Prometheus: A Spoiler Filled Review (Spoilers!)

David's got a real case of blue ball.

David's got a real case of blue ball.

I’ve never struggled as much as I have with a review as I had to with Prometheus. Where do I start? There’s just so much to the movie (both good and bad) that its all flying around in my head. And you know what? I’d say that’s a good thing. I guess a good starting point is by recognizing the fact that Prometheus is the prequel nobody really wanted, but got anyway. No matter if you liked Prometheus or hated it, its for certain that you never once thought during any of the Alien movies, “They should make a movie that takes place before Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo run across the derlect craft and have a bit of a monster problem.” I always thought that whatever happened pre-Alien was all a non-human story that might be interesting, but the mystery of not knowing was so much better. Still, for whatever reason Ridley Scott decided to go back to the well and give us a prequel to his seminal film… of sorts.

Prometheus is the story of some humans that decide to go travel across the galaxy to find the alien beings that may or may not have created us. Of course, everything goes to shit and they end up having lots of problems, since it is an Aliens film (sort of).

The two scientists in charge of the mission have gathered some clues left by ancient man to point out a star system where they believe that ancient astronauts who may have given us life originate. The whole shebang is funded by the Weyland corporation, and as previous movies that take place in the Alien franchise have shown us, their motives for funding the mission aren’t exactly altruistic. BUM BUM BUMMMM!

The visuals are frankly stunning and one of the first things I noticed when watching Prometheus is that they really captured the look of the ship interiors of the original Aliens films… what with the doors and the hallways and the glowing floating text… Oh that’s right, the computers in Alien and Aliens looked nothing like this. Prometheus suffers a lot from “technological prequelitis”. While the physical world appears to be the same one where Alien takes place, the technology of their computers is far, far advanced. That’s just nitpicking though.

Ridley Scott is the master of creating mood with excellent visual design and Prometheus is no exception, if you can forget the fact that the computers in Alien made the C64 look space age. The visual design made me want to watch Blade Runner for the 89th time and I think that’s a good thing.

Prometheus has really divided people and its easy to see why. There’s those who can accept the films faults and those who cannot. I break down the flaws into two catagories: 1. the mysteries. 2. the characters. The mysteries are mostly a problem not just because they go unresolved, great sci-fi usually leaves open ended questions. The problem here is that they felt kind of Lost-like. It seemed like shit was being thrown out there not intelligently, but rather as to throw mysterious crap out there. If you got a Lost-like vibe, there’s a good reason. The movie was written by Damon Lindelof, one of the showrunners of Lost. And while I liked that series until the end (and even most of the ending), I didn’t like how they kept throwing up mysteries for the sake of doing so. Not everything is supposed to have a reason, but it should feel like that there is a reason that we just can’t grasp. Prometheus rides that fine line and I guess only a sequel would let us know for sure whether or not the movie is actually as smart as its trying to be.

"Let's take off our helmets and bumble around. It will be awesome!"

"Let's take off our helmets and bumble around. It will be awesome!"

The second biggest flaw is the characters. Damn, they sure make some pretty bizarre and often frustrating decisions. For example, the crazy bearded geologist manages to get lost… despite the fact he’s the guy that brought the devices that mapped the ship out and he seemed pretty proud of them. Out of any of the crew members you’d think that he’d be the least likely to get lost. Then there’s the biologist that decides its a good idea to try to touch the creature that is hissing at him. Now, imagine an alien coming to our planet and finding a king cobra with it’s hood out in full pissed off mode, while the alien is trying to pat it on the head. What kind of scientist behaves like that with a complety alien creature? Or how about when the bloody and half naked Noomi Rapace enters a room and nobody really reacts to it, like its the most normal thing in the world? I could also mention the fact that trying to outrun a giant wheel-like object might seem like a dumb idea instead of running sideways out of its path, but never having been in that position I really can’t criticize.

I’m hoping there’s an extended cut that helps smooth some of these issues or give us more interplay among some of the other characters that barely get any screen time, particularly with the captain and the crewmen that decide to sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity.

The special effects were amazing in 3D. However, the “Engineers” or Space Jockeys, as they are known in the Alien expanded universe, looked like some crappy CGI creations, though maybe it didn’t help that I was seeing them in IMAX. Speaking of the Space Jockeys, I’ve thought for 20 years that the pilots were a creepy looking alien race and then I find out that they’re these big white guys. It works for the story, but its a bit of a disappointing reveal. And while I’m on the subject of fake looking stuff, damn the pretend old man sure looked like crap. They must plan on re-using the actor as a younger version of himself for more than just viral internet videos, because I can’t think of any reason they faked out a 90 year old dude. It almost never looks convincing when filmmakers do that sort of thing and they did not pull it off with Prometheus.

It might sound like I’m trashing Promethues because I did not enjoy it. I actually liked it quite a bit, despite its flaws. I’m able to get past them and enjoy the rest of the film for what it is. Hell, if you want to include it in the panthoen of Alien related movies, I’d much rather take a flawed movie with lots of ideas as opposed to an abortion like Alien Resurrection. Despite some of the stupid actions of characters, there are some excellent moments and some truely great characters. Most fans of the film seem to have seemed to latched onto David played by Micheal Fastbender as the stand out character. While I found him as intriguing as everyone else, Noomi Rapace is great and is in one of the best scenes in the film (the automatic surgery box), and aforementioned captain of the Prometheus was a great character despite his minimal screen time.

Overall, any review from a critic I trusted has boiled down to the opinion that Prometheus is a good film even though it is deeply flawed. I totally agree with this opinion and eagerly await the release of the the (hopefully expanded) Blu-Ray release of the film. Any film that features suspense, atmospheric settings, action, and horror in it and makes me think about it is a win in my book.

Score: 4 out of 5 chest bursters

On a side note, I avoided any trailers after the initial teaser. I’m glad I did, there’s trailers I’ve seen of this film after the fact that pretty much spoil everything.

  • I liked the movie, but I really need to see it again to know how much. The geologist getting lost didn’t really bother me too much, but what did was that those two seemed to have no problem going into that room after being too afraid to go anywhere near it before. Overall though, I liked the characters and especially Shaw, David, Vickers and the Captain.

    If you are trying to answer mysteries that have been around for over 20 years, it is hard to not have some disappointment, but I thought they did a good job of revealing stuff, but leaving more unanswered.

    One of the most enjoyable parts of the movie was trying to figure out how everything fit together in the “Alien” universe as I was watching it.

    While the movie has its flaws, it left a to talk about and a lot of unanswered questions to resolve. Hopefully we’ll get another one before not too long.

  • One other frustrating thing was it went about 3/4 of the way to setting up the events that occur before Alien but then bail. So for Alien to happen, ANOTHER human has to ingest the black goo, have sex with another human, and the alien from THAT has to impregnate the dead space jockey we saw in the original Alien. That… seems unlikely.

  • Great review man, pretty much my sentiments as well.

    The stuff I’ve read since the movie came out clears up a lot for me, but thats a huge flaw itself. I shouldn’t have to read a doctorate level post mortem of the movie to undertand it, lol. I still liked it, and I hope the sequel actually answers some of the questions out loud instead of just hinting and poking at them like they did in this movie. While all his movies require analysis after, this one was especially muddled (Lindelof’s influence?)

    And the funniest part to me is that Alien Resurrection was written by Joss Whedon. Explains why some of the dialog was good, and possibly why the story was so bad. And don’t get me wrong, I love Joss and most of his stuff.

  • Actually Chris, I agree but in a way I can see that the Space Jockey that gets implanted by the alien virus being closer to or at least the end of the Alien evolutionary track as we know it. That way by the time he gets infected the whole egg/face hugger/adult alien thing we know and love is all set in stone.

  • Chrispian, I’ve read a lot about Resurrection. One of the problems is that they made him change the ending about 3 or 4 times, each time going with a shittier version due to budget. And then on top of that all the acting, direction, visuals, everything was horrid. The problem was bringing Ripley back in the first place, but again that was another studio choice.

  • Yeah, I read something about that too. I seem to remember something about that happening or similar on the 3rd movie too (the prison one). That’s one of the problems with movies. You get studios involved trying to make money decisions on something that’s supposed to be entertaining. Like in this movie, I read that they wanted the whole autodoc / c-section scene cut. Not shortened, but cut entirely. Yeah, it was pretty intense but they didn’t need to cut it and I’m glad Ridley fought them on that. I liked all the alien movies… some more than others. I know some people who can’t tell the difference between “I like this” and “this is a good movie”, they aren’t always the same thing.

  • Why does the black goo sometimes create new life, and sometimes create monsters? It’s like it has magical rules.

  • Chris, one of the things I read about that was the goo reacts to those around it. The Engineers are creators, life givers and sacrifice themselves in order to create live. Humans, at least as portrayed in the movie, hunger for life, power and knowledge. When we entered the room we “changed the atmosphere”, suggesting that we changed the goo (paraphrasing the article I read). I can accept that. However, my problem is that I had to go read an article to figure that out. It was neither obvious nor explained in the movie!

  • I just figured that the black goo wasn’t always the same thing. Just because pills are shaped alike, doesn’t mean they do the same things.

  • But yes, I agree that the seemingly random properties of the stuff was distracting. The fictional world needs rules in order to work, and those rules were either non-existent or intentionally vague.

  • That’s a theory that makes sense but there’s not much to suggest that in the movie. I also read that an early draft of the film hinted that Jesus was an Engineer and when humanity killed him, that’s what made them want to kill us. It makes sense but there’s nothing in the movie to suggest it, so now it’s just bizarre that they created us and now want to kill us.

  • Totally agree. If the theories about Jesus and the goo are right, then they should have stronger clues in the movie and not simply symbolic references that are pretty hard to spot. I think it’s a big of a rip off to introduce only new questions with very, very few answers at all. This was just a prequel to the real prequel where we’ll get answers in the next exciting chapter! lol.

  • I think if the Jesus thing were in it, I would have hated the movie. I’m not sure exactly why, but one thing would be that it would tie too deeply into Christian mythology and Jesus’s teachings never included anything that could have been interpreted as space aliens made us. Now if it was a Jesus LIKE figure, then that totally could work.

    But it’s not in the movie, so who knows!

    I was going to do a post on unanswered questions, then thought not to. Would you guys be interested in seeing that?

  • Yeah, I like that sort of stuff. Post away.

  • Jon

    I didn’t read any other reviews or commentary before I saw Prometheus over the weekend. The two things I took away:

    – Ridley Scott has some tremendous doubts on the role religion plays in our culture.

  • this review was pretty much right on in terms of what i thought about the movie. everyone is an idiot. the visuals and the questions raised are interesting, but everyone acts like they’re a teenager in a slasher flick when in fact they were all respected scientists. and some stuff like the fake old man was just odd and distracting. I feel like if ALIEN never got released in 1979 and instead languished in development hell until now, this is probably the movie we’d get if it took until 2012 to get released. same basic plot, just tweaked and made more bombastic (EVERYTHING is SOMETHING!). so yeah, i’m quite conflicted about this film.