MOVIE: Prometheus (2012)

[Another catch-up review from 2012 — one more of those left and then I start. . . catching up on reviews from 2013 instead!  Whee!]

So, having recently been going back through all my reviews from last year to prep my “Best of” lists for 2012 (sure, it’s now February 2013, but I’m sure you all still care), I feel like it’s safe for me to make this declaration officially.  I’ve reviewed all the reviews and it’s not even a close call:  Prometheus was, hands-down, the stupidest movie I saw all year (and people?  I saw a movie called METAL TORNADO.  So. . . you know.)

I’m not even sure where to begin witht his one, it was so rife with stupidness.  But I guess I’ll start with a quick overview, in case any of you guys managed to miss all the hoopla about it (luckies!).

This flick is Ridley Scott’s prequel (as much as he weirdly kept insisting it wasn’t) to his brilliant 1979 film Alien, a movie that holds a special place in my heart as it’s the first scary movie I ever saw (thanks to my uncle, who let me watch it when I was about 8 years old. Great babysitter, that guy!  I highly recommend him!).

It’s about two archaeologists — a married couple named Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) — who discover a series of ancient cave paintings they come to believe is a map to an alien planet, the original inhabitants of which created mankind.

Magically, they manage to convince an old rich dude named Weyland to fund a space expedition to the planet, despite the fact they have absolutely nothing of substance to back their theory up except for their love of aliens (Holloway) and pseudo-religious beliefs (Holloway).  Lucky for them, Weyland is looking for a fountain of youth, as all rich, old white guys in sci-fi movies do (feels like!), so he doesn’t ask too many questions (including, for example, why there’d be any reason to expect the aliens who created mortal man might hold the solution to eternal life).

Naturally, they get to the planet, they land on the planet, they do a bunch of really astonishingly stupid things, and they more or less all end up dead (SPOILER ALERT HA HA!).  For a good play-by-play of all the really astonishingly stupid things, check out this video, “Everything Wrong with Prometheus in 4 Minutes” (I was going to make a list for you myself, but why reinvent the wheel when there are, like, 86,000 other reviews of this movie that list all the same bullpucky?):  http://www.buzzfeed.com/kennelworthy/everything-wrong-with-prometheus-1ip0.

In theory, this should’ve been a fairly easy movie to make.   Despite the eyebrow-arching Creation concept, the rest of this movie sounds, well, a lot like (right down to the teeny tiny crew aboard the GINORMOUS space vessel, by the way — for some reason, the Prometheus, with its crew of about 7 people, is so huge it even has a BILLIARDS room).  It could easily have been an entertaining, fairly straight-forward sci-fi/horror flick, with lots of room for cool special effects, interesting character dynamics, and thrills and chills.

We know, after all, that Ridley Scott can make a seriously great goddamn sci-fi/horror movie about aliens, after all, right?

The problem, though, is that instead of going with a group of really smart, talented, and creative script writers, Scott went with. . . Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof.  Spaihts, as near as I can tell, is mostly “famous” for writing a sci-fi movie that never actually got made.  And Lindelof — well, Lindelof is famous for creating the TV series Lost, which was similarly bogged down with overly “deep,” underly thoughtful spiritual and philosophical nonsense.

This movie is absolutely drowning in pseudo-intelligence, to the point where it’s hard to even be interested enough in what it was trying to say to complain about how dumb what it was trying to say actually was.  There’s a scene in the movie that kind of summed up the whole film for me, and I was surprised it wasn’t in that little video I posted earlier, because it’s also a pretty spectacular gaffe.  Here’s how it went:

Charlize Theron’s character to David (the android):  How long were we in hypersleep?

David (the android): 2 years, 4 months, 18 days, 36 hours, and 15 minutes.

Why does that sum up the whole film for me?  Because it’s SO DUMB.  This is a copycat movie, trying to ACT like an intelligent science fiction movie, right down to the android whose computer is so advanced he speaks alien languages his programmers have never even heard of, yet doesn’t seem to know there are 24 hours in a day (18 days and 36 hours??  Dude.).  It’s just dumb.  A dumb person wrote that line.  A person who wants to sound not dumb, but who is, in fact, really dumb.

I got into a discussion about this movie with a friend recently who really enjoyed it and she was saying my problem was that I wasn’t willing to suspend my disbelief (about Creation, for example — be it by God or by aliens) long enough to let the movie’s entertaining elements really take over.  Suspension of disbelief is key to enjoying science fiction movies in particular, she said — and I agree.

The problem is, I’m perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief of Creation for a sci-fi movie, but only when that sci-fi movie is actually making an intelligent case for its new idea.  It can be a completely invented case, based on futuristic stuff that’s all made up — that’s cool.  But it has to MAKE THAT CASE.

In Prometheus, the two scientists tell the crew of their ship that aliens created mankind, and everybody on the ship essentially responds, “Seriously? Awesome!”  And then there’s no attempt whatsoever to explain how that could be even remotely possible, given the enormous wealth of evidence against it (evolution, e.g.).  And sure, maybe the plan is to explain that down the line, in the inevitable sequel.  But in the meantime, I was left with a cast of characters who all seemed perfectly happy to accept without question the idea that all our science on the origin of man was wrong.  There isn’t even a DISCUSSION about it.  And that’s the number one sin crappy sci-fi movies can make for me — relying on my ability to suspend my disbelief and accept a radical idea without making any real attempt to convince me why or how.

Will I see that sequel?  Crap.  Probably.  But not in a theater, and not with any expectations whatsoever, that’s for sure (wait, no, that’s wrong, I do have one expectation:  that it’ll involve Weyland as a young man, since that’s the only reason whatsoever I can think of for casting Guy Pearce in that role wearing that much make-up in this installment!).  Should you see THIS movie?  Crap.  Probably.  But while I am usually quite fanatically against Internet piracy, I highly recommend you go steal this one from somewhere online.  It’s not worth the $4 it’ll cost you to rent it legally, and damned if I want anybody to keep rewarding filmmakers for making stupid baloney like this.

COME AND GET ME, COPPERS!

[Buy it | Netflix it]

Genre: Science Fiction, Crap
Cast:  Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall

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6 Responses to “MOVIE: Prometheus (2012)”

  1. ohdotoh Says:

    It is obvious on watching this movie that there really was no plan. They made it up as they went and then tried to fix it in post.

  2. Brian Toohey Says:

    Evidently there were scenes with Pearce in the holo-dream reality talking with Michael, and he appeared there as a younger man, as he sees himself. That’s why they decided to go with Pearce– I guess they figured it would be easier to age a younger man rather than deage an older man. But the scenes were cut, and it was a bad decision anyway. They used FX to make Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart look younger for certain flashback scenes, and while that wasn’t great either, it looked a hell of a lot better than Pearce’s atrocious old age make-up. Plus, it’s much easier, if it doesn’t look 100% convincing to write it off as the best/faulty approximation the computer was willing to morph him as. The older version of him is supposed to be the 100% real version of him, so there are no excuses or ways to mentally write it off or suspend disbelief if/when it looks as bad as it did.

    But, all of that said, I’m surprised you’re saying it was the worst movie you saw last year. I’d say it was a mediocre film, and probably rate it about 6.5/10. There were things I still liked about it, from some of the ideas to a lot of the gorgeous cinematography, which is becoming rare to see in a landscape of shakycam. I think the actors were also pretty good… any faults in the characters’ behavior rests solely on the hands of a pretty bad script and behavior that makes no sense– like the two most cowardly (and rightly so) scientists who decided to hightail it out of the place asap, after getting lost, then deciding to PET the local organic snake-creatures. Once that happened the expectations I had for it were pretty much dashed. But… there were still plenty of really terrible movies that came out last year which had really nothing good going on, not even aspirations to be something better than they were. Sometimes a mess is more entertaining and worth more than a boring DOA snoozefest that paints by numbers in all earth tones, from Jason Statham and Mark Wahlberg action films to Katherine Heigl romcoms. Here are some films I saw last year that I thought were even worse than the mediocre and deeply-flawed Prometheus: This Means War, The Wicker Tree, Wanderlust, Let the Bullets Fly, John Carter, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Wrath of the Titans, Keyhole, Lockout, The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, God Bless America, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Men in Black 3, Rock of Ages, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, The Watch, Killer Joe, The Campaign, Hope Springs, 2 Days in New York, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Premium Rush, [REC] 3, Dredd, Frankenweenie, and Les Miserables. Here are some films I didn’t see but look even worse than those: The Devil Inside, The Divide, Loosies, Underworld: Awakening, One For the Money, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Vow, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Good Deeds, Act of Valor, A Thousand Words, The Decoy Bride, The FP, Mirror Mirror, Dark Tide, American Reunion, The Three Stooges, Woman Thou Art Loosed, Detention, Life Happens, The Lucky One, Think Like a Man, Darling Companion, Safe, LOL, The Perfect Family, Dark Shadows, Battleship, Piranha DD, That’s My Boy, Madea’s Witness Protection, The Pact, Step Up: Revolution, The Expendables 2, Why Stop Now?, The Apparition, The Revenant, The Tall Man, The Oogieloves in the BIg Balloon Adventure, The Inbetweeners Movie, Branded, Resident Evil: Retribution, Arbitrage, House at the End of the Street, Soloman Kane, Butter, Here Comes the Boom, Atlas Shrugged II, Smiley, Alex Cross, The First Time, That’s What She Said, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, This Must Be the Place, The Details, Vamps, Nature Calls, Breaking Dawn Part 2, Red Dawn, The Collection, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Playing For Keeps, The Guilt Trip and Parental Guidanace. Wheee… making lists is fun! 🙂

    • megwood Says:

      Man, I thought the acting was absolutely atrocious (and didn’t find the visuals all that striking either)! And incidentally, I absolutely LOVED Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is my final review pending for 2012! I did, as well, say it was the stupidest movie I’D seen all year, not the stupidest movie ANYBODY had seen last year! I usually enjoy the hell out of crappy sci-fi movies, but this one just had way too many unbelievable and unexplored elements to be even modestly entertaining for me. Plus, I will admit, I had decent expectations for it, so my reaction was a lot more intense due to disappointment.

  3. RogerBW Says:

    Thanks for this review! A lot to think about here, possibly more than in the film.

    …but did you see The 12 Disasters of Christmas? 🙂

    I think ohdotoh has an important point – the thing that strikes me about Lost (which I didn’t watch, because I’d been burned by Alias) is that if as a show-runner you’re constantly going in fear of cancellation rather than having a specific resolution in mind, you don’t actually have to have any coherent idea of what’s going on – whenever something uncertain needs to be resolved, just replace it with multiple smaller lumps of uncertainty that fit into the same space, in a fractal grotesquerie that ends up meaning nothing and making no sense.

    A film like this is parasitic on real SF – it camouflages itself as SF, and takes advantage of your suspension of disbelief like SF, but doesn’t give you anything back, and makes you a bit less ready to enjoy the next bit of SF that comes along.

    For me it’s not so much “pay/pirate” as “pay/pirate/avoid” – there are some films that I don’t want to give two hours of my life, even if I’m being paid.

    • megwood Says:

      I hear you on the “avoid” part, but I think a lot of people will feel like they can’t REALLY miss this movie, because of it’s connection to the Alien series. I mean, that’s why I watched it (not to mention Resurrection!). But for the love of all that’s holy, don’t reward those numbskulls by giving them your hard-earned money! (Not that I advocate Internet piracy for all movies that are crap, mind you — ONLY FOR THIS ONE.)

      “Parasitic on real SF” — exactamundo. So true. And very true what you said about Lost as well!

  4. Cheryl Baylie Says:

    OH, MAN Did this thing suck! I sat there dreading the next cliche, not believing they were going there. Those were some of the most clueless writers I have ever encountered. I could tell that the writers, director, and actors had never done anything even close to scientific in their whole lives.

    And they had never been spelunking either.

    When they put that head on the table and started poking at it with exacto knives (no, they were not scalpels), not wearing facemasks or safety glasses (why that thing wasn’t in a glove box in the first place is beyond me – except that the writers probably don’t even know what a glove box is), I’d had enough and went to bed. (My hubby was getting pissed off at all the backtalk I was giving the screen anyway.)

    Thirty minutes of my life I’m never getting back. And I had been warned. My bad.

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