From time to time, I do plan to comment on films via this blog/site and I had always hoped to kick things off with a positive review of the movie “Prometheus”. My wish came half true. I am reviewing that film but not nearly with the sort of adoration or praise for which I had hoped. “Prometheus” is an unrivaled visual work with cinematography often worthy of Terrence Malick (high praise, indeed) with solid performances, but unfortunately it descends midway into an expert seminar on how not to tell a story and how not to write characters & dialogue.
I will try to keep spoilers at a minimum.
Ridley Scott proves himself visually before the intro credits have even finished. The opening scene is a lush and crisp montage of landscapes that appear both alien and earthly, alluding to the dichotomy of themes with which the movie’s story plays. In that scene, the film delivers startlingly beautiful footage with just a dash of hokeyness that, thankfully, doesn’t overpower what Scott endeavors to film. Unfortunately that hokeyness nags at almost every other scene throughout “Prometheus” almost like terrorists hijacking a bus and finally seems to wrestle away control of the steering wheel in the final act.
The story is a mess once “Prometheus” touches down on “token alien world”. Flourishes of intriguing questions, incredible originality, and just plain geekishly awesome tech (the automated surgical bay was probably ripped straight out of “Dead Space 2″) hint at the film that could have been. Unfortunately, those moments are stitched together by a movie that fails to integrate the thematic material to which it alludes (its blood runs deep with grandfather “At the Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft) to any profound effect. The end result is a story that riffs on better ideas without making them its own. It’s a “2001″ mime with little of the power or grandiosity and traces of “Alien” that seem shoehorned into the equation to save a desperate movie. If you ask me, reviews have been too kind to this one, but hopefully that praise and first-week earnings will redeem “Prometheus” with a superior sequel.
Then you have the casting, which is top-shelf for the most part. Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green (I think people will be wanting to see more of him after this), and Michael Fassbender do their best with what little they have (more on that in a moment). Only Guy Pearce is a total WTF in casting. Anyone who saw the YouTube teaser video featuring his character’s speech at TED can tell you that his performance delivered goose bumps. Unfortunately, none of THAT version of his character made it into “Prometheus” (literally not one second). Instead we’re left wondering why they couldn’t simply cast someone like Christopher Plummer in a rule that was clearly intended for an older person. You’ll see what I mean if you’re unfortunate enough to make it to the second half of this movie.
Speaking of Guy Pearce, one could make the argument that “Prometheus” completely starts to unravel the moment he appears for the second time. Much of the blame for this must surely fall on Damon Lindelof’s shoulders. When you realize that “Prometheus” was written by the people who brought us “Cowboys & Aliens” and that awful “The Darkest Hour” flick from last year, it’s no wonder that “Prometheus” is a veritable “How NOT to” of writing.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Let’s start at the top. Irrelevant characters abound in “Prometheus”. Two characters on the bridge exist for no reason other than to press buttons at Idris Elba’s command, shout cliched one-liners at each other, and ultimately to completely ruin Elba’s heroic final act by adding unnecessary banter about a stupid “bet” nobody in the audience was probably even paying attention to and definitely didn’t care about! Of these two annoying characters, one seems to serve no purpose other than being Asian! Other useless characters exist only to take off their helmets and be throat-raped by creatures, to be thrown into the air by creatures, to be bashed against things by creatures, to turn INTO creatures (for some unexplained reason that only occurs ONCE), and (of course) to be killed by creatures. From a narrative standpoint, “Prometheus” wouldn’t even pass the smell test with 99% of literary agents, much less be the basis for a motion picture.
Then you have the final scene: A shot that makes no sense, destroys everything else built up by the film, undermines the logic and established rules of a respected franchise, and ultimately spits in the face of its audience. There is no closure (something with Lindelof obviously hates, which he expressed with “Lost”). Instead we’re given a setup for a more interesting sequel to a movie that should never have been made in the first place. It makes you wish that they had just made THAT movie with this cast.
What ultimately bugs me about this movie is that months ago I read a spoiler synopsis of “Prometheus” that had me amped. The story was there and incorporated so many cool elements of “Alien”. It offered a satisfying explanation for what the xenomorphs are. It offered riveting character arcs for everyone on board. WHY WASN’T THAT THE MOVIE THEY MADE? Whoever wrote that fake synopsis should be making movies, not Damon Lindelof. Here is the link to that synopsis: http://boxofficebuz.com/news_full.php?id=287 Now, if you have seen “Prometheus”…Tell me that’s not the better movie.
Final Verdict: 3/10