The Bringer Of Fire
June 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
Last night I watched Prometheus.
This is my story.
The Alien universe is not one that I’ve spent a lot of time in, but it’s one that I still find very cool. One of the things I love about the opening scene of Alien is the dark, cluttered, utilitarian, and practically primitive look of the Nostramo, the ship they ride about in. It reflects the grim, gritty, and corporate nature of the universe, where profits go hand-in-hand with discovery. Plus, the xenomorphs that they encounter are a great representation of the downside of adventure: sometimes, when you go looking, you find something that you weren’t looking for.
Prometheus does not. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not what I expected nor what I wanted it to be.
I admit to being a little disappointed. Screw that: I feel let down, which is weird because technically speaking, the movie isn’t bad. And this isn’t like last time where I couch “bad” by saying “makes choices I wouldn’t have made”, this movie makes bad choices. And it would be a wonderful idea to go through the movie and note those choices one by one.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to do that, but I’ll go over some. There are some spoilers here, but I’ll keep important story details out except where it’s crucial. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d skip reading this, go watch the movie, and then come back and tell me how right I am.
So let’s start from the beginning with the movie’s pretty simple set-up: man discovers some proof of alien lineage and launches on a corporately-funded mission to discover what they can about said aliens. In the first few minutes they highlight the clash between “belief” and “science/profit” and why they are driving the mission.
Whoops, I mean they passingly mention those things and then talk about them one other time. I think I went a little insane, though, when one of the anthropologists responds to a reasonable piece of criticism by saying “That’s not what I choose to believe.”
That’s like, super profound. And also stupid. The critic was a biologist who asked how she could dismiss three hundred years of evolutionary-based research and evidence with a wave of her hand, and an anthropologist decided that she believed better. This particular scene is a reflection of how this movie keeps screwing up. They have a habit of introducing something cool and then running as fast away from that cool idea as they can. See, I like the idea that there’s a clash between what we scientifically believe to be true and what is actually true. It’s a wonderful question that thoughtful people have to consider in their daily life. I mean, how cool would it be if they ran into contradictions that were both scientifically plausible? How would they approach this question if science, the great explainer, couldn’t explain the contradiction?
But that’s clearly too much for this movie, so instead, the biologist is steam-rolled and the anthropologists are found to be 100% correct. Don’t worry: he also messily dies later, so take that, science! If you expect any sort of hard science from this movie, I would caution against bringing your brain. Don’t worry, you won’t miss much without it.
One of the common criticisms I heard from other reviews is that the plot is confusing. That is incorrect, because confusing suggests that there is meaning and the viewer is having trouble parsing out said meaning. The plot of Prometheus lacks meaning. Oh, it tries really hard to have meaning, and to do that they sprinkle little passages of potentially important discussions throughout. There’s a scene where one scientist tells the other one they can take off their crucifix because they’ve disproven religion. Again, this is the perfect point where they could have discussed the difference between religion, faith and science. About how truth and belief are intertwined and what happens when you start forcibly extracting them.
But no. Instead, one scientist explodes because of her ovaries (wish I was kidding) and that conversation is over, just in time for a sex scene. Yes, they ignored an interesting and meaningful discussion for a sex scene. I really don’t know why I’m surprised, actually.
You know what? You know how earlier, I said that I wasn’t going to list what they did wrong? Screw that. Here’s the rest of the movie that I can remember that didn’t make sense:
Introducing a character whose motivations don’t make any sense and who exists only to die.
Having a zombie appear that is not explained in-universe and which contradicts…well, just about everything that has been established already.
Giving characters knowledge that they don’t have and having them make plans they couldn’t possibly have made unless they had that magical knowledge.
Introducing monsters to cover holes in the plot.
Two absolutely criminal cases of “it is a horror movie therefore I must be stupid” in very smart characters.
Killing off half the crew without explanation. They are there in the briefing and then never seen again.
I could nit-pick more (and oh goodness how I could), but I don’t want this just to turn into a list of things that I didn’t like about the movie. This is a Ridley Scott movie, so there’s a good chance that the inevitable extended edition will be much better than the regular version. It’s certainly possible, but I’m not holding my breath.
See, the problems I have with this movie have nothing to do with how it looks, how the acting was, or even how the monsters were. Those things were all great. Michael Fassbender as David is the best damn thing about this movie, and it’s a very good thing. But this means that I don’t have much hope for the extended edition, because the structure of the story is, in my opinion, broken.
They would have to go back and fix everything about the story in order for me to really, really like it. As that’s impossible, I have to deal with the fact that they decided to make an horror/action movie that is completely at par. It’s not good, but I can’t quite say it’s bad. It’s somewhere in-between, drifting in a nebulous haze of “maybe”.
John’s Rating: B
I’d go see it, but I wouldn’t expect much. At the end, you can imagine Russel Crowe yelling at you: “Are you not entertained?”
And you’ll probably shrug.
– John really wants to go see Gladiator again