I have never been as confused by a film as I was after seeing the midnight showing of Prometheus. At first glance, Prometheus seems to be a beautiful film that was ultimately dragged down by a script riddled with plot holes. However, as time wore on (it’s been almost a week since that midnight show), it began to grow on me. After a second viewing in IMAX today, I’m happy to say that my opinion of Prometheus has changed, and that this will be a largely positive review.
First of all, this is a film linked directly to the Alien franchise both in marketing materials (“Before there was Alien, there was Prometheus“) and creative staff (Director Ridley Scott from Alien and set/creature designer H. R. Giger, whose design for the titular alien may be one of the most recognizable pieces of filmic iconography ever created). As such, the standard Alien-style plot is both expected and granted: a ship full of people plunge into a “research mission” that quickly goes bad, eventually resulting in a lot of deaths and an epic face-off between the monster and the protagonist.
In the case of Prometheus, this plot is used to interrogate the notion of a creator or god as the crew of the eponymous ship travels to a moon with similar traits to our own Earth inhabited by a group of aliens known as “the engineers,” whom one particularly zealous scientist — played by the Swedish Dragon Tattoo‘s Noomi Rapace — believes fashioned us in their own image. Though this may sound contrived and ridiculous, it actually seems to serve quite effectively throughout the film as Rapace’s character finds her faith and personal strength tested.
The visuals in Prometheus are staggering. Though Ridley Scott is known for being a particularly flashy director, he always seems to balance this within good taste, and Prometheus is no different. From the lush blue and green landscapes, falling waterfalls, and dissolving flesh of the opening sequence to the incredibly disturbing scene of emergency surgery (If you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about), no visual in Prometheus ever feels out of place, and most frames were so beautifully composed and colored that I would be willing to hang them on a wall as art. Even the 3D, which I usually despise, was so restrained and tasteful that I actually found myself enjoying it and — dare I say it? — becoming excited by the potential advantages that this technology could offer in the future. This has never happened to me in a 3D movie before and is a true testament to Scott’s taste, restraint, and skill.
The audio work is equally well placed. Headlined by the absolutely phenomenal score by relative newcomer Marc Streitenfeld, no second of sound feels out of place or even generic. Prometheus both looks and sounds
like a more grandiose and sweeping version of Alien, which turns out to be a very appealing package.
The acting is also largely appealing, although some of it is just too good. As is true with almost every film that includes Michael Fassbender (who plays the android David here), there is just no way for the other actors to even come close to matching his performance. Even in this film, playing a character whom Old Man Weyland (Guy Pearce in heavy makeup) describes as soul-less, Fassbender shows more tenderness and internal motivation with his every gesture and statement than most of the actors do in this entire film. Rapace does a fantastic Sigourney Weaver impression that eventually forms into a formidable character and Pearce does a good job of hobbling like an old man in his incredibly brief stint on the screen, but then there’s Charlize Theron. While Fassbender, Pearce, and Rapace are largely authentic and natural in their characters, Theron — who plays the representative of Weyland Corporation — never seems comfortable in her role, hamming up important lines and constantly returning to the same pose like a high school drama student. Putting Theron on the set alongside real actors was a huge mistake.
The other thing that struck me as bothersome the first time I watched Prometheus was the script. Though the dialog was strong and the plot largely seemed to fall in place, there were areas when I didn’t understand a character’s motivations or why their actions resulted in a certain phenomenon. However, these didn’t seem to be a problem the second time through. Perhaps having the knowledge of all the twists and turns that were coming in the film gave me greater perspective in the characters’ individual narratives. Unfortunately, most people will only view the film once, and — unlike a David Lynch or Richard Kelly film — Prometheus didn’t appear to be trying to be confusing, it just was. This is a real problem and I hope it can be fixed in a future director’s cut or extended edition.
Ultimately, the script problems and Theron’s acting just can’t bring this film down. This is a great film that any fan of Science Fiction or Horror should go out and see right away.
I give Prometheus a 4.5/5.