When I was a kid I didnâ€™t have any question about whether God existed. We had a picture of him in our family photo album. It was a Polaroid of a large head in shadow looking downward through the camera directly at me. Like any decent religious artifact, it elicited equal parts fear and comfort. Eventually I grew older and my fluffy brain began to gel and harden. Caterpillars stopped being my friends, mice stopped operating my innards and the glowing bats that flew over my bed became reflections of car headlights driving by. Eventually the picture of God transformed into a picture of my Dad. What? Yes, the undeniable truth was that my father had simply held the camera below his head, looked down and took a picture of himself. I had misinterpreted the image on a grand scale; my dumb imagination made up the whole thing. My evidence of God was for shit.
I couldnâ€™t help thinking of this disheartening incident while watching RIDLEY SCOTTâ€™S PROMETHEUS. Partially because within the film there exists a giant head that vaguely resembles that old photo and also due to the fact that the movie involves a quest for solid answers that ends in disillusionment. If that were not enough, there are more daddy issues smuggled aboard this ship than a four-year subscription to â€œModern Replicantâ€ magazine. A robot is miffed to learn how arbitrary his existence is, one daughter dreams of her dead dad while another wills her pop to croak so she can take over his turf and a molten skinned oldster requests a bigger allowance from a parental being whoâ€™d rather deliver a mortal spanking. Itâ€™s Christmas day and on everybodyâ€™s wish list is something more substantial than blind faith. There may be answers in PROMETHEUS; theyâ€™re just unlikely to be the ones we yearn for. As in life, the more you try to focus, the less you see but at some point there is no denying the tentacles.
I saw PROMETHEUS the day it came out, so if this post is late to appear itâ€™s only because I was left nearly speechless. Sure, Iâ€™ve talked about it with friends but the idea of cramming the experience into typed words felt untoward. This is a hyper-visual, painterly film and those who gravitate toward dissecting the script and focusing on the narrative alone are missing a great deal. Itâ€™s commonplace to accuse anything that is this gorgeous of being empty and relying on style over substance but in my mind, thatâ€™s an insult to the infinite power that an image alone can contain. To be honest I was far too immersed and mesmerized by what was before me to be effected by any of the alleged lapses that apparently yanked others out of the film. Maybe thatâ€™s just me though, if a character in a movie does something foolish my mind says, â€œHey, buddy donâ€™t do that, youâ€™ll be sorry!â€ not â€œI wouldnâ€™t do that so therefore this makes no sense.â€ Which isnâ€™t to say I have not been highly entertained by the mostly intelligent criticism this movie has inspired, itâ€™s just that if youâ€™ve seen PROMETHEUES and you donâ€™t believe that itâ€™s destined for classic status all I can say isâ€¦thatâ€™s adorable.
Besides the jaw-droppy, awe inspiring overall design and the thought (and controversy) provoking, open to endless interpretation, storyline, we also get an undeniably for the ages performance by MICHAEL FASSBENDER, that is if you can take your eyes off CHARLIZE THERON for a moment which I admittedly had difficulty doing. Perhaps more importantly for our purposes here, I also can tell you that I found myself wincing my face in gleeful fear on at least two occasions and wading in dense dread on several more. Are there things I wish had been done differently? Yep, Iâ€™d say several but I wouldnâ€™t trade that for a film created to charm the audience and be forgotten the next day. GUY PEARCEâ€™s character reads (and looks) particularly slack in my opinion but Iâ€™ve chosen to play a tiny violin for myself and move on. In other words, count me out of the naysayers club. Iâ€™m not simply â€œchoosing to believeâ€ in RIDLEY, Iâ€™m choosing to believe that movies donâ€™t have to be subservient to audience expectations to be significant. Those who need everything nailed down for them and desire art without blemishes can scamper to the side away from this rousingly erratic masterwork but Iâ€™m going to run straight on forward and happily allow it to fall right on top of me. Youch, that feels good!
I have defended this film and sang its praises to many. In a way I’m glad many didn’t get its glory because it makes me feel like I’m part of some special set of people who are privy to the greater things in life and filmmaking. I understand why some people did not find it gratifying but as you say, those people just “need everything nailed down for them and desire art without blemishes”.
I applaud the open-ended, (sorta) answerless nature of the film and along with all the Lovecraftian touches, I believe it to be the best science fiction film in a long while.
Also, it was simply beautiful in IMAX 3D. The best looking film since Avatar in that format. I thought Noomi Rapace was amazing as well.
I believe you are right when you say it is destined to be a classic. Time will tell.
Thanks for a non-spoiler review on behalf of others.
Very nice writeup. I also enjoyed the movie despite several problems I found to be lurking under it’s imagery.
Hovewer I feel this is one of the most important studio releases in quite some time. While the horror elements are not as front and center (perhaps because of the big questions being asked here) they are still there. They may not work as well, but they are there. I am honestly a little bit tired after years of arguing whether Alien series belong to the horror genre or not.
Prometheus fits the bill as well, despite being a big movie asking big questions it works best when it gets down to the horror stuff.
You can kinda see how it started out as an Alien prequel, because it’s like two movies playing at once. You have this epic scifi mystery about origins of mankind and this dark scifi horror flick battling for attention.
I’ve been waiting and hoping for this review. Glad you got around to it! I agree that it is a beautiful movie and the best use of 3D I’ve seen (second only to Piranha … is that so wrong?). It takes you to space in a way I’ve not seen in any other sci-fi flick. I’d see it again for that very reason and have recommended it to others based on that. BUT … I really do doubt this film’s future “classic” status. Especially because it’s been MORE than teased that this is the first in a trilogy. And we know how those sci-fi prequel trilogies usually pan out. Which — SEMI-SPOILER ALERT — probably explains Guy Pearce’s “look” throughout. Also, Prometheus examines the mystery from the opening 20 minutes or so of ALIEN (before John Hurt’s curiosity gets the best of him (AND HOW!) and takes a whizz all over it, by solving one of the greatest unsolved WTF mysteries of modern sci-fi/horror and making that beautifully crafted H.R. Geiger “space jockey” something far less interesting than I think was originally intended by the writers of ALIEN. So now our “WTF is that?!” is now “That is something LAME.” If this had no relationship to ALIEN I’d like it much better, because now when I watch ALIEN I’ll have to pretend Prometheus doesn’t exist in the same way I have to pretend Lucas’ prequels don’t exist when I watch Star Wars. But you’re right — there’s no denying the tentacles … or the show-stopping “medical” scene … or Charlize Theron … or Michael Fassbender. But the first half-hour teases a better story than we end up getting. But in many ways I agree with your review and always love-love-love reading your opinion. In short (too late): Dazzling but dumb. In space no one can hear your bad dialogue. (I’ve been wanting to use that line for two weeks.)
PS & BTW: I also left the movie thinking, “characters TALKING about asking the big questions” is not the same as actually ASKING the big questions.” Ok. I’m done now.
It is a damn gorgeous movie isn’t it? I mean….wow. I have to say that still means something to me. This isn’t the usual tacky special effects show, Ridley Scott has an exquisite eye. Some of those images are just burned in my head now.
I do like the ideas presented but even if you watched the film in another language and had no idea what they were talking about, it’s still a powerful movie in my book. I think the visuals work for me just on a primal level alone in some points.
I was grabbed by the throat by the few seconds where you see the skull visage atop the temple as the storm starts! Best three seconds I’ve had in a theater in years. Maybe I’m nuts but that image alone was stronger than most horror movies are in their entirety.
There’s also a bit right as David turns off his helmet cam where you jump to Vicker’s room and there is a primitive mask in the center of the screen that has a Captain Howdy effect on me! I’ll have to investigate that further when I have it on DVD and can freeze it.
I saw the movie a second time yesterday (because my feet forced me to) and I warmed up to Rapace’s less flashy performance a great deal. I shortchanged her the first time because I was trapped in David and Vicker’s cobra gaze but this time I realized just how good she was.
Plus in the tradition of Shelley Duvall in THE SHINING, she gives good horror-face!!!
That touches upon a big element for me. The horror in this movie feels real to me. Like the specter of death is really squirming under everything. It’s not the phony “I’m going to fight this!” stuff it’s the real inevitability that no matter what you do you are going to die one day.
Let me get really morbid here for a second. Watching this again I came to the conclusion that there is an answer in this movie and the answer is death. No matter how far you travel, no matter who you ask, no matter how much money you have, the answer is death. That’s what Weyland learns at the end and what David already knows. The best you can do is try to do something valuable with your life like Janek’s sacrifice (which I thought was more moving and understandable on the second watch.). Of course all of that is just me and I think you take away what you bring in.
Mark my words this movie is destined to become a classic. I think even based on the strength of the David character alone it’s a done deal.
It really made me feel the same way I did when I first saw Blade Runner, overwhelmed and disoriented. I think just as Harrison Ford brought baggage to BR that left people confused about what they were seeing, the Alien franchise brings baggage to Prometheus that does the same. But the smoke will clear.
As far as it effecting my viewing of the original I look at it like if you went to an art gallery and saw a show. You’d see a bunch of paintings probably using the same medium, themes and ideas and you can pull back and see it as a whole show or take in each piece as a singular work. It’s your choice. I know for sure that I can watch the first Alien and not be concerned with what follows. I don’t do canon really. I believe in countless alternate universes. I especially believe in an alternate universe where Newt and Hicks live!
Speaking of bad dialogue. Somebody in the theater in front of me laughed out loud when Vickers said “Father” and l and I’ve been obsessing over that! I miss that in movies people used to be able to speak in a hyper dramatic way. Now everything has to sound “real” and who needs that? Haha Well, as I said before I think the images spoke the loudest and clearest to me in this movie and I’m cool with that! Words are so overrated! No matter how you react to the movie it’s a rare privilege I think to catch a picture of this size that still has its directors fingerprints all over it.
When I saw this movie for the first time, I left feeling unsure what to think of it. There were undeniably awesome aspects; this is the movie that 3D was made for. Visually, it’s flawless. There were also some awful aspects. The less prominent characters were mostly place-fillers. It always bothers me when I only know characters by labels such as biology guy, geology guy, navigator guys, etc., especially when they turn out to have pivotal roles. Even worse for me, many of the characters’ actions are simply inexplicable in their context (I do not think that contamination and decontamination means what they think it means). Yeah, dramatic license, yada, yada, but really, talk about some idiot moves…
That said, Prometheus stimulated so many conversations with friends that I went to see it again. I was shocked to find that I loved it the second time around. I think the difference was that the WTF stupid actions of some of the characters (I’m not talking about Elizabeth and David here) were distracting me from the movie. Knowing about them ahead of time allowed me to concentrate on the other elements as well as the bigger picture.
I also think this movie will become a cult classic. It took Blade Runner years to develop a positive reputation. I suspect that many of the poor reviews for Prometheus are related to the problems with the characters’ actions. Overall, though, it’s an exploration of some heady ideas. How many times do you come out of theater wanting to have a lengthy discussion about what it all means?
One depressing note, though: I always had a crush on Michael Fassbender, and he is so convincing in this movie that I think he’s going to creep me out for quite a while.
I’m usually a “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing” kind of guy (at least on KT) but I’m gonna disagree with Unk and say that I very much disliked this film. Ages ago I was a biological scientist and the central premise of the film, this alien panspermia notion, was so borked that it cast a ruinous shadow over everything else. If the producers had bothered to consult an actual scientist at some point, they could have kept their premise and not delivered it in such a mind-boggling, groan-inducing, wrong, wrong way.
The opening sequence killed it for me. After that every plot hole gaped. Honestly, if I had come in to the theater a little late, I might have come away with a very different impression.
It was a beautiful film though and I generally thought that the actors did their best with the material.
I’m so glad you went to see this movie a second time too! I was really satisfied by how much more the film opens up upon a second viewing. I hadn’t noticed that David basically asks for Charlie’s permission to experiment on him before he does the deed. There are so many nuances and small moments that only make real sense the second time around like when Vickers makes that cringe face after Weyland speaks fondly of David as the son he never had.
I know the worm/snake attack seems to be the breaking point for a lot of people but it still works for me as a good scare scene. I can’t argue that those guys don’t make a super dumb move (especially considering the outcome) but I dunno- dump people just seem to rack up the suspense for me. I rationalize it as they kept seeing these giant corpses all around and were fearing encountering something huge and were almost relieved to see how small the creatures actually were?? In any case it ends up being the most fun scene to talk about with people who hate the movie!
It really is a fun movie to debate and I think it secretly delivers all things to all people- If you like stunning visuals you are set, if you like solving cryptic puzzles you are set and if you like ripping things apart you are really set. I think some people tend to jump ship at the first instance where they are not getting what they want and it’s a huge loss. I’m sure once this one hits the home market many people will give it a second chance and then a third because it really does deliver on the repeat viewing front and its reputation can only grow stronger. I believe that one day I will even accept that old age make-up! I don’t think real art asks you to love ever fiber of it. I think it challenges you to ask bigger questions and to try to see things from a different angle than you did before and this movie does both. I actually had a dream about this movie the other night, that’s a recommendation in itself I think.
Also: As much flack as the script is getting I have to say anything that is even partially responsible for that Fassbender performance deserves some props in my book. That guy really hit it out of the park and ya need the right pitch to do that.
I have to say, I love that you disagree and I always want to hear your opinion.
But you should know one important thing about your Unk…I am no scientist.
If this movie has bad science I am the perfect audience!
I mostly only understand mountains with skull faces and the emotional experience of artificial humans!
Great write-up, Unk! I’m wrapping my head around Prometheus, waiting for a chance to squeeze in a second viewing. At first glance I was pretty stunned by much of it. The script issues that so many people harp on just don’t mean that much to me. I have to shake my head when I read shortsighted reviewers label this movie a failure. I can see not liking it – no film is loved across the board – but there’s no way that you can legitmately call a movie this beautifully put together a failure. That’s just pure douchery.
Unk, you picked up on one of my favorite scenes, when David carries the glass to Charlie using his middle finger, asks him how far he’s willing to go, and then smoothly changes fingers when Charlie says he’ll do anything.
I think that one reason for some of the negative reactions is going in thinking this is a true prequel to Alien. The two movies are completely different in mood and intention, and if you go in expecting a horror roller coaster ride (or competent biology and archeology, for that matter), Prometheus will disappoint. However, if you are in the mood for something different, whether you love it or hate it, this movie provides a lot to think about and discuss. It certainly took me two viewings to realize how much was going on underneath the surface.
We’ll see who’s ‘adorable’ in the end. 😉
I have enjoyed immensely the junior science club debates that have raged throughout the blogosphere with regard to this film’s cosmological and technological jibber-jabber, but like you, rather than attempt to take a surgery machine seriously and become frustrated when I can’t, I would rather bask in the beautiful imagery of this film which is infinitely more tactile and visceral than 99% of the CGI garbage I have seen recently. I think viewers would be better off approaching this film as the newest Matthew Barney flick, because thrashing sense into its plot and speculative science (not to mention attempting to align it correctly with Alien) is a hopeless errand. Thanks for redirecting attention to the visuals, where attention belongs, in this case!
This article perfectly summarizes how I feel about Prometheus!
Can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts on this one!
Right? I think the second viewing is key!
I’m setting my watch. You will hang a Prometheus poster on your wall one day! 🙂
I love the Mathew Barney idea. That fits perfectly. I’m starting to think that some people watch movies from the right side of the brain (visual, emotional) and some from the left (logical, critical) and that’s all there is too it. It’s possible my brain has two right sides.
Glad to hear that! I had to cut myself short because I was afraid of going on and on with this one!