Rewatched Jun 18, 2012
Jericho Slim’s review:
9 Observations after watching Prometheus way too many times. (Or the random, unorganized, overlapping ramblings of a fool)
1. Prometheus is first and foremost a horror genre movie, from it's first frame to its last. I cannot stress this enough. It touches big themes and universal questions, but it is a genre exercise through and through. And the primary genre is horror, not hard sci-fi. The first scene is prologue that establishes how strong and imposing the evil is. Not just the individual prowess of a single "engineer", but the strength of their society and technology. The first clue you have that a space ship is present is the imposing shadow that darkens the whole screen. That menacing presence overwhelms the expansive environment and intimidates even the engineer; it does not leave until he has consumed the goo. What can compel such a specimen to such a horrid fate? Compare the pacing and the "cool" kills and the characters to those in Friday the 13th, or Blair Witch, or Scream, or any b-movie horror film. You will see the unavoidable comparisons. This has all of the DNA of a horror movie, just as surely as we have the DNA of the engineers.
2. Prometheus is as self-aware as Cabin in the Woods and just as funny. I think that this hidden quality of Prometheus is the cause of most of the nitpicks. But, in my opinion, Prometheus is the best horror of the year (so far), the best sci-fi of the year, and the best comedy / ironic comedy. You're not buying it? Let me give you some evidence:
-There are 3 consecutive sex scenes that occur at the end of the second act, the first night of the trip.
First, Holloway has sex with Shaw. This is played like a traditional slasher sex scene - Holloway is coming to get some from Elizabeth. He's drunk, has a rose, has the sex face look when he comes in the room ("you rang?"), and deliberately pokes his long phallic rose through the hologram image Shaw is working on. Then he uses her weakness as a way to get some. He's a high school jock. This is a cheap sex scene.
Second, the captain seduces Vickers with the robot line and sings "Love the one you're with." Definitely played for comedy. As the last notes to "Love the one you're with" still hangs in the air, the movie immediately cuts to the third sex scene - an obvious clue to its intentions.
Third, the sex scene with Milburn and the snake. He approaches a menacing figure just like the captain did the scene before with Vickers (notice that her hair was in a straight, snake-like ponytail?). He treats the snake like a woman ("Come here baby, she's beautiful"; "How do you know it's a she?"), and they too have sex.
What happens after the three consecutive sex scenes? The movie cuts to the sunrise of the morning after, after all three men have gotten some. Holloway has a hangover and Vickers hair is down.
More comedy? Fifield's swollen head when he comes back; Vickers running to the escape pod, right after the captain (her one night stand) says "do you want 2 more years of life or do you want to stay here with me?"; Vickers getting crushed by the ship ("no,no,no!") because she only runs in a straight line (cool kill); Shaw running away from the ship and tripping (can you get more cliche?), which allows her to escape; Shaw holding the axe (slasher movie) while the engineer reaches through the door like in "The Shining"; the drunk Holloway observing the head re-animation while chugging champagne and sitting on a console; the "what the bleep?" look David gives Shaw when she is reanimating the head; Fifield smoking a bong (with sound effects) through his helmet respirator; the engineer kills Weyland with David's head; Holloway says "Here's mud in your eye" to David right before he drinks the infected champagne, which will give him eye problems.
More comedy? Holloway describes the mission to the crew, there is majestic music in the background. The music builds as he gets to the end of his speech, when he describes how they might be able to discover the meaning of life. The music (subtly) reaches a crescendo, the camera cuts to the crew! . . . . . and they could care less. The music dies down. They mock the mission.
More comedy? Almost everything that David says or does is comedic - he is the standout. The whole pregnancy scene between David and Shaw is a great comedy set piece, as well as the conversation between David and Holloway at the pool table.
3. Prometheus has Kubrickian levels of technical and visual detail. All of the sci-fi tech is amazing, of course, and the visuals are outstanding. But there are so many details that you miss on first viewing. Examples? Vickers hair style changes for very specific reasons - from bun, to straight ponytail, to completely down. The hologram of Weyland has incredible detail, such as: Weyland's dog is walking with him; the construction site in the background is complete with solar panels and floating dust; the furniture in the room; the way the hologram doesn't completely obscure the room that it is in, so you still see the basketball markings on the floor. Oh, and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA IS ACTUALLY IN 3D!!! This is just scratching the surface.
4. Prometheus' biggest theme is "What price Knowledge?" That's why there is so much head imagery - from the skull on the top of the pyramid, to the decapitated head, to the head statue in the vase weapons room. The message of "Knowledge (head) = Danger" is reflected verbally and visually in almost every scene (the engineers have huge heads, no?) "Science vs. Religion" is another big theme, but "Science as Religion" is just as big a theme. The vase room, which leads to the destruction of the engineers, is a shrine to knowledge, complete with head sculpture and paintings on the roof, like a chapel.
5. The dialogue and the script are much smarter than you realize at first. For example, the use of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows more than the characters. In Prometheus, which is all about knowing, there are only 2 scenes that none of the characters in the movie witness - the opening and the closing scene. These scenes cheaply give us most of the answers that the scientists are looking for - they are prologue and epilogue, not even necessary for the story itself.
The dialogue constantly reminds us of the themes and can be read on two levels, even in throwaway lines. Halloway: "I want to know whether that structure is natural or not." Fifield: "I can't tell you if it's natural, but I can tell you that it's hollow."
6. There are flaws in the script, but the "internet" hasn't noticed these yet, instead concentrating on nitpicks that can be explained, for the most part. Want a script flaw? Why does Idris Elba have to be convinced to destroy the ship at the end when he knows everything that Noomi knows because of the video feeds, and he already knows that the engineers are creating WMDs? I forgive this error because it makes for an interesting and probably necessary character moment.
7. Holloway is a flat character - a high school jock, the ugly American, balls without brains. I think many people are critical of the actor because they think Holloway is a protagonist, and they should like him, but they don't. Wrong - Holloway is everything that's wrong with the mission and is the embodiment of unchecked ambition and thirst for glory. Dialogue evidence:
Holloway: One small step for mankind . . . Shaw: Are you serious?
Holloway: You could have ruined the whole mission, not to mention the fact that you endangered yourself! (Notice what he mentions first after helping to save Shaw from the storm. By the way, she went into the storm to retrieve a severed head. On point, huh?)
8. Prometheus is not an ensemble movie. It is a character study of David and Elizabeth. The other actors are there solely to illuminate their actions and struggles and to carry the plot along. There is no need to criticize or justify the actions of Milburn and Fifield, aka Frick and Frack, aka Shaggy and Scooby. Fifield is a "scientist" that has a half shaved head with a Mohawk and tattoos, howls like a wolf, smokes weed through his helmet, and gets lost in the "haunted house." We know this character from horror movies.
9. Stupidest nitpick: Why did the engineer come after Shaw when he could have gone to another ship? Answer: His ship was knocked out of the sky and half his face was burnt. He was mad and wanted to kill her.