Sunday, June 10, 2012
I've been looking forward to being disappointed by this movie for months now. The premise always struck me as an incredibly ambitious direction with some real potential, and the trailers were nothing short of fantastic. But, like I said a few months ago, it's been three decades since Ridley Scott made a movie I like, so I couldn't shake the feeling this could go south.
Not surprisingly, this movie has some serious problems. Fortunately, it's also got a few strengths.
Let's start with the positive. This movie maintains Scott's track record with tone and atmosphere: there's a palpable sense of dread on Prometheus, just like there was on the Nostromo. For the most part, the suspense and horror delivers. Likewise, most of the effects are topnotch, though the CG stood out in a few sequences. Still, this may be the first movie I've ever seen in 2D where I've regretted not upgrading.
The horror aspect of Prometheus worked; I can't say the same for the science fiction.
The thing is, this isn't a movie where the SF stays relegated to the background: this film is less about horror and action and more about posing questions and expanding on the mythology of the Alien franchise. These are fantastic aspirations; it's a real shame the movie fails spectacularly in the attempt.
Spoilers follow, dear reader. Proceed at your peril.
The mythology it offers - mainly around the infamous "space jockey" from the original film - is relatively underwhelming. If you've seen the trailer, you've probably already figured out what they're driving at. On this account, the movie mainly just succeeded in removing any mystery from the strange dead giant. None of the details they filled in were satisfying, and the areas left unanswered lacked the mystique.
As for the more cognitive aspects of the production, if you're familiar with the genre, you're familiar with the ideas and questions it poses. They've played with variations on Star Trek TNG and X-Files, not to mention countless comics, novels, and short stories. This tends to be the case with most science fiction, which is why the best SF movies don't try to compete with with more than a hundred years of idea-driven speculative fiction and instead complement it visually.
The movie's real weakness, though, is in its characters and structure. The actors all do a fine job with what they're given, but in many cases what they've been given is utter tripe. Do we really care that the main character lost her father to disease as a child? Do we need to spend time dealing with her cliche psychological issues of inadequacy due to her inability to have children? There's an alien bio-weapons plant outside, people: get your goddamn priorities in order! Do we really need yet another movie about holding on to one's faith when God turns out to be a dick from outer space?
In space, no one can hear you retell the story of Job.
Yeah, that's what this thing really boils down to. It's not an awful idea on its own, I guess, but if you're going that route, you need to make sure your dialogue is pitch-perfect, your characters are well-rounded and fascinating, and your story flows seamlessly. And Prometheus delivered on none of these things.
That said, the vast majority of this movie is engrossing while you're in the theater. It pulls you into its world, and the actors trick you into staying interested, even as their characters make baffling, irrational decisions at every turn. You'll love the horror when the film stops pontificating on faith long enough to return to the interesting stuff.
In short, if you're a fan of the genre, you'll enjoy the experience. But, as the closing credits roll, you're going to feel shortchanged by how much of the movie was pissed away on meaningless drivel. And you're especially going to feel gypped by the last twenty minutes: the ending was downright awful. It's not actually a bad way to spend a few hours; just go in knowing it's going to make you more angry than intrigued.
Posted by Erin Snyder at 8:10 AM