The most disappointing thing about this film is that it began beautifully, teased me into thinking that it was going to be excellent, and then descended into a confusing tangle of okayblehmurrrggfppfft. Pfft. Pfh.
In essence, Prometheus is a film about a bunch of stupid humans trying to find out answers, and coming to an end in a spaghetti tangle of questions. Within this bunch of stupid humans are some disappointing but expected science-fiction archetypes: Inept Nerd, Swag Asshole, Twitchy McTriggerFinger, Neutral Black Guy, Minority Supporting Character(s), Replicant, and of course the (three!?) women: Sentimental Tree-Hugger Lady, Strong Female Frigid Boss and Scottish.
So the tree-hugger and the swag asshole find a bunch of letters from the aliens on their archaelogical digs, and a decade later, having not aged one bit, they’re suddenly on a spaceship travelling to the outer edges of the galaxy. It isn’t explained why they’re doing that besides “meeting the aliens” and I’m not sure why anybody thought that was sufficient. The thing that frustrates me about writing like this is that surely there should be a bigger purpose for an expedition like the one at the centre of this film. Surely it isn’t that hard to give the characters of the expedition an impressive and daunting goal to work towards – that might have helped to keep my attention for a little longer.
Prometheus doesn’t hesitate to inform the audience that “billions and billions” have been invested into this big space project, and there’s some strange plot running through the film about a family feud at the top of the company running the expedition, but whatever! We’re meant to be taken in by the idea that these characters are off on an adventure to the edge of the galaxy for a laff and a bit-o-banter with t’aliens.
If it seems bizarre that the entire adventure begins on an indistinct and uninteresting idea, it’s even more frustrating when they finally get there, and they’re told by Strong Female Frigid Boss they shouldn’t even give the aliens a wee nod of acknowledgement if they find them. What? Then what was the point of travelling out there? Why didn’t you say that before these characters spent two years asleep, hurtling through a vacuum?
There are instances where a discernible plot seems to be emerging, only to be smothered out by one layer of subplot, then another. There’s a moment where we’re told something fundamental to the main character Dr. Shaw – something that is meant to develop her as a character and maybe even (God forbid) make us care about her – but it’s skimmed over so quickly we don’t get enough time to digest it. Then there’s a little splash of sex scene and something else happens and something else happens, and that piece of information we got about Shaw is suddenly completely irrelevant. It’s washed away in a sea of HOLY SHIT ALEINEZ!!! BABY ALIENSE! GROASE!!!
As the film progressed, I was sitting on the edge of my seat gripped with frustration rather than tension. Oh your dad died? Ebola? Woah hang on; something else is happening – but wait – why was that anecdote even relevant? Do we ever get a mention of him again? Woah, woah, woah hold on. Who’s this guy? Why is he here? Why are you here? What’s going on? Why are you hundreds of years away from Earth on a whim? What the fuck are the questions you are even going to ask these aliens? How do you know their language? WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT. WHAT’S HAPPENING. What the fuck is this, LOST?
And then it was over. The credits began to scroll, the lights went up and I was surrounded by a bunch of bleary eyed people shrugging and looking at one another as if they’d been stealthily lobotomised.
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t hate Prometheus. It’s a visually stunning film, clearly shot with love. The set designs (particularly those of the inside of the ship and the opening scenes in the Scottish highlands) really capture that powerfully vast atmosphere found in the original Alien and in films such as Moon and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. There’s some cool H.R. Giger-inspired bits and pieces. Pretty lights and holograms and shit, you know, the usual science fiction stuff. But for every whimsical CGI starscape there’s a frustrating black hole in the plot.
Did you see what I did there? I’ll bet you fucking did, didn’t you.
I think Prometheus does try, bless it. It works hard to impress the audience but the lack of substance to the plot is difficult to overlook. It’s a lot like the space it wants to depict: big and empty. And complicated.
Using the whole ‘not-answering-questions’ thing every now and again in a narrative isn’t a problem: it’s good for those internet foruming people with the clicking and typing about theories and endings and the symbolism and the metaphors and whatever. However, after it became apparent Prometheus would never supply any answers, only question after question after Fucking Question, I ended up pretty unsatisfied.