Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Review: Prometheus

Figure 1: Theatrical Poster (IMDb)
  • Native Title: Prometheus
  • Primary Language: English
  • Format: Colour
  • Year of release: 2012
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Budget: est. $130,000,000
  • Film Length: 124 minutes
  • Production Company: 20th Century Fox

  •     Not on the list of movies to review but I have been talking to several people about this, some saying it's good some saying it's bad (a lot saying it's bad) so I used my free time to discover for myself.

        Ridley Scott was a fan of the methods of Stanley Kubrick and there is a strong indicator he was a big fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey and it shows within the first ten minutes as we begin with a rather drawn-out flyover of mountains and canyons before we see the shadow of some spaceship that hovered above a rather athletic-looking white guy (and I mean white; his skin was chalk) with pitch-black eyes...who proceeds to kill himself with some odd substance.

        The Kubrickian sense of scale does not stop there as after the ritual suicide and a quick scene in the Scottish isles we get a pan-over of a very vibrant starfield as a ship - the Prometheus - sails though space. As well as echoing 2001, Prometheus also appears to echo Scott's first A amlien film as the camera wanders the ship with the android crewmember David (Michael Fassbender). Who apparently spent his days watching old movies and learning Proto-Indo-European.

    Figure 2: Seeing this a dozen times at different places was apparently
    enough to convince a scientist that the involved being is our creator
         I noticed straight away that this film has strong religious connotations, perhaps to the point of overbearing. David watches a memory of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) as her dad talks about where people go when they die (with a young Shaw being adorably curious). Shaw herself believed the aliens of the film to be humanity's creators based on the same image and the same constellation appearing in several ancient carvings and just that. There are no other indicators other than this repeating image to how these giant beings are so important to humans, which prompts derivative (and possibly understandable) laughter from the rest of the Prometheus crew when she announces her theory. Her belief in God and that the Engineers are humanity's creators are apparently what prompted Peter Weyland (Guy Vickers) to hire her for the Prometheus mission. When asked about what makes her so certain she says she has faith. She has faith in a complete hunch in my opinion. A proper scientist would have either considered all possible connotations or looked for more concrete indicators for her hypothesis.

        What can often crop up in Hollywood science fiction is a lack of scientific accuracy (something that 2001 avoided by having futurist and inventor Arthur C. Clarke as a screenwriter). In this film much of the "bad science" comes from bad scientific practice. I already outlined Shaw's faith in what is a complete guess but there are plenty of stupid actions in this film that bow to the cliché of plot-induced stupidity. Shaw refuses to let one of the crew bring a weapon to an unknown alien environment, every crewmember at some point removes their helmets because the atmosphere is declared breathable (but no word on pathogen-free), crew biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall) dies because he's too mesmerised by an alien snake thing to realise it could kill him (and it does, no surprise), quarantine apparently involves spraying something with CO2 (I think) until it is considered "clean" and the personal quarters of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, a woman) contains a robotic surgery bed that can only autonomously work on male patients.

    Figure 3: Pretty sure something that shares our DNA to the last gene
    can't tear off an android's head like it was the lid of a jam-jar.
        There is also more typical bad science going on. It is revealed halfway though that the Engineer DNA is a 100% match to human DNA. 100% could have been a buzzword for "practically identical" were it not for Shaw saying it as if she is reading it off a screen - which it was. The Engineers however are 10ft tall chalk-white ebony-eyed supermen that can yank an Android's head from it's spine (in Alien, Ash's head was dislodged when Parker took a wrench to it but it was still connected to his body). That armour on the right also looks vaguely like it's part of his body; either he was genetically modified (which throws a wrench in the "100% match" idea as the sample came from an identical type of guy) or it's more Giger-inspired biomechanics. This super strength is also demonstrated by smacking several men across the rather large room. If these engineers were a 100% genetic match to us they could have perhaps been a teensy bit more human.

        As far as films go it was decent if a bit ambitious; a B-movie trying to be an epic saga that might be a bit too heavy-handed when it comes to its religious messages. Some transhumanists might find Shaw's answer of "you are a robot, you wouldn't understand" to David not quite understanding why she wants to meet the Engineers despite them wanting to destroy her to be offensive, made worse in that David spent the movie in an experience reminiscent of Pinnochio. I wouldn't rate this highly but it's not unwatchable if what you are after is cinematic spectacle and special effects. If you are after this century's 2001 however, Interstellar might be a better option.

    Image Reference


    1. Greatly critical review ! Though, do you think that Prometheus had to live up to something great (and ultimately fail..) due to it's links with the Alien series?

    2. I'd have to say yes, but it still could have tried the best it could. One of the things that made Alien great for me was that it largely avoided plot-induced stupidity which made the characters feel sympathetic; something this film unfortunately does not continue. And as a result I felt no trajedy for most of the deaths and could only remember a couple of the characters names in Prometheus.

      When I saw Dallas getting ambushed in the ventilation systems the first time I watched I think I jumped.
      When that snake-thing bit Millburn in the arm I rolled my eyes, feeling like he deserved it.

    3. Hey Mark,

      Not a bad review its a shame you are not grounding it in public opinion or critical ideas which is a shame because you make some interesting points (particularly with regard to religion). Remember to use quote's in EVERYTHING otherwise it is essentially your opinion and that is not the point of the reviews or any form of academic writing.

      In other news I have made that custom brush video I promised on one of my comments, not sure if you need it but its there all the same: https://vimeo.com/115761618


      1. Hi Stitch

        I was inspired to write this by two other reviewers - One of them being Empire magazine - as well as a little public opinion so yeah, I should have used them when writing this up. Don't know why I've slipped for this because up until now i've made sure to include other opinions in my film analyses.

        And thanks for the video. I'll look at it when I have the time :)