Prometheus…What Went Wrong?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

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.”

End Rant.

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.

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10 Responses to “Prometheus…What Went Wrong?”

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I’m surprised by this overwhelming feeling of “meh”. I thought it was fantastic.
As for the open-ended question, here’s my thinking. If we would have gotten a definitive answer, it would have been an answer that exists only within this movie. Obviously Ridley Scott does not have the answer to the existence of life. But by leaving it open-ended, he is able to reach for something more and actually extend that question and its meaning to the audience. This way the film becomes more than film-only dogma, and becomes and exploration of mankind’s quest for the ultimate truth.

Sorry but that’s the kind of justification that winds me up. It’s lazy writing. He could have made all kind of existential points while still having a coherent storyline. Google: “Prometheus unanswered questions” and you’ll see just how many people are struggling to understand what was going on. It’s all very well making something deep and meaningful if you get your point across, but if you’re audience are left confused then it’s not them that are at fault, you have failed as a writer.

“Prometheus” is a turd. It is perfumed and polished, yet, a turd.
The only worthy allegory in the movie is the engineers’ wish to
destroy what they created – like my wish would be too, if I was
Ridley Scott in this situation. Maybe that’s it – he realized what
he’d spawned in the first place – the endless nightmare of sequels
and spin-offs that followed his work of genius with “Alien”, and
thus wanted to kill any possibility whatsoever to continue in
the same vein of degradation. In that manner, he might have
been quite successful.

I think that’s the best comment on Prometheus I’ve read all week. Thanks 😛

I don’t think it needed to be clear cut in its ideas – after all, Kubrick’s 2001 live and breathes because everyone has a different interpretation of it. However, I do think it was lazily plotted – horribly so…and that was my biggest gripe. There was some very poor characterisation and the ending left a lot to be desired – particularly in regards to the Captain and pilot’s completely unbelievable act to “save humankind”. The obvious hints to a sequel were also very poorly handled. Scott should have dropped any reference to Alien and gone a completely different route…

I’m fine with ambiguity if it’s done properly. (But don’t get me started on 2001…) I agree with what you’re saying though, the sudden kamikaze exploits of the crew made no sense in terms of the story arc, particularly since most of the people on that ship didn’t seem to want to be there. And I’m sure you’ve seen the numerous outcries on various blogs asking what about all the other ships on the planet…

I actually didn’t know it was supposed to tie in to Alien until the last minute. I was interested in it as a stand alone film so maybe that’s why I was disappointed because it was trying to do two things at once. Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by Alien. I watched it because it’s a classic, but maybe I need to see it again to understand why everyone makes such a big deal about it.

[…] my last post I had a big rant about open endings and leaving questions unanswered. A couple of days after that I […]

(just as a side note, I’ve read the book the ninth gate is based on, and let’s say the supernatural aspect has been waaaaaaaaaay overplayed in the movie. the book is more of a conspiracy thriller… which makes the movie ridiculous)

I wasn’t blown away by this movie either, Katie. I wasn’t disappointed, it just didn’t impress me aside from the visuals and a few other things. I think it’s great that he presented all the questions, but like you said, Ridley seems to want a lot from this film, a deep, spiritual sci-fi and all that, but ultimately it just falls short.

I think Nick said it best in his review (http://cinemaromantico.blogspot.com/2012/06/prometheus.html) – “Just because a film gives you ideas to discuss with your theater-going pals around coffee afterwards does not automatically mean the film ITSELF was good.” I only gave this movie a 3 out of 5 but man, it had sooo much potential.

Yeah I reckon I’d agree with all of that. It’s good to spark a discussion, but people constantly asking, “what the hell was that bit supposed ot be about?” is not a discussion


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