Review: A Few Words About 'Prometheus' (And They're Not All Good)

Reviews
by Sergio
June 8, 2012 10:54 AM
15 Comments
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Reposting, since it opens in theaters nationwide today...

Yes the rumblings you’ve heard about Prometheus are true. It is a disappointment.

Of course it’s an understatement to say that Ridley Scott’s sci-fi film is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, let alone the summer. And from the first opening minutes it’s obvious that it wants to be a Serious sci-fi film, with a capital S.

It’s filled with big ideas and thought provoking metaphysical concepts, despite the fact that most of them have been recycled from numerous other sci-fi films from the last 50 years, giving the film a “been there done that” feeling of déjà-vu.

It’s undoubtedly ambitious and being a Ridley Scott film, it is, naturally, impeccably mounted, gleamingly photographed with jaw dropping art direction. Also Scott’s use of the 3D photographic format is constantly inventive and assured. The film never “flattens” out as most 3D films, like The Avengers, tend to do. Scott’s superb visual sense of framing and composition is constantly challenging the viewer’s eye.

The main problem though is that the film never fully fleshes out any of its grand concepts and grandiose ideas. Either they’re not fully developed or left not fully realized. Instead they're left just dangling, waiting for some sort of completion or resolution that never comes.

Add to that the film’s basically underdeveloped, one dimensional characters, including Idris Elba, and what one is left with is a gorgeous looking curate’s egg. Something which is not all good or bad, but frustratingly stuck in the middle. Yet it’s no doubt very pretty to look at.

In the film, a team of scientists and geologists travel to a distant planet to explore whether a race of extinct human-like inhabitants at one time visited earth thousands of years earlier. This is as the result of evidence found in ancient artifacts and cave drawings by primitive civilizations discovered in various places around the world by geologists and archeologists, like Shaw played by Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander).

Also on board are an android (Michael Fassbender doing C3PO by way of David Bowie), the ship’s captain (Elba, with the least convincing Texas drawl you’ll ever hear), and Charlize Theron as the cold, ruthless head of the space mission, representing the company who owns the ship, among other nondescript members of the team.

Once they arrive and explore the planets, they find the ruins, and evidence of that advanced, human-like civilization. However, of course things quickly begin to go awry as secrets and obvious hidden agendas are revealed to the crew, with naturally death and destruction following in its wake.

Unfortunately, the film can’t hold the various concepts and ideas together in a satisfying, structurally sound storyline, resulting in it getting very muddled and haphazard, by the second half of the film. Gruesome deaths (including a bizarrely gory and fascinating surgery sequence), chases and monsters pop up everywhere, making for a confusing, unsatisfying mess.

What is left is basically an unofficial remake of the first Alien film, also directed by Scott, but without its iconic monster who doesn’t figure into the film at all except an awkward, last minute desperate cameo appearance, aimed more to satisfy the Alien fans.

Even worse, as the heroine of the film, Rapace is woefully underwhelming. Instead of having a compelling and unique character such as Lisbeth Salander to work with, her character Shaw, is a more ordinary and unimpressive character who, for a large part of the film, tends to fade into the background.

However illogically, without any previous evidence in the film, she unexpectedly turns during the last 20 minutes of the film into another Ripley (memorably played in the Alien films by Signouney Weaver). Unfortunately Rapace’s tiny frame and her lackluster presence pales significantly against Weaver’s tall, almost Amazonian, more aggressive  Ripley.

And as for those wondering how Elba fares in the film, he does O.K. considering he's not given much at all to work with. Just another faceless cog in the machine. It's fair to say that I think we all can guess what happens to him in the movie, but I won't tell you how or when, except to say that something does occur halfway through the film that almost certainly seals his doom. What this is, I won't say, except that you'll know what I mean when you see it.

What one is left with in Prometheus is a good looking film of missed opportunities, which will no doubt disappoint and frustrate a lot of people (it'll surely have its defenders though, explaining how we missed all the really important messages in the film that don't exist).

Though it’s not even remotely as bad as the disaster some might claim it is, and has some good moments in it, it could have been a whole lot better.

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More: Prometheus, Idris Elba, Ridley Scott

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15 Comments

  • MichelleToo | June 10, 2012 11:28 PMReply

    Dude!

    Don't know what movie y'all was watching, but Sergio, this was as perfect a review of the movie as the movie was imperfect. Seriously, reading this review was more satisfying than watching the movie. At least now I know I am not crazy for thinking the exact same thing.

  • Donnie Leapheart | June 9, 2012 10:46 PMReply

    I think it just comes down to taste. This was a very satisfying "hard science fiction" film for me. I'll probably see it a couple more times. As for muddled story and one-demensional characters, Sergio could easily be writing about "2001: A Space Odyssey" and it's considered one of the greatest scifi films of all time. I'll take a thought-provoking "Prometheus" over an overly explained and overly long film like "Avatar" any day.

  • Savage Darky | June 16, 2012 8:52 PM

    Thought provocation is inherent in all art. That's why we make it and procure the stuff. The type and quality of those thoughts is what makes art memorable. My thought after seeing Prometheus was simply, "What time is it? Now where is the restroom?"

  • filmkzp | June 9, 2012 4:22 PMReply

    Not sure what movie Sergio is talking about, but the Prometheus I saw was profoundly satisfying. It was Stephen Hawking who said, "If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet." Prometheus is about Aliens visiting us, and us THEM, and finding out that that meeting ones Maker might not be such a good idea. Muddled? I should say not.

  • sergio | June 16, 2012 11:38 PM

    "If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet.

    A friend of mine has informed me that that Native American line is from Battleship. You're quoting BATTLESHIP to defend Prometheus? Seriously? What a fraud!

  • LMG | June 9, 2012 5:22 AMReply

    I agree 150% with this review. The writing and plot structure was rich with promise and a pauper in deliverance. Threads went nowhere or where tidily used at conclusions to barely mask how weak the writing was in this piece. It started with a weak, but plausible premise and then unraveled because of its lack of focus. I was so disappointed. If not for the visuals this would have been a total waste of time. It certainly was a total waste of A-list talent.

  • michele | June 8, 2012 9:33 PMReply

    I didn't enjoy this film either Sergio. A LOT of missed opportunities and little to no answers. It's a wreck of a film. And sacrificial minority deaths are a staple of the Alien franchise, Yaphet Koto, Charles S Dutton and Gary Dourdan all bit it in the name of whitey.

  • michele | June 9, 2012 10:08 AM

    "all bit it in the name of someone else' there's the more PC version. 'I'm out of control? Really?'
    Undercoverbrother - I don't have the shut the hell up. I can have an opinion and type just like you

    --everyone can go back to being hostile in the Django posts comment section - I didn't post there

  • Nadine | June 8, 2012 10:41 PM

    ... dudes are out of control these days. There was no better way to say that to Michele?

  • Undercover Brother | June 8, 2012 10:32 PM

    Oh, shut the hell up. Not everything is about race. Idris' role wasn't even originally written for a black man, so your argument is null and void.

  • Neziah | June 8, 2012 8:34 PMReply

    I found it was very good. I preferred not to go in expecting another "Alien". I went in with a clear mind and no expectations and enjoyed myself just fine.

  • Savage Darky | June 17, 2012 9:06 PM

    I could argue that there was no horror in Prometheus, (for me anyway). I could argue that it doesn’t hold up against films that are categorized in the horror genre. But I cannot argue with what you find to be horrific as that is a subjective thing born of your experiences and filtered through your unique point of view. I once booked a room at one of London’s 5 star hotels and was horrified to find blood on the bed sheets. I can’t imagine that situation not being universally horrific, but then again there’s someone out there who could curl up and have a cozy sleep on those very same sanguine sheets. It ain’t me for sure. I was airborne in a matter of seconds landing at the concierge’s desk with a grievance that no amount of proper British pomp was going to assuage. (I realize that my position is circumstantial and that in a post nuclear pogrom, I could probably sleep on a pile of radioactive corpses, until then, luckily I'm still able to hold to a higher standard).
    But regarding the Ridley Scott’s opus, Prometheus was born in the skin of a sci-fi flick with a well-respected pedigree. It has a legacy to live up to. Any film has to balance a web of creative concerns to emerge as a successful work of art. Art is the target and anywhere close to that lofty bullseye is worth the price of a ticket. Prometheus fails to be a cohesive work. It still has plenty of art to appreciate in its component parts but as a film telling a tale, it comes undone. Sergei Eisenstein who explored the story telling techniques of cinema and dialectic montage in his film Potempkin, might say that Prometheus has missed the mark. I’d say the dart has missed the board entirely and impaled some poor sap standing off to the side of the dartboard. That sap is the audience.

  • Neziah | June 16, 2012 9:37 PM

    To answer your first question, no, I don't, but in this case, it was necessary. In regards to everything else you said, that's obviously where we differ because I found Prometheus perfectly entertaining. As a piece of intelligent science fiction, it's certainly lacking, but as a horror film, it's good stuff, IMO.

  • Savage Darky | June 16, 2012 8:58 PM

    Do you often go to see a work of art or fiction with no expectations? Well suppose you sat there and discovered that you had stumbled on a performance piece where for 90 plus minutes absolutely nothing appeared on the screen? Would you foster some expectations then? I always expect a strong story unfolding in an entertaining fashion, because that's what I'm paying for. If I wanted a clear mind I wouldn't be feeding it any art at all. I'd contemplate my navel instead.

  • sean | June 8, 2012 4:35 PMReply

    didnt find it disappointing at all. and thats coming from someone who places alien in there top 10 movies of all time so i had huge expectations for this. i thought it was a great sci fi movie. better than alien. but less focused than alien. alien was a better movie but this is still one of the best sci fi movies ever.

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