“Prometheus” (2012) Review

I didn’t understand the hype that surrounded Prometheus. I know it’s supposed to be an Alien prequel or at least take place in the same universe as those movies, but the Alien movies haven’t been remotely good since the 80s. I get that there was excitement over Ridley Scott’s return to the series, but you’d figure that by now audiences would be more skeptical about the pioneer of a successful film franchise coming back to make a prequel.

Case in point.

I guess you could attribute a lot of anticipation to the film’s viral marketing campaign, which was thorough to say the least.  It attempted to legitimize the fictional universe of the film through fake ads and infomercials, a TED talk with one of the film’s characters, and a fully-functional Weyland Industries corporate website. While everything was well done, I felt like it didn’t really get you hyped up for the film itself so much as the idea of it. What I mean by this is the campaign focused solely on immersing the audience into the world of Prometheus instead of actually telling us anything of relevance. It sort of followed the stream of logic “If we make them think it’s real, they won’t know if it’s bad.”

This is a term I’m coining “Trekkie Logic.”

Whether you hyped yourself up for it or not, Prometheus is disappointing. The irony of the viral campaign is that the film is actually rooted in a pretty weak idea, but it’s one that’s impressively executed. First of all, it’s visually stunning. Ridley Scott, if nothing else, is an incredible visual director and is at his best in this film. The environments depicted are expansive and awe-inspiring, the action big and intense, the special effects impeccable, and if you’re going to shell out any extra cash to watch a movie in 3D or UltraAVX, you’ll get your money’s worth with Prometheus.

The acting is also quite commendable. Noomi Rapace plays scientist Elizabeth Shaw and her boyfriend Charlie is played by Tom Hardy … I mean, Logan Marshall-Green. Both give solid performances, but neither character is all that interesting. Michael Fassbender totally steals the show as the android David. It’s ironic that a soulless robot is the most interesting character in the whole movie, but Fassbender is so talented, he brings a sort of life not only to David, but to the entire film. His performance was definitely a personal highlight. Charlize Theron adopts a far more controlled approach to portrayal of Vickers, which is a breath of fresh air from the all-you-can-eat scenery chew-a-thon that was her performance in Snow White and the Huntsman. In fact, I would go as far as to call her performance in Prometheus a bit wooden, but this may have been intentional because it’s sparked a bit of debate as to whether or not Vickers is an android.

You know … just in case you forgot this was a Ridley Scott movie.

Guy Pearce dons pounds of age make-up to play the elderly Peter Weyland of Weyland Industries, who sponsors the intergalactic voyage of the Prometheus ship to discover the origins of mankind (note how subtly I inserted the film’s plot this time). Pearce does an okay job, I guess, but I don’t know why he was cast. Usually when they get young actors to play older characters, they intend on showing us their younger, more easily-marketable selves at some point, but such is not the case in Prometheus. They hired a 44-year-old actor to exclusively portray a character in at least his nineties, which totally begs the question why not just get an older actor? With no more than 15 minutes of screentime, Weyland is far from the lynchpin of the film, so it’s not like they needed a big-name actor and Pearce was all they could get. And yes, I know that Pearce appears sans-make-up in the TED talk, but that’s part of the promotional materials and not featured at all in the actual film. I’m not cynical enough to believe they hired Pearce just so they could market the film more easily, so why?

Why, goddammit, WHY?!?

In fact, ‘why’ seems to be a question that consistently pops up during Prometheus and is ultimately its undoing. This is almost entirely due to choices made during the writing process. Prometheus is the collaborative effort of Damon Lindelof (famous for writing Cowboys and Aliens and co-creating LOST) and Jon Spaihts (famous for writing  … this movie) and the resulting script is flawed, to say the least. Firstly, there are too many characters, which consequently hinders all of their abilities to develop or in many cases, establish who they even are. Even the most praiseworthy performances in the film are restricted by this and a number of major characters are rendered bland and disposable. As a result, the audience has little insight into the characters’ personalities and motivations and will likely find themselves constantly questioning many of the characters’ actions and deductions, which often come off as random and abrupt. Furthermore, the film’s plot isn’t so much a story as it is a rapid sequence of events. Things just sort of happen void of build-up or exposition and pretty much nothing is explained. The film raises several important questions over its course and they’re only answered with more questions, which is very frustrating. Gee … an abundance of characters, random events with no explanation, dozens of questions that don’t get answered … doesn’t this remind you of a certain TV show? You know, the one about castaways on an island?

Yup, that’s the one!

Despite this, I still think Prometheus is worth seeing. The spectacular visuals and few standout performances (especially Fassbender’s) are enough to at least keep you well entertained. Scott directs the film very well considering what he had to work with and it’s certainly less of a train wreck than most Alien movies.

Oh God, why?

I give it 3/5.

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