A lot of reviews have come out over this weekend on Prometheus, and I by no means think I’m bringing anything terribly unique to the table, but just letting everyone know what I thought, as I keep getting asked what I thought about it.
Now, for some backup, I am a film and media studies graduate. I analyze films. This is what I do. If you do not like looking at the story structure, character development, or plot holes in a film, and prefer to watch films very casually (which is completely okay!), then this movie may float your boat. It’s visually gorgeous and I couldn’t have asked for anything better (except some better aging makeup for Guy Pearce). So enjoy! For anyone who likes to take a movie apart and see what makes it tick, then you might just want to steer clear of this one.
**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!**
Yes, this review will be filled to the brim with spoilers, so if you really don’t want to spoil it for yourself, don’t read it. Or else you’ll find out that our leading lady got an alien worm baby abortion. Oops. Hope you listened to my warning!
Okay, so first thing’s first: The very first scene. In an interview, Ridley Scott was asked when and where this scene is supposed to take place. We see an Engineer kill himself. Who is he? A rogue? A martyr? Is this on Earth? Is this on his own planet? Is this the future? The past? Scott pretty much says “that’s the beauty of it; it’s up to the audience to decide.” No. That’s cheap. Make a decision, Scott. If you’re not invested in your own movie enough to figure out when, where, and why things are happening, then we won’t either. It gets better: apparently Jesus was an Engineer, and after we killed them, we ticked off all the Engineers and that’s why they were hell-bent on killing us.
As a woman who prides herself in believing whole-heartedly in directorial intent, I think it’s a total cop-out when directors just don’t have any intent at all. “It’s up to you, man,” doesn’t really fly in my book. If there’s some interpretation left to the audience, that’s awesome. As long as the director knows what’s really going down. (Prime example: whether or not Rick Deckard was an android in Blade Runner… Granted, this gets hazy once Scott backtracks and says that Deckard is an android after having told Harrison Ford that he wasn’t an android, but that’s another story for another time!)
But you know what, one scene does not make a film, so let’s move on.
If you’ve spoken with me (or read my Facebook wall), you probably have a good idea of how much I love science! Plus, I’m a total sci-fi nerd. So it really chaps my hide when I see scientists represented so poorly in movies. I haven’t watched as much as I want to, but in “Star Trek” Gene Roddenberry really REALLY wanted the scientists to be good at science (after the jump: read #8). He didn’t want any members of the crew to make dumb mistakes. I’ve always been a big fan of that way of thinking. And on that note I return to Prometheus.
One of the many problems here, is that our scientists don’t ACT LIKE SCIENTISTS!!! I’m not going to talk about the captain or the redundant first officer(s), or even the nurse (remember her? That broad who had a handful of lines and really played no integral part to the story whatsoever?). The scientists are as followed: Shaw (our leading lady), Holloway (Shaw’s partner), Fifield (anarchist geologist), and Milburn (dopey biologist).
A brief tangent to get us all on the same playing field: The crew members all wake up two years after having set off on this journey. Then they are sent to a briefing. But really, it’s more of an orientation than anything. The crew is given a little back story, which is great for the audience, but in reality, it would have taken place MUCH earlier than 2 years into their expedition! After our characters wake up, they introduce themselves to each other as if they’d never met before. As if they hadn’t (in their minds) just walked into the ship, surrounded by 16 other strangers (yes, this is a huge crew at 17; much larger than Alien‘s original 7) and clamored into their sleep pods. This is assuming that this didn’t happen after days/ weeks/ months of training. I hear you out there, “Hey, it’s the future, anyone can travel through space! You don’t need to learn how!” Okay, I’ll accept that, but I will NOT accept that 17 people would just hop on a shuttle for a minimum of 4 years with the promise of a lot of money, without being told any details regarding the mission.
And here we are introduced to our comedic relief/Alien chow Fifield and Milburn. How cute, they’re unlikely buddies who end up bonding in their last moments alive. What really upsets me about these characters is that they are so bad at doing what they were brought to the planet to do.
Fifield was supposed to be in charge of mapping out the pyramid. Figuring out where tunnels were and using his little “pops” to find any life that may be lurking. This works totally fine until the crew finds a dead (loooong dead, we’re talking mummified dead) body. Then he flips his sh*t and runs away. Milburn- the biologist mind you- takes one look at the dead biology and runs away with Fifield. This is where it gets good. Cause it is once they are away from our other characters that they both turn completely incompetent (even more so than they’ve already been). Fifield, who just moments before had some kind of way of seeing the “pops”s mapping on a device on his arm (he had been leading the crew, after all), now suddenly becomes lost! He runs around in circles and manages to not make it back to the ship before the big storm. They both manage to make it back into the scary cavern they were in before. You know, the one where they made black goo come out of the urns.
Just then, a mysterious living creature pops up and suddenly the biologist wants nothing more than to
examine play with it. If anybody out there has seen a cobra, or a cat, or even the dinosaur who kills Newman in Jurassic Park, they know that if an animal puffs up and attempts to make itself look bigger than it is, it’s clearly not digging you and you’d best pound sand. (Keep in mind, this is the same scientist who commented on how silly it was to discount Darwinism/evolution in place of blind faith). Well, even after years of schooling, our skilled biologist Milburn decides to play with it, which of course results in his death as well as Fifield’s, setting off a chain of events that involve Fifield coming back as a zombie(?) to collapse at the door of the ship only to pop up and kill all the crew members without names.
But that’s only 2 dumb scientists. There’s still 2 more. They could act like real scientists! Right? …right?
Let’s start with our leading man, Holloway. After being infected with some kind of weird alien space infection, he puts the entire crew in danger by not telling anyone. He sees an alien worm thing in his eyeball (IN HIS EYEBALL!!!) and shrugs it off, acting as if it were allergies. I freak out when I get dust in my eye, let alone AN ALIEN WORM BABY! He goes in with the crew back into the pyramid and takes his helmet off, just like everybody else (more on the whole breathable air/helmet thing in a minute). It’s not until he collapses that he’s willing to admit that things are going crazy inside of his body. This is where awesome representations of strong, capable women come in to play.
Remember in the original Alien when Ripley was like, “no way I’m letting that dude back on the ship! He’s got a huge alien strapped to his face!” and then ended up being the hero and was really the character we were all rooting for in the end, partly because her level-headedness and her ability to make the tough decisions? Well… Prometheus kinda slaps her in the face.
Our antagonist (we can tell she’s a bad guy cause she’s so cold and calculated) Vickers (Charlize Theron), tells the crew that Holloway can’t come back on board. You know, cause of the weird alien space infection. And our leading lady Shaw demands he be let on board. Not to be trifled with, Vickers is forced to kill Holloway before endangering the entire crew. Little does she know he’s already pumped infected baby goo into Shaw’s under carriage.
This is where the movie gets some weird political points thrown in for good measure.
After Shaw realizes she’s got an alien worm baby inside her, she tells David (the android) that she needs to get it removed. Despite the film’s best attempts at not saying the dreaded “A word”, we all know what’s gonna happen. Shaw manages to get a super convenient medical pod to slice her open for an “emergency cesarean” procedure. This is, of course, after the super convenient medical pod tells her that it doesn’t do lady procedures. So, after she’s tricked the super convenient medical pod to cut out the alien worm baby, she leaves the little bugger squirming around in the claw. Just leaves it. She gets stapled up across her belly (you’re gonna wanna remember that big ol’ gaping wound she’s rocking for some scenes at the climax of the film) and runs out to find out what’s going on in the rest of the ship. Later, it is that
aborted “taken care of” alien worm baby that grows up big and strong (despite lack of food/sustenance) and even saves her human mommy in the end! I don’t know what kind of statement that’s supposed to be making, but I’ll go ahead and take a chapter from Scott’s book and tell you all to interpret it however you want to.
Shaw’s character just bugged me from the get-go. I’ll suspend my belief enough to let it slide by that Shaw would need to be in the 7% of scientists who believe in a personal god (this is, of course, assuming she’s neither evangelical nor fundamentalist, in which case she’d be in the even smaller 2% group). But in the beginning, when she was talking to her father about death, and when she asks how he knows that heaven is beautiful, he replies “It’s what I choose to believe.” This becomes a weird kind of mantra throughout the whole film, which only really says “I don’t know why, but I choose to not question it.” And this is what drives me batty. Scientists are supposed to be curious question-answerers! The fact that she repeats this phrase throughout the movie makes me respect her less as a scientist.
Aside from the characters acting inconsistently, there were so many plot holes and pointless threads that it seemed like somebody had taken a huge chunk out of the middle of the film.
In (good) writing, if a gun is to be shot in the third act, it needs to be shown in the first, and then reestablished in the second. Something to remind the viewers what we’re driving toward. It seemed that the gun in this one was the “highly toxic air”. When they first stepped on the planet, they made sure to keep their helmets on tight, since the air was just so incredibly toxic. But once inside the pyramid, the air seemed fine. They were able to have their helmets off inside. They made a point of bringing up the damned helmets several times throughout the film, but it never led anywhere! Poor writing.
Everywhere you turned, there was bad writing and even worse direction. This movie wanted so badly to be a beautiful masterpiece of a film, full of allegories and mythos and allusions and symbolism and answers to the ultimate question. But it tried too hard to be pretentious (and simultaneously an accessible action-horror flick), and not hard enough at being good.