The faces of Prometheus

Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction.

There were a number of reasons to have high expectations for the film, including a legendary director, a fantastic cast and Geiger-esque visuals. Unfortunately, the film was unable to deliver on these promises.

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: 

Prometheus is beautiful. The ship designs, the CGI landscapes, the puppetry, the use of actual 3D cameras instead of adding 3D in post. Nearly every frame of the film is a stunning visual composition. But you already knew that. You’ve seen the previews yourself. 

The performances were also spectacular. With the exception of Guy Pearce, who clearly cannot play ‘old’ very well – making one wonder why they were unable to find any actual old men to play the part – the cast is good.

Naoomi Rapace and Charlize Theron especially dazzle, and I look forward to seeing both of them act in more genre films in the future.

The concept of the film is interesting as well: humans find evidence of an alien race who visited earth in ancient time, and seek them out in an attempt to discover more about our own creation. Not entirely original, but still with lots of potential for very profound statements and engaging discovery.

All that acknowledged, the film is not very interesting. The writing is simply not good enough to get where the film wanted to go. That direction is clear. I can see through the veil to where the film wanted to be, what kind of message it wanted to report, but it doesn’t.

The plot is riddled with holes and inconsistencies – including scientific gaps that are simply not excusable anymore, even in soft science fiction. Character dialogue is almost always stilted and unconvincing, and they are all left with far too little development, and no explanation for their motives. Worse, they are almost all really just silly.

Okay, so it’s supposed to be a bit of a thriller, almost a horror, and it’s supposed to be deadly, but nearly all of the deaths in the film occur due to utter incompetence. This is supposed to be a ship full of the best and brightest, but they all act as plot-stupid as a pack of teenagers being picked off by a serial killer at summer-camp. In Alien, Ridley Scott’s classic film, which takes place in the same universe, some of that crap made sense because the ship was just a cargo vessel and not everyone on it was a genius. This ship, however, should have been full of smart people, and they all act dumb for no other reason than to advance the plot.

As promised, the film has a twist pay-off at the end, which ties it into the greater Alien story-line, but it’s not clever or plausible enough to work for me, and it required so much of the rest of the plot to circle around in strange ways to make it happen that it’s too clearly an over-wrought contrivance. It’s almost like they started with a good film, and decided to twist the whole thing out of shape for that one pay-off, which really only leaves the audience feeling twisted, rather than rewarded.

To top it all off, the film is incredibly shallow. It wants to make a point about spirituality and human nature, but are so poorly connected to the characters and the plot of the film that they come off more like an arrogant lecture than a thought-provoking discussion. In fact, the arrogance the film adopts promoting its own message is likely what turns me off the most about Prometheus.

We expected a grand new classic of science fiction, and instead we got just so much more pretty, yet shallow, CGI pulp. It’s difficult for me to put into words just how disappointing the film is without spoiling it, so I understand if you want to to see it for yourself. If you do, make sure to go to the 3D showing. It looks amazing.

Prometheus is in theaters now.