Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published June 11, 2012
Directed by Ridley Scott
This review has spoilers. Do not read this until you have seen Prometheus.
You know it’s a disappointment when the trailer is creepier than the film itself. Prometheus is an ambitious spectacle about the stellar origins of the human species – grand in visuals, propulsive in action but careless in narrative, frigid in characterization and lightweight in philosophy. See it in IMAX if you can, but don’t bother seeing it in 3D.
What’s the story, mother?
In 2089, anthropologists/archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshal-Green) discover historical records by ancient civilizations on earth that point to an alien invitation from our so-called “engineers.” They then join a scientific exploration team led by Weyland Industries boss Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the secretive android David (Michael Fassbender) aboard the spacecraft Prometheus.
Upon reaching the distant moon LV-223, the crew of Prometheus find strange structures and the remains of giant beings, which seem to have been running away from an unidentified danger. Further investigations would prove deadly to the Prometheus crew.
The film benefits from spectacular visuals and experienced handling from director Ridley Scott who helmed the 1979 Alien original. While performances are generally on-target, especially with Fassbender’s enigmatic David, all characters suffer from uneven motivations and stereotyping that slightly dim the film’s gloss.
As a stand-alone film, the narrative is not distant from many other sci-fi exploration thrillers like Mission to Mars or Event Horizon, nor is it sublime as 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s more akin to Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris – the incoherent 2002 Hollywood distillation of the Andrey Tarkovskiy original about the nature of human intelligence. Interestingly, the space station in Solaris is also called Prometheus.
Worse, Prometheus the movie resorts to narrative shortcuts so sloppy you’d wonder if it really came from the venerated director. This is most obvious in the scene where Idris Elba, playing the ship’s captain Janek, storms into the room to tell Shaw he has figured out what the strange black oil is used for.
Vicker’s character is practically unnecessary save for one “fiery” scene. The scientists are pedestrian ideas of what scientists are and how they behave. The rest of the crew is forgettable to even care for. In all the Alien movies, there’s always a cocky character who ends up doing something heroic that the character is sublimated (like Parker in Alien and Lt. Gorman in Aliens.) It’s because the audience is given the chance to invest in those characters. I can’t say the same for the crew of Prometheus. And Elizabeth Shaw is no Ellen Ripley either.
As for the film’s philosophical insinuations, it offers nothing new that other films such as Contact (1997) asked about religion and science.
Taken as a prequel – which is what it really is considering the many references to the original, the ending, as well as the very appearance of Weyland himself (played by Guy Pearce) – Prometheus simply pales in comparison in tension, in establishing a female superhero and in bending our minds with what could be out there in space.
Expectations were high for this film – fairly or unfairly – but not without reason. As part of the Alien mythology, Prometheus is a prequel 30 years in the making, so it’s not surprising for many, including myself to expect it to be good, if not great. It is a welcome addition to the entire mythos – even expanding it to suggest that the tragedies on the moon LV-223 as well as LV-426, the planet where Ripley first encountered the alien eggs, would have happened and ended similarly wherever in the universe the black oil and eggs were left by the engineers.
It’s terrifically beautiful on screen. But it’s just the narrative sloppiness of it that annoyed me.