***Beware of spoilers***
Three decades ago, I remember a moment in our family history that would have a profound impact on me- the purchase of our very first VHS player (which weighed 100 lb and costs $1000!). Our first movie was Alien (1979). I was way to young to be watching something so horrific but it probably helps explain my present day scarred nerd psyche. Besides impacting my geek development, Ridley Scott’s vision of ‘Jaws in space’ not only launched an enormous franchise but also influenced a generations of filmmakers to remind us that no one can hear you scream in space. So I was eager to see if after a 30-year absence from outer space if Scott could re-capture some well needed magic, not only for the franchise but for his own waning career.
Within the first 5 minutes, we witness the inception of life by what appears to be a benevolent alien who sacrifices himself (and his DNA) to help spark life on Earth. The eerie and beautiful scene reassures us that the 30-year wait would be worth it. The first act of Prometheus continues the promise as Scott crafts a world that not only harkens to his original Alien but also modernizes it with some truly wonderful vast alien landscapes and claustrophobic ship interiors. Scott’s world building is impressive and early on, it seems he hasn’t missed a beat. We have clearly entered an era where CGI and practical effects are indistinguishable. Some amazing stuff here- however this is where the praises end and the criticisms begins.
Regardless of the mesmerizing visuals and the rich environment, Prometheus is deeply flawed. The main failure of Prometheus can be summed up in one word- motive. The hefty cast introduces so many significant motivations yet none of them get resolved- or even attempted to get resolved. If you just ask yourself “What does this character want?”, you would be hard pressed for an answer. Prometheus thinks it’s much smarter than it is by setting up all these complex characters. Scott wants there to be conflicting parallel stories about creation, intelligent design, and faith but sadly sacrifices those interesting themes for the all too familiar chase sequences down strobe light filled hallways. Because the motivations are muddled, the deaths feel cold and empty. By the end of the film, you realize that Scott only needed 2 characters to get us to the end, the others are just bait. All these problems coupled with a lot of fragmented action scenes really created a jarring experience. The sci-fi/horror elements, while visually competent, were also filled with a lot of head scratching logic- don’t get me started on how quickly Dr Shaw bounces back from the ‘gut-wrenching’ cesarean section scene. Geez. This Lindelof script felt like it was baked for 30 minutes- certainly not 30 years.
To me, one of the few highlights of Prometheus is Michael Fassbender. His portrayal of the synthetic servant David would have caused former Star Trek A.I., Brent Spiner, to shed a fake tear. David is precise, charming, and slightly creepy, everything you need from someone caught in a ethically compromising situation. The problem is that while he is close, David is not at the center of this movie. Scott should have made this a movie about him. With there being so much heavy themes about creation/creator, wouldn’t it have been perfectly ironic that the person who discovers the meaning of life ends up not being a real person at all but a machine? I digress.
There are a lot of themes that could be discussed here but honestly, I don’t think it’s deserved. Prometheus frivolously throws out any lofty topics for discussion in lieu of gross out horror-porn moments. And of course Ridley gives you the obligatory pre-alien cameo at the end, which was just a huge nod to the audience. The only thing it was missing was Nick Fury appearing and offing the alien a spot on the Avengers.
Aliens 1 & 2 were smartly crafted films with well-orchestrated action and horror. Prometheus has none of this. Like the bowels of the alien spacecraft, it’s beautiful and atmospheric but ultimately hollow and empty inside. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a ‘bad’ film but it fell way short on my expectations and the potential of what it could have been- the resurgence of a one-of-kind franchise as well as Ridley Scott mediocre 2nd act career.
I give it a 2.5 Babbles out of 5