Prometheus would have had a pretty hard time getting great reviews even if it turned out to be the most amazing, breathtaking, thought provoking, scary, exciting and moving movie of all time. The hype was unlike anything else in recent memory.
However, as I’m certain you all know, it turned out to be none of those things. It has been covered already time and again all over the internet.
“Prometheus is not scary.”
“Prometheus has a muddled plot.”
“Prometheus has an awful script.”
“Prometheus does not deliver anywhere near all that it promised.”
Well, I am not posting in order to disagree. And I do not see any point in rehashing what others have already covered. But the points I would like to make do not seem to have been mentioned much anywhere else.
First, the supposed lack of character development when it comes to the supporting cast. To be honest, I found the development to be pretty close to, if not exactly the same as the supporting cast in Alien. And I don’t hear people bitching about that. Especially during the reviews of Prometheus, as the reviewers insist on holding Alien up as the yardstick in these in an attempt to back up their overly critical ramblings. What people were noticing (and perceiving as bad character development) was a difficulty in relating to the characters, and this stems from script issues rather than anything else. In Alien, the lower ranks of the crew all talked in terms we could relate to as viewers. It was all about their cut of the findings and their percentage of the takings from the cargo … amid some banter and put-downs at the expense of the higher ranking crew members. Prometheus has nothing like that. From the outset, everyone is talking in terms of higher beings and meeting their Gods and it is this that widens the gap between character and viewer. As far as back story and motivation goes, there is no difference between the two movies.
I am not saying that Prometheus is a great movie, meets the hype and delivers everything we could have wanted and more, but I am saying that, while flawed, it doesn’t quite deserve the slating it is receiving in some places.
When you isolate some aspects of the movie, you certainly cannot help but see how well they are executed. Direction, cinematography, special effects, soundtrack … Plus the performances of Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace. These are all aspects which excel and raise Prometheus above the level of a huge number of awful offerings that we have endured during 2012. Indeed, many of these aspects even outstrip their counterparts in that sainted aforementioned yardstick.
But, by the same token, it cannot be denied that when it comes to plot, script and the main characters development, Prometheus falls short every time. I say this just to make sure you don’t think I’ve lost my mind and didn’t notice! I do agree to a great extent on these aspects, but I still believe that others stop it from being the complete disaster that some have suggested, even if they do not manage to quite bring it to the level of the first two instalments of the Alien Saga.
Like I say, this has been covered elsewhere, so I won’t dwell …
Something I will mention though, is the way that, once again, the trailer for this movie was completely misleading. Prometheus is not a horror movie. At best it is a science fiction fantasy action movie with one or two ‘squishy‘ deaths that kind of look a bit gross, but are far from scary. Promoting it as a horror movie is grossly misleading.
Second, while I’m talking about trailers … For a movie so shrouded in mystery; an incredibly secretive project right from its announcement, the sheer amount of information given away in trailers was astounding. Not only that, the additional promotional material was yet another step towards revealing just about everything about the movie short of precise details! But never fear, if it was details you were after, you needed to look no further than trailers 3, 4 and 5! Each a little longer than the last, each with another set of clips not seen in the last! Yeah, I should have followed my own advice and made sure I saw nothing in the build up to opening night … but really, for a person that visits his local “world of cine” at least once a week, that would have been just about impossible.
So, by the time I was actually sat in the cinema, watching the absolute earliest viewing I possibly could, the movie played out simply as a connect-the-dots exercise, showing me how all of the scenes already revealed in the many and varied trailers joined up to make a full length feature! I found this to be hugely distracting from the outset. Almost as distracting as the stupid 3D nonsense all over the place, but I’ll refrain from that rant for now.
The third and final gripe for me was the way that Prometheus simply could not decide what it wanted to be. It could easily be argued that this movie explores ideas first introduced by Ridley Scott in Blade Runner rather than Alien. It is very much the story of Fassbender’s android … sorry, synthetic human for a large portion of its run time. At times, it felt very much like Prometheus was attempting to marry the Alien and Blade Runner realities together to form some sort of super Ridley-verse!
Blade Runner references aside, for practically the entire first and second acts, Prometheus is simply a reimagined version of Alien. I know that we were all expecting references to Alien, but there are references and there are complete 100% copy-paste clonings and for me, Prometheus went way too far over the line into clone for a movie claiming to be an addition to the franchise rather than a remake or reboot.
As I already mentioned, the supporting cast was approached in the same way as Alien. But in addition to that, most of the actual plot was lifted directly from the first movie as well.
The entire setup – the ship in deep space, the crew in hypersleep. Crew wakes, has a few discussions about the mission and money. Sound familiar?
Then, the briefing started channelling Aliens – I was just waiting for someone to ask “How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit?” … Plus, of course the vehicles and the scenes inside the ship’s loading bay were far more than simply reminiscent of James Cameron’s contribution to the Alien universe. Then the arrival on the planet. Even the shots of the ship landing were composed exactly the same as in Alien … then the landing party going out and finding the egg-shaped pods … and back to the ship with the android acting all weird, performing analysis on the alien and having secret communications with the evil company …
The whole thing for me was little more than a remak. Ok, it’s the best reboot of the lot in recent memory, (not really saying much) but that is certainly what it was … until the third act kicked in and the plot turned to mush.
I have to say that I expected more given that this was Ridley Scott. And with someone like Damon Lindelof at his side (I think I’d temporarily forgotten the messy conclusion of Lost), I thought that plot would be one area that would have no issues at all. How wrong I was.
So now we know that the Space Jockey was one of these “Engineers“. But, are they the Gods that the movie title suggests? Do they even actually create life anywhere? We know they destroy life, and I suppose it is suggested that they create as well … but then, why does the engineer they wake from hypersleep immediately start killing them? Why DOES he hate the humans as Shaw so cheesily asked? What made Shaw so certain that, once the ship took off, they would be heading for Earth? And why WOULD they be heading to Earth? What were the “Engineers” attacked by all those years ago that killed most of them and forced the last one into hypersleep? Did their own black gunk turn on them?
I’m sure that all of these questions have been left unanswered purposely, creating that sense of mystery and a need for more (see Scott’s comments about “2 more movies before we even get to LV426“), but what started off as an attempt at mystery only ended in widespread confusion.
There are so few explanations for why things are happening, its a wonder that the final cut made it past Ridley’s usually good eye for these things. It ended up feeling like a movie that was perfect, but ran 45 minutes too long … and so had all of the exposition removed in favour of keeping in stuff like the 5 minute shot of the ship crashing back down to the earth and rolling on top of people as they ran away!
Sidebar: On that subject, why the hell were the 2 remaining characters at that point running away from the rolling ship … IN THE DIRECTION IT WAS ROLLING?? Surely, a few seconds of running at 90 degrees to the ship’s “rolling course” would have put them completely out of danger? A small point to pick up on, but one annoying enough to deserve a mention!
I can only deduce that the massive confusion in the third act is just a ploy to sell lots and lots of DVDs in the future as Ridley releases the inevitable sequels, followed by directors cuts, restored cuts, assembly cuts and final cuts, giving us the real plot piece by piece over the next decade. I kind of hope that this is the case because I for one, would really like to know what the ‘expletive deleted‘ was actually going on for the last third of this movie.
Anyway, in conclusion, I think that while Prometheus is flawed and really needs some work if a director’s cut is actually to be coherent, the all-round slating of every aspect that I’ve seen in some places online is undeserved. For all it’s flaws, it is a beautifully shot, visually exciting, well acted and well executed piece of movie making. It is just a shame that Ridley and co. couldn’t decide what they wanted to make before it got to the editing suite. While we should have been enjoying their enjoyment of writing a new chapter in the blessed tome that is The Alien Franchise, more than anything, it is their uncertainty and muddled intent that are apparent on screen.
And finally, I’ve seen it in 3D and 2D. 2D is better. (But you knew that.)
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