Prometheus reminded me a lot of LOST. A lot. While this might be Ridley Scott's movie, Damon Lindelof is all over it. Remember my review of LOST? Substitute Prometheus for LOST and you have an incredibly accurate review. The same problems exist in both, and the same themes are visited, too. How did we get here? Why are we here? Science or faith? I think humankind has been asking these questions since we could ask questions. For some, there is no answer. For others, the "how" and "why" don't matter. It comes down to the individual, and unfortunately for us, the audience, the individuals in Prometheus all suffer from what the medical field calls being fucking idiots.
But what works with the movie? It's not all negative, not by a long shot. Just like LOST, Ridley Scott does some badass things. The ambition is there. Prometheus wants to do big things. It wants to expand on the mythologies of one of the greatest science fiction films of all time (I'm talking about Alien here). I do feel like the ending-ending was kind of shoe-horned on there as an acknowledgement of where this all winds up. I could've done without that (especially since it opens up more questions. There was a mural of the Xenomorph in the giant mound/pyramid, so clearly Xenomorphs have existed before that one). But the Space Jockeys are intriguing. Why did they have a ship full of Xenomorph eggs in Alien? Why do they have a whole ship full of ambiguous black goo in Prometheus? Did they create life on earth, or humans? Have they been around the billions of years necessary to start life? What then happens to evolution? You can see how the ambition can work against the movie, too. Especially when that last question is dismissed by the lead anthropologist/archaeologist with, "It's what I choose to believe." Which then leads to the film's problems with faith and science, and how poorly they try to address religion.
But we're supposed to be talking about positives! Every single frame is gorgeous. The production design and cinematography is probably the best we'll see all summer (at least until The Dark Knight Rises). Arthur Max (production designer) and Dariusz Wolski (cinematographer) deserve all the heap and praise they're getting. I regret not realizing the movie was filmed in 3D, so I don't feel like I really got to experience it like I was supposed to. But I've heard they did great work with depth of field.
You saw how easily the good turned bad, right? Happens that quickly in the movie, too. The only real constant is the beauty of the frame. The characters suffer from serving the plot. Bad, illogical decisions pop out of eggs and attach themselves to this movie and impregnate it like a facehugger (sorry, that was pretty heavy-handed). The plot suffers from not knowing what the hell its doing. Is it a sci-fi horror? Is it trying to answer philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and our relationship to the divine, if such a thing exists? Or is it a slasher? I honestly don't know, because it tries to be all of the above without committing. The writing is the problem. Whether that's on Damon Lindelof for re-writing Jon Spaihts' Alien-prequel script or Ridley Scott for OKing Lindelof's script, I leave that up to you. But bad decisions were made.
First, let's talk about a crew of 17ish. I think that was the number. Do you know how many names I remembered when I left the theater? Two. Shaw and David. Everyone else had nicknames. Like biologist, geologist, captain, pilots, and on and on. Most of these characters were fodder. Which is a gorram disappointment. We get to know precisely 0 characters. I'm talking knowing them the way we do Ripley after Alien. We hang out with this crew, these "experts," but there is nothing to them. Except idiocy. The biologist, who was just part of the first group of people to discover alien life by way of a dead Space Jockey, decides he doesn't want to be there. Has no interest whatsoever in the preserved head of the first alien humans have ever seen. He and the geologist leave and get lost. Fine, right? Wrong, dummy! The geologist is the guy who controlled the mapping drones. Not only that, but the captain is sitting in the ship, looking at a map showing precisely where everyone is. None of the involved parties thought to contact the other? And getting back to the biologist, what person, let alone one that studies life, animals, etc., would treat a clearly aggressive (mutated) worm-penis with a vagina mouth like a cat? That thing was acting like a cobra. Homeboy wants to pet it? Give me a frakking break. Not only did I not care when both guys died, I wanted them to. They were bad characters. I didn't know them. I wasn't concerned that they were lost. They were fodder and nothing more. Repeat ad nauseum, because that's every character in this movie. Poorly developed, if at all, and fodder. Or they just disappear (like the group who took off in the truck thing when zombie geologist showed up). It's just...it was such bad writing. Every character was written poorly. Even David was muddied and poorly developed in the movie. Did he hate his creators? Did he want to kill humanity as implied? If so, why help Shaw at the end? No motivation makes sense, or is ever stated. I know that Holloway wanted to talk to the Space Jockeys, and so drinks himself to death when it turns out SOME of them are dead (over-reaction, much?), disregarding the fact that they just officially discovered alien life and civilization, and have only been exploring this moon for a few hours. You'd think as an archaeologist or anthropologist or whatever he was, he'd be a little more excited. Instead, he's just an asshole to David, for no reason other than we need to get to their exchange of "Because we could."
What was the black goo and how does it relate to the opening scene? Is it a weapon? Is it life juice? I don't know, and the movie doesn't either. Maybe the director's cut will. But what we saw in theaters didn't know what it was. If that opening scene hadn't been there, implying it creates life, there'd be no question of its nature as a weapon. That would also lead credence to the captain proclaiming to Shaw (as if it's truth, which we can't confirm) that the moon was a military installation. His idea makes great sense but then why the hell would the Space Jockeys put star maps to the moon where they stored it? Why would they want to kill us? The going theory there is that we killed Space Alien Jesus Christ (beware that guy's super creepy picture, also, his assumption that his theory is 100% correct), who might've been an ambassador from the Space Jockeys. That was the original idea, but it's never outright said in the film. So we're left believing the Space Jockeys created us (again, 3.5 billion years ago to let evolution do its thing, or 35,000+ years ago for only man?), then invited us to this moon with black goo, and then wanted us dead. Lindelof's script doesn't even pretend to care about answering why. Why the star maps, why the anger. Yes, a sequel can certainly answer some of this, but that just makes Prometheus all the weaker for needing a part two to flesh things out. Keep in mind, I don't need a monologue explaining all of this. I don't mind rhetorical questions in movies (The Dark Knight makes us ponder what makes a hero a hero, is hiding the truth sometimes the right thing to do?), but that wasn't what Prometheus did. It raised question after question based on poor consistency in the writing. And then ignored answering any of them. That's bothersome.
Also bothersome is spiral-ham-fisted twists, like Weyland actually being on the ship and Charlize Theron is his daughter. This is another way to drive home the whole "children want to kill their parents" thing that David brings up. Or it's another way to bring up the fact that everyone is an asshole to the android, David. I don't know, I don't really see the point of Weyland hiding or being there at all. He wants to be immortal? In that body? If I looked like him, I'd be looking for the fastest way out the door. And I'd probably treat my walking, talking, comprehending creation with some level of respect. But that's just me and I have no plot to serve by being douchey.
Overall? The writing really brings this down. Inherent in the writing is the lack of logic that leads to the title of this blog (save your life by running 15 feet to the right or left). Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott shouldn't have to be going into interviews and explaining the movie, or that the sequel will explain it all. That ruins Prometheus's singularity. Characters, instead of being the realistic crew of the Nostromo or the rowdy marines of the Sulaco, are plot pieces. They spout wanna-be philosophy or nothing at all, and die. Or get pregnant (You know I can't get pregnant!) and have an awesome, impromptu c-section. But then forget about the tentacle beast (not to mention that the people who were trying to quarantine Shaw totally don't care she just ran off, and then allow her into the room with the super old, frail, and susceptible to illness Weyland? No logic), and go about running and playing like a serious surgery wasn't just preformed. It's just, this movie took itself seriously. It wasn't a Michael Bay movie, it wasn't a Twilight sequel. Prometheus clearly cares about itself. Just not enough.
To sum it all up though, I leave you with Red Letter Media's take on it. Keep in mind, I don't care about all of the questions being asked. I don't think we need all of them answered but...we don't get ANY of them answered. As a pseudo-writer, my writing has left people with questions. Questions are what I wanted out of that particular piece, but not a lot of what I got. It was because I was being too subtle. I knew what was going on, so what I took as subtlety was really vague. That's the benefit of the doubt I'll give Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott here.