Rather than delve further into complex issues of creation, Prometheus instead forces us to sit back and just mindlessly consume a visual spectacle
This was it. Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated film. Possibly the most anticipated film of 2012 so far. So, naturally, as a fan of Ridley Scott, and by extension the Alien saga, I went to watch it on the finest cinema screen I could find to ensure I wouldn’t miss out on any computer-generated special effects. But I left disappointed, and the more I thought about the film, the more disappointed I became.
This is no traditional review. In fact, let me get the traditional review bit out of the way. Prometheus is not the groundbreaking piece of modern cinema many thought it would be. It is contrived, unadventurous, and simple. It doesn’t induce goosebumps, the characters are dry and unlikable, and the story is question-begging. But I could look past all of this. I could look past the schizophrenic character played by Charlize Theron – a completely forgettable role. I could even forgive Noomi Rapace’s utterly predictable and unexciting portrayal of Ellen Ripley… Sorry, did I say Ripley? I meant Elizabeth Shaw. These would be minor niggles only if this film’s potential had been realised.
Prometheus could have been so much more. The beauty of science-fiction is that it provides the opportunity to create a context where you can explore your subject matter in a way that non-fiction cannot. There are no constraints; there can be extremes of good and evil, right and wrong, big and small, all existing within the same narrative. Whatever issue you want to explore, no matter how abstract, can be explored. Star Wars created a universe which enclosed the most ancient of debates, those of good versus evil, and religion versus modernity, such that one doesn’t even realise these questions are being explored. Prometheus completely disregards this opportunity.
When I heard that Prometheus would be set in the Alien universe I was intrigued. When I heard that the premise revolved around the issue of a Creator disappointed with its creation, I almost bounced off the walls. But the film doesn’t seem to care about these issues; it’s far more interested in providing a mediocre thrill with the odd dash of gratuitous gore for good effect. There is one scene in particular which stands out, if not for its shock factor then for its similarity to a certain scene from the original Alien film. It feels like the ‘creators’ constantly alluded to are merely exuberant plot devices to drive forward the narrative when there isn’t someone dying.
The evidence of this is where the film dedicates almost ten minutes of reel to explaining the creators and their role in the plot. Even then, this generates more questions than it answers. Firstly, they are referred to as ‘creators’ but the audience is never given an explanation as to why we should think this is so – we just have to accept the premise. Without knowing this information it’s difficult to identify with Shaw. Her passion and zeal is evident but I felt completely apathetic because I don’t know what she knows – and I never find out why she thinks what she thinks.
Secondly, putting the above issue aside, if they were our creators, the question of why they created us is never answered. We eventually find out, through an obscure scene between an android Michael Fassbender and another minor character with a drinking problem, that our apparent creators were disappointed by us. Even later on in the film, we find out that we were created by accident. In fact, Michael Fassbender’s android seems to act as a deus ex machina. On multiple occasions he saved the narrative with his inexplicable grasp of the creators’ language and knowledge of how to use their technology. I get it, he’s an android, but that simply isn’t enough in a film of this calibre.
I was hoping to enjoy a space opera that dissected the complex relationship between humanity and its creator by exploring our hubris and arrogance. This concept is briefly alluded to with the appearance of Weyland, but dismissed as a “pursuit of immortality” and swept aside to make way for super-awesome-creator-human-ship-destruction-blowing-up.
Prometheus is a step back from the Alien saga and a crude interpretation of the Alien universe. Maybe it’s a reflection of the state of Hollywood that such a prime piece of science-fiction storytelling is intentionally sullied. I felt insulted after watching this film, as if the themes would be lost on me if actually explored. Maybe I expected too much – it’s a good ride, so belt up and enjoy it for what it is.
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