A review of Prometheus
When it comes to science fiction movies, I know the movie isn’t doing it for me when I start noticing plot holes, bad science or silly choices made by the characters. It’s not that I demand flawlessness on those fronts in my science fiction. I will always love Star Wars, despite the silly dialogue, silly plot holes and sound propagating through the vacuum of space. It’s freaking Star Wars damn it! The story was big enough, the pace fast enough and the world utterly cool enough that I just don’t care about “flaws” (at least for the original movies).
Alien and Aliens (in particular) are two of my favorite science fiction films. Both are smart, visceral movies that tap into primal fears, quicken the pulse and make the viewer feel immersed in the action. The characters are believable and compelling. Even when a character is bone headed, they are bone headed in believable ways. There is a tight mix of acting, direction, screen shots (what is shown and what is not shown) coupled with well thought out sound and music that draws one in. It’s tense. One is constantly waiting for the drop of another shoe.
Prometheus, a prequel to the Alien franchise, tried to bring back that magic, but it crossed that line where the story was slow and silly enough, and the action foolish enough, that I lost suspension of disbelief.
I didn’t hate this movie. I can’t say it was awful. I just can’t say it was very good.
Prometheus starts out very promising. A race of essentially human aliens spread their genetic code on a primordial Earth for reasons unknown. A very long time later, in 2089, two scientists discover clues to this humanoid alien civilization. An expedition is mounted to a system that cave paintings and ancient carvings indicate belongs to those people.
Sadly, the movie wants to address issues of faith and science. Why do I say sadly? I say sadly because even though science fiction is a perfect medium to explore such questions, Hollywood blockbusters are generally incapable of addressing them in a non-heavy handed or fluffy way. The “discussion” of worldview and the unclear “faith” of one of the scientists is stilted, heavy handed, derivative and vaguely reminiscent of 2:00 AM freshman dorm conversations (just not that deep).
This detracts from the movie.
So do the attempts to humanize the very one dimensional characters by giving them “depth.” The random “depth” tidbits about them come from nowhere to crudely hit you over the head without rhyme or reason. Then they feel contrived and forced only to be left unresolved and unexplored.
There is nothing wrong with putting real drama into a science fiction film. When done right, it adds tremendous depth and sympathy for the characters. However, it needs to be actually put in, rather than waved at in a way similar to the opening sentence of a paragraph in a Cliffs Notes or clumsily inserted like the heavy thud of a club smacking the head. In the case of Prometheus, this forced drama slowed everything down and just made the viewer feel vaguely embarrassed.
The biggest thing that detracted from the movie was its lack of pacing and contrived predictability. Aliens for example, was masterful at making you think that there was something around the corner only to fool you - only to let one breathe just enough to be shocked when the critters did show up. The first time I saw that movie, I was on edge for the whole ride. Not so with Prometheus. You cold say “insert critter in 5…4…3…2…1…” and sure enough, there is your critter. There just isn’t the tension of the first or second movie. I try to pretend that 3 and 4 never happened.
Much has been written about how the aliens in the Alien movies are nasty penis monsters (look at their heads) who are born from a process of male rape. Face suckers impregnate via forced oral penetration etc… Prometheus decides to balance this with an attack of the vagina monsters. Yep… it’s vertical mouths surrounded by tentacled labia. I suppose there’s some sort of a statement about gender equality in that, but I don’t know what it might be.
On the plus side, the relationship between the humanoid aliens, and the alien aliens and the aliens from the earlier movies is kind of cool. That was a good idea worth exploring much more. Unfortunately, it is left to a mini scene during the credits. Perhaps that is to set up a sequel to the prequel.
So that said, if you are a fan of the franchise, this is worth renting. It is not worth 20 bucks to take your girl to.