“You are here.” Hmmm…

In spite of all the marketing and hype to the contrary, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus quickly establishes itself as an entirely different film from the groundbreaking Alien of which this is a sort of prequel. Right away, Marc Streitenfeld’s quietly ominous score strikes a contrast to Jerry Goldsmith’s work in the original film. Plus, the enigmatic opening sequence looks and feels unique. Whereas Alien was almost completely contained within a claustrophobic, man-made metal and plastic dungeon, Prometheus begins with a swooping 3D shot across rugged, natural terrain to a vertiginous waterfall formed by a muddy, surging river. It’s steeped in a curious awe of nature that never really figured into Alien but in a way will factor into the story at hand.

It’s too bad really that neither Scott nor the studio had the confidence just to make a big budget stand-alone sci-fi picture because that’s ultimately what Prometheus is. The two are linked, but they don’t need to be. Neither enriches the other. In fact, waiting for Prometheus to be Alien is needlessly distracting and a waste of the new film’s energy. Energy that could’ve been spent making Prometheus great instead of merely good, which is what it ultimately is. There are monsters to be had here, but this is not really a monster movie at all.

Briefly and without spoilers, the story involves the discovery of a series of historic artifacts that seem to point to the possibility that Earth has been repeatedly visited by an alien race – sort of a Chariots of the Gods situation. Patterns in the images point to a specific alien solar system that just happens to have a planet with a moon that just might support life. A space mission is funded by the mysterious Weyland Corporation to investigate whether there are aliens and if they are the ones who created mankind. Naturally there are (or were), but it remains to be seen what their exact connection is to us. You’ve also seen enough of these things to expect that Weyland will have some kind of sinister ulterior motive that may or may not be in the best interests of the crew or the rest of mankind.

Even thematically, you can see right off that Prometheus has more in common with Blade Runner or A.I. or 2001 than Alien. Yes, it turns out this mysterious alien race is the same as that of the “space jockey” who piloted the wrecked spaceship containing the alien eggs in the original film, but so what? Knowing that adds nothing to the original film. Knowing about the eggs and what they portend definitely adds a measure of suspense to Prometheus, but I often found myself simply waiting for the monster to show up instead of letting the film play out in its own way. And, while a monster figures into the terrific set-piece sequence (I’ll only say it involves some squirm-inducing emergency surgery and leave it at that), these parts almost seem like they belong to a different film. In the end, I couldn’t completely fight a sense of regret that the film wasn’t more like Alien even though it’s a solid film on its own.

As such, the best thing about Prometheus is simply being in the hands of a master visual stylist like Scott who has created yet another whole new universe to play in. There’s a richness and a detail and a specificity to the massive sets and the ships and the equipment that feels familiar and foreign all at once. It’s a feeling Scott perfected in both his classics Alien and Blade Runner and he’s able to do it again here. I spent the first half hour of the film just enjoying looking at things and how they worked. And, as you’d expect, Scott makes the most of the 3D. Prometheus isn’t quite as confident or imaginative in the use of depth as Scorsese was with Hugo, but 3D is much more than an afterthought or a gimmick and these are some of the niftier 3D images I’ve seen.

In terms of the story, Prometheus unfortunately isn’t quite as successful. The big philosophical ideas that hold it up, ideas about the search for God and our own creation, aren’t nearly as big or as well developed as they could’ve been nor are they particularly original. The already mentioned Blade Runner and A.I. are this film’s most obvious forbears. The questions Prometheus digs up are also never very satisfactorily addressed. In fact, there’s an increasingly disheartening sense as the movie goes along that the whole thing is just a setup for the inevitable sequel, which of course it is. There’s nothing wrong with that and it might pay off down the line tenfold, but I’d have preferred a little more self-contained satisfaction here and now. Call me impatient.

While thematically Prometheus isn’t as bold as it might’ve been, the writing excels in the smaller details, especially in interactions between the characters. Those characters could’ve been more sharply drawn, but the capable cast makes the most of them. Idris Elba (HBO’s The Wire, BBC’s Luther), is terrific as the blue collar ship’s captain. In fact, I wish a few of the other characters had been trimmed back and Elba had been given more room to work. When is Hollywood going to realize that this man needs to be the star of his own picture?

Even better than Elba is Michael Fassbender (Shame, Inglourious Basterds, X-Men: First Class) who plays the obligatory (for an Alien picture) android, David. There’s a sinister iciness to him at times, but it’s tempered with an engaging childlike wonder that again recalls Steven Spielberg’s A.I. and the David central to that picture. Fassbender’s aloofness is not a surprise, but that childlike quality is a new and appealing wrinkle from him. He’s the story’s main driving force and he completely delivers.

The jury is still out I think on Noomi Rapace who made a huge international splash as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish versions of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and here makes her 2nd English language film after Sherlock Holmes. She plays Elizabeth Shaw, half of the husband/wife archeology team who discovered the original artifacts back on earth. As written, she’s one of the most interesting characters – she’s a scientist but also religious and on the verge of confronting the very questions at the root of both her work and her beliefs – and she handles the considerable physical aspects of her role very well, but some of the quieter emotional moments weren’t quite as convincing. Perhaps that’ll come as she gets more comfortable acting in English.

Charlize Theron meanwhile was unfortunately saddled with the least interesting of the main characters. She plays Meredith Vickers, an executive with Weyland who you know right away will have some kind of ulterior capitalist motive. As written, she’s just kind of a one-note ice queen which plays too cleanly into Theron’s wheelhouse. That’s the way Theron comes across naturally and it’s only when the role has some unexpected nuance that she really seems to shine. There is little nuance in evidence here. That’s not to say Theron is bad, she’s just disappointingly not all that fascinating.

Adding up the good and the not-so-good, Prometheus is overall a good time at the movies. Though it doesn’t reach classic status, it still has the look and feel of one and that feeling alone is enough reason to see it. Add to that the appeal of Fassbender and Elba and it’s even worth seeing a second time. It’s actually the rare movie I wish had been longer. Most movies never justify a run time over two hours, but Scott is a skilled enough showman and he has an interesting enough story that he could easily have slowed down and developed it further. Instead, we’re just going to have to wait for the sequel to see if it plays out. Interestingly, because it can bounce off of Prometheus instead of being roped to Alien, the sequel has a shot at being an all around better film. We’ll see. For now, this great looking, well-acted, smartish sci-fi picture will have to do. And it does.

41 Responses to “Prometheus (2012)”

  1. Thanks for the well-written review Craig. We’re seeing the film today and I look forward to comparing thoughts.

    ‘For now, this great looking, well-acted, smartish sci-fi picture will have to do. And it does.’

    That’s exactly what I hoped for and in line with my expectations going in.

  2. Masterful work, Craig. I’m debating whether this one is a 3D must-see — and I think you’d say “go for it.”

  3. The direction, cinematography, art direction, editing, special effects, and 3D combined to form an aesthetically pleasing and seamless whole. There wasn’t a lot for the actors to individually do, with the exception of Fassbender, in what was more of an ensemble piece. Most of the characters had some level of reality to them even if they ultimately functioned as fodder – Theron was saddled with the least breathing room. Fassbender’s role was the heart of the film and his controlled yet subtly enigmatic performance had one unsure about his motives and what was driving them. I understand the criticism of the story – but I don’t think the film was particularly concerned with the metaphysical or answering big questions. It told a story with enough ambiguity and smarts to keep us engaged and guessing, along with providing the action and thrills necessary for a summer tent-pole, while showcasing another of Ridley’s richly conceived and realized fictional worlds. Like Inception, there is enough convolution in terms of how things fit that you’re left trying to piece it together after leaving the cinema. I like that but I know it can be frustrating for some.

    What surprised me was the extent to which the film felt like the first part of a to-be-continued story.

    Pierre, definitely well worth seeing in 3D.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, sartre. It’s either this film or The Avengers this weekend – the latter I don’t think 3D viewing will be a requirement.

  5. Well, it definitely looked like they put every penny on screen and I really liked Fassbender immensely, but I don’t understand why you’re so defensive about the connections to Alien and Aliens. Scott and Lindelof have gone well out of their way to reference both films so much that I often felt like I was watching the Alien/Aliens movie Lindelof would have made had he been able to doctor those scripts back in the 80’s. At first I enjoyed the references but by the second half of the film I found them distracting and unimaginative.

    But like I said, absolutely incredible to look at. I wish as much effort had been applied to the script.

  6. Sartre, my issue is actually that there actually weren’t enough ambiguity or smarts to the story when it so clearly wanted the audience to believe there was. I mean, yeah, it certainly dwarfs something like Transformers in that department. I also don’t think it offered quite enough summer thrills. The main flaw of it in fact to me was that it tried to do both and wasn’t wholly satisfying with either. A stronger emphasis either way would’ve made for a stronger movie.

    Joel, I’m not defensive about the connection to Alien, I’m saying that it would’ve been a better movie without it and that going in with an expectation that this IS Alien is a recipe for disaster. Scott, Lindelof and FOX are all obviously content for people to think this is Alien 0, and it is, but I’m saying it would’ve been better off as its own thing. It does no favors to Alien and knowledge of Alien only improves the experience of watching this marginally.

    The review was written for people who hadn’t seen it yet and I was merely suggesting you’ll be better off if you don’t expect this to deliver what the first Alien did.

  7. OK, I think I misunderstood your intent. It just sounded like you were heading off any of that off at the proverbial pass.

  8. No that wasn’t my intention at all. The connections are there, but frankly they’re not very good or satisfying.

    I especially disliked the coda which as someone else already pointed out elsewhere doesn’t even fit with the established Alien mythology of facehugger to chest burster to adult alien. It was fan service at its worst and most pointless.

  9. when can we discuss heavy spoilers? I have a question about the very end, which to me felt tacked on and unnecessary, but a friend of mine had an interesting theory about what they show there.

    overall I enjoyed the film very much. I love the sense of atmosphere and the way tension builds throughout the story. Fassbender was outstanding and added another layer of creepiness and intrigue.

  10. “Sartre, my issue is actually that there actually weren’t enough ambiguity or smarts to the story when it so clearly wanted the audience to believe there was.”

    I’m not saying it was a strong script but ambiguity was there for me given the gaps in the story that forced the viewer to infer or speculate about the missing pieces. A process that for me continues. Also, ambiguity could be found in the motivation of David’s character.

    ****spoiler****

    Was he motivated by nascent personality and emotion, by the instructions of his master, or by both?

    ****end of spoiler****

    Could the script have told its story more effectively and with greater intelligence? Sure, but there was sufficient smarts for me given its need to appeal to a broader audience.

    To tell the truth I find 95% of summer thrill movies so lame I can hardly sit through them so I’m far happier with a big budget film that offers this degree of artistry with some strikingly well-executed thrill/suspense set-pieces thrown in together with the more routine genre aspects.

    I agree that the coda appeared unnecessary. I’m interested to hear Ari’s friend’s interpretation.

  11. “Sure, but there was sufficient smarts for me given its need to appeal to a broader audience.”

    I like you a lot, sartre, but if we’re going to start granting passes for this then we’ve given up on cinema in general. Just because this came out in the Summer doesn’t mean it needs to go for dumb.

  12. Ari, I’m curious to hear your friend’s interpretation of the coda. I won’t go into how I feel about it, because anything you can offer is likely to be more positive.

  13. OK, let me clarify that comment to sartre before it gets misconstrued by including something I said earlier today in relation to this Summer’s previous Big Blockbuster.

    I was questioning my response to this versus Avengers. In the end, the characters and dialogue in Avengers drew me in, in spite of it’s otherwise cliche and tepid plot. It’s not a film of big ideas. It doesn’t set out to answer any fundamental questions. It is truly the essence of a Summer popcorn flick. I think on that level it not only delivers, it exceeds the standard.

    Prometheus has been promising something huge from its first teaser images. It promises big things for it’s first 45 minutes. It desperately wants to be this Big Profound Cinematic Moment in Film History. For me at least, it utterly fails to accomplish that.

    So is it my fault for assuming/hoping Scott and company were up to the task of offering what they promised, simply because this came out during the Summer?

  14. “but if we’re going to start granting passes for this then we’ve given up on cinema in general.”

    That’s a tad overstating the consequences of this aspect of my response to the film :-)

    I’m just saying that my expectations for a film are affected by a film’s genre and budget. For example, I have a different expectation for Tree of Life than I do for Prometheus. And films with a bigger budget invariably have to pitch the content at a certain level and within certain formulaic conventions. Regardless, I didn’t find Prometheus as lacking in intelligence as you. I’m not saying you’re wrong to feel disappointed in the script, I’m simply offering a take that is more forgiving of it in the context of what I thought were the film’s strengths and its need to make lots of money.

  15. I’ll give a SPOILER ALERT here.

    my friend mentioned something that others have also noticed, so maybe I just missed this. But the idea at the end is that we see an infant queen. Again, I didn’t think it was needed at that point after everything that happened.

    End SPOILER

    Still, good movie overall. I really enjoyed it.

  16. “That’s a tad overstating the consequences of this aspect of my response to the film :-)”

    I don’t think so. You seem to be stating that because this comes out at a certain point in the year and it’s a certain genre, we should give it a pass if it’s going to pretend to raise big questions yet offer weak answers. I say that if the film raises the bar to that level, it had better clear it. Otherwise it’s a failure. I am someone who is easily wowed by eye candy of the Ridley Scott variety but it’s all empty CGI porn if there’s nothing to back it up. That is what I am saying.

    There’s a lot of grandeur to the imagery of Prometheus and that should be lauded. There’s little or no grandeur in the actual script. That should be derided, because ultimately the script is as important as the imagery, if not more so. Doesn’t matter if it’s Tree of Life or Matrix Revolutions. If you’re going to swing the bat that wide to the fences, you better connect.

  17. Joel, our taste generally overlaps but it doesn’t on this front and that’s fine with me.

    Ari, I’ve read others making that observation. It still seems out of step with the issue raised by Craig re the established stages of creature development.

  18. In the world of bees, the queen is created through a process that is separate and fairly different from the creation of worker bees, so maybe the same logic of biology could separate an alien queen from her workers? Really none of the various films have been entirely consistent with Scott’s original, so it’s possible he’s going back to his original conception of the creature and it’s biology.

    The only problem is that if the queen is on the Engineers’ weapons planet, then Shaw would have to be given some excuse to return there, which seems as contrived as anything else they’ve done.

  19. ****spoiler****

    Yeah, I wondered whether the difference related to the queen having a different process of development. The queen as a unique reproductive source is potentially consistent with the first phase being conceived and then “birthed” by the human female host.

    I guess the queen could get off the planet by some means other than via Shaw. But I agree that it would have better tied in by having her somehow transport it.

  20. “Prometheus” is worth seeing for its formal qualities alone.

    The script is a problem, but I really don’t get all this bitching about the film “pretending to raise big questions” that’s circulating throughout internet land. The question of our existence is a MacGuffin for the sake of setting a very stylish horror movie in motion. And it’s a traditional horror movie MacGuffin at that. Man has the hubris to demand answers that probably don’t exist and he pays horribly for it. To suggest that to enjoy a film for these reasons represents a threat to cinema, particularly in a climate littered with generic superhero films that are celebrated as the second coming, is to indulge considerable hyperbole.

  21. What’s funny is that ALIEN is famous for a having a bare bones script and characters. The awesome ensemble brought them to life, which would be impossible in a film like PROMETHEUS. I was just pleased to see HR Giger back on the screen after unforgivable Hollywood ignorance. I can dislike or like things in the film based on what angle I’m looking…

  22. Let’s leave the superhero film hyperbole to the fanboy sites and the mainstream press, shall we? I never made that assertion.

    This was a rare instance where we got the potential for actual adult, intelligent genre film-making in the middle of Summer. That is something I would be happy to support and I went into this hopeful for that. For the first act, I was fully on-board.

    But Prometheus tosses out logic some point around the time David decides to conduct a very questionable experiment. Soon the entire cast of supposedly intelligent characters are wielding the brain power of teens in a Friday the 13th film. The film even introduces nameless minor cast members only to have them disappear from the narrative entirely. And it doesn’t help that in all of this, the only interesting character isn’t even human.

    If this were a different type of film, that might not matter, but the entire film is fairly straight-forward. This isn’t exactly Terrence Mallick or David Lynch here. I don’t hold Ridley Scott in high regard to begin with, but I would hope we could expect more from him than impressive cinematography and nifty production design, because really those are the only things I expect from him by default.

  23. I do agree that the script is problematic at times, but I’m with Chuck in that the premise is really just a device to set up a cool sci-fi/horror film, and as that it works very well. It’s not a classic, but it’s a solid,, tense genre film with some serious visual style.

    SpoilerALERT****

    Joel, there is logic behind David’s experiment. He is basically programmed to search for immortality and his purpose is to find it no matter what. His experiment seems sinister but it’s also something he’s doing for a possibly amazing result. That’s why he says, “to good health”, when he drops the “drug” in the drink. That said, I agree with you that the other characters are minor and simply there to be killed off later on, and the situation where two characters leave the cave early only to be trapped in it a few minutes later was weak scripting.

    But still, I approach this film as a genre film, and it works for me in that way.

    ****2nd Spoiler Alert

    So the opening sequence is an engineer sacrificing himself using a biological weapon to seed the earth, right? hence all images of the DNA strands, etc.

    *****End Spoiler

    I do like the film a lot. Also worth noting: I saw the film again in 2d and it’s not as effective as the 3d. This film is absolutely worth seeing in 3d.

  24. I apologize for being so combative and hyperbolic on this. I just wanted something different from what I got and I was disappointed with it ultimately. Considering the clout of the creative folks involved and the prestige of the property, I thought they had the opportunity to do something more creatively adventurous than what was presented. Visually it is amazing, as I said, and it was worth seeing for that.

    ****spoilers below

    Ari, yes, my interpretation is that the engineer is seeding the Earth. It is odd though that Shaw confirms a “DNA match” and yet the engineers appear so different from humans, and the alien that is created looks so radically different from any we’ve seen (I suppose “DNA match” is highly subjective). It makes me think this particular alien is a different variety or an earlier stage in the evolution of the later ones.

  25. ****Spoilers****

    Yes, Ari. The initial sacrificial Engineer was the DNA seeder. Human DNA is described as a match but less “pure”.

    David spikes the drink after his master says he must try harder. What I like about the spiking scene is that David hints at personally disliking Charlie – who treats him most dismissively and coldly. He is programmed to follow his master’s goal – seek out immortality – but I couldn’t help feel that he got a personal kick out of going after Charlie. This flash of personality beyond programming was also evident in his meta comment about children wanting to kill their parents.

    What threw a spanner in the works for me was the revived Engineer’s reaction to the humans and David. He initially appears to react with admiration/warmth towards David but is generally dismissive or disinterested in the humans. Then the hostility occurs. Pointedly, he takes David out first. Why seed your DNA only to respond to the eventual technologically advanced consequences with violence? There seem to be many possible interpretations for this response but none I can confidently settle upon.

  26. ****spoiler****

    Good to see Fassbender confirm the possibility (at the start of this second part of the Charlie Rose interview) that David may have picked Charlie for the experiment, in part, because Charlie was treating him with a measure of contempt. Yet, Rapace is less open to the idea.

    http://video.noomi-rapace.com/view/157/charlie-rose-2012-part-2/

  27. Saw it on Saturday and I liked it despite never watching a single Alien film in my life. I’m gonna try and catch up with the other films before the sequel airs (I hope it does).

    Fassbender as David was the best part of the film. David’s personality reminded me of Caesar (Andy Serkis) in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) from “The Big Bang Theory”.

  28. Having finally seen Prometheus, I found it to be both a marvelous visual banquet with some of the best effects in years and packed with some very intriguing ideas as well as a poorly-paced, unwieldy blend of high concept hard science-fiction and plot-uber-alles horror movie. The characters are rote and uninteresting (there’s simply too many of them; as soon as I saw that the crew of the ship was seventeen, I couldn’t help but wince, fearing that the tightness and intimacy of the original (still Scott’s best, most focused film by a country mile in my estimation) would be lost, and so it was. This falls in line with Christian’s point that the bare bones script of Alien only aided that ensemble in fleshing their characters out and interacting with one another with truth and terseness.

    There probably isn’t merely one but multiple excellent films struggling to burst out (no pun intended) in Prometheus, but as Craig points out, this confused picture–which was, again, truly gorgeous to look at on a massive screen with almost incomparable 3D–disappointed in never beginning to deliver one of them.

    The “Prequelitis” of the whole affair has to be addressed. Unless I’ve misread the film, what we have witnessed is the very creation of a new species: the Xenomorph (whether it be a Queen Alien or not), through a highly complicated (nay, contrived) series of plot machinations and ill-conceived, banal twists, comes into existence and is created because of the tinkering of humans, and Shaw’s wits to feed the octopus alien being the Engineer. I can’t help but recall the dismay with which one viewed the Star Wars prequels, as George Lucas systematically tied every conceivable loose end, rendering his vast mythological universe of the ’77-’83 trilogy more like a neighborhood block of wacky characters. Having an entire film fundamentally dedicated to the Space Jockey is not entirely unlike what Lucas did with Boba Fett in his prequels–taking an admittedly highly exciting, “cool” element/character that carried immense mysetery and intrigue (and doubtless producing reams of fan fiction) and through a pedestrian, pedantic process, actively demistify that very unexplained, murky character or being.

    The casting by itself seemed inspired. Who better to play an icy intellectual android than Michael Fassbender in 2012? Charlize Theron is so effortlessly captivating, she takes an underwritten, thankless role and makes it work. Idris Elba, great choice as the captain, but a role that is both underdeveloped and confused (what he knows and what he doesn’t know at any given time is convenient and strictly dictated by the screenplay, it seems). Noomi Rapace as Shaw–no complaints. The problem comes in with the screenplay, which simply has too many problems for the sake of the film, and with regards to the characters, is beyond all over the map. While there are a handful of cute, smart moments–the obvious, threatening-to-be-on-the-nose parallel between David’s role as creation vs. human creator and human creations seeking their creator(s), for one–they only show up sparingly and fleetingly, to be discarded for the next plot demand.

    Again, though, in spite of a host of problems I had with Prometheus, I cannot recommend seeing it on a big screen in 3D too strongly. Visually striking at almost every turn, the film is coated in an atmospheric patina of cool, chilly colors and beautifully-rendered darkness that creates a restless dread. It’s not as effective as Alien, for the film, as with its thematic concerns and plot turns, is curiously both too ambitious and too clumsily self-satisfied for its own good (the claustrophobia of Alien was its most pointed asset), but it’s still genuinely awesome to behold. The film is unfortunately the definition of a “mixed bag,” but very much worth seeing.

  29. Did no one else see a little of David from AI in David from Prometheus?

    My feelings on his motivation (which aren’t necessarily supported by the film) particularly in regard to his murder of whatsisname, was that he has been programmed to be curious and to explore and he literally wanted to find out what would happen. Or maybe he wanted to help further the engineers’ plan for whatever reason. Some things I don’t think will be clear until we get to the sequel.

    Though I’m somewhere in the middle of fans and detractors on this one, the one main point where I diverge from those who love the movie is that I don’t really value it’s lofty intellectual intentions over a film that doesn’t have any. On one hand you have people saying it’s a better movie because it’s smart and on the other hand you have people admitting that it’s not that smart, but that’s ok.

    From what I’ve seen of interviews of Scott and Lindeloff (the latter of whom I’m happy to give 90% of the blame for what doesn’t work for me about Prometheus), they’re acting like the defining characteristic is its smarts. One of them even said it was 2001 with more action or something like that. Which is a complete oxymoron, but that’s another argument. They’re obviously pretty pleased with themselves, but I’m afraid the emperor has no clothes in this case. Though I don’t ever need to see one again, in a way I admire Michael Bay’s Transformers movies more because they at least deliver what they promise. Just because Prometheus is more ambitious, I’m not inclined to give it the benefit of a doubt.

    In so many ways, the original Alien was the exact opposite of pretentious Prometheus. It never tried to outsmart its genre, but instead made the most of it by populating it with a terrific cast, strong script and revolutionary production design. The beauty of it (and Cameron’s sequel for different reasons) is the simplicity of it.

    More than the internal logic of the coda which is open for debate, I’m irritated by the overt Alien connection. It felt like fan service for all the people who turned up for Alien 0 and not for 2001 + action. I really believe the only reason Scott agreed to make another Alien flick is because that’s the only way the studio would give him a couple hundred million to make a sci fi picture. I don’t believe for a minute his heart was in that aspect of it and I think the movie reflects that.

    Alexander, I totally lost track of the different crew members beyond the top 4 or 5. Remember how instantly distinct the crew in the first film were? They weren’t deeply drawn characters, but they were strong and memorable. These… eh. Outside of Fassbender, you immediately start to run into problems.

    While splitting RIpley into two characters seems like a decent idea on paper, in practice it was kind of terrible because neither character was half as interesting as Ripley was all by herself.

    ***SPOILER****

    I also have to admit I didn’t really think at the time about how what comes out of Rapace is genetically a unique creature, but that explains a lot when I think about it. Still, I don’t think knowing where the space jockey came from or what the aliens were adds a single thing to the brilliance of Alien. This film is simply piggy backing, beautifully and often entertainingly but nonsensically, on our nostalgia.

  30. “I don’t really value it’s lofty intellectual intentions over a film that doesn’t have any”

    Setting aside what the makers may have said about it, I share Chuck’s bafflement as to why the film is being judged against supposed lofty intellectual intentions. I welcome big questions being explored in movies but Prometheus to me doesn’t pose any. It is a Sci-Fi story with a premise about aliens seeding life on earth. What’s lofty in that? I do think it had some script smarts but only to the extent it maintained engagement and interest re where it was going and character motivations. The brilliant visuals do evoke a welcome sense of grandeur and wonder but to me never appeared designed to stimulate philosophical ruminations.

    *****Spoilers*****

    Re your queries about David, Craig. I agree that David was programmed to be curious and to explore. But he was also a servant of his principal creator and given the clear task to find a way to provide him with immortality (ironic in a sense as David’s own creation had immortality built into it – barring death by accident or murder). After being instructed ‘to try harder’ by the dying creator he wanted to experiment with the DNA altering agent to speed up and advance his investigation of its properties on behalf of his task. However, he chose Charlie because he disliked him (no other character treats him with such casual contempt). Inferring from Fassbender’s interview comments their may also have been some sense of rivalry as David is particularly fascinated by Elisabeth – they only show him spying on her dreams in the opening sequence). David is more than his programming, he is developing feelings and a capacity for self-motivation and independence – as evidenced when he says to Elisabeth’s surprise something like ‘don’t all children want to kill their parents’. I didn’t see anything that suggested he was somehow seeking to assist the Engineers.

  31. I’m just bouncing off the way the filmmakers and some of the fans have been talking about it. 2001 with action? Really?

    ***Spoilers****

    Was it clear that Weyland’s mission was to seek immortality? I thought he just wanted to meet god before he died. If immortality is what he was after, then it seems like this mission into space is an even bigger crap shoot than it is if you just take it as a quest to find our creator.

    Having said that, I’m not comfortable nitpicking the underpinnings of the story A) because I’m sure in the rush to see it then get home and review it in time for the opening I missed a lot and B) I’m not convinced in the end they add up to much.

  32. Good to see you back Alexander. Hope all is well.

    *****Spoilers*****

    Re your query about the very creation of a new species:

    My guess is that the Xenomorphs already existed but their creation was dependent on the Engineers combing their DNA agent with a biological host. That way the Enginners could control their weapon. In one of the trailers we get a brief flash of the cave murals (in the Engineers Chapel?) revealing the depiction of Xenomorph-like creatures. We also know from the appearance of the Space Jockey in Alien and the dead Engineers on the planet that something had burst out of them from the inside.

    I think what we have witnessed is the birth of a Queen that allows the Xenomorphs independence from the Engineers. They still need a biological host but the Queen provides the eggs.

  33. “2001 with action? Really?”

    I agree, this is no 2001. That was a film-making masterpiece. Prometheus to me is a very well made SciFi movie which has strengths and weaknesses, but I have no trouble forgiving the latter.

    Re the immortality. That motivation was very clear in my reading of the film. Not saying that all concerned weren’t interested/curious to meet their makers, but only Elisabeth seemed motivated to do so by faith and spirituality – only she wears a cross and we’re sketched a back story that offers the outline of deep psychological need re her possession of faith.

  34. “Setting aside what the makers may have said about it, I share Chuck’s bafflement as to why the film is being judged against supposed lofty intellectual intentions. I welcome big questions being explored in movies but Prometheus to me doesn’t pose any.”

    Yes, but if you’ve read any interviews with either of them, they both assert and speak quite proudly of this film and its deep meaning. Scott seems a bit more business-like about it, but they both talk at length of every seeming detail being considered and layered with importance and metaphor.

    I’m kind of baffled by your and Chuck’s bafflement. Is this the flipside of the Terrence Mallick problem, where he is revered for his visual style and arty-ness but easily attacked for potentially being pretentious and needlessly artsy fartsy?

    I’m legitimately curious what you think, because it’s an interesting question.

  35. Joel, I don’t really understand your question.

    ToL stimulated me intellectually and deeply moved me. I don’t care that some others critiqued it as pretentious. We don’t all share the same tastes or frames of reference for critiquing film quality. But I get why someone would find ToL pretentious because of its degree of abstraction and intellectual/emotional/spiritual ambition.

    Nothing in Prometheus struck me as posing big questions and so I’m naturally surprised that the film is being critiqued against that expectation. Saying I’m baffled is not saying people are wrong for holding that opinion. I guess what you’re saying is that some people are unfavorably judging the film against what the filmmakers have said about it. That’s clearly reasonable for them, but its not for me. I’m judging it based on my own take.

  36. I’ll add that maybe I fail to discern the deep meaning claimed by the filmmakers or maybe what is deeply meaningful to them is prosaic to me. But either way, why does it matter? My seeing value in a movie does not require agreement with what the filmmakers say about it.

  37. Sartre, to be fair there are plenty of people who think 2001 is pretentious twaddle.

    Nevertheless, like I said I don’t want to pin this movie down one way or the other until I see it again. That applies double to the idea of immortality. As much as I want to have reviews up in a timely fashion, I think most movies deserve a deeper reflection that I haven’t given in this case for better or for worse.

  38. I’m in an interesting position here, as I’ve found all of Terence Malick’s films to be precious, sentimental gibberish EXCEPT “Tree of Life” which moved me deeply.

    That said, “Tree of Life” moved me so because its imagery was startling and visionary. The “mother/father/mother/father” text, in less confident hands, would’ve probably left me cold.

    And the same goes for “Prometheus”. Let Scott think whatever he wants (his intereviews are often laughably self-satsified under the best of circumstances), but his visuals transcend his murky text.

  39. OK, that’s fair and it explains where you’re coming from. For me, the film screams big intentions and it’s hard not to judge it based on that, regardless of how cliche or poorly explored those intentions may be. The fact that a segment of the internet is enthusiastically discussing and examining those intentions sort of feeds my curiosity.

    After all my bitching and whining, I’ll likely go see this again in 3D IMAX since so many of you were impressed by the 3D. The value of Prometheus is in its stunning visuals, so I might as well get one more gander at those before they retreat to the secondary screens.

  40. The revived Engineer took out the humans to stop further Xenomorphs reproducing, as far as I can tell.

  41. I just saw this movie a couple of nights ago. While I enjoyed it well enough, it didn’t really do it for me. Not even the cinematic technique wowed me. I’m okay, Craig, with your 3.5 stars, but the only aspect that was truly captivating was the David character and Fassbender’s interesting portrayal.

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