Culture

The rapid fall of “Prometheus”

prometheus

Prometheus

dir. Ridley Scott

Release Date: Jun 08, 12

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Prometheus is a big-budget flop, and whether it’s called that will be determined in time by its monetary accomplishments. It could well be a colossal hit, discussed in hazy detail by spliff-toking college undergraduates until time immemorial. More deservedly, it will struggle to make back its clearly massive budget and teach 20th Century Fox a lesson about what happens when an extremely pretty, high-gloss movie desperately lacks the core content to justify its existence. If this is what Ridley Scott views as a canonical addition of value to the Alien series he created, then may he never get that supposed Blade Runner sequel/prequel off the ground. It will almost assuredly end up one of the great disappointments of its year, much like Prometheus will be for 2012.

But let me back up a moment. The film follows the crew of the deep-space ship Prometheus, headed to a far-off planet based on a series of recurring cave drawings all over the Earth, interpreted to be an invitation. Fueled by curiosity about the origins of humanity, an expedition is assembled to try and make contact with the so-called “engineers” of all life. At the film’s beginning, it is near the end of the year 2093, and the crew has been asleep in stasis for nearly two years. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, finely doing her best Sigourney Weaver) and her boyfriend Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) spearhead the journey at the behest of the Weyland Corporation, who have sent along company woman Ms. Vickers (Charlize Theron, icy as hell) and the ageless android David (Michael Fassbender) to assist in their research. Everybody has ulterior motives for coming along, from the pilot (Idris Elba) who wants to get everyone home safely to the roughnecks who just want to get paid. I won’t spend much more time telling you about these people, though, because Prometheus has little to no interest in any of them.

What it’s more concerned with is, in addition to the utter beauty of the film’s ethereal cinematography, a series of increasingly onerous treatises on the twin natures of atheism and faith, wrapped in several layers of “who are we?”-style navel gazing. There are a lot of intriguing cosmic questions raised by the film, chief among them the idea that maybe there are things meant to be left unknown in the world, and that the hunt for knowledge could lead to mankind’s undoing. It’s a very conservative view of space travel and other world, one which Scott doesn’t really flesh out, instead content to put on his latter-day version of the sci-fi horrorshow that made Alien an indisputable classic. The trouble there is that Prometheus doesn’t commit to any one concept with nearly enough conviction to sell any of the film’s many, many disparate moving parts. There’s horror (a scene involving a surgery machine is the film’s one genuinely great moment, if a bit derivative of past series installments), action, subplots galore and plenty of casual philosophy, but the film simply dabbles in all of the above to the point where when things inevitably go to hell around and aboard the ship, there’s little to no investment on the audience’s part on anything that’s happening.

Among the film’s more glaring flaws is its total mishandling of a stellar cast. Rapace is sweet and steely in equal doses, the perfect heroine for a Ridley Scott vehicle, and Fassbender in particular is memorable as David, who destroys the concept of the Uncanny Valley. He’s so forced in his humanity that when his traveling companions openly insult him, he can only respond with studied, cold kindnesses. Theron is given little to do but play the kind of ice queen role she could deliver in her sleep, Elba gets a series of one-liners and virtually everybody else is treated as cannon fodder, there just to continually ignore the many warnings of “Don’t touch that.” (That’s easily the best drinking game that could be played to the film.) Even when things start exploding and slimy tentacles appear in abundance, Prometheus feels less like a movie than a series of expansive video game cutscenes bereft of any kind of narrative context. People die in extravagant ways, but there’s no anchor to make any of it mean anything, odd given the film’s obsession with appearing as though it’s all about the Big Questions.

A lot of blame lies with the screenplay, the blame for which can be attributed to Jon Spahits (of last year’s The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof, whose prior affiliation as one of the creative minds behind Lost has drawn many to compare Prometheus many unsolved riddles to that show’s Byzantine backstories. Where Lost at least committed to character over mythology near the end, though, Prometheus raises myriad questions that it has no particular interest in answering, wraps them in an aesthetically pleasing bow and leaves audiences to presumably marvel at how there’s clearly more going on than they could possibly understand. It’s a neat bit of sleight of hand that also insults its audience’s intelligence when one realizes that the whole thing is smoke and mirrors, from the opening prologue that holds little to no bearing on the rest of the film, to a climax that involves colossal destruction and one thoroughly half-assed reference to Alien without anything being resolved or even addressed. Prometheus has its touches that allow for a sequel, but one can only hope that this assumed franchise-starter reaches the same rapid, untimely end as nearly everybody in it.

  • S Corbin

    Yes, exactly.

  • Framedp

    I totally agree with this review

  • Anonymous

    u mad?

  • http://deficiency.tumblr.com

    This review is spot on.

  • freshlychoppedbasil

    Absolutely spot on. Mr Scott’s been in decline for a while and if he’s serious about a Blade Runner sequel then evidently he has further to fall.

  • Anonymous

    “Prometheus is a big-budget flop, and whether it’s called that will be determined in time by its monetary accomplishments. ”

    You have miraculously combined awful grammar with incoherence. The reader is left to wonder what your exact intention was, as if you have engaged in some kind of quantum field theory of writing, where you can say multiple things at once and not be concerned about what the reader might understand.

    “It’s a very conservative view of space travel and other world, one which Scott doesn’t really flesh out, instead content to put on his latter-day version of the sci-fi horrorshow that made Alien an indisputable classic”

    “Prometheus feels less like a movie than a series of expansive video game cutscenes bereft of any kind of narrative context. People die in extravagant ways, but there’s no anchor to make any of it mean anything”

    So you liked Alien because it was a ‘sci-fi horrorshow’. But you hate Prometheus because  it is a sci fi horror show. OK. Other than the entire plot of betrayal, secrecy, regret, greed, & several other themes that are explored. 

    “the opening prologue that holds little to no bearing on the rest of the film, ”

    The giant Baby and the stargate at the end of 2001 had no bearing on the rest of that film either but its kind of, you know, what we do here in imagination land. We have things on screen that make people ask questions. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Melat/1331583316 Jesse Melat

      Actually, your grammar tests out as much worse than his, according to the automated grammar checkers I fed it through.  : )     Make of that what you will.  

      And yes I removed the parts where you quoted his review.

      Anyway, I do agree he didn’t explain himself as best he could.   Prometheus for me was a lot like Event Horizon, only it abuses biology instead of metaphysics.  Alien knew what it was; was focused, tight, and without an once of fat on it.  And yet it still left us with haunting questions–ones that didn’t have to be spoonfed to us via the dialogue, either.  Prometheus is a chubby kid with ADHD.   Just like its screenwriter. : )
      Also I think you’re mistaking “themes” for “stuff that happens in the movie”.  There is a difference.   Still, you’re better than most of this movie’s defenders, who seem to have to make up stuff that wasn’t in the movie in order to do so.    The whole script seems like a rough outline that was shot in lieu of a finished, polished product.  Lindeloff has made a career out doing this, so it’s not surprising, I suppose.

      • BlackGoo

        How can someone say something is a flop before its first weekend? Eh? Movie was good, admittedly the writers went overboard LOST style with their half-baked riddles, but overall it has great animaiton, suspense, some great action and a few mind bedners thrown in. So many people have made a meal of the fact that many plot themes got left hanging and had no resolution. Only a few elements were pointless in the plot,but the rest just didn’t need to be unecessarily spelt out in detail to the audience, as that would have made for one really boring film. 
        Prometheus is now closely compared to Alien, but that film was just a horror-in-space slaher flick, albeit a really great one. They are quite different movies. Overall Prometheus was quite good, and I think it will grow over time to be a mini-classic.

        • BlackGoo

          sorry about awful typo’s

    • Anonymous

      This article is spot on. This movie is a complete mess and a waste of money and acting talent. I regretted paying to see it.

      Oh and get over yourself with TRYING to pick up grammar issues. Language online is evolving into a rapid paced less rules constrained dialect. The web is warping the English dialect – by now it is probably unrecognisable to old people hence all their bitching like big babies about it.

      As far as I can see whoever wrote this is well schooled in the English language and chooses to write in a modern way. I enjoyed this article. If anyone is incoherent it is you my friend as you are either a stake holder in this crap movie or you are just trolling for fun.

      Nice article thank you I agree 100% but could not have put it into these wonderful words and images!

    • Youdumbass

      Lol you freaking idiot. Don’t tell someone they can’t spell if you, yourself can’t spell things right. Spelling nazi.

  • Jake

    So far, Prometheus had one of the highest grossing opening days ever for an R rated movie.

  • Madlove

    I loved this movie and I’m not an idiot.

  • madprometheusfan

    WHOEVER WROTE THIS REVIEW IS AWFUL GRAMMAR!

  • Alien Lover

    This movie is a SCI FI movie about aliens and there is lots of them, if I wanted to see a movie about Humans there is way more to choose from.
    I suggest you keep reviewing those kind of movies cos this one is trying to take you to unknown places in unknown ways.

  • Judged41

    Quite true, this movie was an awful disappointment.

    • Synthburn

       Glad someone mentioned this, 3 weeks in and with many people having seen it multiple times in imax 3d, it is profiting like a motherfucker. Once its released on bluray its only a matter of time until the sequal is announced as having been green lit.. But haters gonna hate (and make shit up that has no basis in reality instead of spending the 4 seconds it takes to type the name of the movie into google and do your damn research before writing an article)

  • Jc

    Hey guess what mr blogger guy… budget recouped in a week

  • Marion-w

    There are a lot forums and reviews on the web by people who love it, hate it, want to marry it  and those who want to go see it again to reaccess it. It made money only because of the trailer’s interesting advertisements. The problem I had was not that I did not understand it or “get it” I just couldn’t pull much entertainment value from it. I liked the first Alien film, but there was no mystery for me of where the creature was born from or what it’s agendas were. I really no real interest of where I came form other than my mom’s vagina. These films are just meanderings of super silly men, watch or don’t watch but don’t waste any more valuable time trying to formulate its meaning.  Good grief, get a life, go boink your wife. 

  • Gadf

    Prometheus.  We were told how this movie was going to ask the big Eric Von Daniken question, “Where did we come from?”  The movie is proposterous as it does not answer any big question of where life started from.  It just gives us an awful undeveloped script and we are laughably told we come from these Space Engineers.  Well I’ve got a bigger question then, “Who created the Space Engineers then?”  It’s so ludicrous.  This movie is not on the same level as Alien.  It has no script, no characters, the actors were totally wooden and I’m sorry they won’t get an oscar for it which they assumed would be automatic.  Ridley Scott has seriously lost it and is cynically cashing in.  He should of left the mystery of the original Alien alone.  This film will fade in time and be classed as a B Movie flop.  They missed a great opportunity.  Anyone who seriously likes this film can’t appreciate the original which was class.  It had so much atmosphere.  This film is about as atmospheric as a McDonald’s restaurant.  It was so cold.

  • winzentween

    agree 100% this film fails because on a fundamental level it simply does not know what it wants to be.