how the whole story works. Brief efforts towards examining the greater ideas of The Meaning of Life, Creation and Death are just lip service, offhand comments made while we wait for the next crew member to die in a horrific and vaguely sexual manner.
There's probably more I could complain about, but it's 2 in the morning and it's too hot for me to think about things anymore. There was so much potential here, and it just... it's such lazy goddam writing. That's really all it is. How long till Batman comes out?