1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Striking yet flawed,
This review is from: Prometheus [DVD] (DVD)
I saw this yesterday on a flight and the screen was about 7". This film needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can find because the visuals are amazing, as they always are with Ridley Scott. When I saw the trailer for this my jaw-dropped at some of the scenes, and despite the many bad-lukewarm reviews it got, I was still determined to see this film because of them.
I really enjoyed this film and I've been thinking about it over the last 20 or so hours since. Lots of striking moments.
The main flaw with it, however, is how crammed it feels. I think Scott must have had a much bigger film in mind and maybe shot much more footage than is shown (it's 2 hours long), because there are a number of scenes that I felt were in there because they had to be to keep the audience tracking (or to explain later actions), and not so much for their own right. This primarily affected character development and relationships, all of which were very underdeveloped or unconvincing. The ship Prometheus has a crew of 17, but you only learn the names of perhaps 3-5, and recognise the faces of perhaps 2-3 more. Most of the main characters have significant and too-quick changes in their attitudes/motivations, and I wasn't sure I understood their original characters before they changed or why they changed.
Another major flaw is that the film is, in its basic elements, completely unoriginal. It gets more interesting in the detail, but the bare bones are:
1. humans find messages from aliens indicating the desire for contact
2. humans go off to find aliens on another planet
3. long section of exploration begins well but builds in dread
4. things start to go wrong
5. things get catastrophically bad
6. everyone dies
So we've all been through this formula a thousand times. But the big emphasis on this film is the search for answers to the big questions - who made us? why are we here? It feels as though Scott has been annoyed by the recent upsurge of 'New Atheism', the main proponents of which stress that in a naturalistic closed universe there is no such thing as a 'why?' question. The quest for knowledge must be focused on, and can only deal with, 'how' and 'what' questions. But the 'why' questions pervades the whole film, and at the end the heroine and the android are having a final discussion, where the robot says that such questing for metaphysical answers are useless. The heroine disagrees, the robots doesn't understand, and the heroine concludes, "That's the difference between us: I'm a human, and you're a robot."
Scott's point is clear: to ask the big 'why' questions are fundamental to being human, and to think they are irrelevant is to be inhuman (though with all the appearance of humanity). Faith and choosing to believe in something is also central to this film, though Scott doesn't have a clearly worked belief system on display here: rather, the simple importance of questioning, believing and exploring is the most important thing, and fundamental for humanity. The characters are drawn up to this end, with the spiritual quester who is the heroine at one end, the heartless, selfish and almost robotic big corporate characters at the other end (Vickers and Dad), and the guys in the middle, notably the Captain. The robot explores everything but doesn't understand the significance of it. It loves knowledge, but is actually quite an evil robot. There is also a tremendous act of sacrifice at the climax of the film, which is part of the religious feel of this film, but it also unfortunately feels artificial because the characterisation is so thin. The three characters involved seem to make the decision to give their lives up for the rest of humanity instantly and easily, and although necessary for the way the story is unfolding, is still unconvincing (not unbelievable, just unconvincing).
The film leaves you with another place to go, another story to be told, which is nice, and I hope Scott attempts it. I like films that resolve their stories and character arc satisfyingly and convincingly (not so much the latter) but can still leave a big question mark. Right at the end, however, we see the origin of the alien, and this really does seem unbelievable and contrived. It doesn't look anything like the parties it comes from, so it felt like Scott was saying, "well, it has to come from somewhere so why not here? I've run out of time to do anything better anyway - just accept it!"
OK then. I will. I had fun, but I'm not really happy.
P.S. Why was Guy Pearce in this? Why cast a young man to play an old man if there are no 'young' versions of that man, unless these were shot but never used? He was completely wasted, otherwise. Should have used a genuinely old man and saved the hours of make up.