The UnPopular Opinion: Prometheus
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
You may be reading this wondering if I am about to blast Ridley Scott's return to science fiction and the ALIEN universe. In fact, I absolutely loved PROMETHEUS and consider it one of Scott's best films. You may be asking yourself why this is the unpopular take on the film and I direct you to the multiple haters on this site who have criticized the plot-holes in PROMETHEUS as evidence of the movie's shortcomings. As far as nitpicking goes, there are lots of movies that warrant such a close analysis, but the amount of criticism for this film is bordering on the ridiculous.
PROMETHEUS, at it's core, is a horror movie. Much like Ridley Scott's original ALIEN, PROMETHEUS is an attempt to retell a haunted house story in a science fiction setting. Unlike ALIEN, PROMETHEUS also has a grander back story involving the creation of mankind. To combine two stories, one grand and one small, requires a balancing act that can be difficult to maintain. The screenplay by John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof has been the biggest scapegoat for those with problems with the movie, most of the blame landing on Lindelof. Lindelof's writing career has been a target for fan hate due to those dissatisfied with LOST and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, but are the holes really that significant?
I am gonna call this guy Dusty.
From the outset, PROMETHEUS was not billed as a prequel to ALIEN, nor is it. Yes, it exists in the same fictional universe and does directly impact the creation of the Xenomorphs, but PROMETHEUS is a separate story entirely and should be viewed as such. It is easy for us to recognize the Space Jockey and the Weyland Corporation and then criticize the film in relation to the ALIEN movies, but that is an inaccurate argument. At best, PROMETHEUS represents a parallelquel to ALIEN. The nod to elements from the ALIEN films is more of a way to ground the fictional setting of PROMETHEUS rather than a direct connection to it and serves as a way to enter the story more quickly via a film we already know well. You could call this a cheap move, but getting more stories in an already created and beloved fictional world is something rarely done in Hollywood. We are easy to throw the term spin-off around without thinking about how hard it is to pull off such a story without recycling the original.
Other criticisms of PROMETHEUS have centered on the supposed stupidity of the characters: Milburn (Rafe Spall) trying to pet the alien snake, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) running in a straight line from the crashing alien ship, and the reveal that Vickers is actually Peter Weyland's (Guy Pearce) daughter. I have seen a number of criticisms of why the writing of the characters is to blame for these "stupid moves" amongst countless others, but if characters did things that made perfect sense to get from point A to point B, there would be no purpose in watching a movie. We get joy from yelling during horror films by telling the characters not to go into a room alone, not to answer the door, not to have sex, because if they do they will die. Movies have hallmark moments that propel the plot forward and if they didn't exist, the movie would be pretty damn boring. The entire purpose for these moments is to make the viewer cringe in anticipation of what we know will happen.
I don't care if she delivers a single line as long as she wears that body suit.
There is also the fact that PROMETHEUS is part of a longer story. I understand the hate of pre-planned franchises where plot elements are setup only to be answered in a second of third film. I myself hate watching television series that get cancelled after one season and we are left without resolution. Despite potential for a sequel to PROMETHEUS, we cannot hold out hope that it will happen. Does that mean that the unanswered questions posed in this movie are plot-holes? Not at all. PROMETHEUS can still be fully enjoyed without knowing the full reason behind why the Engineers created mankind or what the purpose of the black goo is. If movies answered all of our questions there would be no point in revisiting the film a second or third time.
After watching ALIEN, did we understand why the alien eggs were there? Who the Space Jockey was? Were these questions answered in James Cameron's ALIENS? No. The anticipation built upon knowing PROMETHEUS was coming likely led to many people feeling underwhelmed by the result. But, if you show PROMETHEUS to someone who has never seen ALIEN, I am confident they would be thrilled and intrigued enough to warrant repeat viewings and desire for sequels. That is the hallmark of a good movie.
Amanda Bynes has really let herself go.
You cannot argue the visual power of PROMETHEUS or Ridley Scott's masterful direction. There is not a moment in the film that is not visually stunning. The scope of PROMETHEUS is larger than ALIEN and yet the movie still manages to be as claustrophobic as that film. The look of everything from the Engineers to the structures on the planet are part homage to the work of H.R. Giger's original designs and a parallel interpretation that keeps it in line with the same universe. While movies like STAR TREK and STAR WARS offer a visual overhaul in their prequels and reboots that doesn't mesh perfectly with the other films in their respective series, PROMETHEUS does an admirable job of having these movies feel like they co-exist in the same universe.
I am all for analyzing movies down to the very minute details, but there is also something to be said for simply enjoying a movie. PROMETHEUS delivers on the thrills warranted by a summer blockbuster while also delivering enough intelligent development to make you think twice about what is happening on screen. Question Ridley Scott or Damon Lindelof all you want, but what we get on screen here is a well-acted movie populated with strong performances from Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and many more. Question all you want, but I am proud to consider PROMETHEUS not only a great movie on it's own but also an excellent addition to the ALIEN mythology.