Friday, June 8, 2012

Terminal Review - Prometheus is NOT Alien

The ideas and technical wizardry in Prometheus  are enough to hold it up on its own as a decent Summer blockbuster, but oh were we promised so much more. I hate to toot my own horn, but a couple of months ago I posted (spoiler) a theory based on a a few new images that were floating around the net. I can now confirm that it turns out to be about 90% accurate (with the other 10% maybe falling into place in hinted at future movies). So if you read that theory, you may think:

"Hey that's a pretty badass sounding film that is also a direct prequel to the all-time great horror flicks, Alien. Neat."

That would be cool if that plot were to have been in the "horror" movie context, but how the pieces actually fall into place in Prometheus are a little haphazard, with some glaring plot holes in the narrative. The crew, who are supposed to be the world's top scientists in each of their field, are quickly reduced to a confusing mess of B-movie cliches incapable of making a logical decision (you can hear some of the steam being let out of Damon Lindelof's balloon).

Bad characters are even more glaring because there is not much horror in Prometheus to excuse their behavior, but rather a general anxiety of discovery and how it plays with our ideas of creation. In an array of dumb humanity present on the ship, leave it to a robot to truly shine. Perhaps there is no better character to bring the themes of the film front and center than Fassbender's android "David." The scenes with David feel lifted out of a better film, with Fassbender's subtle portrayal enough to want to see again. It was eerie to watch how quickly David assumed the role of an "Engineer," a catalyst for his own ascension to power. David learned more in his two years monitoring the crew's cryogenic flight than he lets on.

Alas, time is unfortunately spent elsewhere-- mostly on Dr. Elizabeth Shaw's awful character and crises of faith. It just seemed really heavy handed. I am not saying there is a Tim Tebow level of religious debate, but it is a little odd when she is supposed to be the prime proponent of going to find alien creators. Her arc is confusingly handled as the "Ripley" of this film -- quieter moments could have conveyed more. Or Charlize Theron as the lead.

The film is most engaging when it is in discovery mode, with Fassbender doing his best Dora the Explorer. Dumb characters and actions really pull the rug out at times, but the questions raised for debate add a lot to the lore of Alien. I'll post in the next week after people have seen it about some of the finer details that people asked me about after the film (No, silly, the opening scene takes place on EARTH).

My theory as it played out, though, felt like tacked on fan-service, with the last scene completely leaving me shaking my head. If you were a fan of the Alien franchise, do not bring your expectations into this film. Somewhere in Prometheus, scattered amongst scenes with David, is the movie that fans wanted. What we are left with is just another promise of a better sequel.


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