Non-spoiler video review: PROMETHEUS

Well here it is, gang. Prometheus has finally arrived. I did a video review for The Substream which is, mercifully, non-spoiler:

But for you spoiler-hounds out there, there’s also my really, really, really spoilerish written review.

70 comments

  1. Kurt Halfyard

    Haha! Good comparison. I remember that ST:TNG episode very clearly, it’s one of the great ones precisely for the ‘meta-reason’ you give. I remember that at one point Battstar Galatica 2004 creator Ronald D. Moore said that he left writing Star Trek because he felt so shackled by continuity issues, but it goes to show that some of the writers on the show got pretty clever with how they manipulated their own shackles!

    On to the topic at hand though…

    Overall, I liked the film there is too much in here to love in the visual department. The real issues (and this one always plagued Lindelof in to gosh-darn flashback back-stories in LOST) is that the characters never reach beyond the status of finger-puppets – they seem to all lack what is recognizable as human to me (and a huge part of the appeal in the original ALIEN), instead they behave like asshats, or worse, ploting guided asshats (The biologist and geologist in particular). The characters are at the mercy of the plot, instead of the other way around. Much like J.J. Abrams, these new Sci-Fi geeks are more interested in moving things along to the next act of ‘coolness’ or ‘badass’ to stop and consider the humanity in the equation. That is the cardinal fault of PROMETHEUS, that it’s all about searching for God at the expense of examining what is human…

    Also, it seems that Ridley Scott is suffering a bit from J.J. Abrams (yea, I’m pickin on him again) syndrome of moving things along fast, fast, fast so that the audience will not stop to question a lot of details and motivations….(See Super 8, Star Trek reboot, MI:3)

    But this of course is the Alien universe, so this film is going to be examined practically frame by frame, as is the wont of the fans of this franchise.

    The prologue is easily the worst scene in the film, I get what it is doing, and that is connected to the story, but really….really it could have disappeared and the film would be no worse off…

    Personally (and this is petty of me) if the entire film was Michael Fassbender wandering around the quiet corridors of the Prometheus, watching classic films, learning languages and playing Basketball, I would have quite liked that film: a existential space-travel version of GERRY.

    *BIG SPOILERS*

    I’m sure we’ll talk more, but suffice it to say that what will probably be the most talked about scene in the film is the C-section scene in the film played like the ‘assembly of the Electric-Lexus’ in MINORITY REPORT, it was an action set piece more than a reflection of horror – weird as that sounds. Still, pregnant ladies may want to give this (or any ALIEN franchise movie for that matter) a pass.

    • I am not sure I agree with you about the character behaviors or motivations, maybe it is just an age thing but everything everyone did seemed human and in character to me.

      Specifics may have to wait for the big old talk in the Cinecast.

      • Kurt Halfyard

        Oh, it’ll be down right geeky on the next Cinecast. As I said before. I do love this universe and the stories set within it. If I could take Whedon’s script, surly I can take Lindelof’s.

        • Just don’t go around telling people that 2012′s best space movie is Lockout please :P

    • antho42

      Disagree with you Kurt — the prologue is one of the film’s best scene.

      Spoilers:
      I like how ambiguous it is. We do not know what time period and whether the scene takes place in Earth or another planet?

      In many ways, the scene increases the scope of the film.

      • alechs

        I am kind of surprised people aren’t talking about the prologue more. I think it helps set up the theme of the characters as romantic nihilists. It is not coincidental that the lone figure in front of waterfall is a visual reference to The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Casper D. Friedrich, the most iconic image of the Enlightened romantic explorer/scientist. Some classic shit right here.

    • I love Prometheus and Star Trek, and they got pacing of these kind of action films down to an art. Amps up the visceral by not letting you have enough lag time to anticipate what happens next and start recognizing formula. Themes, characters, surface design all density to keep you pushing forward.

  2. In cyberspace, everyone can hear you nitpick — Succinct version: I’m mostly happy with what I got with Prometheus, it’s very ambitious for a Summer mega-budget movie but has a fair share of ‘issues’ in its storytelling.

    • I’m with you Kurt – I had hoped for more but liked what I got well enough. My biggest peeves aren’t with the direction but rather with the scrip. Overall it was OK. I stand by an earlier comment I made to someone else: I liked SNOW WHITE much better than this.

      • Kurt Halfyard

        Well I wouldn’t go THAT far Marina. I think Prometheus trumps SWATH in both screenplay and visuals, but I believe that Prometheus had loftier goals and was going after bigger ideas, that is only why I’m so hard on it.

        I guess Prometheus wasn’t as HARD SCI-FI as I wanted it to be. It’s somewhat soft and gooshy SCI-FI.

      • Tum Tum Tyranus

        Yeah, the script is probably the weakest aspect. Many times I’d think the film was setting up something interesting only to be dissapointed with them doing nothing by the end. Like with David, his intro, which I dug, leads you to believe they would explore his character to great depth but it ends up being the typical robot/human stuff we’ve seen in so many movies(that scene with him and Noomi near the end got laughs in my theater).

    • I’m with you on this one — it just felt like a regular alien-planet movie (not sure that’s a genre, but…). Nothing really good, nothing really bad.

  3. Not that I needed any convincing to go see Prometheus, but this endorsement may be enough to jostle me out of being a weekend 2 viewer and into opening weekend.

    Matt Brown has not steered me wrong to date.

  4. antho42

    Damon Lindelof = the new Ralph Bakshi
    Both are nice guys, and their work is interesting. Ultimately, though, their end product is disappointing.

    • Kurt Halfyard

      You’re getting pretty warm here. Yup.

      • I’d argue Bakshi takes far more risks with his work, but I’d agree, its a fair comparison.

        Though I’ve rarely ever been disappointed by Bakshi.

  5. antho42

    This films plays like a live action, science fiction/pseudo philosophical anime — in the vein of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Serial Lain Experiment.

    I loved the film. It is a flawed, and arguably a mess, but the film always captivating. It also looks fucking amazing.

    I do not want to sequel, though.

    • Kurt Halfyard

      I might take some type of sequel….that is if it ignores the set-up of this film and is written by somebody else and features different characters.

      Hey, I like the Aliens Universe…

  6. antho42

    The biggest problem that I have with the film is that the couple in the film — Noomi Rapace and Thom Hardy’s clone — are, for the most part, retarded.

    Also, none of the characters have a sense of “wonder”/the “sublime” on the groundbreaking stuff they are watching and experiencing. Only the scene with Fassbender in the holograph area show “wonder”/the “sublime” at the character level.

  7. Loved this movie, currently processing thoughts. At base I think this movie is a clash between expectations and intent and I loved the intent and don’t give a shit about the expectations.

    Visceral lived in adventure into the unknown done to the nines, I am sold. Also I don’t quite understand the LOST or Evangelion comparisons, it brings up the spiritual as a background to a single character but all the reasons and things it shows are very biological and practical and pragmatic just viewed from an outside lens.

    This is the prequel I want, I don’t need Lucas checking all the boxes or the Thing doing the same, tell stories that relate but are largely different separate events every single time.

    • Kurt Halfyard

      The LOST connection is ‘silly characters making silly decisions with spurious motivation at best’ and also a reliance on puzzlebox and ‘cool idea’ over bonafide human verisimilitude.

      I dig Walter Chaw’s comparison over at FilmFreakCentral: Scott is making a play for Kubrick’s 2001 but ends up with Peter Hyams’ 2010. Not that there is anything wrong with 2010, but hey, it ain’t no 2001.

      • Jericho Slim

        No, you (and Walter) want him to make 2001, and that’s not what he made. I don’t think that was his intention, even though he does pay homage to it sometimes. But then again, how can anyone make a movie about space and not pay homage to 2001, intentionally or not?

        • Maybe it’s my science background talking, but I could buy any errors in judgement or whatnot from the Nostromo Crew, as they were essentially Truck Drivers with no training for anything like that. I can equally buy the hubris of the Grunt-Space-Marines going on a routine mission to a colony. I can certainly buy the ‘double-Y’ Chromo’s at the ass end of space doing uncoordinated and stupid things in the face of the Xenomorph.

          But this is the corporate-planet-earth’s best and brightest essentially being signed on because they are great scientists and I find it hard to believe that great scientists wouldn’t follow a little detachment when on a planet that they were essentially going to find their ‘creators’ -> Yet everyone does hamfisted and idiotic things in service of ‘icky scares’

          I guess my beef is that if Scott was going to ask the Big Questions he could of perhaps taken a few cues from the great Hard-Sci Fi writers out there, and not gone the ‘pulp’ route which he does. It’s a mix that was hard for me to completely swallow on one viewing.

          That being said, I did really like the movie…I just can help but gnaw and pick on all the nits in its fabric.

          • Practical knowledge in a removed context vs. first expedition to alien life in the cosmos are two incredibly different things Mr. Science Background.

            Also you can’t discount their expectations of what to find probably wasn’t what they found after finding the bodies.

          • Tum Tum Tyranus

            “Yet everyone does hamfisted and idiotic things in service of ‘icky scares’”

            SPOILERS

            Yes, like that moment where that guy who was scared all of a sudden is talking cute to that space cobra. The movie is full of clunky stuff like this.

          • Where is it said that scientists or technically smart people can’t make stupid or hamfisted decisions. People make stupid choices all the time, not to mention, as I said earlier the carnage they saw and the Cobra’s wouldn’t automatically equate in anyone’s mind.

            In some ways the smarter you get the easier you make the really dumb choices.

          • Tum Tum Tyranus

            I don’t know, man. Yeah, people make dumb choices all the time but that scene doesn’t come off that way (it just feels contrived).

          • Rick, I was seeing people saying that Elizabeth Shaw sucks and/or is not believable because she’s a religious scientist and blah blah blah. “A scientist would never ‘choose to believe’ anything” etc.

            Forgetting Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, is Director of the NIH, and has such a wishy washy background with his religious observances and mixing them with his science. He fell to his knees and accepted Jesus after seeing a waterfall split into three streams, and decided it was the Trinity. Something like that.

            Article here which I need to re-read: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-strange-case-of-francis-collins

          • Well, there is something called PROTOCOL, but it seemed like Team-Prometheus was always in every way simply ‘winging it’ – which is pretty strange for a $1-Trillion dollar space mission.

          • Jericho Slim

            Ripley is a highly trained scientist in the first one, but she makes bad decisions. A man has a face-hugger on him for a day – a life form that has never been encountered but is obviously dangerous. That man has a high likelihood (or at least an increased likelihood) of at least being infected, but it falls off and all is immediately well and she lets him eat with the rest of the crew? The man she didn’t want to let in in the first place? And Ashe is ok with this, when logic dictates he put him in stasis immediately to ensure that the creature gets back to earth?

            Horror movies are full of bad decisions, or else the genre wouldn’t exist, period. The same exact thing goes for scientists in sci-fi movies.

            And most of the “bad” decisions on the planet were made by Fassbender – against the wishes of the scientists -because he had ulterior motives.

          • Tum Tum Tyranus

            It’s about tone. Alien is a killer monster movie. Prometheus aims to be cerebral sci-fi, so when characters act this way it stands out.

          • Jericho Slim

            Prometheus aims to just be a cerebral sci-fi? And Alien doesn’t plan to be cerebral at all?

            I heartily disagree with both premises.

          • Boy I would love to see that movie where they don’t explore any artifacts, just look from afar, and sit around a table talking about approaches to analysis.

            I think maybe things were expediated because this is a horror movie not a procedural tv show. Better they explore, and I think they make this work by how eager the scientists are with this opportunity, their enthusiasm gets the best of them. As the one guy says, this is Christmas and he wants to open his presents. You are so close to answering big questions, the biggest, I can buy the risks they take.

    • antho42

      When it come to characters, Damon Lindelof has a major problem in being unable to connect the acts/decision with the personality of the characters.
      Spoilers:
      1. It makes no sense for the scientist with glasses to be easygoing with the alien. In the previous scene, the film establishes that he is a scary cat.
      2. It does not make sense how Idris Alba conclusively proves that the planet is simply a site for weapons of mass destruction. He is simply a captain.
      3. No one acts surprise, especially when Guy Pearce’s character just randomly shows up.
      4. Thom Hardy’s decision to remove his helmet is bordeline retarded for a world class scientist.
      5. The sex conversation between Idris Alba and Theoron was painful to watch.
      6. Why does the film play Charlize Theron’s character as a villain? She was the most rational human character.

      • Tum Tum Tyranus

        That actually isn’t Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy is an actual good actor.

        SPOILERS

        The whole half-baked Charlize Theron father sub-plot was also pretty cringe-worthy.

        The problem with Lindeloff is that he likes to throw all these ideas at the wall but never follows through and fleshes them out. I’m so sick of him.

  8. antho42

    This film will make a great double bill with Contact.

    • Kurt Halfyard

      Yep, made that same leap myself last night on Facebook in my post-viewing haze.

    • Agree entirely. I will be discussing both films on Ryan McNeil’s Matineecast this weekend – I’ll post a link here when the show goes up.

      • Except theme is ornament in Prometheus, its goal is to be a thrill ride, Contact is story working solely in service of the theme. Two different agendas.

  9. Jericho Slim

    Kurt, respectfully, you are insane. This is almost a perfect movie, and to compare it to JJ Abrams work (I loved Star Trek, by the way) is way off base. This movie is almost the opposite – it is a slow burn for much of the run time.

    As far as visually, this movie had the best 3D I’ve ever seen – better than Avatar – and the special effects were second to none – they were also better than Avatar’s, in my opinion.

    There were some stupid character decisions – just like there were in Alien, which you rightfully praise so much. Just like there are stupid character decisions in every horror movie ever made – that’s part of the genre.

    The opening scene was incredible, and the perfect jumping off point for the story and the themes of the story. I’m in my post-movie high, but I can’t remember having a better experience in a movie theater, period.

    Part of my excitement may be because I saw in in IMAX (fake, digital IMAX) 3D, which was incredible. Regardless, I will surely go see it a few more times before it leaves theaters.

    I put this at least on par with the first Alien. And light leagues ahead of SWATH.

  10. I thought the movie good but kind of forgettable. I think it tried too hard to be both a big questions and monster movie it was to the detriment of the film. It should’ve picked one or the other and it would have been a way better film. The acting was good except for Noomi’s partner, the first 20 minutes I kept thinking to myself is he and Patrick Wilson should have swapped roles.

    Also no offense Lost fans but everything I’ve seen movie-wise that involved JJ Abrams or Damon Lindelof have been completely forgettable and had no substance. They need to return to TV.

    • Tum Tum Tyranus

      Yes, thank you. I too thought that actor was a weak link and your solution of switching him with Patrick Wilson is perfect.

  11. Domenic’s five-star review is also now posted on the site: http://www.rowthree.com/2012/06/08/review-prometheus/ I’ll be reading that one and watching this one tomorrow, after we see the movie. :)

  12. JohnO

    This movie just needed some room to breathe. While the film is beautifully crafted and thematically ambitious, it ultimately feels very rushed and convoluted – especially in its final act. Overall, it was way too much plot for too short a running time. If the script had taken more time to develop its characters (most notably Theron – whose whole arc feels completely rushed) and nix a few unnecessary ones, I could really get behind it. It’s almost frustrating how close this was to being something truly special.

  13. I walked away from this with the buzz we all want to feel leaving a big spectacle. It’s still with me. And then I went on twitter and saw a rush of “worst movie ever” from people who I thought were… smarter than this. Not in a “you must like this or you’re a moron” way, but in a “Oh god, they’re trying to treat this like the Star Wars Prequels and Indy 4. Not this same raped my childhood shit again” way.

    I’ll make a positive comparison to LOST. I loved how as LOST progressed we had progressively more knowledgeable characters who still only knew so much, and how much that frustrated other characters, leading them to make dumb decisions as a matter of faith. It’s why Locke’s death is so tragic. It’s here. And there’s that true sci-fi “Just because we can, should we?” stuff that allows me to connect to these characters as archetypes that have been around in everything from Contact to A.I. to Jurassic Park. Lets find our creators, and if we have to kill them to live another day and keep searching for the next step beyond, lets fuckin kill em. I love that attitude, and I love the reactionary attitude of also punishing them for their hubris at the expense of others.

    And of course, it looks super nice.

    • Goon, I got your back. Prometheus was awesome, 5/5, and any minor problems I had were not with the script but execution by Ridley and CGI department, I think the script totally works. And this was such an immersive experience I hadn’t noticed, did they use the music from the trailer?

  14. @Rick

    Yes, these people aren’t just scientists. they’re explorers. Explorers make stupid decisions. their hubris gets their feet stuck under rocks and their face fucked with space cobras.

  15. Doc Brown is a scientist who makes bad decisions andwho makes another time machine after explicitly laying out why it is dangerous and could destroy the universe.

    Tell me that Back to the Future now thus sucks.

  16. I didn’t know until after Jean Giraud aka Moebius had died earlier this year that he had worked on the design of the original Alien. Outside of the alien set pieces that were obvious H. R. Giger, the look of the movie has such a Moebius vibe, I thought for sure this was the last movie he had worked on before he had died.

    Even the tone of the story felt like a Moebius comic book, that afterwards if you had told me that Moebius did this as an Alien comic 10 years ago and Ridley Scott did a Sin City-like straight up adaption of his comic, I would have easily believed you.

    Finally, I’m glad I avoided the trailers, especially the second one that lays out practically an outline of the whole story.

    • Well Blade Runner is very much that way with the O’Bannon / Moebius story The Long Tomorrow.

      Yeah the Metal Hurlant euro comic influence runs deep in Ridley’s science fiction.

  17. Jericho Slim

    Excellent reviews Mr. Brown, both short and long form. I agree wholeheartedly. At first blush, I have no problem putting this on par with the first Alien.

    I, too, noticed the Star Trekkian score and flavor of the first half.

  18. Jericho Slim

    Also, why the old man makeup? My answer: Did you see the Kubrick 2001-ish room in which the old man was recovering? I got that vibe instantly when I saw how the room was decorated. So Scott decided to go all the way and do the old man make-up as well.

    That was my only guess to that question – probably wrong, though.

  19. Gotta side with Kurt on character motivations/decisions here. It bothered the shit out of me throughout.

    *** SPOILERS ***

    ***SPOILERS ***

    A leading scientist taking his helmet off in an alien environment just because the air is breathable!? Pleeease.

    Touching EVERYTHING? “What’s this black sludge?” “Well touch it and find out.”

    The fucking snake was retarded. It made for a cool scene but the whole idea was beyond ludicrous. “oh it’s so pretty; look, it wants to play… it looks nothing like an alien King Cobra…. aaaaargh” death. pain. blood.

    Coming back at me with, “the characters in Alien make dumb decisions too, so therefore it must be a bad movie too,” doesn’t quite cut it with me. That was a slasher film with a bunch of company “for hire” guys not understanding what they were dealing with.

    And Doc Brown? Really? That’s a silly 80′s comedy. Prometheus is aiming for heady SCIENCE-fiction. No comparison.

    • Where is it stated that anyone on the crew has any idea what they are getting into during this mission?

      They all just woke up after a 2 year sleep (that seemed obviously not that tested by their reactions to it), and most of them had no idea what the mission was before they left.

      It is heavily implied that there is a level of secrecy that Weyland is keeping around the whole endeavor, also it is pretty clear that this is a world where intelligent life has not previously been found in the cosmos.

      • The two main scientists essentially know they’re looking for alien intelligence. But it doesn’t really matter. This is basic science; especially on an unknown world with possible contaminates and hostile life. So not knowing what to expect it exactly what they should be expecting.

        I don’t have a degree in any sort of science and even I know you don’t land on some alien planet light years form Earth, enter an obviously unnatural formation and just start breathing the air. Even a botanist would know that a slimy worm creature hissing at you and spreading it’s “gills” probably shouldn’t be messed with.

        The point is that these characters are supposed to have a pretty high level of scientific knowledge and yet act like 10th grade football players at times.

        Take Boyle’s “Sunshine” for example. At least the characters therein have some real reasons and motivation for making some bad decisions. Or at the very least they are simple mistakes. In Prometheus, it just seems like it’s all out of stupidity. Or more to the point, it’s done so that “something cool” can happen later.

        • Shaw’s boyfriend is clearly high on endorphin and rushing into things. He goes in straight when they land and Rot brought this up in this thread to the line “I want to open my Christmas presents” or something like that. The climate being hospitable to humans is something I can totally buy that character doing in that moment. That doesn’t say anything about the logic or rationality of the decision but the way that guy had been set up to that point I bought it easily.

          As for the snake scene, yes it is very easy to criticize that guys behavior from an outside perspective, but again if you look at what they had seen up to that point all the Carnage, destruction and this very large creatures running away from something. When they get told there is a life form off in location whatever what the mind would create out of that is probably not a tiny space cobra. I can totally see a human doing that people do it all the time with fuck off dangerous animals here on earth, also he is wearing his helmet and has a suit on at the time which adds to his belief of the fact that nothing will go wrong. Was it a dumb decision, yes. Was it a human decision, yes.

          • I didnt have any problem with Holloway, I dont get the hate on for his character.

    • My small criticisms are about using Guy Pierce in make-up when totally unnecessary and the out of character look at the snake by the red shirt, that could have been more subtle. Everything else worked for me.

  20. Also, I’d like to work through David’s motivations. I couldn’t quite get at what he was trying to accomplish.

    Why did he “poison” Holloway? Was it just to “see what happens in the name of science?” Was he trying to destroy the crew? Was he working some agenda for Weyland?

    Interesting character, I just couldn’t see what he was getting at.

    • Yeah, originally I though similar to the android on the original Alien that he had a secondary set of orders from Weyland. Basically to infect someone, then get them into hypersleep and study them back on earth.

      However, once I realized that Weyland’s core objective was to cheat death, it no longer made sense.

      Not to mention there is no reason that the contents from the vase could not be brought back home and tested on a wide range of organisms, it didn’t have to be a human. Unlike the original franchise, where bringing back an alien might have been difficult and so the plan to bring back an infected person. However, thinking back that is more the case of Aliens than any of the other movies.

      However, there is talk later outliving your parents or even killing your parents. Was that what David wanted? Was he tired of humanity and wanted to be free of them?

      Did the quote David kept repeating have anything to do with it: “Certainly it hurts, the trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

    • alechs

      Just spitballing: David, Holloway, and in my opinion the lone figure in the prologue, are all essentially romantic nihilists. They are driven not by any ulterior motives but are doing it “just because”.

      Holloway explicitly tells David that he is searching “because he can”. David experimented on Holloway (and to a certain extent Shaw through inaction) because he was curious to see what happens. The lone figure shows no motivation apart from the contemplation of his own inner logic—what would happen if I introduced a highly mutagenic virus onto a planet? This is the fundamental premise of the film: who is Prometheus but a subjective entity driven solely by their own will/reason/desire to act?

      • Yeah I read David that way as well. You get that in the promotional thing on David, how superficial his emotional responses are, just reflecting what people want to see. He is the perfect nihilist, because he has nothing to bog him down. So when he experiments on Holloway, it is not sinister, but curiosity, and of his own will. One of those pesky consequences of AI.

        • antho42

          It also blurs the line betwee androids and humans because David’ curiosity contradict Rapace’s character “because I am human and you are not speech” at the end of the film.

        • Damon Lindelof in the following article says David acted that way because of Weyland:
          http://io9.com/5917448/all-of-your-lingering-prometheus-questions-answered
          That because the mission at that point was a bit of a bust that Weyland suggested he start experimenting on the crew with what he was able to find.

          If that’s the case, then why wasn’t that exchange shown? As it’s an important part of motivation.

          I did enjoy the movie and enjoying the conversations that the movie has started, but I still feel it’s a deeply flawed movies. This on it’s own it’s much, but there are many of these instances where the movie could had been so much better with a number of tweaks.

          • The exchange with Weyland IS shown, though. We see David receiving the “try harder” order, and he discusses it immediately thereafter with Vickers. From there, pretty much everything he does is clearly explained IMHO. If Weyland’s overall goal is to live just long enough to talk to god (and maybe thereby escape death), then you can mentally assemble the entire series of motivations for Weyland, Vickers, David, and the Prometheus mission itself.

  21. LASTLY, did anyone stay for the final image at the end of the credits. It was a Weyland Industries logo and had this URL attached to it:

    http://www.weylandindustries.com/timeline

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