Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prometheus - Review

Before I forget my initial reactions to the visually splendid new sci fi film Prometheus, here they are. In a nutshell, I almost loved it but not quite.

30 some years after directing the space horror movie Alien, director Ridley Scott brings us back to the creepy-crawly universe that scared the bejeezus* out of us. (*The term "bejeezus" is used deliberately. See spoiler note below.) His starting point, he has said in interviews, is the so-called Space Jockey from Alien. Who was he? Where did he come from? What killed him?

In this outing, Scott takes us to a time prior to the adventures of Ellen Ripley, the hero played by Sigourney Weaver in the original. In Prometheus, he gives us a whole new cast of characters, including the ship's captain (played by Idris Elba), an icy executive (played by Charlize Theron), a hologram billionaire named Weyland (played under pounds of makeup by Guy Pearce) whose company finances the trip into space, and a Blade Runner-ish synthetic character called "David" (played by Michael Fassbender), the android with a secret purpose. Plus we meet the "Engineers." The less said about who they are, the better. (For those intrigued, here is a fascinating deconstruction:

The nominal star is Noomi Rapace (of the original Girl With Dragon Tattoo films) as a visionary and faith-filled scientist named Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. She and her scientist boyfriend are searching for the origins of life on Earth by following an ancient star map to a distant planet. Rapace carries the film well though script issues undermine her efforts.

At the risk of going into spoilery territory, let me offer a brief analysis. First, think back to Scott's original Alien. When the suspense and terror of that movie grabbed ahold of you, it did not let go until Ripley blasted the monster out of the door into space. (The non-Scott follow-up Aliens also had a very well-structured throughline to an equally satisfying climactic battle.) In Prometheus, there is a bit too much going on, some of which frankly seemed out of sequence. One scene in particular (hint: this film's answer to the chest bursting scene in Alien) occurs way before it should have for maximum impact. And two crucial characters (hint: they have a father-daughter type relationship) are dispatched in pointless ways when they could have had a much more glorious demise if the script writers had used a wee bit more imagination.

The end result is the last half of the film goes clunkety clunk when it should have gone voom.

Still I give it a thumbs up for its eye-filling visuals and recommend that anyone who likes sci fi should go see it.

Spoiler Note: While his original film Alien does a very good job of scaring audiences out of their wits, in Prometheus (and the intended sequel) Scott is trying to do what William Friedkin did in The Exorcist: combine gooey horror scares with a deep sense of awe and mystery about the religious beliefs (including Christianity) we have inherited from the past. Prometheus comes close but misses by just a smidgen and ends up a muddle.

Addendum: I have just read an interview with Ridley Scott where he is envisioning a sequel that follows the further exploits of Dr. Shaw and David the robot as they go in search of the mystery behind the Engineers. I am looking forward to it.


  1. No! It's utter rubbish - crushingly so. I was really looking forward to it and was SO disappointed. Not a single character I cared about (not even David - some of his lines were nonsensical and the biologist and the geologist were especially ridiculous) and a complete mess of a story full of errors - especially the science and religious nonsense. To cap it all there was no tension as in the 1st film and no heroics as in the second film. For me this is the worst film in the franchise (just behind 3) and sits very close to the Predator v Alien rubbish. All this in the same week that we lost one of our greatest sci-fi storytellers, Ray Bradbury! Horrible film.

  2. Well said, Scott. I know what you mean because I had a very similar reaction though not as strongly negative. I guess I landed more on the positive side of the fence. We are like Siskel and Ebert, one thumb up (haltingly), and one thumb down (decidedly). By the way, I am also a Bradbury fan from way back as a kid reading Dandelion Wine. Thanks for commenting!

  3. My problem with the film is that it seemed more of a masturbatory stroking of scott's own ego than an actual attempt to make a compelling prequel. Say what you want about George lucas, when he made the star wars prequels he endeavored to make them their own free-standing stories. This movie drags you through thorn bushes of awful pacing and cliched self-reference only to arrive at a foregone conclusion completely unceremoniously. Also, I don't care how much you may or may not like guy pearce, ridley, there are fantastic elderly actors in the world who wouldn't have looked so ridiculous and wouldn't have taken me and many people seated near me completely out of the story simply by coming on screen. To sum up, me no likey

  4. I have to agree with thelyonhart here. My whole group came away with a collective "meh" when we were all very much looking forward to it. The only appeal was the visuals and, personally, with no Logan Marshal-Green in the sequel I have no interest.

  5. Welcome Sky and thelyonhart! It is truly a pleasure to welcome you both to my movie lovin blog. We should all go to the movies together some day with the rest of the gang. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Yep, not a fan of this film at all. I know I didn't see it in 3D but as I said in my review: if the story isn't there, I really don't care about the visuals. Oh well. We have the first two movies to remember fondly :-)