Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: PROMETHEUS Part 3

This is it, ladies and gentlemen.  The final segment of my Prometheus review.  I know I’ve spent many words complaining about this movie, and there are many words left.  I’ve already demonstrated the largest flaw of the movie is that characters’ actions are often dictated by what should happen next in the plot, and not what makes sense for that character.  The movie’s tone is so mismatching that there are sequences that don’t match the movie that they seem to have made--which very well might have been a pre-production issue--and often they have to shoehorn plot elements in very clumsily to ensure that things happen the way they want.

In this segment, there are several more moments of characters acting inexplicably, a failure to follow up on incredibly significant plot details, and one of the stupidest deaths I’ve ever seen of a main character in a movie.

Let’s dive in to part three of my review.

Previously, Shaw had returned from a botched exploration mission only to see her best friend and lover sacrifice himself in an incredibly stupid fashion for an incredibly stupid reason at the hands of Vickers.  Why do I say incredibly stupid?  Because Vickers wouldn’t let him on for fear of infecting the entire crew.  However, she was going to let people who might be infected onto the ship, and if they did wind up being infected, she was going to lock them in a stasis pod until they returned home.  Okay...why couldn’t you do that for Holloway, too?

Shaw had fainted and come to in a medical bay where David was scanning her tummy.  We learn that she’s 3 months pregnant, which we know is impossible.  She just had sex, like, yesterday.  She winds up sneaking away and performing a self-abortion/c-section in a surgery pod.  This scene could have had quite an impact on Shaw as a character.  Afterall, we learned that she’s unable to have kids.  The mental strain that must occur when you finally do get pregnant, only to have to abort the pregnancy because your child is a monster?  That should put her through the emotional ringer.  But doesn’t.  Not really.  Sure she’s scared, but it’s more of a fear she might die than it is a punch to her emotional core.  And the audience couldn’t give a crap because they only introduced her infertility as a plot point right before it became relevant, leaving us saying, “Who gives a crap?”

[I get quite a bit of mileage from this picture, don't I?]
While Shaw’s playing Alien Baby Operation, the crew finds the Geologist’s crumpled body outside.  When they go to check on him, the Geologist springs up and attacks them with super strength and speed and kills a shit-ton of people before they can finally put him down.  These events are happening simultaneously, so when the captain hunts Shaw down to tell her that these aliens were developing biological weapons and that this planet was actually a military base and that the hollow mountain is actually an underground spaceship, Shaw has literally just come out of surgery.  I have something to say about that as well, but let’s stop for a moment and look at what the captain just told Shaw about this alien planet...

These aliens were developing biological weapons, this planet is actually a military base, and the hollow mountain is actually an underground spaceship.


It’s possible that the geologist might have ingested some of the black goo earlier when he fell face-first into it with his melted open helmet, and that might be what caused him to reanimate and go all mutant zombie killer on everyone, and if you add that to the way Holloway reacted when he ingested some of that goo thanks to David slipping him a mickey, you certainly might come to a conclusion that the black goo was some sort of chemical weapon.  And that would a reasonable deduction...

...except that nobody knew any of that.  They had no idea if Geologist swallowed a bunch of goo.  Nobody knew where Geologist was, nor what happened to him.  As far as they knew, he had been dragged away by a wild animal to be eaten.  And as for becoming a mutant zombie killer, any number of things could have caused him to react that way.  Perhaps when they all took their space helmets off underground, he caught an alien microbe?  Maybe their spacesuits weren’t protecting them adequately from this alien sun’s radiation?  Maybe he accidentally picked up a parasite somehow that was messing with his brain?  They’re on an alien world where they know literally nothing about this place.  There could be thousands of possible explanations.  For all they know, invisible Sky Care Bears were puppetting him around like a fleshy marionette.

And even if it was the goo, and even if they had the data to speculate that conclusion, what would make them assume the planet is a military base and/or that the goo is a weapon?  The goo could be blood, cloning materials, jars of decayed organs--who knows what it could be or what effect it could have on the human body?  Nobody ever ran any tests on it, or anything else really.

They are the worst...scientists...ever...

Besides the egregious leap in logic, this scene also suffers from plain sloppy writing.  It’s as if the filmmakers knew they needed to get this information across so that you could understand why the characters were going to do what they do next, so they just shoehorned in a character sloppily expositing all of the important info.  This, once again, makes characters act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t, and sometimes make leaps to ridiculous conclusions just for the sake of plot convenience.

Shaw, reeling from this crazy news (and the brutal, psychologically scarring c-section/abortion) rushes off to tell someone...presumably Vickers, about the captain’s discovery.  But wait, you may be thinking, what about the evil alien baby thing that she just cut out of herself?  Did she tell the captain about it?  Did he ask if she was okay, since it would be obvious that something was wrong with her?  No.  She just leaves it wriggling around in the surgery pod, never mentioning to anyone what she went through.  You’d think maybe she’d be like, “Oh, hey, there’s a mutant alien abomination thing in there, your step,” but no.

In search of someone to talk to, she stumbles upon them helping Old Man Weyland out of a secret stasis pod.  Turns out, he’s not dead after all, and he has been playing the role of the geriatric stowaway.  He wants to go down to the mountain/spaceship/funhouse of horrors to do a little exploring.  This is the corporate job that to which Vickers told them the science mission would fall second.  David has known this all along, and is determined (programmed?) to help Weyland achieve his goal.  Why did Weyland fake his death, lie to the crew, sneak aboard a spaceship, and fly light years across the galaxy? 

Because he believes that if the aliens created us, they must also have the secret to eternal life.

Hold on.  So far in this movie:

Scientists on Earth deduce that aliens visited several ancient civilizations because they all drew the same picture despite not having contact with each other and not being able to see the planet configuration depicted from Earth.  Instead of concluding that maybe these aliens came and helped get our civilizations started--ala building the pyramids or whatever--they assume that the aliens actually created us. 

That’s a huge leap in logic from the start.  However, compound that with the scientists further concluding that the picture--clearly done by ancient man--is also somehow an invitation from our creators for us to go find them...even though we would have been thousands--if not millions--of years away from any kind of space travel.

But now they’re assuming not only that they created us, and that they wanted us to hunt them down across the galaxy and find them, but also because they created us, they also have the secret to eternal life??  Where are you getting the data for your conclusions?!

Once again, this isn’t just a stupid leap in logic, it’s also another example of where the story begins to show the machinations of the plot behind the curtain.  Weyland, rather than just being some throwaway character--which is fine, not every character can be developed in a story--is now the cliched old man afraid of death just so that we have an excuse to go back to the mountain one last time.  Otherwise, we’d have no reason.

And that’s precisely what happens.  Weyland discusses going to find the Albino in the stasis pod from earlier and ask him questions--why they created us, what’s the secret to eternal life, why do fools fall in love, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  You know, the classics.  Shaw insists on going as well, despite having JUST HAD MAJOR INVASIVE EMERGENCY SURGERY.  Her stomach staples are only minutes old.

Vickers tries to convince Weyland that it’s not really a good idea for someone so sick and frail to go traipsing around unexplored alien planets, but Weyland just shuts her down and has David carry him off.  NOW we can bring up something I said way way earlier.  Remember when I told you about how Weyland said David was “like the son I never had”?  Well it’s revealed that Weyland didn’t have a son...but he did have a daughter--Vickers!

Original Photo by: wearedc2009 Scholars

Who cares??  Why reveal that?  What does that have to do with the story they're trying to tell?  It doesn’t do much to enlighten us to Vickers character.  Yes, it gives her a little more motivation about why she’d do all of this for Weyland, but it also could have just been that he’s paying her a crap load of money.  Not everyone is driven by an internal moral compass.  Some people are greedy bastards.  At this point, we have spent very little time with Vickers, and this is just useless information.  What makes it worse is that it won’t have any bearing on the rest of the story at all.

They go to Albino Man’s space pod.  David wakes him up, but when Weyland tries to ask him about all of the secrets of life (I have a feeling that woodchuck one was particularly weighing on his mind), the spaceman goes apeshit and kills him.  I guess he didn’t like being interrogated first thing after a nap.  I'm sure teenagers across the western world can sympathize.  

During his rampage, Albino Man kills the rest of the crew as well,  and even rips David’s head off.  Then, he charges after Shaw.  She sprints away and makes it to safety--an impressive feat given that, in case I need to remind you, SHE JUST HAD SURGERY A FEW MINUTES AGO.  Instead of pursuing Shaw in his blind rage, he activates the underground spaceship and begins preparing for take off.  The severed head of David reveals that the Albino is going to go back to Earth to destroy the human race for...some reason.

How does David know that?  

Well, earlier in the movie, while he was playing explorer and doing his BUTTON TOUCHING THING, not only did he find Albino Man in his stasis pod, he also activated a hologram of the aliens running around doing things and talking to each other.  Because he is a machine with a massive database of languages, he obviously understands their language.  Apparently, in that scene, the Albinos were talking about coming to destroy earth.  For some reason, David decided that information wasn’t pertinent until now, which makes him stupid and/or cruel and/or sadistic, because taking Weyland down there with that knowledge was basically guaranteeing that not only would he die, but so would the whole crew, and possibly the entire human race, which once again makes us aware of just how bad the characterization in this movie is.  What makes David tick?  Is he a robot that can feel or not?  What is his motivation?  Did he want Weyland to die?  Why?  The rest of humanity were dicks to him because he was a robot, but not Weyland.  And if he did want Weyland to die, then how do you explain all of his earlier behavior.  You could have excused all of the BUTTON TOUCHING and slipping dangerous goos to crew members as working for Weyland and trying to find something that could cause immortality.  But now?  Now his actions make even less sense.

As the alien spaceship rises into the air and humanity looks doomed, Shaw contacts the captain and convinces him to crash his spaceship into the alien spaceship to save the earth.  Vickers, still on board, obviously disagrees with this decision and flees to an escape pod, which blasts her to the surface.  Meanwhile, the captain says his goodbyes to Asian Guy and White Guy, and then fly their spaceship into the alien's.  The blow to the alien spaceship sorta puts a ding in it, while utterly annihilating Prometheus, but it's enough to stop the alien spaceship and send it falling back to the surface.  Idris Elba, you deserved more than a "dead bro walking" role.

That's not entirely fair.  After all, the two other crew members died died as well.  It's just frustrating that he was the only African American character in the movie, and he died.  But if you thought his death was sort of stupid and avoidable, the next one will make your head explode.

As the massive round alien spaceship falls to the surface, it starts to roll, and Shaw and Vickers find themselves directly in the path.  Of the round...wheel-like spaceship.  Apparently, running around on the surface of the planet too much must have fried their brains, however, because rather than running left or right out of the path of the gigantic spaceship, they try to outrun it, instead.

Once again, this is clearly a dramatic action scene for the sake of a dramatic action scene, only this one is much worse.  At least with the approaching storm, the characters couldn’t just easily escape by stepping out of the way.  Good thing Shaw is a scientist, because all of that fancy learnin’ helps her figure that out.  Vickers watches her go, and keep running forward.  Then, she falls and actually begins scooting backward on her ass when she could have just rolled rolled out of the way. 

This is a shameful way to treat her character because it makes her character’s death not only pointless, but also incredibly stupid, and it robs her of a any dignity that she has, up until this point, actually maintained.

Shaw, safely out of the path of the crashing ship, discovers that she is low on oxygen.  Her suit tells her she has approximately 1 minute remaining, so she finds the wreckage of Vickers’ room from Prometheus.  Since it was made special, it’s in one piece and still has oxygen inside, so Shaw climbs in, presumably to search for more oxygen.  Inside, she discovers the alien baby thing has turned into a giant, angry, alien squid, proto-facehugger.  Somehow, no one noticed this.  Shaw is safe, however, because it’s sealed in a different room.  David then pops onto her radio to tell her that the Albino Man somehow survived the crash, and he's coming to get her.  I don’t know how he’d know where she was...I guess he read the script, too.
When Albino Man busts in, the proto-facehugger does, too, and grabs him.  They both fight while Shaw escapes.  She decides to go back to the alien spaceship to grab David's head and body and hijack another alien spaceship...because there are loads of them hidden underground apparently.  Even though a minute ran out a long frickin' time ago, she's fine.  She forces David to take her to the Albino home planet so she can get some answers, and the blatent sequel bait is complete.


Well, except the Abino Man’s chest bursts open and an alien that vaguely resembles the Alien alien crawls out and scampers away.


So, that was Prometheus.  And despite all of my complaining, I like this movie.  It, unlike a lot of big budget science-fiction/action/horror movies that come out anymore, tried something new.  It didn’t exactly succeed, but it at least tried.  And, despite the massive plot holes, there were some pretty awesome sequences in there, and basically fantastic performances all around.  That’s honestly why I’m so hard on the movie.  There was a lot of potential in this movie, and it failed to meet that potential.  It’s clear that it suffered from production problems--possibly rewrites, which probably explains Guy Pearce’s role in the movie--and that makes it even more sad.

This movie honestly feels like two movies.  There’s the horror movie--ala Alien, and then there’s the deep-thought, question-asking, science-fiction movie--ala 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There were so many places where doling out the information could have been handled better.  For example, why did we need to think that these aliens created us from the beginning of the movie?  They already thought the aliens were giving us an invitation to come see them, why couldn’t we just go with “They started our civilization,” and then discover they actually created us while we’re on the planet?  That would have had bigger punch, and it would have created some fantastic moments where the characters would have to re-examine their faith and their understanding of our role in the universe. 

Another example, why did they have to info-dump the fact that the planet was a military base?  Why not find a room with plans or something that David could translate.  Hell, they could’ve explained away why they wanted to kill us, why they created us, and the revelation of all of that information in one quick scene:  The crew finds blue-prints in an alien script.  David translates and explains that they are blue-prints to create organic life forms as a form of biological weapon.  He then does his BUTTON TOUCHING THING and activates a video revealing that they, in fact, were creating humans.  Maybe show a human going bananas and killing a bunch of them...kind of silly since they’re 8 foot tall Albino body-builders, but whatever.  That explains everything we were left wondering at the end of Prometheus, and poses even more interesting questions that could either be answered, or alluded to, or even built up for  a sequel.

All in all, I still recommend that you see this movie, if only for the great performances, fantastic visuals, and gorgeous music.  If you are a writer, then my recommendation is even stronger.  This movie is a great lesson in storytelling, both what to do and--even more so--what not to do.  Given the crap that gets released under "science fiction" anymore, at least this movie tried something new.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your review. Everyone keeps suggesting that I need to see this movie but I have been a tad relucant. Your words helped me figure my situation out. Thank you!

  2. Your reviews made for an interesting read, and I agree that Prometheus could have been a whole lot better. It was good, but Ridley Scott has made some real masterpieces. After a Dish coworker and I went to see Prometheus I was left wanting some truly great sci-fi. Luckily I found a whole collection of Ridley Scott’s old movies in my Dishonline account. They had everything from Alien to Gladiator to Thelma & Louise. I love it when I want to watch something, and I can find it right there waiting for me online.


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