The music was right. The CGI was right. The plot was okay, about as good as a mediocre episode of star trek (if there is such a thing), but okay. It’s hard to tell how good the acting was when you consider how bad of a script they had to work with. I think this scene from one of Ridley Scott’s earlier movies best represents my opinion of the movie as a whole.
Yeah, I’m a bit of a movie snob.
The opening scene hovers over a majestic, primordial earth full of lush green valleys and gigantic waterfalls. A crazy-buff alien guy performs some kind of self-sacrificing ritual. I thought that was just great. I had no idea what was going on, but I still thought it was a great sequence. Sure I had questions: who is this guy? is he human? how did he get so impossibly buff? is this earth? the future? past? what is he drinking? why is he drinking it? what kind of aftershave does he use? But I was confident some of those questions would be addressed later in the movie. It all went downhill from there.
The emotional vibe took a complete 360. Suddenly we’re on a ship orbiting a strange planet and everyone is just so complacent and boring. The crew during the briefing scene are collectively scratching their heads and hemming and hawing about the mission, which is basically to discover the origin of the human race. I don’t think anyone cares except for the tried and cliche “anything for science” characters (Shaw and Holloway).
Compare that to the briefing scene with the marines in Aliens. That scene served a purpose: we get the idea that our cast is a bunch of gun-toting, cocky bastards. The only thing we learn about the characters from the briefing scene in Prometheus is that they don’t really give a shit, and that complacency carries into the rest of the movie. When they first fly into the alien planet and discover the alien structures, you’d expect someone to at least say something exclamatory after the discovery of other sentient life in the universe. Hardly a peep. It’s all routine. But when the characters don’t give a shit, the audience doesn’t give a shit either.
A few scenes later, we’re in a cave and the tattooed mohawk character, Fifield, is frantically yelling “let’s get out of here,” because the crew has just discovered the 2,000-year-old rotting carcass of an alien (and that’s not me exaggerating numbers, the carcass was literally 2,000 years old according to the main characters first-glance assessment). And there’s nothing wrong with yelling “let’s get out of here.” The phrase is practically a necessity in a Sci-Fi thriller. It just has to be built up to. There has to be enough emotional strain, horror and suspense before someone gets hysterical and starts screaming things like “let’s get out of here.” Finding an alien body that’s been dead for 2,000 years does not constitute enough emotional strain, horror and suspense. I wasn’t feeling it.
The tattooed mohawk guy is the perfect example of poor and inconsistent character development. When we first meet the tattooed mohawk guy, we are lead to believe he is some sort of badass (and I don’t want to stereotype people here, but the tattoos and mohawk did nothing to dispel that notion). Then, in the cave (which is actually a ship corridor), he practically pisses his pants and gets hysterical the moment something strange happens.
The male scientist, Holloway, tells Fifield to “keep it together,” but later Holloway loses it himself. Although he says the finding of the dead aliens is “the greatest discovery in the history of mankind,” he proceeds to lapse into an existential crisis, drinking and feeling sorry for himself, after one day of searching and not finding a live alien. One day. I spent more time searching for my lost sock. It sort of contradicted the establishment of his character as the level-headed scientist, out for the betterment of mankind, who would do “anything and all it takes.”
Charlize Theron played the token corporate tool, but produced hardly any real friction or conflict in the story, though she tried hard. She did light the diseased Holloway on fire with a flame thrower (good riddance) but that seemed like a major overreaction. I don’t think the audience bought it. She could just as easily have put him in a med pod outside the ship like the captain suggested. Or at least thought it over a bit. For God sakes, at least take a few minutes to assess the situation! But she had to light him up, right there, on the spot, no questions asked. I resolved to not feel outrage because of how obvious a solicit for emotion that scene was.
Paul Reiser, who played Burke in Aliens, was a much better token corporate tool in my opinion. His actions evoked hatred and disgust, and the snake oil salesman persona got a lot more under my skin than Theron’s female careerist act.
Ripley: He figured that he could get an alien back through quarantine, if one of us was… impregnated… whatever you call it, and then frozen for the trip home. Nobody would know about the embryos we were carrying… me and Newt..
Burke: This is so nuts. I mean, listen – listen to what you’re saying. It’s paranoid delusion. How – It’s really sad. It’s pathetic…
In that scene from Aliens, you can see the guilt manifesting on Burke’s reddening face. It was just perfect. Burke made me cringe.
“Meredith Vickers” only made me scoff. The character didn’t have any clear motivations except to survive. That’s the biggest thing really, she wasn’t after anything and therefore didn’t have any bearing on the plot. Shaw and Holloway were there for science, Weyland for meaning, Fifield for money, but it seemed like Theron’s charactor, Meredith Vickers, was just sort of along for the ride. She was only there to try to intimidate people and make excessive eye contact.
I can go on and on about the characters, or lack thereof. There’s a Scottish lady who’s entire role in the movie was to have a Scottish accent. That’s literally all she did in the movie: have an accent, and provide the novelty that comes from having a Scottish accent. There was an Asian guy too that stood on the bridge and looked out the window of the ship during a few scenes. All he did was be Asian, and literally nothing else… except for the scene in the end where, out of the blue, he sacrifices himself along with the captain to destroy the Engineer’s ship. I didn’t care that he scarified himself because I didn’t know anything about him, except that he was Asian. I felt nothing! It’s kind of like reading about someone who was killed on the news. The information means little to me because I didn’t know who the person was. Poor character development.
The only half-way decent character was the android, David. The robot had more personality than the humans. But David was basically a ripoff from the android in Aliens. I felt like I was having déjà vu when his head was torn off. The very same thing happened to the android character in Aliens. What is it with androids constantly losing their heads? *Slaps knee.*
Shaw was another character transplanted from aliens: the resourceful, enduring female protagonist that Sigourney Weaver captured so well. She teams up with the decapitated android just like Weaver did at the end of Aliens. Cool, I thought that was cute, but we’ve seen it before. And I think it was done better the first time around.
The movie did have some redeeming qualities. There was no eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere like in the Alien series, but the scenery was fab-tastic. The technology on the ship was mega cool. The plot moved at a steady pace and there’s at least enough gore and mangled flesh to thoroughly pique your interest. There’s an “oh shit” moment at the end, when we witness the first birth of the creature from Alien. Not a plot twist, but more of an “oh shit” moment, because we all saw it coming. But still, even though we saw it coming, it was cool to see it finally get here. I liked the connection with the Aliens plot.
But bottom line, all in all, Prometheus is worth a watch, but only to satisfy your curiosity. It’s not torture, but it’s not the best two hours and four minutes of my life, either. I give it a solid B minus. I think Ridley Scott outdid himself 30 years ago with the Alien series. Prometheus didn’t quite measure up.