Genre(s): Science Fiction, Action
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Science fiction films generally always require a certain suspension of disbelief, and because of this, it can be argued that those films are generally forgiven more for small inaccuracies in the plot. However, where do we draw the line as to what to forgive or not? Isn’t suspending disbelief in a science fiction film, the same principle as ignoring Jason Statham in an action film? Science fiction films are based solely on being a representation of something that does not exist, but in the film’s world, it can exist. Sure, if it’s a film that takes place in some alternate universe where all things are different than the way we know them, that’s fine. You still have to manage to hold together a cohesive narrative, but you are given more creative freedom with how to explain things. But a movie that deals with humanity, and ultimately, a future that is being fantasized as possible, should be able to hold it’s own both in terms of explaining why one does what he does, and fulfilling certain screenwriting requirements. Prometheus, barely does this.
To begin, I’m not going to spoil anything from the film, as it’s definitely a movie worth checking out on your own just to join the conversation. There are some scenes in this movie that will make your jaw drop immediately, and it will likely happen several times. Prometheus is a technical powerhouse, serving some of the best visuals in a film to date, and never shying away from showing wide panoramic shots that fully detail the beauty on display. The movie never disappoints visually, and it’s soundtrack as well is pretty good. Nothing incredible, but definitely fits the feel of the movie.
Then there’s the acting in the film which definitely isn’t sub-par, but is only really note-worthy by Michael Fassbender who continues to impress. Why this guy isn’t an even bigger star than he is already, is beyond me. Fassbender plays David, and as you will have probably seen in that awesome viral video (check it out below, if you haven’t yet), he does android exceptionally well. As for the other actors in the film, Charlize Theron’s talent was put to waste, Guy Pearce was barely even in the film and also not very crucial to the progression of the plot, and Noomi Rapace was serviceable as the lead in the film. Idris Elba was enjoyable, but he definitely got some pretty cheesy lines. However, he could pull them off better than most others. But all faults of the characters are for the most part hindered by the biggest problem of the entire movie: the script.
Damon Lindelof (most of ‘Lost’) and Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) co-wrote this film, but from what I understand, Lindelof is the main one to blame for the script. It has his fingerprints all over it, with tons of mystery and intrigue, but as was the problem with Lost, it puts way too much effort on the viewer, and less on the writer. You will leave the movie, ultimately satisfied with the film, but left with so many questions. Too many questions in fact. Even questions that shouldn’t even be questions. As I said, no spoilers, but there are some scenes that are absolutely unnecessary and add nothing to the plot, and then there are other scenes that push how much disbelief can be suspended in one film. Prometheus goes beyond that threshold, and takes the viewer on a ride through question after question, spelling out every single one of them, without ever giving you an appropriate answer.
However, it is not just this aspect of the script that disappoints. Dialogue is extremely cheesy, characters (who are supposed to be smart scientists) do some of the stupidest things you can do on an expedition, and way too many times are there moments that are supposed to be shocking revelations that just end up falling flat. There’s so many typical sci-fi and horror tropes that fit into this film, that it disappoints. Is this me simply being cynical and expecting Ridley Scott to do something different than everyone else? Well, I thought we were going to be getting a different film than has been done before. I was expecting a deep, profound film that avoids the cliches of these types of films and gives the viewer a rewarding experience beyond incredible action sequences and beautiful visuals. But that’s just me being hopeful.
The main thing that I have pulled out of my discussions with people is that things that should naturally be explicitly explained to us are never done so. The big point here is that there has been a lot of answers coming from both Lindelof and Scott on questions that were not answered in the film, but the burden was put on the viewer to figure out everything (here is an example of someone doing an excellent job at explaining key plot points). In this sense, the film is a very rewarding piece of art if you’re someone who watches all the viral videos and other Prometheus-related content that is outside of the film. But now comes another big question that involves film in general today: how much of the onus can be point on the viewer, and how much onto the writer? In the case of Prometheus, there’s all of this talk about deleted scenes and viral videos that explain things more clearly. But a film should not be relying on extra material to explain what the film could not do in 2 hours. Deleted scenes, as well, simply cannot be looked at as a complete film, no matter how much Ridley Scott believes so (Ridley “Director’s Cut” Scott, am I right?). A theatrical cut is sometimes made shorter to appease an MPAA rating, but in the case of an R-rated film, it’s very rarely that (none of the deleted scenes that Scott has talked about explicitly, have dealt with anything but exposition). No, the reason these scenes got cut was because Ridley Scott did not feel they were necessary to the understanding of the film. And because of this, we as a viewer, cannot look at those in order to understand things.
To put it simply, should you be expected to read The Hunger Games if you don’t understand everything that occurs in the movie? Should any adaptation be looked at under both their original material and the adaptation itself? This can be a discussion at another time, but what’s important to note is that Lindelof, and subsequently, Ridley Scott, seem to intend to either leave these questions unanswered, or they intend to answer them in a sequel. My only hope is that they attempt to in Prometheus 2, because otherwise, it feels like nothing more than a cop out on both of their parts.
As I said before, the film is a technical marvel and should be watched in the theater so you can at least appreciate Ridley Scott, the technical director, and join into the discussion on whether this movie needs to have existed or not. The way I see it, the movie reminds me a lot of The Tree of Life, in the sense that it’s a technical powerhouse, and attempts to deliver a deep meaning. In the case of Tree of Life, it delivers the meaning while being an overall boring film, while Prometheus fails to provide closure and gives an incredibly entertaining thrill ride.