Kim Hollis: Did you watch Prometheus? If so, what did you think of it?
Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
June 12, 2012
Bruce Hall: Ridley Scott famously reassured us that the "DNA" of Alien would still be there, and he wasn't lying. Fans will spot familiar things right away. But despite some obvious aesthetic and structural similarities, I find them to be very different films. The original asked a lot of questions, like "What the hell is this thing?", "How do we kill it?" and "Is it determination or compassion that best defines the human condition?" All important things, but mostly window dressing for a really good monster movie in space.
But Prometheus attempts to illuminate the journey of self discovery in a way that is very true to the core purpose of classic science fiction. "Is this all I am, is there nothing more?" was the first Star Trek film's unwritten tag line. Prometheus also attempts to address two similarly huge philosophical concerns - that is there a God, and if there is, does He even care anymore? But despite stunning visuals, sweeping vistas and equally big ideas, both films swung for the fence and missed.
At times, Prometheus feels like so much philosophical wanking, infused with flame throwers and xenomorphs. It grapples with concepts it's not really equipped to address. It fails to answer enough of its own questions to feel entirely worthwhile. It stumbles over itself trying to be clever. It often seems to wander, like a head injury patient who can't remember why he walked into the room. The kinds of questions Prometheus poses are entirely rhetorical, and it's hard to go there without looking a little self-serving.
And yet there's an engaging sincerity to Prometheus that makes it impossible to look away, despite these flaws. I can't say if it lives up to its ambition because it's not entirely clear what those ambitions were. But having the courage to seek knowledge is often more important than knowledge itself, and that is the part of Prometheus that will stick with you long after you've left the theater.
Shalimar Sahota: I've been reading and hearing a few criticisms about how Prometheus is not at all like Alien. I can't believe people are making such comparisons. I went in expecting a standalone film that just happened to be set in the same universe as Alien. However, my disappointment came from the film being happy to skirt around big issues rather than delving deep into them. By the end I would have preferred it if the film had an answer (even a wrong answer) rather than more questions. Yet Prometheus is by no means a bad film. It manages to make an incredibly silly premise look polished and spectacular.
Max Braden: I saw it on IMAX 3D. Apart from the spectacular visuals (particularly the map room scene), I spent pretty much all weekend being pissed at the movie every time I thought about it more and more. The most immediate problem I had was the idea that some corporation would spend a trillion dollars (and even 75 years from now, that's still tens of billions in today's dollars) on basically a one-shot mission without vetting the people involved.
You start with an archaeologist who completely sets aside all former evidence of human evolution (while possibly still accepting other plant and animal evolution) to take a cave painting image of a star map and jump to the wild conclusion that this is evidence that human DNA was engineered, another who thinks safe nitrogen levels in the air means no risk to breathing it, add in a crew member who does not play well with others, add in a biologist who thinks it's a good idea to taunt new life forms with his hands, a lab tech with no apparent interest in sample contamination, a ship captain with little care to reign in a reckless crew or even monitor where they are, and a robot who seems to be amused by chaos and turns out to be the biggest idiot of them all, and that's before the inane suggested motivations of the aliens...
I just kept imagining NASA employees *throwing* things at the screen in disgust at how unprofessional and stupid these characters were. I practically threw my hands up multiple times. The movie Contact did this story better. Stargate did it better. For crying out loud, Star Trek: The Final Frontier did it better. Setting aside "they're characters, and real people do stupid things too," (well, I guess that much is true) who greenlit this project for tens of millions of dollars after reading the screenplay?? It's just all very frustrating to me.
Matthew Huntley: I'm on-board with Bruce and Shalimar on this, though I disagree with Shalimar on the idea that the film should necessarily have "an answer." I think it's ballsy that it ends on an ambiguous note, and I didn't get the impression it did this just for ambiguity's sake. Ridley Scott seems to believe it's not the answer that's important, but rather the journey toward it. That goes along with Bruce's comment about "the courage to seek knowledge is more important than knowledge itself" (well said, Bruce!).
Another criticism I have is the way the film descends into standard shock and horror fare. Do we really need the "gotcha!" or sudden crescendo-type moments? And there were some aspects of the story that just didn't make sense, like after Shaw has the automatic surgery - nobody seems to recognize what just happened to her, even though that it's a very important scene.
The film is inconsistent and uneven, but it's ultimately memorable and it has me looking forward to the next installment.
David Mumpower: I am not with some of you about Prometheus. At all. This is one of the most pleasant surprises I have had from a blockbuster in ages. Several of you have noted the somber philosophical themes of the movie while expressing frustration that the big questions go unanswered. And my response to this is, "Have you never watched a Ridley Scott movie before?" Every couple of years, BOP gets mailed a review copy of yet another "new" version of Blade Runner because the original is an opaque exercise in existentialism. Scott relishes the conversation much more than he celebrates spoon feeding. Open-ended cinema is his bread and butter.
In spite of this, he still manages to call his shot Babe Ruth style with the title of the movie. He puts it right there on the poster what the most gripping movie scene of 2012 will entail. I am in awe of that. I would also add that for those three minutes, the audience at my theater was a quiet as I can ever recall. If someone's cellphone had gone off at that moment, I suspect they would have been beaten to death. Everyone was utterly engrossed by the greatest medical operation in the history of film.
The disappointment I am reading across the Internet stems from the fact that Prometheus subverts expectations. People wanted another Alien movie, something Scott clearly had little interest in doing here. Instead, he builds the same mystery that he did in 1979, but the payoff here is different and exponentially more disturbing. It is the same fear every child has of their parents: what if they don't love us the way that we love them? Or what if we are simply too different to communicate with one another? Scott is a man in the twilight of his life who is tying together every nugget of wisdom from his life and placing it into a heady exploration the area that lies beyond current human understanding. He does this in impacting fashion while going so far as to promise answers in a future film, a generosity he did not offer in his 1979 and 1982 science fiction masterpieces.
These are the bigger issue aspects of Prometheus. With regards to a specific note of Mr. Huntley's, I would maintain the following. There are only 17 people on the ship at the start. It's a massive vehicle capable of galactic travel, which means that there are many compartments of it. Without doing any major spoilers, many of the original crew members are not on the ship when she has her medical issue. Why should we assume that the ones who are would have knowledge of her situation? If the only clue is that she has blood on her clothes, that hardly differentiates her from anybody else by that point. If anything, the movie goes to great length to create a plausible scenario wherein she could experience that odd turn of events while still being able to fulfill her later role in the movie.
With regards to Max's concerns about the status of the crew, that is easy to understand. As opposed to the later space marines concept in the Alien franchise, this is a scientific endeavor that has been largely kept a secret by (presumably) one of the most powerful people on Earth. His options in finding people to explore the galaxy and thereby give up five full years of their life (it's a two-way trip, after all) are presumably limited. In spite of this, Scott still manages to tie back cleverly to the Alien storyline that is so impacting after all this time. They are all relative strangers stuck on board a space cruiser and the only thing that some of them care about is the money, just as was the case in Alien and Aliens. I appreciated Scott's remaining respectful to the genesis of the Alien universe.