As a name for a spaceship, “Prometheus” is about as ill-advised as “Icarus” or “Starship Titanic”. I always wonder when I see a ship in a film, star-bound or otherwise, why the owners always choose to give it a name that foreshadows doom, rather than calling it “Lucky” or “Starship Everythingwillturnoutfine”. Maybe it’s because, deep down, the people who build these ships are secretly hoping for a disaster. Success is hollow if you get it every time. Why not mix things up a bit.
But enough dancing. What sort of movie is Prometheus? It’s quite a good movie. And a pretty awful movie. It’s two films stapled together, essentially, and as such I will review two films.
Michael Fassbender stars as David, a curious, dynamic character/android, intent on exploration and discovery, free from piddling superstitions, who closely resembles T.E. Lawrence from the film Lawrence of Arabia, and absolutely intentionally, as Lawrence of Arabia is his favourite film (and mine). It is hardly surprising, considering all these things, that I found him by far the most interesting and relatable character in the film. There is one slightly disturbing moment in which he’s seen watching a 3D-afied version of Lawrence of Arabia on the ship, and although there’s a history of science-fiction films predicting future advances, I sincerely hope Prometheus is off-the-mark in this regard. (Incidentally, Lawrence of Arabia‘s director, David Lean, was set to direct an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s 1904 novel Nostromo before he died. Coincidence? Probably.)
David’s film is by far the most captivating, which is a shame, because every time it brings up an interesting idea the other movie, a dodgy Hollywood ‘splosionfest, jumps in and kills any possibility for an exploration. But much of the film is wonderful, wide-open exploration of landscapes, space and life, and possibly the best approximation of what it would be like to send David Attenborough to another planet. Instead of Attenborough, we have our David, who does nearly as well, especially in his scene at the alien control console, which was downright captivating.
A pair Hollywoodish people, who are in love because the movie said so, are aboard the Prometheus with a bunch of other fleshblobs, along with David and LadyDavid (played by Charlize Theron), heading to this far off planet because they too want to explore, although apparently people with “souls” (dualism being one of many interesting notions that are raised, then quickly abandoned) need deeper motivation than simply wanting to explore, so they get some half-assed shit about religion vs science (which is also dropped as soon as it’s raised). These interesting ideas seem to be raised as part of the characters’ motivations (“raised” here meaning “stated aloud”), which is pretty damn pointless, as it doesn’t have any bearing on their actions at all. That said, one of the fleshblobs does ask an interesting question, approximately “Why did a handful of pictograms convince you to abandon 300 years of overwhelming evidence for the evolution of man?“. Nobody answers him, and the film proceeds as if he hadn’t asked that question, and establishes that all that evidence was wrong because it just was, now shut up and watch some fight scenes.
Then there’s some aliens, and they fight, and [SPOILER ALERT] the sassy-yet-wise middle-aged black guy sacrifices himself for the good of the hot white chick and humanity. Revolutionary. There’s a bit of body horror for some reason, that might as well have been a 10 minute title card reading “I WANT TO BE DAVID CRONENBERG“, and everyone makes stupid decisions that nobody but the dullest dullard would ever make. Don’t take off your helmet , and stop touching everything, you fucking idiots. You’re on another planet that you know nothing about. Just. Don’t. One of the things that really bothered me (and that spoiler alert is still in service, by the way) is that the 12 foot tall protohuman turns on them for no god damn reason at all. He just does. Just because this movie needed another meaningless, messy fight that makes you feel like checking your phone.
And Scott has apparently noted the success of the cock-monster subtext from Alien, and tried to replicate it by substituting vaginas, with occasional allusions to the creation of life, the main character being barren, and the inclusion of a giant, all-consuming vagina monster, not unlike your mother.
Somewhat interesting at times, but stifled by its insistence of being a generic Hollywood blockbuster, rather than engaging in any original, idea-driven storytelling.