It pains me to only give PROMETHEUS 3 stars. If you had asked me immediately after walking out of the theater in June, the score would undoubtedly be higher. It’s hard to deny that Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi is masterful in its technical creation and world building, leading to some truly exciting and intense sequences. While it’s easy to bask in everything that works well, it’s equally difficult to ignore the major script and character issues that sorely stick out, and after a second viewing, unfortunately only seem more apparent.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot to like here—mainly the visuals. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is stunning , turning the Icelandic scenery into a primordial world. The massively realized sets are awe-inspiring, while the effects are also first-rate and fairly seamless. And the talented cast, including Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron, do the best they can with the material provided—though it’s Michael Fassbender who shines most as the curious android David. With all this and Ridley Scott back at the helm, the potential for greatness in PROMETHEUS was staggering.
While the ambitious nature of the story is commendable, the more you think about the film and try to make sense of its narrative, the more it begins to unravel. It all leads back to the script written by Jon Spaihts and rewoven by “Lost” mastermind Damon Lindelof. Though I still enjoyed that show through its ending, PROMETHEUS suffers from the same criticisms: good setup, sloppy payoff. There are plot holes and inconsistencies to an almost impressive degree, my favorite being how everyone automatically knows exactly what stuff does even though it’s literally alien to them. But even worse, especially given the actors involved, are the consistently stupid characters. Scientists, the best in their field, act like complete morons—taking off their helmets, petting unknown creatures, lying to each constantly. Hell, the guy in charge of maps is somehow the one to get lost on the ship.
But mainly, a movie that asks so many questions and presents such big thematic ideas needs to follow through and that’s PROMETHEUS’ most disappointing aspect. Being effectively vague is great, but this film leaves you to infer so much without providing you with the tools to do so in a meaningful way. All the questions and themes work on a surface level, but there’s not much evidence to back any of it up. (My favorite theory, completely unsupported by the text, has to do with a certain Engineer being crucified 2000 years ago.) In the end, it purposefully asks more questions than it answers, which is frustrating. Where do we come from? You’ll find out in the sequel!
At the end of the day I can’t really come up with a good reason as to why PROMETHEUS needs to exist. It doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say about the subjects it brings up (humanity, religion, science) and it doesn’t add much to the ALIEN canon either as a prequel. Yes, there’s proto-facehuggers and a pseudo-xenomorph, but it feels like an entirely different story shoehorned in to the ALIEN universe. That being said, I still think that thanks to Scott and the talent in front of the camera, PROMETHEUS is an easy movie to watch and you’ll be entertained by it. Just don’t look for more than that, which is a shame.
There’s a decent amount of material on this 2-Disc Blu Ray, but if you really want more, check out the 4-Disc Edition that has a FOUR HOUR Making Of documentary.
Commentary by director Ridley Scott: Scott is a master filmmaker and any chance to listen to him discuss his craft is a pleasure. He covers a lot of stuff in detail, from themes to 3D, though he does a bit of plot recapping now and then. Still, this is a good enough track to warrant watching the movie again.
Commentary by writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof: If you’re thinking it’s awkward to put the original writer with the one hired to replace him, you’re right! This is one of those commentaries with two separate recordings edited together, which completely kills the flow. Though I think the writing is the movie’s weak point, it is interesting to hear both writers discuss the origins of the story from Scott’s involvement and how it involved.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes: There’s almost 40 minutes worth of material here, some of which is actually worthwhile in terms of answers, which makes me think they were deliberately cutting out things to keep things vague. Though there’s a lot of filler some of the more interestiawng extra sequences include an alternate opening (with more pasty white guys!), a more alien version of Fifield (thanks to WETA Digital) attacking the ship, a more substantial meeting and fight with the Engineer, and an alternate ending with slightly more direction.
The Weyland Files: This collects all the viral videos released online before the film’s release including the “Happy Birthday David” commercial and the awesome Weyland TED Talk (which is the only reason I imagine they hired Guy Pearce in the first place instead of an older actor).
A DVD and Digital Copy is also included.
PROMETHEUS is worth watching just for the technical execution, but it’s sadly not the new sci-fi classic you were hoping from the director of ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER. In fact, with all the potential and high expectations, it being “decently good” makes it one of the bigger disappointments of 2012.
Extra Tidbit: Jon Spaiht’s original script, which honestly sounds a lot better than what Lindelof turned it in to, can be found here.