June 12, 2012
The Short Review: It is my considered opinion that Milla Jovovich rocks the ace bandage look better than Noomi Rapace.
Well. There’s a lot going on in this movie:
- Big spaceship adventure (one of my favorite kinds of movies)
- First contact science fiction
- Space monster horror
- Evil corporate conspiracy
- Nearly-human android discovers his place in the world
- Religious/spirituality/creationist angst
- The hapless misadventures of the most moronic crew ever to ply the spaceways. (They’re even dumber than the crew of the Icarus in Sunshine, and that was a dumb crew.)
Alas, Prometheus does none of these well. (Maybe the spaceship stuff. Pretty spaceships…)
I can tell you the exact moment the movie lost me. I was trying to be sympathetic, trying to enjoy the spectacular visuals (and the big spaceship/planetscape visuals were spectacular). But then it did this: boyfriend scientist says a line about not respecting aliens now that they’re dead and can’t create life anymore. Girlfriend scientist gets all puppy-eyed and pouty and says something like, “Well, what does that make me since I can’t have babies? *sniff*!” Boyfriend goes gooey and they have very awkward sex. And I’m thinking WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM. This archeologist who has spent her whole life on a single-minded, interstellar quest for the Meaning of Life is suddenly angst-ridden about babies? WTF? Well, it turns out a few scenes later girlfriend scientist needs to be very surprised when the scanner tells her she’s pregnant. As if being supposedly infertile were the only a reason a woman might be surprised that she’s pregnant. So, the only reason that “*sob* I can’t have babies!” line was there was so she could be surprised. Nothing else ever comes of that line. When really, the correct response when the medical scanner tells you you’re pregnant is (pick one, there are several correct answers): “Wait, does that mean someone was schtupping me while I was in cryosleep?” or “That’s not possible, I had a birth control implant put in before the mission *because that’s what you do before a space mission that’s going to last 10 years*” or even, “God, David, why did you suddenly turn in to such a douche?” No incredibly awkward infertility setup needed. It’s really dumb plotting, and it’s piss poor handling of what’s supposed to be our Strong Woman Character ™.
The whole movie is like this.
In fact, it’s a really sterling example of characterization being replaced by meat puppets in service to a poorly thought out plot. I’m supposed to believe the crew’s geologist would throw a temper tantrum about not getting to look at rocks and storm back to the ship, rather than sticking around to help out with the first ever human contact with an alien civilization like every scientist of any flavor I’ve ever met would do. Then he gets lost in the tunnels he was in charge of mapping — oh yeah, I am supposed to buy this, because the plot needs a couple of red shirts, so there we go. I didn’t believe these characters were scientists. Most of the time, I didn’t believe they were actually people.
There’s a great sequence early on that made us all think this was going to be a movie about David “finding” himself, a classic robot humanity SF story. I still want to see that movie. Alas, that plot was dropped very quickly. Along with any other plot. Instead, we got random monster schtick. There were all kinds of guns set on all kinds of mantels, and none of them were fired.
Normally, I wouldn’t spent this much time picking apart a badly plotted movie. But Prometheus thought it was a good movie. It was pretending to be a good movie. And it just isn’t.
I hate to bring Alien into it, but the movie pretty much forces you to, right down to a brief reference to the original soundtrack theme. But this suffers from a bad case of prequel-itis — it engrages the fans because of the damage it does to the original mythology. The mysterious alien pilot and ship from the first movie are no longer mysterious, and the story we get about him is not the story most of us wanted to see, I’m betting. (So yeah, advanced alien lifeform, when confronted with the human creatures he manufactured thousands of years before, not only rips one of their heads off — doesn’t actually stop in amazement when that creature turns out to be entirely artificial/mechanical? Does he pause to consider that his creations have themselves become creators? Ah, no. So much for the film’s philosophical underpinnings.)
I’m still going to nominate “Happy Birthday David” for the Hugo for Best Short Dramatic Presentation next year.