Prometheus – Movie Review
Everyone obsessed with the Alien movies and everyone who loves Ridley Scott, one of our greatest cinematic stylists, has already rushed to see Prometheus. Whereas the original Alien felt like a horror film/sci-fi mash up and its sequel Aliens, directed by James Cameron, seemed like a mash up of a horror film/sci-fi/action flick, Prometheus really just feels like a sci-fi film, well at least for most of the film.
Bombarded with symbolism and religious references and ideas about the creation of mankind, Prometheus is the intelligent person’s part of the Alien franchise. Given this, it is no wonder, that I didn’t get much of the philosophy, theory and science behind it. I am not too intellectual, and often movies like this leave me scratching my head, and I just assume everyone else is getting the intricacies of the themes and plot that are going on.
So I called upon on all my expensive and elaborate film education from NYU film school and the American Film Institute and came up with this: WTF?
First of all, if use symbolism, please remember that not everything can be a symbol and it would help to figure out what one symbol meant before you present the next one. There shouldn’t be the need for cliff notes every five minutes, plus they are hard to read with 3-D glasses on.
Prometheus is a masterpiece of art direction and atmosphere. It looks stunning and you feel like something bad is going to happen at any minute and for a long (a very long) time this “look and feel” keeps you interested. There is little action, horror or death for what seems like an eternity. Ironically though, once mayhem does descend, the film began to unravel. I understand that typically Science Fiction films are slight on character development and big on ideas and science, but these characters are so thin you can see through them. Perhaps that is why I couldn’t care less when they start getting picked off like cat hairs on a black sweater. I can sum up my main problem with this movie in three words, “No Character Empathy.”
In both Alien and Aliens it was clear that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) was the hero and even the people that “bought it” you felt something for. For the longest time, I can’t figure who I am supposed to care about and why in Prometheus. Furthermore they all seem so passive and like moronic graduates of the “don’t go in the cellar” school that I am just waiting for them to get their intergalactic, gross-out justice.
Even though there is a prologue flashback at the beginning, involving Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapache) as a child, that is supposed to build empathy and let us know that it is her story, the screenwriters are so busy overloading the script with other characters and storylines that we soon forget. It isn’t until the last third or fourth of the film that Shaw emerges as a type of hero, (spoiler alert) especially after a spectacularly exciting and terrifying futuristic surgical procedure (one of the best sequences in the film). But it all feels a little too late. On the way to this character empathy there is great production design and interesting ideas, but also some pretty lame plotting and lack of central focus.
The writers’ smugness and cavalier attitude toward the audience’s emotional involvement is evident by the death of the most venal and evil character. Usually in horror films, “bad” characters get an astonishingly graphic death, a sort of cinematic justice. Not so here. Here, the death of the person you want to see get it the most is barely registered on screen and that death, like the entire film, leaves you deeply unsatisfied.