Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.
Being a film god, though, means you shouldn’t spend the gross domestic product of Paraguay on a movie that, with a few tiny little fixes, could have been 5,982-times better than it was.
Because — let’s be honest — PROMETHEUS stank up the joint.
Fix Number 1: Give us some flipping aliens in our ALIEN movie
There was all sorts of noise from Ridley Scott that this wasn’t, technically, an ALIEN movie.
Well, no. Because there was a complete shortage of the alien.
This movie is like selling people bacon cheeseburgers and making them all wonder why they’re looking at a bun with some fried pork bellies on it, but no actual hamburger.
Sure, there are tall bald bodybuilder Engineer guys, who technically are aliens, except their DNA is the same as ours, so technically they’re not. IT IS CONFUSING.
And yeah, we get about six seconds of an alien on screen at the very end when (spoiler!) a baby alien bursts out of the chest of an Engineer after he refuses to pay his dues to the Squid Facehugger Engineering Brotherhood, Local No. 1291.
But otherwise, we all paid $9 for 3D tickets and $8.50 for popcorn that cost 12 cents to make to watch an ALIEN movie with no aliens except for those six seconds.
Instead, we got this stupid black goo that makes no sense whatsoever.
Fix Number 2: Lose the Black Goo nonsense
So, there’s this Black Goo that the Engineers use to: (a) disintegrate some other Engineer they left on earth like some kind of frat-boy prank, you know, filling the bottle of shampoo with Nair, except Engineers are hairless, so hey, we’re gonna turn you into dust; (b) bomb planets far, far away with their donut spaceships; (c) turn worms into snake things; (d) turn humans into zombies; (e) turn lead into gold; and (f) make it so zombie boyfriends who get busy with their sterile human girlfriends create squid facehugger things the size of Volkswagens.
I may be missing five or six other things the Black Goo does. IT IS MAGIC.
Here’s the problem: the Black Goo commits the classic storytelling sin of Double Mumbo Jumbo, which is a technical Tinseltown term that means, “The audience will believe one piece of crazy sci-fi nonsense, but they won’t swallow 17 of them.”
The original ALIEN did this right. Can we believe a cute little facehugger will hatch from an egg, find a human host, implant an egg in his stomach and make an adorable little chest-burster who grows up to become a big, strong Alien?
Yes, we will.
The audience might have bought the notion that this Black Goo could do one magical thing, or maybe two, but not five or six or 30.
Fix Number 3: Cut the crew down from a cast of thousands to like, six people
Pop quiz: Name half the characters on the PROMETHEUS. Now, that’s not fair. Let’s go with 25 percent of them. Ready? Go.
There’s no way. Unless you have a copy of the script and a rewind button, you don’t know who the hell these people are except for (a) the girl with the dragon tattoo, (b) her boyfriend, (c) Magneto and (d) Charlize Theron.
Everybody else gets about 30 seconds of screen time, including Guy Pearce looking like Yoda for some reason.
Kill off all the other guys. We don’t need them.
The original ALIEN had something like six characters. You could keep track of those guys as the alien killed ’em all off until Sigourney Weaver was all alone with the Alien, which was the main event anyway.
Peoples of Hollywood, hear me now and believe me later in the week: Kill off every character you can. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. This will both save you money (good!) and make for a better film (better!), which will make you even MORE money at the box office (amazing!).
Fix Number 4: Engineers should not be super-smart 7-foot tall toddlers throwing a tantrum
OK, I can buy that a bunch of space-faring aliens run around the galaxy, putting the seeds of life on planets. Maybe they got bored of spending their days playing MEDAL OF HONOR: THE BATTLE FOR XENOS, PART 873.
Having the Engineers go wacky, though, makes no sense. Why would they want to bomb earth with Black Goo?
Why would the one Engineer wake up from a long sleep, see the handsome face of Magneto and decide to twist his head off before Magneto says more than two sentences? Because the Engineer, he’s got such a busy schedule that day, just waking up and all. “I have things to do, humans! I have planets to bomb for some random reason!”
There are rumors on the Series of Tubes and papers of news and magazines of film that Ridley Scott himself said little baby Jesus was an Engineer, and they all got mad that humans killed him.
OK, that’s wild and crazy, and would have brought down the wrath of all kinds of church people, so maybe that’s why Ridley the Scott left it on the cutting room floor. HOWEVER: At least that would be a reason for the Engineers acting like two-year-olds all hacked off because Mom won’t let them watch The Wiggles for the 11th time this week.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.