El Boyfo was being sweet. He wanted us "to discover it together." I, on the other hand had little interest in sweet mutual discovery. Our first Prometheus spat launched when he realised that I had no intention of allowing days to go by with me twitching until our iMax trip. A friend had double booked that date and offered me his seats. I'd duly seized them with avaricious mitts. El Boyfo was delighted, but expected me to wait.
For months Facebook buddies had been enthusing feverishly. It took me a while to realise that their hysteria had been stoked by Ridley's decision to personally rescue the cinematic beast he'd sired with Dan O'Bannon in 1979. Maybe he'd observed with concerned curiosity and eventual disgust as his monster was ground into bathetic dust by waning sequels and Alien Vs Predator. It was understandable that he desired to return, gallantly laurelled with distinguished career credentials, to restore his progeny's prestige.
When I grasped such weighty import, I rallied with the faithful. I relinquished my unflappable assumption that summer would bow before Christopher Nolan's Batmanfinale. Ridley would reign in excelsis. How could he not? I'd swung from the notion that he couldn't possibly pull it off, to another, that he couldn't possibly fail; I wasn't counting on the squelchy dollop that splatted somewhere betwixt.
Prior to that exasperating discovery, I couldn't bear to eschew Facebook for a week, dodging plot spoilers. Thus, when another mate said he was marshalling a crew for the first Friday night showing at the Ritzy, my avarice snatched again. Sadly, I'd enjoy it more the second time. By then, my lofty expectation would be nullified: I'd know that greatness wasn't coming. I'd settle down to review a pricey B movie, resigned to the maddening mega budget mediocrity.
El Boyfo would be less accommodating, descending into simmering apoplexy that would culminate in our second Prometheus spat, with me railing, "Admit it! You thought it was shit!" My interrogation would thrust him over the edge. He'd rail back: it was pretentious, it tantalised viewers with grandiloquence, only to betray their trust with daft characterisations- and narrative chasms you could crash a spacecraft into. I couldn't argue with this unforgiving assessment or his curt verdict that followed:
"Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal; Alien, Prometheus." Ouch!
Its 3D was manifestly the best I'd seen, its CGI seamless, almost undetectable. Marc Streitenfeld's theme was competent, but spiritual instead of sinister. I was awed by the hydric prologue and quite taken with the extramundane humanoid that dropped his habit to reveal a homoerotic Parthenon physique. I remained open to persuasion when we found ourselves on the Isle of Skye with Noomi Rapace's dewy-eyed creationist finding proof of her makers. But once aboard the ship, my Spock eyebrow would rise at the hubristic appropriation of Lawrence of Arabia footage and Ridley's fan boy allusions to 2001: A Space Odyssey. My heart would sink, slowly at first, thence with rapidity, as I realised that Prometheus would prove more worthy of 'Attack of the Clones.'
Alien worked because Ridley expertly hoodwinked audiences into believing that they were watching a B movie. In fact, it was tautly scripted theatre in a Sci-Fi garb. My attraction to Prometheus was that Idris Elba, Kate Dickie, Michael Fassbender, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Charlize Theron et cetera, amounted to a heavyweight company that could fulfil this wily prototype.
They were textually undermined; Elba, his accent grating, had been lazily retained to be a lecherous stud, to loosen Theron's ice maiden up; she seemed to be rehearsing for a Blade Runner remake. Unforgivably, Guy Pearce, after his omnipresent Ted Talk promo, looked like Guy Pearce in old man prosthetics. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0225483/ who could have potentially honoured Veronica Cartwright's 'Alien' contribution, was wasted- as El Boyfo put it, "Who? Why?" Even Sean Harris' murine malevolence was squandered? O criminal misdeed.
I've had a bone to pick with Ridley (narratively speaking) for a while now: despite the sumptuous access at his disposal he facilitates facile scripts- two words: American Gangster. I once lost ten minutes to 'Lost' because I thought Matthew Fox was a fox! That is, until I heard him opine the line "Nerves just spilled out of her like angel hair pasta," whereupon I immediately vowed never to venture near such dialogue again - Fox or no Fox. To conceive his vaunted renaissance, Ridley plucked the fellow who wrote the most episodes of that meandering hogwash- an award winner apparently- an unfathomable two hundred million dollar decision.
The reputation of Alien ascertained a jubilant fanfare for Ridley's return. He should have affirmed the audacity of his Prometheus vision with an auspicious script. The expectant audiences with whom I watched this movie were respectful, attentive- not a hint of popcorn even. They anticipated a proficient narrative, expertly delivered by a quality thespian company; deftly stage-managed, masterfully lit sets, with state of the art digital aplomb. The technical mastery was present in spades; the script alas was but a draft. At the screenings I attended, the rapturous applause that should endorse a triumphal return was supplanted by quizzical befuddlement.
As Noomi Rapace enquires, "Prometheus, are you seeing this?"
Well yes, quite.