“Prometheus” did pretty well financially: it lost out to dancing circus animals at the box office, but still grossed $50 million. It did pretty well critically, too, with audiences and critics equally enjoying it.
What did we think about it?
Well…honestly, it’s not a bad movie. But it’s not a good one either. If anything, it’s a good argument for hiring a master director and giving him a good cast: Scott and his actors regularly save a movie that wants to be both a carbon copy of “Alien” and a profound science fiction movie, and finds both to be at odds with each other.
(spoilers, and lots of them, beyond this point)
To give you an idea of how muddled this movie is, it’s a movie that asks the classic Gene Roddenberry question of “What if we find God in space, and he turns out to be a dick?” that features a scene where Noomi Rapace’s character, Shaw, gives herself an abortion about halfway through.
It’s an incredibly disgusting, unnerving, and visceral scene, with a few notes of black humor. People are going to talk about it for years. If this weren’t a Fox movie, Fox News would be screaming about it already. When I was in the theater, some ass brought his son and two daughters to see it and the daughters, who couldn’t have been more than thirteen, were nearly in tears. Even for the Alien franchise, this is some pretty strong and gory stuff.
Here’s the problem: in terms of theme and tone, it comes so far out of left-field it’s like you’re watching a whole other movie. And this isn’t some accident, either. This is deliberately an abortion scene. It’s set up, launched, and dealt with in the space of a few minutes and then it’s completely irrelevant until the end of the movie. It’s so distracting that when David, the android who put a freakish octopus monster in her womb (albeit by accident), asks for Shaw’s help and says “I know we’ve had our differences”, you wonder why she doesn’t smash his milk spewing cranium in with a hammer.
The whole movie is like this, in the broad strokes. There are a lot of bits copied from “Alien”, and it goes beyond the set design to evoking specific shots and lifting plot points wholesale. Antagonists are set up and then thrown away without ceremony (the movie does this not once, not twice, but three times). The climax of the film is essentially the end of “Alien” with a slight twist.
And then there are points where we learn about the Space Jockeys, we ponder why they created humanity and serious discussions of faith are held. At least until we discover that the Space Jockeys are, well, complete unmitigated bastards. The movie doesn’t really have time to explore how the race that created our species are basically pure evil that wanted to wipe us out, or all the moral implications of it. Perhaps it’s wise not to answer that question, but it doesn’t even try to.
As much as I want to take a bat to Damon Lindelhof, responsible for the hamfisted “Lost”, and Jon Spaihts, who wrote “The Darkest Hour”, the truth is that the script is a lot better and smarter in the small moments. In fact, in a lot of places, it’s actually pretty funny and clever, subverting expectations, giving the cast character moments that make you care, and generally being a lot better than its own plot.
And, of course, the cast is great. It’s almost worth a ticket just to see Charlize Theron and Idris Alba play off each other in one scene. Noomi Rapace makes a better case for being an actress worth watching here than she did in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
In short, it’s not really a bad movie, but it’s not “Alien”, either.
What’d you think?