Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Is Prometheus a goner?

It’s an interesting one this. The moral might be: those who live by social media shall die by social media. Much has been made of the way the folk behind Ridley Scott’s Prometheus leaked teaser trailers and brief interviews in …

Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 21:47


It’s an interesting one this. The moral might be: those who live by social media shall die by social media. Much has been made of the way the folk behind Ridley Scott’s Prometheus leaked teaser trailers and brief interviews in forms that could be easily distributed via Twatter and Farcebook. (See what I’ve done there? Who says satire is dead?) Sure enough, by mid-May it began to feel as if  we were all breathing Prometheus-brand oxygen. The film seemed to have infected the environment like a particularly irritating virus.

Not unreasonably, the average film fan — even if hitherto sceptical about Prometheus — found himself or herself overcome with a degree of breathless anticipation. Hope overcame experience. Nothing that had been so vigorously discussed could possibly turn out to be ordinary. At the very least, it would be spectacularly, staggeringly awful.

Well, Prometheus has its fans, but the general consensus is that the picture is a beautifully made, elegantly marketed slice of ho-hum. If you happened upon it in a hype-free environment you might be inclined to offer thumbs up. But, after all this kerfuffle, it’s hard to escape the notion we’re being taken for a ride.

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Now, pay attention!

Having been encouraged to regard social media as the natural home of all things Promethean, disappointed punters took to their hand-held devices and urged caution. Meanwhile, enthusiasts — “URE A FOOL, Sctfan 465, IT’S NOT A PREQUEL!” — began formulating various defenses, most of which read like lecture notes in advanced Nerdology.  After opening strongly in Europe two weeks ago, the picture failed to make the top spot in either its first or second weekend on US release. This weekend, lagging badly behind Madagascar 3, the Scott film was down 60 percent on its first outing. It looks as if the Prometheus sceptics are edging it.

Now, it’s worth putting a few things in perspective. Prometheus has already made more than any of the Alien pictures. The film had, following closely on The Avengers, the second-biggest opening of 2012 in the combined UK and Ireland territories. It is only in the rarified world of blockbuster economics that Prometheus looks anything like a flop.

That is, however, the world through which we are currently moving. Prometheus was — with The Avengers and The Dark Knight — supposed to comprise one part of an unstoppable summer trinity. The studios felt they could conceivably lodge three pictures in the all time US top ten — maybe even top five. The Avengers is now number three in all-time worldwide  chart. The Dark Knight will surely come close.

At time of writing — with a long while to go admittedly — Prometheus hadn’t made it into the 2012 top ten. It will creep into that chart, but it is certainly not the worldwide phenomenon that 20th Century Fox were hoping for. Ponder this. By the same point in its release, Inception — a film aimed at the very same demographic — had taken in $142 million in the US. Prometheus has, to date, only managed $88 million in that territory.

What does it all mean? Are we looking at (decent comparison this, in so many ways) a Matrix Reloaded or at A Golden Compass? Will the underperformance kill off any hopes of a sequel or will the powerful producers force the second part through. Well, it, of course, depends on whether Prometheus manages to find some legs. There is still a chance that it will struggle its way towards proper home-run figures. But it seems likely that Scott and his pals will nudge Prometheus 2 (or Alien -1) into the long grass and allow themselves to get distracted with other things. Moreover, they will, surely, be feeling less keen on the Blade Runner sequel that keeps hopping up and down like the operative unit in a Whack-a-Mole machine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The real lesson of all this is as follows: don’t allow flashing images on tiny screens to blind you to the cynical realities of the promotional machine. It may seem clever to produce footage of Guy Pearce that never actually appears in the picture. That slow ooze of information can be tantalising. But, until they offer you a story that makes sense, the marketing wonks are just waving paste jewellery before easily distracted natives. We are still waiting for that story. Feel free to twat this to all your pals.