Prometheus…What Went Wrong?
I’m not going to add anything to the interwebs by writing a review of Prometheus saying it was disappointing. There is an overwhelming feeling of “meh” from pretty much every direction. So instead I figured I’d share some thoughts (not all of them are mine) on why its turning into one of the biggest let down movies of the year. (There are spoilers so this is your warning.)
I think the biggest problem is it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. Is it a straight up Sci-Fi/Action movie? Or a more deep evaluation of the origins of humanity? Or a prequel to Alien? Apparently Ridley Scott thought he could pull off all three at once. Turns out he can’t. In fact, of the many unfinished parallel plotlines, the only one which felt like it had any sense of completeness was the brief hints to being an Alien precursor, which for some reason was repeatedly denied during the films early promo…
There are a lot of characters in Prometheus. A lot. Standard set up for a film where you need a lot of Red Coats to kill off, but the only characters with any kind of development were Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s much hyped David. Having said that though, Shaw is nothing more than Ripley with a different name, and while Fassbender makes a very convincing slightly sinister robot, there’s nothing new there, and his motives were entirely confusing. We were left trying to work out if he was infecting people with toxic alien sludge (‘cos that’s a thing) for some higher purpose, following orders from above or just a randomly evil robot…
As for the other characters, Charlize Theron is completely wasted, and the plot “twist” involving her and her not-so-dead Dad is just thrown away, leaving me wondering why they bothered to have it in the first place. The rest of the characters are disposed of with little ceremony, and are fairly indistinguishable so there isn’t much impact; it’s all just a bit formulaic.
Enough moaning about character development, on to my other pet peeve: bad Science.
Dear God there is some bad Science in this film! I’m fairly sure Ridley Scott has no basic understanding of Biology. Obviously, I’m not expecting perfect theses from films, but there’s a “Sci” in front of the “Fi” for a reason and genetic disease doesn’t suddenly manifest and make you act like you caught the Rage Virus. Just Saying.
Also, how does the black slime that went into Charlie’s Mouth end up with a worm in his eye and a squid in his wife? And DNA doesn’t just float about in the middle of cells. And you can’t point at someone who is acutely ill and say “it’s not contagious, this is genetic.”
No, wait a minute, one more thing: you poke a dead brain in the locus coeruleus and it comes back to life?!? Seriously?!
All of the above could potentially be forgiven though if the film had some good set piece action sequences and a coherent plot. But it doesn’t. The plot is so full of holes it makes a more convincing Swiss cheese than a movie. It’s one of those films where the more you think about it, the more things you find that just don’t make sense. Most frustrating of all though is the lack of resolution. I have a big problem with open-ended movies which leave questions just for the sake of it. It’s what me and my sister refer to as a “Ninth Gate” in reference to one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen which as far as I can tell just stops for no reason. Probably because it was just getting embarrassing and the production crew thought they might as well quit while they were behind.. Films like Inception use their open endings to keep the audience thinking, but Prometheus keeps lining up big questions and then not answering them. I’ve already said that Charlize Theron’s relationship with her father is wasted, and there are other little plot lines that are opened and then never closed, but the most frustrating of all is the reveal that the “Engineers” decided to wipe out the human race but never letting us know why. I know he’s left that open deliberately but why? What does it add to the film?
It starts out with the crew trying to understand their origins and wanting to literally meet their makers. OK, with you so far. Turns out the aliens all got wiped out by some mysterious thing which they handily captured on holographic candid camera so that people could find it and think it was a good idea to go into the room full of dead guys…right I can just about buy that. But when the humans work out that the aliens were killed by their own biological weapon which was meant for them it all gets a bit vague. The one surviving alien is woken up and decided to go on a one man killing spree to take out all the humans before setting off to complete his mission of destroying every living thing on Earth. Cos he can. The fact that his entire crew have been killed by the toxic sludge/wormy guys doesn’t at all make him think twice about setting off in a spaceship filled with the stuff. Sure that will work out just fine. And while we’re at it, if you want to wipe out a race that you created, why would you choose to do it by creating another race which is equally capable of wiping you out? These alien dudes did not think it through….
And all of that is before you start asking yourself why the guy at the beginning drank the black stuff to kill himself….and why when he had it he just dissolved, whereas Charlie looked like his veins were trying to explode out of his face and Fifield went all 28 days later….And are the snakey things that came out of the black water different to whatever is in that black sludge….And…???
See what I’m getting at? The more you think about it the less makes sense. It feels like an unfinished film because there are just so many questions, but it’s a long film, so it’s not like they don’t have time to answer them. I wonder if maybe he was holding out for a sequel (there are about a bajillion Alien films, so I wouldn’t put it past him) but I have no idea where he’d go with it, other than to just have someone stand there for two hours and explain all the bits that made no sense.
So that’s what went wrong with Prometheus. It was massively hyped up but it doesn’t deliver. It’s trying too hard to be everything at once when all we really wanted (if we’re honest) was another Alien. A Sci-Fi thriller with some scary looking creatures and a girl running around in her pants. We actually get all of that in Prometheus but it’s so buried under all the extra fluff that’s trying to make it not look like Alien that it doesn’t work. Ridley Scott should have stuck to what he knew.