Chief Defender of the Faith
- May 1, 2001
- The Forbidden Zone
- First name
Saw this last night on Blu-ray. Count me in the group that loves Alien and thought this was a half-baked story that simply doesn't fare well when compared to the original.
Now by no means is Prometheus a terrible film, even with all its shortcomings. But Alien rightly occupies a hallowed place in sci-fi/horror, so the expectations for this film were very high.
Let's get this part out of the way up front: The movie's pacing and character development were very poor, which is surprising because that's generally one of Scott's strengths as a director. Over and over the characters made decisions that simply defied basic common sense. At times, their behavior was straight out of a teen slasher flick, while at other times they went into superhero overdrive. This is a movie that doesn't seem to be able to make up its mind what it wants to be.
One of the main problems with this film was that it took all the scary and mysterious elements of the original Alien and turned them into mundane backfiller. The bizarre alien creature, long petrified in some kind of mysterious technological chair is now revealed to be... not an alien creature at all, but our long lost uncle Bob in a spacesuit? Pure lame sauce. And the shadowy Mr. Weyland of Weyland-Yutani, after much build-up, turns out to be just a silly old man who's afraid of death and wants to live a little longer. Even more bizarre, this ancient man is played by a 45-year old actor with pounds of makeup for no apparent reason other than giving the special effects crew another opportunity to show off their skills.
Ridley Scott has tried to distance Prometheus from the original Alien and has stated it is not a prequel, but it's clear five minutes into the film that it is. And one of things that was great about the original was the excellent casting and how all the characters really looked and acted like real people. They were unshaven, bickered over pay, complained about bad food, were sometimes lazy or bitchy, and were generally quite convincing as ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Which went a long way toward creating a thematic atmosphere of suspension of disbelief. Even better, they were angry, excited, and afraid at the appropriate times--a tribute to the film's tight scripting.
Prometheus, on the other hand, exemplifies much of what's wrong with the direction of modern Hollywood filmmaking. First off, all the characters were unbelievably young and looked like models (Star Trek reboot here we come...). They didn't talk or act like normal people, their characters were generally shallow or one-dimensional, and thus the audience is unable relate to them in any significant way, and so there's no sense of shared experience. When these cardboard people eventually die, and die they do, you don't care about them because they're just props, easily cast away.
But perhaps the biggest failure of Prometheus is the muddled plot. I'll have to go back and watch it again, but I honestly got more than a little lost trying to piece together plot elements when it seemed like entire portions of the film were missing. It's not so much that there were tantalizing "mysteries" which left the viewer yearning to know more, that would have been welcome up to a point. It's that the movie did a very poor job at times in explaining what the hell was actually going on. Things just happened, and then more things happened, and then some other stuff happened. That's not good storytelling.
It's painfully obvious that Prometheus started out as an Alien prequel, but somewhere along the line Ridley Scott decided to change gears and go in a new direction. Sadly, instead of just making an entirely new movie which might have shared some similarities in background, Scott opted to keep key elements from Alien and radically morph them into something they were never intended to be.
In the final analysis, Prometheus is guilty of committing the greatest sin a prequel can be guilty of: It's a fairly forgettable movie that also manages to somehow diminish its predecessor. Ridley Scott deserves some credit for daring to dream big, but also some criticism for sullying the name of a sci-fi classic.