Disappointment is a bitch. Even though it may be the product of a variety of things, I’ve found that when it comes from films it touches upon a very specific nerve. There is something about being extremely excited about a film so much so that it populates your thoughts constantly and its what keeps the momentum going. Such anticipation is a double-edged sword, as it can both lead to something that will blow your mind or it can lead to complete destruction. Hyperboles aside, I fucking hate when a film that has so much potential and looks so awesome ends up being anything but. Every once in a while this will happen to me and this year it came from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
I saw the film last weekend and ever since then I’ve been trying to figure out and piece together the reasons as to why it failed. If you enjoyed the film then let me tell you how jealous I am of you. I so very much wish I could enjoy it and love it as much I wanted, but the truth is the more I think about the more I dislike it. Of course, Prometheus is not a film completely devoid of merit, because it does get some things right. The visuals are spectacular, the acting is superb especially from Michael Fassbender and the score minus this fucking abomination is actually pretty amazing. However, what I will focus on here is on the things that it got wrong. Now I am not doing this to make you hate the film or show you why you shouldn’t like it. What this basically is is an exercise in the way the film is constantly contradicting itself and opts to adhere to a set of norms that, considering the pedigree of the people involve, seems awfully stupid. Massive spoilers ahead.
To Think or Not To Think? Actually Don’t Think.
One of the great things about Prometheus that I thoroughly enjoyed and praised, since they deviate from the previous Alien films, are the existential questions. It’s very rare for a studio-produced summer blockbuster to dwell in themes about creation and raise question about the biggest mysteries, like: Who created life on Earth? Was it Gods? Was it natural? What do our creators think about us? Etc, etc, etc. A lot of Prometheus, in a thematic sense, is about that search for creation and its overall purpose. Suffice to say that the film is actively trying to make you think and start up some discussions dealing with those questions and themes. Some things are fairly obvious while other are more ambiguous, which if you know me is something I really enjoy. Being concrete sometimes defeats the purpose and I raise my hands and applaud at Prometheus for being obscure.
Having said that, there two ways in which the film contradicts this sort of desire to make you think. One way is through downright stupidity and the second is through laziness. For a film that asks me to think so much it is really fucking detrimental how once I start doing that I find not only an overwhelming amount of plot holes, but also how at the core every character in this film minus David (Michael Fassbender) is suffering from horror-film syndrome. For example, how is it that the person responsible for mapping the huge pyramid and navigates everyone in there gets lost on his way out? Or even more alarming, how is it that all these so called scientists act like scared dumb teenagers? Oh there’s a weird penis-shaped slimy worm coming out of the black water, let me go touch it because it clearly won’t fucking grabbed my arm and them shove itself down my fucking throat. Oh here’s a preserved heard from one of the engineers, let’s stick a rod up its ear and make it think it’s alive because that clearly will give us answers instead of making the only evidence we have to fucking explode. What the flying fuck? Every so-called scientist here is anything but that. They are all so fucking stupid and it’s that sort of stupidity that serves only one purpose: advance the plot. If there is something I genuinely hate about any film is when plot points are used in a forceful manner. When characters only act to service the plot it’s like basically grabbing my face and taking a massive shit on it. This is exactly what I felt when Rapace’s character out of fucking nowhere brings up the fact that she can’t have babies. It’s like the writers thought, oh we have to sort of set up the birth scene so let’s just put this thing about Shaw’s inability to reproduce and then of course follow it up with a sex scene and no real emotion or serious weight.
Advancing the plot at the expense of logic and everything else is recurring theme in Prometheus. Take for example the storm whose only purpose is to separate the group, or the birth scene which is there basically to sort of explain the birth of the alien we know and love. And for the record, why isn’t that birth scene referenced later on? David mentions something in passing, but the scene itself has no weight on any of the characters. It was a damn exciting and awesome scene, but totally wasted in the context of the film. Stuff like that really pissed me off. Then there are the scenes that serve absolutely nothing except give the illusion of excitement. These scene I’m guessing were placed there because the studio demanded some sort of action-set piece to justify them spending so much money on the film. Such scenes include the attack on the ship’s hangar by the zombie ginger scientist. What really bothered me about that is that first and foremost there is no real sense of danger. We don’t know the people who get killed so we don’t care. There’s no involvement there and the fact that the scene isn’t ever referenced afterwards makes me think that no one else in the ship cared. The scene looked cool I’ll give it that, but when an action scene has zero immediacy and involvement it should be deleted.
These leads us to the third act of the film in which practically everything good is thrown out of the window. Not only is the third act a rushed and overly generic one, but it also puts into perspective how misguided and straight up lazy the filmmakers were. When I say laziness I mean it in the sense that the writers opted to simply rush things, make everyone act stupid and overtly withhold any answers. In here is where ambiguity reveals itself to be damn stupidity. One thing is to be ambiguous, but it is a totally different thing to not give us answers because you want to save them for the sequel. This is fucking frustrating, underwhelming and makes everything look so pointless. If this is all in service of the sequel that we will probably never have then why bother? Why not make a film that is genuinely smart and not just pretending to be? Why would people of this caliber adhere to generic norms that serve nothing other than make people want to kill puppies?
You know what hurts the most? What really makes me just scream in rage? The fact that if the people involved made better decisions, Prometheus could’ve easily been the next masterpiece of science-fiction. There is a balance between having exciting action packed moments, thought provoking things and then combining them all in a natural manner. Characters can act in service of advancing the plot but it has to come from a natural place, it has to be set-up and then referenced later on. One can’t just shoehorn something because the plot demands it and then dismiss it entirely. Otherwise it is all so fucking pointless and that’s what I felt at the end. I walked out of Prometheus with disappointment and feeling like I wasted my time. And that scene at the end that shows the alien was laughable. I said this in my review but for a film that actively tries to set itself apart from Alien, Prometheus really felt the need to constantly reference it in a such a way that actually destroys the whole mystery, mythology and wonder of the unknown that Alien established so perfectly.
If you asked me: would I see Prometheus again? I would answer yes, because as much as it frustrates me the visuals are really something special. The visuals are spot on so much so that they constantly demanded to be in a better film. It similar to what I feel with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. That film from a visual point is perfect and even though it gets much more things right than Prometheus, it is still a major disappointment.