Movie review: “Prometheus”

Prometheus-bluray


The most frightening movie experience I ever had was in early 1980, when I saw “Alien” at the Avon Cinema in Providence, Rhode Island.

 

 

I saw it alone, by myself.

 

 

Luckily, I lived only about a block away from the theater. I walked home deliberately, trying not to make a fool of myself by running in terror. Once I got inside my apartment, I sat in the dark and shook for a while. I was completely terrorized.

 

 

Well, when I saw that Ridley Scott was producing this “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus,” Partner and I were in the ticket line in nothing flat. I wanted to be frightened like that again. I dreaded it, but I really wanted it; it was like anticipating one of those really horrendous roller-coaster rides that flips you upside down at 180mph and almost but not quite rips your head off.

 

 

Sadly, kids, I have to report that this movie is not “Alien.”

 

 

Mostly this is because we’ve already seen “Alien,” not to mention lots of other stuff. There’s nothing new here. Narsty creatures that get inside you and then bore their way out? Check. Octopus/squid things glomming onto your face? Check. Creepy black fluids that turn out to be alive? I think that was “X-Files,” actually.

 

 

Some of the acting is good. Michael Fassbender (the young Magneto in “X-Men: First Class”) is eerily charming as David, the robot crewmember. Charlize Theron is icily creepy as the corporate leader of the space expedition. Idris Elba is hunky and sympathetic as the big funny/sarcastic captain, with his concertina that used to belong to Stephen Stills.

 

 

Then there’s the rest of the cast. Two of the main roles – the two scientists who are heading the expedition – are played by Noomi Rapace (who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish versions of the “Girl Who . . .” movies) and Logan Marshall-Green (whom I didn’t know at all, but who, IMDB tells me, was a featured actor in both “The O.C.” and “24.”) They are both – hm – adequate. She huffs and pants a lot; he looks pained a lot. These two, who I’m sure are wonderful actors in other venues, are seriously miscast here. They don’t fit.

 

 

There are lots of other misfires in this film:

 

        The plot is miserably tangled. Just go online if you don’t believe me; you’ll discover people having heated arguments about what this scene or that scene meant. Suspense and mystery are good things; confusion and sloppiness are bad things. The abundance of confusing / irrational things in “Prometheus” made me think that the screenwriters just weren’t working things out, and thinking: We’ll figure it out in the sequel.

        The cinematography isn’t great. We saw the 2D version, but it was easy to see which scenes were meant to be 3D-spectacular: a huge sandstorm, a big virtual-reality planetarium scene, a couple of others. Then again, there were garbled closed-circuit camera scenes (you’re always seeing things from other peoples’ point of view, through a camera), and ancient holographic video, and it’s all pointillistic and strange, and hard to make out. Why? These are supposed to be advanced cultures, man. Don’t they have better video than this?

        A lot of time is spent on irrelevant details. Example: much time is spent on showing how robot Michael Fassbender admires Peter O’Toole’s performance in “Lawrence of Arabia,” to the point of quoting him, and trying to look like him. Why? No reason. It ends up adding exactly nothing to the movie.

 

 

And finally, and most damningly: it didn’t scare me. I was looking forward to having the bejeezus scared out of me again, the way “Alien” scared me in 1980. A couple of times during “Prometheus,” I braced myself – and nothing really interesting happened.

 

 

Wait until it comes out on cable, kids. Nothing to see here.


 

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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

8 Responses to Movie review: “Prometheus”

  1. After having seen so many Alien and Species movies, did you really expect to get scared?

    • Silly, I know. But I figured that Ridley Scott (of all people) could come up with some new things to do with the whole genre. “Alien” was brand-new, and terrifying, in 1979; I thought that maybe, in the 33 years since then, he’d come up with some new ideas. I was (sadly) wrong.

  2. ShelLuser says:

    Now… Bear with me since I’m not as ‘deep’ into movies as I once was but I have to wonder if the aspect of scaring also doesn’t come from “knowing how to make movies”. This may come out wrong so let me elaborate a bit…

    My favorite movie in the Aliens serie is ‘Aliens’. Simply because that’s the movie I first discovered thanks to a Commodore 64 game out of all things. When I first saw it it was very scary, and I didn’t even watch this in the cinema but at home (I was still living with my parents back then as teenager ;-)).

    Only a few weeks (or months ;)) ago did I watch Aliens with my girlfriend at my home. The suspense was still there, the feeling of something awful happen; check. At one time the suspense really goes up when the Aliens invade and are then stopped by the sentry guns. Barely…

    And then I suddenly wondered… We’re sitting here getting worked up by a running counter and some audio effects. And yet it was scary!

    I think its that way of producing movies which seems to be gone these days. Being able to let people use their own fantasy to fill in the blanks, and to add a little bit of suspense by mere suggestion.

    • I agree completely. I knew back in 1979 when I saw “Alien” that Sigourney Weaver wasn’t really in space being pursued by a bloodthirsty evil slimy thing. But I was sufficiently able to enter the story, and suspend my own disbelief, to feel some of her fear.

      Maybe it’s seeing too many “scary” movies. Maybe it’s growing up and realizing that it’s just all smoke and mirrors.

      But I would like to think that a really good filmmaker could have come up with a new way of scaring people, instead of using the same tired old monsters.

  3. I saw it with my dad last week. I was really looking forward to it because my dad took me to see “Alien” when it first came out. I believe I was just 14 at the time and we went despite my mom’s objections, but we ended up really enjoying it. Now he’s in his mid-70s and I’m approaching 50, but still we’ve been going to the movies together for the past four decades.

    Anyway, back to this picture. I enjoyed it visually. You are right about the plot. There were some great scenes — I thought the woman giving herself a Caesarian section was a film moment I’ll remember forever. But overall, it was disappointing. Even “Alien Resurrection” was scarier and better.

    In any case, I’m looking forward to the Batman movie later this summer. And I would very much like to see the new picture by the director who made “The Royal Tannenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic of Steve Ziszou.”

    I look forward to your posts on those two films. Cheers!

    • I agree. I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would; I wanted it to be better.

      Batman should be interesting; I’m always waiting for Christian Bale to flip out.

  4. sarcasmjew says:

    I really enjoyed your review. I think it was spot on. However, I would have to disagree with your opinion on Charlize Theron’s performance. I admired Charlize Theron’s performances in many films especially Monster. Unfortunately, I feel Charlize has been miscast in most of the films she’s played in in the past couple of years. I agree, that Charlize, when cast in the right film (ex: Monster, North Country) may carry out a very chilling performance. You see the thing about Charlize, is that when she plays a role,she does it very well when the role requires her to take the side of a single persona. She may exhibit different personalities in films due to different circumstances, but once she breaks out of the transition and steps into that single mindset, she is unbeatable. In Prometheus, she played a very neutral role in which she had to balance the role of a captain who is assumed to be trustworthy and the role of a captain who is mostly concerned with herself. Balancing good and bad for Charlize resulted in a somewhat confusing performance where I wasn’t really sure what to make of her. Towards the middle of the film, I completely lost interest in her character.

    Again, this is just my opinion.

    On a brighter note, I believe the best casting decision for the film was Michael Fassbender’s performance as David.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Actually, I think I agree with you. I like Charlize a lot – she’s a very talented actress – but they didn’t give her much to work with here. [SPOILER ALERT to all those who may be reading this]: How soon in the movie did you think: Gee, I wonder if she’s related to the old man who runs the company?

      But she can be subtle, and funny, when given the chance. Her scene with Idris Elba halfway through the movie, where they flirt without flirting, is wonderful; I liked her very much in that scene.

      Again: I think the big problem in “Prometheus” was the half-baked script, which involved a whole bunch of half-developed characters. Not exactly a gift to a talented actor or actress. You’re right: Michael Fassbender was given the best role, and he brought it off beautifully.

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