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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: Prometheus



Prometheus (Also 3 or 4 Disc Blu-ray Combo Packs) (Four Stars)

U. S.: Ridley Scott, 2012 (20th Century Fox)


John Hurt, anyone?

Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s first science fiction movie since Blade Runner three decades ago, and a prequel of sorts to his first s.f. picture, Alien (1979) — and it shows how much the genre has missed him. It’s a stunner — a space epic that truly has an  epic feel, a horror movie that’s really horrifying, a science fiction show that doesn’t skimp on either the science (or pseudo-science) or the fiction — and (this is a surprise) an action film that’s just as good or better between the action scenes. It’s a movie with good actors (Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce) playing sometimes juicy roles with smarter-than-usual dialogue.

On a technical/visual level this movie is a knockout — as you’d expect from the director who piloted the Nostromo into near-doomsday in Alien, and took us to the ultimate futuristic film noir Los Angeles in Blade Runner. Here, Scott and company  transport us to another fantastical world of wonders and amazements:  a distant barren, desert-like moon where, somehow, life on Earth may have begun, and where, for some of the characters in Prometheus, it will almost certainly end.

Scott’s new movie is extremely violent, and the last half (if not the first) is full of the body-ripping, stomach-heaving, jump-out-of-John-Hurt shock scenes that were the hallmarks of the whole Alien series. Prometheus supposedly shows you what happens before the rocky voyage of the Nostromo in Alien, and it takes place mostly in 2093 — after one scene in unrecorded pre-history, and another in 2089. (Far enough away, we don’t have to worry too much about catching up to the year, as we did with 1984 or 2001.) And it’s about a voyage undertaken under the auspices of departed (but present through digital recording) zillionaire/philosopher/entrepreneur Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, under tons of latex) to travel to a distant moon where the mysteries of the universe may be unraveled.

The prehistorical scene shows a mysterious silver man-like being poisoned by a blackish liquid and expiring to bits in a vast waterfall, scattering his DNA to the winds of Earth. The 2089 follow-up shows Shaw and others musing over cave drawings or ancient space maps or pictograms that all seemingly point to one place, the moon to which the ship Prometheus is now headed.

Aboard, and blissfully unware of the troubles ahead (though you‘d think they’d be a bit more edgy about traveling anywhere in deep space) — is a team that includes Noomi Rapace as religious explorer Elizabeth Shaw, Shaw’s love interest and fellow explorer Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), the hard-ass boss of the expedition Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), cool Captain Janek (Idris Elba, in a very keen performance), doofus geologists Fifield and Milburn (Sean Harris and Rafe Spall), stalwart crew guy Ravel (Benedict Wong), and others, notably Michael Fassbender as blue-eyed David, probably the best movie android since Jude Law as the robot gigolo in A. I.: Artifical Intelligence.

What lies in store for this bunch are a barren landscape that resembles Monument Valley after a blitz, and the remnants of the lost humanoid civilization they’re seeking — beings called Engineers (undoubtedly silver ones) whose DNA perfectly matches ours, and whose cave-dwellings and conference rooms and tombs are gorgeous and Giger-like and almost certainly inhabited by something squiggly and alive that means our fellow humans on screen serious harm. The original Prometheus, by the way, was the guy who stole fire from the gods, to his regret.

Noomi Rapace burned up the screen as the punk hacker/heroine of the Swedish Steig Larsson Millenium movie trilogy, and her performance here — committed and passionate and screamingly “present”  — suggests that it might have been smart to rehire her for the American remakes.  Here, as the apparent post-Alien series replacement for tough gal-in-distress Sigourney Weaver, she does everything you could want, and a little more.

Charlize Theron, as the tough- boss-in-distress isn’t used enough; for my money. And we could use also some more of Idris Elba’s cocky hipster captain — and maybe a few more scenes with Theron and Elba together. Everyone else is fine, including the octopus. (See below.)

But the top player in Prometheus is Fassbender, as the angelic-looking android-robot David. Scott and his writers  make David seemingly the most sensitive, humane,  caring guy aboard ship, a kind of blue-eyed Gandhi, while Fassbender adds a subtle, slightly mechanical edge that suggests there’s reaaly a computer brain inside. (David’s human model, whom he watches constantly on TV, is the young Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence.) There are other levels to the character we discover only gradually.

David’s glassy smile and beatific eyes suggest that goodness, consideration, even humanity, can all be programmed, and that we might like it better if they were. Among the movie’s great scenes are the one in the cave room where David switches on the ghostly, electronically drizzly remnants of the old moon-dwellers and conducts a kind of music of the spheres concert. Another is his incredible Talking Head scene with Shaw. They’re both among the movie’s highlights, and the first one is actionless.


Well, when are they coming? The crazy violent scenes in Prometheus, that suggest the first Alien?


There are some. What about the scene, toward the end, where Noomi Rapace’s heroine character — religious, crucifix-wearing astronaut/explorer Elizabeth Shaw — gives herself a Ceasarean section, all alone, shrieking with terror, pulling from her womb a thrashing silver octopus-like being of obviously malign intent, and holding off its wriggling demonic assaults before killing it — and rejoins the others eventually, without even mentioning her delivery misadventure and with nobody inquiring whether she feels okay? Well, why not? Time is fleeting.


It’s obviously a scene intended to remind you of, and maybe surpass, the legendary John Hurt scare moment in Alien. It doesn’t. It can’t. Still, if Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof (Cowboys and Aliens) can make you (or me) swallow something like that (the scene, not the squid-thing), they’ve got us on a narrative hook of maximum intensity.

Prometheus  shows why Scott belongs in a small select group of great adult science fiction moviemakers that includes Stanley Kubrick, Fritz Lang, Andrei Tarkovsky (and, if you want to let the kid stuff in, Spielberg and Lucas and Nolan). And it shows why it’s a happy event that, in his 70s, Scott has resumed work again in the genre he does best.

Scott produced the movie with his old Alien mates Walter Hill and David Giler, and they’ve made it  exciting and beautiful and full of shock and awe. But they’ve also made it with an almost incongruous elegance and an old-fashioned style that at times suggests a movie that’s referenced repeatedly in Prometheus — David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. That kind of grand allusion is a welcome respite from the carnage-stuffed shlocko actioners snd script-challenged horror holocausts, edited as if by machine gun, that we often get.

Prometheus pays greater attention to conversation and character and mood-building, holding back the big shocks and the blistering physical stuff for almost half the movie, so that we could learn about the characters, get mesmerized by the  atmospherics and Dariusz Wolski’s grimly beautiful cinematography, get lost in the H. R. Gigerish cave interiors, and just generally get saturated in the setting and story.

Scott and Rapace and Theron don’t skimp on sensuality either. After all, this is an offshoot of the series that introduced Sigourney Weaver and scanties in deep space. Prometheus gives us space pulchritude too, but in moderation. And it gives us scares and chills and nausea and hellacious violence, all the things discerning audiences supposedly demand, or so somebody believes. Yet this movie also knows how to make us wait. How to be patient. In space, after all, nobody can hear you…until….. JOHN HURT!!!!!!!!




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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon