PROMETHEUS: Colossal Mess or Epic Success?

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Prometheus (2012)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Damon Lindelof and John Spaihts
Prometheus Official Site

From the moment the teaser trailer for Ridley Scott’s proposed “prequel” to the Alien franchise hit the web, it was near impossible to keep expectations at a reasonable level for Prometheus. Not only was Scott returning to science fiction after three decades, but also returning to the universe where he first captured the hearts and minds of legions of fans. The mythos of the Alien universe may not be as popular or recognized as Star Wars or even The Matrix, but it is every bit as prolific. There have been numerous spin offs in video games, comics, and even crossovers with other franchises like Predator. For many fans, this was to be *the* event of the summer. I’d consider myself part of that camp.

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We’d been assured two things about Prometheus: One is that it would “share DNA” with the Alien series, but still retain its own identity and ability to breath on its own. Two, that it would be a mind-blowing journey into religion, science, genetics, robots, and otherworldly monsters. Promising both depth and spectacle, Prometheus was sure to be the antidote to dumbed down popcorn movies littering the theaters this time of year. A film in search of the architect(s) of the universe – fueled by one of the giants in the genre – should be a game-changer, right?

What I found is a film with cool space vehicles, an intriguing premise, and sumptuous visuals that flirted with profundity, but was also occasionally dumb and overblown. I’d consider it a success, but one marred by trying to shoehorn its Alien brethren into the formula. General complaints from reviewers and filmgoers seem to point to “unanswered questions” as being the main culprit in holding the film back. What I found was a film that was surprisingly straightforward. I would agree that the film had much loftier goals than say Battleship, but that Prometheus, for me, runs the risk of being forgotten by the end of the week.

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I don’t want to recap the entire synopsis of Prometheus. For posterity, it’s the story of the crew – a collection of archeologists, geologists, linguists, and other scientists – of the Prometheus, a space exploration vessel funded by the mega-rich and powerful Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce) of Weyland Industries.  The ship is on a course charted by a “star map” uncovered by a pair of archeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charles Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Their hope is that the coordinates will lead them to our makers, a race of super-beings referred to as “Engineers”. As Elizabeth states, “it’s not a map, it’s an invitation”.

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The crew, led by the fiercely corporate Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), explores an ancient structure that houses multitudes of canisters, as well as the dead remains of the Engineers. Upon finding the supposed creators dead, the group is more than a little discouraged. When David, the android caretaker and translator of the mission, sneaks a canister aboard the Prometheus, he sets off a chain of events that will touch upon interstellar evolution, existentialism, religion, and genocide. In this, Prometheus is daring to go places other films only dream.

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The cast is competent with Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron holding down the fort in their respective roles. Fassbender is no doubt the conversation piece of the film. His performance is riveting despite an overall feeling of being underdeveloped. Rapace channels pathos where events get a little ridiculous, such as a tense scene in an automated surgery bed. She honestly kept me from rolling my eyes where a less capable actor would have failed. She made it work. I was hoping Theron’s character wouldn’t have been so predictably cold, but the archetype did add an element of “is she or isn’t she an android” into the mix. Although a lot of her actions belie any notion of prior programming, the question still looms.

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Ultimately, Prometheus is just about everything it was supposed to be except for mind-blowing. Where the trailer literally gave me goosebumps, I did not feel the same during any moment of the full film. Even though Alien was made over 30 years ago, there was a true sense of awe and other worldliness I felt from the moment the Nostromo touched down on the Alien planet. Maybe I’m just jaded by years and years of other CGI “epic” fantasy and sci-fi films. Prometheus is certainly more purely science fiction than its predecessors. However, it may have been those eerie, scary, claustrophobic moments I was missing all along.  There’s an anti-climactic feeling by the end that speaks more of the by-the-numbers action-packed cliffhanger ending than any hanging philosophical questions.

By no means am I suggesting you avoid the film. I’d just turn the expectation meter down a few notches. It’s a case of ambition superceded by compromise. I’ll still take this kind of film over Transformers or Battleship any day.

Prometheus Trailer

Mike Snoonian

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since 2009 Mike has written about independent horror, science fiction, cult and thrillers through his own blog All Things Horror along with various other spots on the web. Film Thrills marks his attempt to take things up a notch, expand his viewing and writing horizons and to entertain and engage his audience while doing so. When Mike's not writing or watching movies, you can find him reading to his little girl, or doing science experiments with her, or trying to convince her that the term "chicken butt" comes from people putting chicken nuggets down their underwear. at age five, she's too smart to believe most of what he says.

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  1. The Mike

    Right on, man. I was expecting it to rule the world, and the end result was baffling. I lost my cool during the final act, and thinking back on the movie I like it more than I said I did in a knee-jerk reaction.

    It's 2/3rds of a great movie, it just never put it all together like Alien did.

    Reply
  2. mike snoonian

    I'm of much of the same mindset-though I find that just because it's not the great movie I emanated, it doesn't mean it's not a great film. The visuals are too gorgeous for me to dismiss it entirely, despite the many forehead slapping moments of the idiot crew.

    Reply

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