Designed as a quasi-prequel to the 1977 classic Alien, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was a highly anticipated 2012 summer blockbuster. It is clear the big budget was spent well as the CGI is well done. And the film returned over $400 million to date. Sometimes filmmakers like to explain the “why” behind their great ideas. George Lucas’ explanation that “The Force” was generated by a microscopic organism within all life comes to mind. However, like the great and powerful Oz once the curtain is pulled back the why falls flat.
Prometheus is an ambitious and beautiful failure. The cinematography and visuals are stunning. It is the plot that feels like it is nearly complete. There are jumps of logic, gaps that make it seem as though we missed a scene, and we should know what is going on, and we feel foolish for not knowing.
About twenty minutes in we get the low-down on why this group of people have traveled to the far side of the galaxy–spending over two years asleep in cryo-stasis. And in three minutes we’re bombarded with a great deal of exposition. LV-223 could be the origin of human life on Earth. That’s the premise. Not bad.
And Prometheus could have been a truly great film. However, it is riven with flaws. On a survey mission to a planet never before visited, they find alien structures. So logically they investigate. Inside they find a breathable atmosphere. Foolishly (and using a classic bad sci-fi trope), a character removes his helmet and then they all follow suit. It is a Hollywood-ism that ensures that the actors can be seen by the audience. Just because the air is breathable doesn’t mean it is safe. Later the same idiot who removed his helmet chastises his partner for going after a specimen and endangering her life. Additionally, the archaeologists are terrible archaeologists. One of the first rules of archaeology is to not touch anything and document everything. A single touch, a breath even on certain artifacts can cause them to disintegrate into dust. No, only after the “murals” begin to change to they realize that their presence is damaging the “tomb.” Despite launching at least four mapping drones, two of the expedition members cannot find their way back out of the “tomb.” One of the men was the guy who launched the drones! What? Then fifteen minutes later they know their exact grid coordinates. Ludicrous. Later the biologist all but walks up to and hugs the first bit of alien life they’ve seen crawling around the “tomb,” and he gets himself bitten. Seriously? Is every scientist on this trillion dollar expedition an idiot?
Repeating a something seen in both Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the one problem is the conflicting commands given to the artificial intelligence aboard. Here the synthetic David is operating under secret orders given to him by the dying tycoon Peter Weyland.
Prometheus is a good film. However, it leaves too many questions open. And what could have been a great premise is squandered.