Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mockbusted #4: The Prometheus Trap and Alien Origin

I didn't get the chance to review Ridley Scott's pseudo-Alien prequel Prometheus for this site, as I saw it several months before I started blogging, and never got around to going back to it. I re-watched it just recently, and my lukewarm opinion of the film hasn't changed. It's by no means terrible, and not nearly as convoluted or incomprehensible as many reviews I've seen for it make it out to be, it's just a bit all over the place. I'm a sucker for this kind of space adventure, and have enjoyed movies in the past that a lot of people hated purely due to the premise of exploring alien worlds or environments (Event Horizon, The Sphere, Lost In Space, and Supernova to name a few). My only major problem with Prometheus was the lack of a central defined threat, whether it be some proto-form Xenomorph or their pasty Engineers. Instead we got weird snake things, head exploding viruses, giant octopi, and even zombies at one point. Neither of the two mockbusters under review today have this problem, but they have other issues that keep me from outright recommending either of them.

The Asylum effort is called Alien Origin, and the less said about it the better. This movie is exactly as bad as pretty much every review you might find online says it is, and unlike most of the mockbusters I've seen which at least try to somewhat mimic the movies they are cashing in on, it doesn't have really any similarities to Prometheus at all. It's basically a found footage movie set in the jungle with mostly unseen alien monsters stalking a military squadron and a documentary film crew, and if there was some deeper connection to the Scott film, it must have occurred during one of the many times I caught myself dozing off due to the excruciating boredom this movie inspired. It's on Netflix Streaming, and despite the ease with which you might be able to find it and watch it, please don't.

The Prometheus Trap, made by a company called Halcyon that I've never heard of but apparently owns the DVD rights to the first two Re-Animator movies, is much better, though still not quite to a point where I would call it good. At the very least, it does what mockbusters do best, trying to capture the tone of the movie being aped while still telling an original story, or at least one unique to the film and not taken entirely from the big budget one. Here, the claustrophobic feel of the Alien franchise gives way to a classic time loop story akin to Groundhogs Day, Majora's Mask, or countless science fiction television episodes with a common formula, most notably the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where a disaster continuously threatens the ship, with an android being the only one able to stop it.

The story follows two soldiers and their android butler who board The Prometheus, a cargo ship dead in space carrying a super weapon meant to destroy the Earth as a Hiroshima-esque last salvo in a Civil War. They awaken the crew and find its own android, driven insane and fatalistically predicting future events, only to find a saboteur on board who inadvertently causes a rift in time and space. Its a premise we've all seen before, but done with enough style that I can forgive the retread, especially once we get into the final stretch told almost entirely through the android's point of view. The philosophical conversations between the two androids were fun, even if they got a bit cheesy at times, and in the process, they actually utilize the Greek myth of Prometheus better than even Prometheus the movie does, incorporating not just the Frankenstien-esque double edged sword of technology and scientific progress, but explicitly creating a scenario that evokes the mythical character's eternal punishment.

I actually think if I can point to one flaw with The Prometheus Trap (beyond the standard straight to DVD issues of cheap special effects and sometimes less than stellar acting), its that tonally, it tried to be a little too much like the Ridley Scott movie. I found the trappings of Prometheus, no doubt meant to justify a trailer and poster for the cash in, just getting in the way of what could have been a really great sci-fi story if given the time to breathe on its own. The tense thriller aspect, complete with a serial killer movie score, seems tacked on and leads to several scenes that drag on just to establish a level of dread that a movie like this is probably incapable of producing in the first place. Unlike Alien Origin, which is just shaky cam trash to make a quick buck, I actually see a good story here. Its just a shame it had to be so cluttered up with nonsense just so they could sell it as a Prometheus clone.

I don't know if I can justifiably recommend spending the money to buy The Prometheus Trap on DVD, but if it shows up on TV somewhere as it no doubt will if it hasn't already, it might just be good enough for a watch. Just prepare to be disappointed by the wasted potential.

And if you see Alien Origin in the video store, please burn it immediately. I'm fairly certain no one in the store will stop you.


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