Backseat writer, how to fix… Prometheus

Backseat writer, how to fix… Prometheus

In this series, we will be looking at films that if some things were changed then it could have been a truly great piece of cinema. First up was a film that I was so excited for and although I went home happy as I was willing and able to not compare it to its main franchise, it was received well enough, by critics and audiences at the time 73% and 68% respectively, which for a return to such a franchise after so long, is far better than expected. But what could have been done differently in retrospect to make Prometheus better? Let’s look into it.

The general arch of the story is strong, it just falls apart elsewhere

Other than the film looking gorgeous (it’s a Ridley Scott film, so of course it is) The general story layout is a good one. Let’s break it down below.

Paleobiologists find out that we have been in contact with aliens for thousands of years and believe that they created us. They get a wealthy philanthropist to fund the mission to find said “creators”. But of course, the company have a different reason for wanting to carry out the mission. Upon reaching the planet that they were directed to via the archaeology stones, they find out that the planet is, in fact, a form of a military base with substances used to destroy civilisations with their creators seemingly long-dead for two thousand years.

Noomi Rapace in Prometheus (2012)

Disappointed that they could not interact with the creators the company start a scheme to use one of the Paleobiologists Holloway to test the liquid substance found on the planet. Unknowingly infected him and the other archaeologist Shaw has sex and he impregnates her with this substance. Other members of the team who are still in one of the alien buildings get attacked by a creature coming from one of the now obvious weapon rooms. This causes a cascade of death amongst the crew as the infected team become deformed. Shaw then figures out the company has ulterior motives due to what is inside her and fights to have her alien “child” removed from her via a medpod.

The android on the expedition discovers a very much alive sleeping creator and finds out that the creators were intending to send this substance to Earth. It is then found out that the company wants the creators to help keep the main philanthropist Peter Weyland alive as he wants to live forever and think or hope that they may do so. But upon waking said creator to speak to him, the creator thinks he must still carry out the mission and attacks and tries to take the ship off to Earth to carry out his duty.

The crew of the human ship realise this and sacrifice themselves to save everyone on Earth. The creator survives the crash and Shaw must defend herself but stop him from getting to a new ship. Her “child” turns out to be a giant octopus type face hugger and kills the creator with Shaw and the almost destroyed David using a new ship to fly off to the Creators home planet to find out why they wanted to kill humans and what changed their minds.

Michael Fassbender in Prometheus (2012)

How is the basis of that NOT a great story? The concept is very strong if we are being quite honest. It appealed to me at least. I liked that it was different from the others in the overall franchise. Each edition for better or worse is different in its story. Alien is a straight-up horror, Aliens is a war movie, Alien 3 is a gothic horror and Alien Resurrection is a European horror. Prometheus is the horror of trying to find God and what happens when you find out he wasn’t happy with what your species had done.

In the years that have followed a lot of people have disregarded it as being too different from the originals, why shouldn’t it try and be different? If things had gone according to plan (well any plan) in Alien 3, it would have been a great film, regardless of being in the franchise. Why on Earth would we want to see something along the same lines? I want to see a different aspect or link to the story. Otherwise, we get the same A New Hope comparisons to A Force Awakens, the links and similarities to each other took me out of the film. Prometheus’ issue wasn’t the story.

Were it went slightly wrong and how it could have been fixed to be better

While that general story is a strong one, it is the reasons characters get there that fail the film. For instance, the Geologist NAME and NAME try to leave the base and return to the ship but get lost. It seems very odd that they get lost as they leave BEFORE the others. Would it not have been better saying to have the team all return back with a creators head and then have all the analysis carried out and then have David infect Holloway. So the next day they go back to look more at the base, they split off into groups and those two and maybe a third team member then get attacked by the now activated substances and creatures? One or two die right away from the creature entering him and the other is infected but disappears as he changes into the monster. Then have a better reason those two characters getting affected and killed.

Ian Whyte in Prometheus (2012)

The rest of the team go to find them, to see the scene, but that is when Holloway becomes sick and they have to leave to get him treated. A couple of the team stay to try and find the missing crew member and then return when they can’t as again the weather is deteriorating and they want to be back on the ship. Holloway still sacrifices himself as the leader of the expedition will not let him on the ship (nice call back to Alien only she has a weapon to make sure he doesn’t get on) Holloway sacrifices himself as he knows something is terribly wrong with himself. Then we can return to the rest of the film. It just makes everyone seem a bit more intelligent, not just getting bloody lost!

Add in the deleted scenes and “prologue footage”

One thing noticeable in Prometheus is the missing plot points and annoyingly those plot points are in the deleted scenes and marketing materials used for the film. For example the marketing material with Weyland’s TED talk. That was a great monologue by Guy Pearce and it should have been used in the film. The same for Noomi Rapace’s pitch to Weyland. All of this should have been at the start of the film. It really builds up Weyland and shows how and why Shaw is committed to finding out everything, right from the start. You then have the audience fully aware of the intentions.

Holloway drowning his sorrows 5 hours into the FIRST expedition

Holloway getting depressed after investigating the planet for the total sum of 5 hours and not finding anything yet to give him answers is unfathomable. He is a scientist and generally, you need a bit of patience in that field, especially as they waited until finding seven different cultures that had the map. He could wait a few days no?

Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Logan Marshall-Green in Prometheus (2012)

Again this is easily solved by a montage or something stating that the Prometheus crew have been there for a week or longer and are now getting nowhere. This allows desperation to set in and allows the substances from the vases to leak out slowly over time and for a creature to grow. Everything grows in a matter of hours. But why? Let it take a little bit of time. This is an exploration crew, with everything falling apart as soon as they land. Build it up, show these people as competent in their roles, so then you get the reward for when things go wrong.

What were the Engineers running from?

There are other little issues as well. For example, something that is unanswered and would have been a good thing to add is the Deacon. When the crew are in the ship they see a vision of the Engineers running away from something, that is a roar from something that sounds like a Xenomorph or the Deacon. What happened to it? Should a skeleton of it somewhere as it obviously starved to death after 2000 years. Would that not have been a better shot than the random mural?

Have someone watch over the two lost crew members

I have already spoken about the duo getting lost and then left behind. But if they are to stay lost there overnight. Why not have someone stay with them via the intercom and watch in horror at what happens to them. Like they try and tell them not to go near the alien, to leave, but due to the storm, they can’t get through. Then the crew know that trouble has started for them. Leaving them on their own with no communication would never happen on a mission like this. Again it is maddening how simple solutions could be found.

Rafe Spall in Prometheus (2012)

Again, why is everything happening right away?

We are almost at the end, honest… But a great annoyance to me was how easily activated the urns or vases were on that alien ship. No wonder the Engineers got attacked and died. Surely better fail-safes should be in place. Would it not have been better if one of the human crew caused them all to activate by taking one, instead it all went wrong seemingly when they opened the door. That just doesn’t seem right to me. An event had to happen for all of the urns to activate the way they did. Maybe it is accidentally touched as they try to get out before the storm? Just something to show the superior species just didn’t leave their bioweapons about so that they could be so easily activated.

The spaceship falling…

The spaceship falling down and being stopped by a rock is a little stupid and there is no getting around that, to be honest. Just have her run at an angle instead, Vickers running straight is easily explained, she panicked. I can live with that and  I am not sure if she would have outrun the falling ship anyway… It was bloody massive after all. Maybe just change where Shaw and Vickers were positioned and so that when Shaw rolls, it is more feasible she misses the ship, or have her run at a slight angle. Again, not the worst thing or a point that really needed fixing but being saved by a not so large rock is a bit inexcusable, just have her get clear and then blown by the aftershock of the ship landing.

David and Shaw should not be as close as they are

There should be some tension between the two that should be conveyed more. That or David should at all points be concerned about Shaw, be apologetic, but simply state that he is under orders. He can be sympathetic to Shaw at least. So when he says he is free now Weyland is dead, then we can see their relationship grow. We know David wants Shaw alive so he can “live” but their whole interaction could mean so much more if they remained on as good terms throughout. Instead, we get this switch and it feels off.

Again, I think that now we are at the end of this piece, that I actually enjoyed Prometheus. I know it is flawed, but I liked the story they were going for, the look of the film and the characters, it is just the characters motives and how the script gets to the next set up that fails it.

What do you think of my suggestions to improve the film? Would they have worked for you? Let me know in the comments! Should I look at Alien: Covenant and see where it could have been fixed? Until next time.

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