As you guys know I finally gave my review of Prometheus last Wednesday, and the verdict was that it was a disappointment. Looking back on it, I feel like I may have set my expectations way too high once more (like what I did for my Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1). After all, I have to admit that I am a huge fanboy of Alien and Aliens and that may have clouded my judgment of Prometheus. With this, I decided to try to take a closer look at the film and critique it on its own terms: a post-review analysis judging Prometheus as a film separate from any preconceptions of Alien.
At best, I would have to say that the film’s biggest weakness is the script. The characters are mostly redshirts, you wouldn’t care for any of them if they die. While some would say that Shaw’s, Vickers’, and David’s characters are engaging, it was more of the actors’ talent than the script’s strength (after all, we ARE talking about Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender playing them).
Another weakness of the script would have to be the leaps of logic and the plot-holes. While some might argue that the film is setting up for a sequel, remember that a narrative must have a sense of completeness in them. Fine, the film’s plot was complete in one way or another: Shaw prevented the lone Engineer from flying to earth, that much is resolved. However, that doesn’t one basic question: why create humanity if they’re only going to destroy it afterwards? It would have been fine if the aliens coming to destroy us were a different type, but it wasn’t the case for Prometheus, Engineers were coming back to destroy Earth. Why? This question leads to another point.
One notable critic which I religiously follow mentions that the film seeks to tackle more cerebral issues. I have to admit that film does pose questions, BIG questions. This is a film trying to address concepts about creation, life, and the God-question: how did life on Earth come about, and why did a deity create life to begin with? Separating my conservative Catholic values and formation, these are questions which have always intrigued me because they are indeed thought provoking. How would the created come to terms with a creator knowing that we were nothing more than an accident? These are concepts asked time and time again in the history of philosophy, and repeated explored by one particular author who practically gave birth to contemporary horror. To throw these questions to summer audiences is a huge gamble, considering that most mainstream audiences are looking for something straightforward in a movie.
Additionally, asking the Big Questions in a movie is one thing; film craftsmanship is another. If there’s one thing that film appreciation classes in the University taught us, it’s that the film’s point must not be separated from the form. Simply put, the film’s message (for lack of a better term) must be weaved in the narrative: it’s not enough that a character says, “sexual perversion is wrong”, that would be preachy. The better way would be to show, using a film’s elements of cinematography, editing, screenplay, and others, HOW sexual perversion is wrong (which is why, again despite of my conservative Catholic upbringing, I was able to appreciate Shame because of its craftsmanship).
That’s what Prometheus lacked; the melding of form and content. The character’s simply asked (in the most basic sense of the word) the Big Questions. Then when something scary appears they go, “Ah! Our geologist turns into a zombie alien, kill it!”. And they do kill it. If anything, the screenwriters broke the “show, don’t tell” rule in basic narrative writing.
Which leads me to my last point; the film wanted to do A LOT of things. It wanted to be a thought-provoking film, a summer blockbuster, and a pseudo-prequel to Alien. I understand that Ridley Scott wanted to make a film set in the same universe as Alien. That choice might have been a huge miscalculation on part of the director for in trying to make a blockbuster with huge ideas in it, one is sure to sacrifice one element in the film. Serious film aficionados are sure to enjoy the Big Questions of the film (despite the lack of craftsmanship), while the Alien fanboys would probably want to see more of the Space Jockeys and the xenomorphs.
“But Evil Dr. Bok, you could make a summer blockbuster film while answering thought provoking questions! What about The Dark Knight and Inception? They questioned the very foundations of law and order, as well as the truth and relativity of the world. They also included amazing action set-pieces! Prometheus did the same!”
True, but remember what I said about craftsmanship and the melding of form and content: the film’s content was weaved along the storytelling. I need not give explicit examples; just remember the endings of The Dark Knight and Inception. Prometheus does not of that: they separated the Big Questions from the filmmaking. The film wasn’t cohesive enough to juggle the form and the content. In the end, we have a film suffering from an identity crisis.
In the end, the film suffered the Spider-Man 3 syndrome: in trying to include a lot of things, certain parts of the film were left half-baked. While the Lovecraft inspired questions were definitely appealing, they weren’t handled properly enough. However, I would have to give credit to the filmmakers for their gamble. They did come up with one of the most visually arresting films of 2012, and that alone would merit the surcharge for IMAX.
Still a 3.5 stars out of 5.