Review: Prometheus (2012)

I’m just going to go ahead and get this out the way first: I’ve never seen Alien. Or any of the Alien movies. I know, I know, right? We didn’t do a lot of scary movies in my family, and I’m not really very big on scary/gory/horror in general, so it’s just never been a priority. I was actually all set to watch it before Prometheus, but then I decided it might be interesting to go into it with a slightly different perspective. So, you should stay tuned for future developments; I’ll probably get around to Alien in a week or two. For now, Prometheus! One of the most anticipated movies of the summer blockbuster season, Prometheus was touted as an “is it or isn’t it?” prequel to the Alien franchise. As I understand it, the stories are not directly related, but the events of Prometheus do a certain amount to set up the plot of Alien. Guess I’ll find out later.

Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are anthropologists who have made a startling discovery. Ancient civilizations all over the world have depicted the same incident in their artwork: humans worshipping a larger humanoid figure, alongside a specific configuration of stars. Shaw and Holloway believe that the images are an invitation and a roadmap left by the creators of humanity. They convince Weyland Industries to fund an expedition, and are soon waking up from a two-year-long nap aboard the ship Prometheus, having reached their destination. Along for the ride are a handful of other scientists, the ship’s crew, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), Weyland’s representative, and David (Michael Fassbender), the ship’s android butler. Upon landing, they quickly find signs of the civilization they’re looking for, but the “engineers,” as they have dubbed humanity’s creators, appear to be long dead, and it’s not very hard to guess why. As you might expect, things go downhill pretty quickly from there, and Shaw particularly is left with more questions than she had previously.

I want people to know that I actually enjoyed the movie, although I am really unclear as to why. The basis of the story is a pretty interesting one, certainly, but otherwise the plot seems to function mainly as a bare-bones means of moving from event A to event B and so on. This movie has no pacing whatsoever. I repeat: No. Pacing. Whatsoever. Scientists make discovery, then they’re in space. They wake up, they land, they find stuff immediately. All hell breaks loose for the next hour or so, the end. It’s like the writers started out wanting to make these interesting statements about the universe, or whatever, and then they thought “Enh, whatevs, let’s just do a lot of gross stuff and kill some folks off instead.” The same goes for the folks in question. Only two characters get any sort of development at all, and that’s rudimentary at best. A common theme that crops up in discussions about the film is “Why did any of those people do anything that they did?” There’s very little in the way of motivation, probably again because there’s no character development. There’s a subplot that seems like an attempt at explaining a few things, but it mostly ends up feeling extraneous and random.

What I’m saying here, reluctantly, is that this is a poorly constructed movie. Ridley Scott has been around a long time and made some really great movies (and some not great ones, too), but Prometheus somehow doesn’t feel like the work of an A-list director. Likewise, the cast is pretty classy (the main reason I was excited about the film to begin with), but the effort feels beneath them, with one, perhaps predicatable, exception. Michael Fassbender does a superb job. His David is creepy, exceedingly ambiguous, and decidedly NOT human. Most everyone else underutilized (most notably Theron), and I found Noomi Rapace to be a less than compelling lead, which was somewhat disappointing.

All of that said, I really did (somehow) enjoy it. It’s quite visually stunning, and the lack of pacing keeps you riveted, even as you’re wishing for more intellectual stimulation. It was not as gory, scary, or suspenseful as I feared, although there’s definitely at least one scene that will make you squirm. Overall, it’s a B movie wrapped in an A movie’s clothing. Looks great, has the flashy cast, but doesn’t deliver in terms of being the smart, intriguing film I think most fans were expecting. Whether or not I recommend it is largely irrelevant; I think this is a movie that you either already planned to see, or had no interest in. It seems to have ended up being rather polarizing as well; people either love it or hate it. I guess I can see both sides, although in the final analysis, I’d say I was rather disappointed.

One response to “Review: Prometheus (2012)

  1. I agree w/ most of your sentiment. I enjoyed it somehow despite the fact that the ‘intellectual’ stimulation as you put it, falls short of my expectation. It’s just a bunch of questions to ponder with no real answer and it seems lack it lacks, I don’t know, conviction? I do think that Noomi is a pretty compelling lead, I guess this is the first time I’ve ever seen her in a lead role and I thought she was up to the task. I’m glad it’s not as gory and disgusting as the Alien movies though. “it’s a B movie wrapped in an A movie’s clothing” I think that’s a perfect way to describe this.

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