2 July 2012 | oble
Visually amazing, but...
I have to agree with the rest of the reviewers who noted the visual impact of Prometheus. Truly it's a beautiful, eye-popping movie to watch. The scenery is just immense and the CGI work on the backgrounds - the terrain, ship, and even some of the creatures - is outstanding. However, as a movie I left feeling let down. In thinking about it, my disappointment stems from three main problems:
1) Character development (or lack thereof rather). Of the 17 characters in the movie - yep...SEVENTEEN folks to keep track of - I really felt that I only got to know (and consequently cared about) three. Noomi Rapace's Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is pretty much the focal point of the movie and is probably on screen 60 - 70 percent of the time. Thus, as an viewer I got to know her and mostly care about her as a character. Similarly, Michael Fassbender's David is on screen about the same amount of time and I really got a sense of him and his perspective on things. While he may or may not be a character the audience cares about, you definitely get to know him. And I must admit, Fassbender's performance was great as far as I'm concerned. He was really enjoyable to watch. Lastly there was Charlize Theron's Meredith Vickers is provided ample screen time, to say nothing of key character development scenes to get to know her. Further, these three characters actually behave logically for their characters, so it seems that their development was thought out. Of the other 14 characters, I can remember 4 of their names, but they were given so little development and any motivation for their presence that I just didn't care about them. I was thinking about this in contrast to the 7 characters in the movie Alien - of which Prometheus is loosely related - and even after some 40 years I can remember each and every character from that movie - their names, their roles, their personalities, etc. I cared about those characters, and when they had problems or died, the movie had impact. In Prometheus, that impact was not there for me. Forget any problems with alien lifeforms or alien planet weather or things like that - I didn't even really get on board with why they were going to an alien world to begin with.
2 Which brings me to a related issue - Character motivation. I always love the comedic play on the clichéd actor's angsty "yeah, but what's my character's motivation?", but the fact is decent writers and directors making decent movies usually do provide actors with some guidance in this area so said actors can...you know...indicate to us, the audience, that their characters do, in fact, care about what they are doing. Again, I got that from Dr. Shaw, David, and Vickers, and to good extent Dr. Shaw's Partner Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and some from Peter Wayland (Guy Pierce). The one person I was really expecting this from was the ship Captain Janek (Idris Elba), but all I got was 'eh...I fly the damn ship'. Heck...I kind of thought that maybe I'd see some enthusiasm and wonder from the two other "scientists" - geologist Fifield and biologist Millburn, but not so much. The scare quotes around scientist, BTW, is to denote that as far as their presence and actions went, they really appeared to be scientists-in-title only.
3) Which brings to the last point - story scope. Good stories, at least to me, focus on some particular plot element. In most cases, really good stories - and by association really good movies - can be boiled down to one sentence synopses. Alien is pretty much "alien life form gets on a ship and crew find they are in jeopardy if they don't get it off". I can't come up with one for Prometheus. I really feel it's scope was way too large for the story. As others have noted, this was a movie made specifically to be part of a larger framework - at least a sequel and probably a trilogy. That said, I felt overwhelmed by the number of elements that the movie was trying to get across. The meaning of life, immortality, the punishment by the gods, the meaning of being human, evolution vs creation, religion vs science, do androids dream of electronic sheep, the desire to create and destroy...it's all packed in there. And it's tough to unravel a story from all those threads, let along care about said story with all that going on. Basically I just found it too cluttered with all these messages and by the time the alien life forms show up, it's hard to fit them into the context.
I will throw in one other note. Not so much a criticism, but just a let down based on expectation. I really thought this was supposed to be a scary movie and it really wasn't for me. And I mean at all. It certainly had some disturbing scenes and some gore, but there was no "haunted-house" spook factor. No startles what-so-ever as far as I'm concerned. Alien, Aliens, Alien Cubed, and Alien: Resurrection and even the Alien vs Predator movies all made attempts to have jack-the-box startling moments - admittedly some more successfully than others - so I was expecting that kind of scare tactic in Prometheus. Not so much. There were some decent gruesome moments, but overall this was more an adventure movie than a horror-scary movie for me.