The long and short? If it hadn't been an addition to the Alien mythos it still would have been a very well polished but ultimately lacklustre plug-and-play sci-fi movie (that would have been compared to Alien anyway). Now before you start jumping up and down and getting your internet panties in a wad, take a breath, maybe go get some sunlight and fresh air, and come back to this review.
Prometheus was not a movie I was expecting much at all from and from the opening credits I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised. It's a stunning piece of science fiction and as a ship geek I thought the craft was stellar. The set design and awesomely awesome technology sold me the instant I saw it. David (Michael Fassbinder) drifting alone through the ship, educating himself, emulating O'Toole's T.E. Lawrence, and keeping watch over the human passengers was a solid hook for me (and personally I could have watched a movie solely about the development and journey of self-awareness of an artificial human in such an environment). The sections of the film centered around David were the most engaging for me (then again I'm fascinated by A.I. , cybernetics, and all that shit).
Even when the humans began to emerge from cryo-sleep and I tried my best not to immediately tick off the boxes in my head of stereotypes and play "oh look it's..." the movie still kept me engaged. Okay, star map to our creators left...blah blah blah gotcha "Is this gonna be a stand up fight, Sir? Or another bug hunt?" Let's get this shit moving.
Humans and David arrive at the planet of the creators (oh look a LV planet - *cough* hint *cough*) and they go into an alien structure and begin exploring. Okay, so far so good. Still engaged and then there's an incoming storm! Back to the ship! But wait - what happened to the comic relief duo? Oh they got left behind! There's a ping! Oh noes. And then the movie just kind of lost me.
Frankly, it was a combo platter of pseudo-intellectual sci-fi hibbety-jibbety with "thinly" veiled allusions to modern societal woes, vaguely nonsensical monsters (yeah, mutagenic properties, gotcha) which - for me completely take the horror and appeal out of the Xenomorphs, and there's a bunch of crap about characters with barely any development oh and then they get offed so I didn't need to worry about them anyway. Then there's the self-sacrifice and some drivel about holding the creators accountable. The end. Oh wait, chest burster.
I realize I'm being snarky but the second half just lost me and yanked me back into reality. During the second section I kept thinking, "What?" or "But..." and then got some Gummi Bears and looked at the pretty pictures. It was as if the movie wanted to be Solaris-y but then also had to be part of the Alien series (or failing that a horror-y sci-fi flick) and had to do some mental gymnastics to make it all work.
After watching it I thought about it and then watched a documentary about something immemorable and went to bed. I thought about Prometheus over the course of the day before sitting down to write this. I have decided to look at it as if it were not part of the Alien series and instead look at it like a sci-fi movie done by one the genre's best directors and two writers, Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof (Spaights' first major script and Lindehof wrote for Lost - a show I found insufferable).
Again, first half pretty awesome and then second half falls apart through a lack of character development (Charlize Theron was wasted in this movie and I think she's one hell of an actress but she had nothing to work with), vaguely sketched out the aliens created us in their image but made mutagenic "weapons of mass destruction" (no seriously, the Captain says, "Weapons of mass destruction". I shit you not. When he said that, I said, "Oh for fuck's sake." and went to take a piss without pausing the movie) to eradicate us because...uh...wait...a friend sent me this link which kind of sums up how I feel: Enchanted Mitten.
And then the aliens, mutated worm thingies, whatever...something something...we've got to hold someone accountable...
I keep thinking of recent sci-fi movies that really worked for me (off the top of my head): District 9, Sunshine, Children of Men, A.I., Chroncile, hell I even liked the remake of Solaris (though I need to watch it again since I was kind of drunk). Prometheus doesn't work as well as those do, which is kind of sad because I really wanted to like it. Come to think of it, I feel the same way as I did about Inception (though Inception was a better movie despite all the dream jive that had been dealt with in Satoshi Kon's films - that's a whole nother can of worms). Great concept, visually stunning, undercut by shoddy writing and a pretention that it's offering a lot more than it really is (which smacks of laziness and bullshit in college papers).
I have to get this off my chest:
Alien fucking rules. You wanna see a horror space flick the way it's supposed to be done? Watch that again. I've heard it called boring. Yeah, that's character development and pacing and setting (important elements of making a great film). Claustrophobia, fear of the unknown (on a myriad of levels), madness, and a tension that ratchets up to 11, a space ship that looks like it's a living thing and not just some shiny Starfleet plastic boat. Robble robble robble. Gripe gripe gripe. Plus the Xenomorph was actually scary, some ancient sentient gribblie instead of some stupid ass "weapon of mass destruction". Okay, I'll take my medication now and get back to sittin in my rocker.