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.
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.