This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Chip’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
So I’ve seen PROMETHEUS twice now. My take: I’m disappointed, but it’s not bad. In fact, there are some great moments, but as a whole, it never came together for me. It feels overwhelmed by its own themes. Or uninterested in truly interacting with them. It hits a lot of the same story beats as the Alien movies, but it’s less visceral. That aspect I’m fine with. However, I wanted to be more involved with the story. Ultimately, I felt as if I was a little ahead of the story and the characters and I was constantly waiting for them to catch up. I want the characters to at least seem smarter than me. I need their scientific curiosity to be consistent. And I resent them making leaps in logic just because the plot requires them to.
My biggest pet peeve: characters acting stupid. Such as the two scientists who decide it would be fun to pet and stick their faces right in a strange hissing alien life form they discover slithering through ooze. This makes even less sense in the context of their earlier behavior (wanting to leave the tunnels when they find the first corpse and freaking out when told there’s a life form somewhere near them).
And then there’s the unanswered questions. For the most part, I’m okay with unanswered mysteries. In fact, I like that. It makes me think of the world beyond the story – unless it’s in regard to a character’s behavior. For instance, why did David “drug” Marshall-Green? On orders? Did he know what would happen? Is it just curiosity or spite – which seems to contradict the idea that he has no real emotions. Why? Why, why, why? But regarding the big mysteries of what they find, I enjoyed those mysteries remaining open. For instance, when reviewing the recorded holograms, why were the engineers running around in a panic? I don’t NEED to know that. I’m fine with that remaining a mystery, but it would be nice if the scientists investigating showed the slightest bit of curiosity regarding this information.
It seems as if Charlize Theron has a hidden agenda, but she doesn’t do shit. You could take her out of the movie – except she seems to serve only as a thematic yin to Fassbender’s yang. They both have the same “creator,” but while one is resentful, the other is slavishly loyal. Perhaps she has more of a purpose in deleted scenes. The moves regularly trots out its thematic points regarding creation and purpose and faith, but doesn’t do much with it since the characters are – for the most part – poorly defined and aimless.
And as a side note, there was some bit of dialogue about 300 years of Darwinisim getting thrown out at the suggestion that these aliens created us, but how does that conflict? (Although as the audience, we’re privy to the opening scene which shows an alien creating human life on earth after it has already experienced plant life.) I’ve never really understood how one cannot reconcile evolution with religion, but in this moment, it feels as if the screenwriters are clumsily setting up a thematic discussion that never comes into play. I feel as if the movie hits its religious beats just a little too hard. For instance, when Elizabeth asks the broken David for her cross, she puts it on immediately. David then says, “You still believe.” No shit. It’s a bit of dialogue that feels as if it’s hammering the audience on the head with its profundity, despite not really having much. Yes, religious scientists are a bit unusual, but it would be nice if her faith was actually tested and the conflict wasn’t just shoe-horned into the dialogue.
I love smart, literate dialogue with lots of technical jargon. I want characters to talk over my head. I want to have to catch up a little, not wait for them to get to their fucking point. That’s not in this movie. The dialogue is stagey and clunky. Such as how Charlize Theron hits the word “Father” so hard. Or when David asks, “Doesn’t everyone want their parents dead?” What? Huh? If David had put that in some kind of literary context, I would have been fine with it. He is well read after all. Instead, it comes out of no previous discussions and again feels like a reference to theme that just isn’t present.
And then the issue of whether or not it’s an Alien prequel. We saw a prequel to THE THING last year, which worked very hard to explain away all the mysterious pre-events that take place in Carpenter’s original remake. This almost does the same, but not quite. Scott has regularly argued that this is not a prequel – so why end the movie with the birth of an early xenomorph? This is even further exasperated by the fact that a more modern looking xenomorph is featured in the mural/sculpture that the astronauts find in the cargo room of the ship. I’m not really bothered by this – except when it gets pushed just to the edge, teasing the audience. Although, speaking of prequels, I did love how the Rise of the Planet of the Apes prequel set up so much from the original so well. It can be done – if that’s what you’re trying to do. But I don’t believe it is here. I just wish Scott hadn’t given in and dropped so much prequel material into the margins of the movie.
I just want to understand what the stakes are. These characters seem to act as characters in this kind of movie are expected to act. Thusly, I suppose I’m supposed to assume some generic threat that requires defeating the bad guys and/or escape. But there’s clearly more here. Characters make leaps and bounds aplenty and arrive at the conclusion that the engineers plan to take this stuff back to Earth and wipe out human life. It seems possible, but everyone becomes so goddamn sure that this is the explanation without any sort of evidence. David only throws out something about how in order to create, one must destroy. And this frustrated me throughout the entire movie.
But there was plenty to love. I love when monsters fight, so seeing the squid creature (which grows ridiculously fast) fight the engineer was awesome. Granted, it’s not much of a fight but still. The production design, the effects – all excellent. Ultimately, it feels as if a lot was cut out. There’s too much that feels neglected. Perhaps a longer cut would fix some of these problems, but I doubt it. So I liked it, but was disappointed. If there’s a sequel, I’ll be right there in line.