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Prometheus (2012)

June 14, 2012

VERDICT:
5/10 Small Beginnings

Making a necessary prequel seem anything but.

Set a good 80 years in the future, Prometheus is about a group of archaeologists who discover a collection of matching hieroglyphs in various locations across the globe. Upon further investigation, they conclude that the drawings are in fact an intergalactic map, left by a race that once inhabited Earth as a way to guide us to them once our technology caught up. Eventually, our technology does just that, so an aging trillionaire decides to foot the bill, puts the archaeologists on a big ol’ ship, and sends them off to space in the hopes that they’ll meet our makers. Two years later, they reach their destination and get to poking around in caves and such. Before long, they realize that those hieroglyphs were more of a set-up than an invitation, but since opportunities like this only come around so often, they stay the course and hope they make it out alive without, oh, I don’t know, getting knocked up by a demon squid.

Not sure if I’m dropping the spoiler of the century here, but since it seems to me like one of the most blatantly obvious, non-spoilers in the history of spoilers to begin with, here’s the scoop: Prometheus is a prequel to Alien. Might come as a surprise to those who haven’t seen Alien in a while or just haven’t seen it at all (for shame…), but for those of us who instantly recognized all the familiar set pieces from the trailer, it was about as surprising as finding out that The Phantom Menace was a prequel to Star Wars. Pretty confused as to why this wasn’t clarified from the get-go instead of kept as such an “is it or isn’t it?” question for people to kind of wonder about, but I have my theories. Will get to those in a bit. Anyway…

As to how Prometheus compares to the likes of Alien and Aliens, it’s apples and oranges. Alien is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and Aliens is one of the greatest action movies ever made, plus it had some great horror elements to boot. The best things this Prometheus has going for it is that it’s set in the same universe, it’s awful pretty to watch, and Michael Fassbender. As to what kind of movie this is in comparison to Alien and Aliens, it’s somewhere in between, for better or worse. It has horror elements without being very scary or suspenseful, and it has action elements that are more gratuitous than they are exciting. Ultimately, it’s hard really to say what this movie wants to be.

In a nutshell, it feels like it’s written by the co-creator of LOST.

If you gave up after Season 4 or stuck it through to the end, there’s no denying that Damon Lindelof got away with some truly  bizarre shit in that show. Smoke Monsters, time travel, tropical polar bears – the list goes on and very little of it gets explained. As the co-writer of Prometheus, he takes a very similar approach, throwing in one unfounded alien encounter after another until things kind of make sense but mostly don’t by the end. The reason he got away with it in LOST is because his characters were so fleshed-out and fantastic. The more invested you became in their stories, the less you cared about the unexplainable being explained (at least that was my experience ). Now, the reason he doesn’t get away with it in Prometheus is pretty simple: his characters blow.

For starters, there is a serious excess of characters along for this trip. Granted, I’ve never been to planet LV-223 to investigate alien life forms, but a crew made up of nearly a dozen members is at least five or six too many from where I’m sitting. It’s not like you can’t make a movie work with that many characters (just look at Boogie Nights), it’s just unnecessary having this many people involved, especially when they serve no other key purpose outside of dying before we even know their names. Aside from the fact that the central characters already feel about as human as a stuffed cabbage, drawing so much attention to even the most minimally important side characters only serves to make us care less about the group as a whole. And it’s a damn shame that this is the case, because I usually like Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pearce, and I usually care about whether or not they’re gonna die. But alas, their dialogue is awful, there’s nothing they can do to not sound like they’re phoning it in, and if only their characters had as many dimensions as those 3D glasses did…

Although there is an exception here, and, as I mentioned earlier, that exception is Michael Fassbender. Fassbender plays our android of the hour, David 8, and not only is his the most interesting and layered character by a marathon, but his performance blows everyone else’s out of the stratosphere. Not surprising considering it’s Fassbender, somewhat surprising considering how stark the contrast in quality is. Although it does kind of makes sense that he steals the spotlight considering that Ripley’s out of the picture and the androids were always the best supporting characters in this franchise.

So with the substance generally lacking, we make our way to the style. I wish I could tell you about how much I drooled on my shirt during this, and I wish I could tell you about how it totally redeems the movie, leaving nothing to be desire. But as pretty as this is and as much as technology has advanced since 1979, it’s really no prettier than Alien. Yes, the special effects, the art direction, and the set designs are fantastic, but it all stems from Alien and doesn’t quite channel the art of H.R. Giger in the same visceral way. Too much emphasis on spectacle, not enough emphasis on atmosphere. Simple as that.

But for all the prequels, sequels, and remakes that Hollywood cranks out every year despite no one even asking for them, it is refreshing to find one that for once feels warranted. If you think back to Alien, it actually does come off like a continuation, like the second or third part in a story that was already long underway. I wanted to know how that ship got there, I wanted to know where those facehuggers came from, and I’d still like to know how Weyland-Yutani found out about it. The potential was already there for something great, and for all of its scope and inspiration, Prometheus has its merits.

I liked the driving force behind the plot, the search for our “engineers,” and since it seems very likely that a prequel sequel’s in order, I’m interested to see how things play out/tie together. But with all the flaws I’ve already mentioned and everything being brought half-circle by its finish, Prometheus‘ reach just proved greater than its grasp. It’s a story and a film that probably would have benefited from being a stand-alone effort rather than operating in the shadow of greatness, which is probably why they weren’t making a big deal out of the Alien connection in the first place. But with the connection having been made and the plotline following so closely, it’s hard not to draw comparisons and wonder where things got so muddled.

Hell of a trailer though, huh?

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. HermioneO permalink
    June 14, 2012 6:05 am

    I think you missed something in your showing. The movie I saw was a 9/10. I’ve seen all the Alien movies, and I loved how this one paid homage to the great moments that came before, but still carved out it.s own story. I loved how this movie answered some questions, but left others unanswered or asked new ones.

    • June 14, 2012 11:38 am

      Haha. I’ve been seeing some pretty divisive responses to this movie over the past few weeks, so I had a hunch this was going to be a pretty back-and-forth comments thread.

      I too liked the big questions this movie posed, and the fact that it left things so open-ended didn’t play into the Verdict either. But to be honest, I wish it had had nothing to do with Alien whatsoever, and I think it would have benefited greatly from being it’s own separate entity, it’s own unique story. Although since that isn’t the case, I thought the whole thing felt pretty muddled and I still think the characters were all handled and developed very poorly (with the exception of David, of course).

      Glad you liked it so much more than I did, but I assure you, I was all eyes and ears on this one.

  2. June 14, 2012 6:25 am

    I liked the film but was at the same time underwhelmed. Perhaps it was my own fault for going in with certain expectations but then if Ridley wanted to detract from the world’s of Alien and Aliens so much, why didn’t he just make a completely standalone film?

    • June 14, 2012 11:40 am

      I lowered my expectations significantly after the reviews started pouring in, and I totally agree with you about why this is even remotely tied into Alien. Dude needs to make a sequel to start tying things together.

  3. June 14, 2012 12:29 pm

    I didn’t like the film, at all. I suppose possibly I need to go back and revisit Alien/Aliens, but c’mon. The unanswered questions were a bit much for me. (No, sorry, wasn’t a Lost fan). My questions started at the beginning: The dude drinking the liquid that caused him to break apart under the water? I was waiting for enlightenment that never came on that one.

    • Why would they fly for two years before being briefed on the mission?
    • Why did David put the goo in his drink. . did he know they would have sex. . Was he an expert in things that never fucking happened?
    • How did they get lost when they had a 3d map and constant communication?
    • Why would they want to kill us. . .if they made us. .are we a mistake?
    • Why would they leave a map to a nuclear bomb facility?

    Like I said, possibly I need to revisit Alien/Aliens, but I think the problems reach further than that.

    I will say, however, that my favorite scene (in a movie I disliked immensely) was the self inflicted (in a sense) abortion. That was awesome, intense and bad ass. She obtained soldier status instantly!

    • June 15, 2012 10:06 am

      My dad actually explained that opening scene to me, ’cause I was awfully confused as well. His take was that the white guy was on Earth, so when his buddies took off, he drank that liquid, then he dissolved, and a semblance of his DNA remained in the ecosystem. Eventually, that DNA evolved into us human beings, which eventually led to those cave paintings we found. Does that make sense?

      Now let me try to answer those other questions:

      1. Money. Ripley and her crew were also on a very need-to-know basis, wasn’t until the alien jumped out of that guy’s stomach that they realized some shit was up.
      2. I just think it was payback more than anything, the squid baby being a bonus of sorts. They weren’t really there to mess with the aliens anyway, they were there to see if the Engineers could revive Weyland.
      3. Good question.
      4. Hence the inevitable sequel, actually one of the better questions the movie poses if you ask me.
      5. I think because they wanted us to find it so that we start a chain reaction of sorts that would wipe us out in turn. Again, the sequel will hopefully shed more light on that one.

      I don’t know how much revisiting Alien and Aliens is going to help since there’s only so much of a connection, but I’d keep asking around anyway.

      And I don’t know, man. That C-section thing was a bit much. Seemed like a poor man’s answer to the chestburster scene. Might be in the minority on this one.

  4. June 15, 2012 2:04 am

    GREAT MOVIE.

    What I made of the movie is that the new creature from the huminoid alien will have to evolve into the alien we know from the Alien franchise. (Phew that was wordy…) The last creature to make an appearance looked a lot more like the alien we’ve seen. If you watch the process of how everything occurd especially when the creature from Elizabeth’s body infects the huminoid alien, dies and later it bursts out. Just like the process in Alien, Aliens, Alien 3… etc.

    Prometheus is the beginning of it all… and those creatures have to go through a process of evolution. When it’s all said and done these “aliens” will be bad ass and hard to kill because evolution tweeked all of the weaknesses their predecessors had.

    • June 15, 2012 9:57 am

      I mean, I get all that about the evolution of the alien. I don’t get why folks would be confused over that, especially when you consider that the squid she gave birth to evolved into one big facehugger. It all follows the plot and mythology of Alien very, very closely. Still think it would have been better had it not tried to tie together the Alien universe though, or rather tell a direct backstory that leads right into the start of Alien rather than go for something so epic in scope.

      And while it is kind of cool to see where the aliens came from, something tells me that the sequel to this movie is going to feel like a clone of this movie. Noomi Rapace searching yet again for our makers, aliens continue to evolve, eventually shit hits the fan, and they wind up on the planet where Ripley and the gang start poking around.

      Idk, just ain’t doing it for me.

      Glad you liked it though! Wish I had liked it as much.

      • June 23, 2012 12:58 am

        I understand were you are coming from, it wasn’t a direct prequel. It might have been better recieved if there wasn’t so much going on!

      • June 25, 2012 9:28 am

        Agreed. Just got lost in its own ambition.

  5. June 15, 2012 3:12 am

    It’s refreshing to find another reviewer who was similarly unimpressed with this movie. I completely agree with you in that it’s reach overextends its grasp and that there are far too many unanswered questions. I just started my movie review blog recently and would love some feedback from somebody who has similar cinematic tastes, I’ve included a link to my own review of Prometheus so Check it out if you’re interested at all 🙂

    http://rorschachreviews.com/2012/06/11/prometheus-review/

    • June 15, 2012 9:50 am

      As am I. Waiting for someone to tear me a new one over this, but generally the discussion has been quite civil, which is always nice. Oh, Ridley Scott, you goofy bastard…

      And will definitely check out your site and do you one better by throwing you on the blogroll. Thanks for stopping by and don’t be a stranger.

  6. June 16, 2012 9:22 am

    They say “In space no one can hear you scream.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear anyone screaming in the theatre, either. Enjoyable enough movie but ultimately failed to engage in such a way as to realize its true potential.

    • June 18, 2012 10:51 am

      Totally agree. Pretty disappointing the more I think about it. Thank God Fassbender was involved, hoping the inevitable sequel picks up the slack.

  7. June 16, 2012 5:22 pm

    It had its moments, but hell, haven’t we come a long way from black monoliths!
    I would have liked the ending better if she’d said “Because I want to give those bastards a taste of their own medicine.”

    • June 18, 2012 10:53 am

      Dude, I’d take black monoliths over this any day, special effects and all.

      And holy CRAP! YOU should have written this movie. That Verdict would have instantly skyrocketed if that’s how the movie had ended.

      • June 18, 2012 5:05 pm

        With any luck, they’ll steal it from me for the sequel.

      • June 18, 2012 6:23 pm

        Fingers crossed, for everyone’s sake.

  8. Lucien permalink
    June 19, 2012 6:58 am

    I walked out of this movie rating it a 7/10. But with every passing day, the more the stunning visuals receded from my memory, and the more I thought about how the writers treated me, the audience, like a complete d**khead, the more I began to loathe it. 4/10. And falling, lol.

    • June 19, 2012 9:39 am

      Hahaha. Very much feel the same way. With the exception of Fassbender, hard to remember what even got it up to a 5.

  9. June 26, 2012 9:37 am

    In a nutshell, it feels like it’s written by the co-creator of LOST.

    Ding.

    In Lindelof’s defense, he wrote some of the best episode of that show (and, admittedly, some of the worst), and he also only has co-credit on Prometheus. But the worst turns and twists taken here feel like they could only have been written by the guy behind one of the most dishonestly half-baked shows of recent memory. We’re well out of spoiler territory with the film having been in release for weeks now, so I feel no fear in mentioning how utterly, savagely dumb the Weyland reveal is and how much it affects the rest of the film– particularly on a thematic level– in big, irrevocably damaging ways.

    Now, in the film’s defense– Scott knows how to tell a story behind the camera. It’s easy to be blinded by the movie’s more idiotic elements (Fifield and Milburn willfully going to the slaughter, for example) just by virtue of how comfortable and mastered Scott is at visual storytelling. And the acting is across the board superb, while the movie’s ideas prove well worth discussing long after the lights go up.

    But all of the best elements could have been lifted up SO MUCH if the script hadn’t been so terrible. I’m blown away that Scott, who frankly has primary authorship here, let it go after FOUR DRAFTS were put in front of him. I feel like he wasn’t even paying attention.

    • June 26, 2012 9:57 am

      Yeah, the Weyland thing was stupid, but I had a feeling that was coming. He’s such a big name in the Alien mythology and Guy Pearce isn’t exactly a guy you show for three minutes and that’s it.

      And I agree, these are not bad actors, they were just helpless against this script. I didn’t know that about the four drafts, and that’s fucking nuts. Is that like a first in the history of film making?

      • June 26, 2012 9:59 am

        Probably not. But it’s incredible that Scott let some of this stuff go.

        I wasn’t shocked at the Weyland twist either, but it didn’t make it go down any easier. Couple that whole reveal with the fact that nobody seems to give a shit that Shaw has just assaulted two people and also happens to be in her underwear, covered in blood and sweat and boasting a row of staples in her gut, and you’ve got a really, really terrible third act beat.

      • June 26, 2012 10:02 am

        DUDE! What the fuck was that?! No one batted an eyelash to Shaw in the slightest, NOR did she say to anyone “HI, I just had an alien C-section, can someone please direct me to the flamethrowers? Super.” That shit was beyond me, probably more so than any other aspect of the movie.

        That whole scene was pretty over-the-top, too. Just one man’s opinion.

  10. bob permalink
    October 13, 2012 5:40 pm

    movie is frigging crap! Dumb captain who is not responsible for his crew members stuck in a cave, after discovering alien giants, then suddenly becomes responsible for saving earth! Petting an alien cobra!
    If you liked this film then you are sad!

    • October 15, 2012 11:38 am

      Haha. I think there are many who’d agree with you on that first statement.

Trackbacks

  1. » Movie Review – Prometheus Fernby Films
  2. Piling on: the proliferating putdowns of Prometheus. Plus poetry. « The mind is an unexplored country.

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