Posted June 8, 2012 by D. K. Holm
Like Snow White and the Huntsman before it, Prometheus was the recipient of an effective trailer that instilled a sense of awed anticipation. ThePrometheus trailers were even anounced and postitioned like movies themselves, and coming out of commericals in the first place, director Ridley Scott may have had a hand in overseeing their creations. But unfortunately, also like Snow White, this new entry in the Alien franchise is a major disappointment.
All that is wrong with the film is condensed is what will probably be its most notable or controversial scene, in which one of the characters has to perform a Caesarian on herself. The procedure is conducted in a long tubular theater by lasers and various mechanical arms. The character, Shaw, is a Christian, always wearing a cross around her neck, and bearing a faith she inherited from her father. The film takes an ambiguous position on her self-abortion, though. For one thing, it is an alien beast in there. Surely, that is a reasonable situation to justify an abortion. But unusually for such a thinker, Shaw doesn’t wrestle with the implications of what she is doing. In addition, there are so many things wrong with the medical science behind the scene, that most surgeons in the audience will probably find it ridiculous. Yet it is a gripping, digusting, and well-crafted. It’s just that, as a set-piece, it is inconsistent with the rest of the movie.1
The long-gestating script is credited to Damon Lindelof, who worked on Lost. As is well known through interviews, Lost is a Christian allegory, with the characters more or less living in purgatory for their sins. I don’t think that Lindelof is himself a Christian, and he may be using the Christian lure cynically, knowing that most Americans have some kind of belief system. The result, though, is that his scripts are mostly incoherent, and that is the case with Prometheus as well. When you have to go to the Wikipedia page plot summary of a movie, you know it’s in trouble.
It is only via that Wikipedia page that the viewer can figure out that Shaw is supposedly sterile, what the alien in the credit sequence is doing,2 that the liquid that the scientists find on the aliens’ planet creates weaponized creatures, and various other details. [A colleague points out that there is a line of dialogue indicating Shaw's sterility.]
To be said on the film’s behalf, Prometheus – orrometheu as the title was rendered at the screeningi I attended, thanks to the fact that the projector had the wrong lens and cut off the sides of the image – is visually stunning. The acting is uneven, but when it is good, such as with Michael Fassbender as the android, it is terrific. Unfortunately, the film is little more than a flaccid, suspenseless succession of set pieces that don’t cohere clearly into a strong narrative.
1 Scott likes to disgust his audiences, as if he doesn’t like them, or as if he doesn’t understand what they really want. Take, if you can bear it, the brain-eating scene from Hannibal.
2 All the aliens in the film, called the Engineers, are designed to look the same, like Michaelangelo’s David.