The Prometheus Menace

***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

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Prometheus Menace

  1. Rick Trotter

    I think the movie was slightly better than you describe but that likely has much to do with high expectations of a franchise/director rather than objective assessment of an individual work. Equating this to “Menace,” which I believe is a ‘bad’ film, seems harsh. I too wish I’d known more about the crew of the Prometheus excursion. I wish Idris Elba was never allowed or forced to don that horrific accent. I didn’t mind Dr. Shaw’s swift recovery. After stretching my mind to digest aliens creating human life, cryo-static space travel and impressive and speedy surgery by a machine, her swift recovery seemed plausible. It was difficult to comprehend the flippant way her love interest’s death was handled.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the film, though I admit it falls short of Scott’s classics. I don’t believe Prometheus scars Ridley Scott’s legacy like Phantom Menace does for Lucas. I thought the film had great tension once David intruded on Shaw’s memory or dreams until the final team up of the pair. There were several stimulating aspects that kept my mind wondering and pondering until the final and disappointingly mass gratification of the “pre-alien.” As you point out, the visuals were fetching and seamless. The film also boasts some of the most tasteful use of 3D among resent movies. I also appreciated the nods to Alien’s Ripley (Rapace as Shaw) and Aliens’ Ripley (Theron as Vickers).

    This film had a lot to convey in a small amount of time. Perhaps a 2.5-3 hour film could have played a bit more responsibly in the story department, but that may have jeopardized the mass appeal of what seems to be the first installment of a new series.

    I think its closer to 3 or 3.5 babbles.

    • Crazy4ComicCon

      That’s cool- i’m glad you enjoyed it. I guess the story hang ups really soured my experience. Parts of the movie I loved, other parts I hated. I do feel that with more time, fans will like it less- just like Phantom Menace. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Despite the flaws and loose ends, I still somehow walked away enjoying it, I didn’t love it, but I liked it. Fassbender was great and the visuals were amazing. I think my problem with this movie is that I walked away thinking..”okat that was a fun movie” and Alien movies aren’t supposed to be fun. They are supposed to be dark, menacing not end on an optimistic note, but more of a “somehow somebody survived this.”

  3. This is an interesting review because while you state these are complex characters, you also mention that only 2 characters are worth mentioning/spending time on. The rest were throwaways. Also, I find it unfair to compare Prometheus to the Alien franchise as it’s not an Alien film. In the same universe, yes. I can see why it’s easy to compare the two, but apples and oranges, ultimately. Also, you mention that motive was a flaw within the film, that not one motive sees a resolution. It’s safe to assume that the terms “complex characters” and “no resolution” can’t exist within the same context. Some of the roughnecks aboard the Prometheus were simply there for the pay, Shaw and her Lover were there with the intent of finding the meaning behind their existence, Vickers was hell-bent on disproving her father, even the geologist and his pal served their purpose in proving to be the audience’s first stress test. All of these characters had a motive, but this isn’t the kind of film where every motive is met or wrapped up neatly in a bow and served to us. Are all motives met in every movie? No, but it’s the intent behind the motivation that is often times admirable than seeing it through to fruition. The heroes don’t always win.

    I think because of the glorification of CGI over the past few years, a film based in the realm of science fiction has to look huge. It has to be a spectacle because somewhere along the line, that’s all cinema had to rely on, unfortunately. The quality of story has been on a serious decline where as the quality of CGI/spectacle has superseded expectation. I can see where Prometheus is borderline pretentious to some, but can you blame Scott or Lindelof for whipping these big questions at an audience that’s been treated otherwise by the film industry? Look at what the Alien franchise had degenerated into. After Cameron’s guns-blazing take on it, the 3rd film was hacked and a young Fincher was exploited due to his inexperience. Hacked up because there wasn’t enough action beats, there wasn’t enough of the spectacle. Since then, that’s all we’ve been allotted. As a fan of “Lost,” I can honestly say the big questions with subtle hints/answers was no surprise. This wasn’t Lindelof’s script, but rather his revision. This script was apparently what Scott wanted to try and bring to screen. If we’re going to compare/contrast this film to the Alien franchise, I can honestly say that this is the first time in the franchise’s history that I’m excited to see where they take a sequel and that’s not because of the introduction of the xenomorph.

    Also, don’t take this as a personal attack. I’m glad to see reviews like this (positive or negative) in an ADD society that seemingly promotes 150 character reviews 😉

    • Crazy4ComicCon

      Fair enough, fair enough. Great thoughts and I can appreciate what you have to say. This movie has already shown to be very polarizing- causing a lot of discussions like this. While I wish Prometheus was a better movie, I am glad movie fans can have these interactions. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

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