By now, it’s clear that Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ is one of the most divisive films of the summer among both audiences and critics. The movie has already garnered a love-it-or-hate-it reputation. Is it a good movie? Luke says yes, Aaron says no. I guess it’s time for another installment of Critical Mass. [Warning: Spoilers lurk inside. This article is designed for those of you who have seen the movie.]
Aaron: Honestly, I just don’t know what you see in this movie. It’s a letdown from start to finish. I have quite a few gripes with the movie, but we’ll start with the subtext of faith versus religion. That’s a topic that writer Damon Lindelof tried to cover during the run of ‘Lost’, but he never really answered any of the deep, philosophical questions that were posed to the characters on the show. So, it’s no surprise that he makes absolutely no attempt to answer, or even confront, those same questions here. The questions are raised, but are easily pushed aside for the movie’s oh-so-scary third act which is ripped straight from generic horror-ville.
Noomi Rapace playing a scientist who wears a cross, which she constantly fiddles with, does not equal great subtext. It’s simply an overtly staged gimmick to introduce thoughts, questions and ideas that are easily forgotten as the movie goes along.
Luke: I don’t think that ‘Prometheus’ set out to be a “God vs. Science” movie at all. I see it as a character story. Understanding her religious background and her personal need to meet her maker is a driving force in the decisions that she makes. I never once got the impression that the movie was trying to prove or disprove one or the other.
Based on the advertising, I don’t think that anyone is going into ‘Prometheus’ with the intent of debating God vs. Science. They’re going in to see a prequel to ‘Alien’, which didn’t dabble in this content either. ‘Alien’ unfolded exactly like ‘Prometheus’. To put it in your own words, everything leads up to “the movie’s oh-so-scary third act …”
That’s what I came to see! If I want God vs. Science, I’ll watch ‘Contact’. But I came for a slow-building sci-fi horror movie – and that’s not only exactly what I got, but a much more visually stunning version of it.
I don’t understand what all of the bashing is about. For me, this is a “What the hell did you expect?” argument. The ‘Alien’ geeks need to calm down because (News Flash!) the ‘Alien’ franchise isn’t all that great. This isn’t the Holy Grail. These aren’t five-star movies. They’re geek lore – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stop acting like they’re perfect because they’re not – and neither is ‘Prometheus’. But they’re damn fun films and that’s what I’m choosing to celebrate.
As for those who want scientifically sound films, get over it. Guess what, folks, this is science FICTION. If you want a true science fiction movie, stick to the dry boring stuff. If you want tension in your movie, you’d better believe that someone is going to touch the penis-looking Black Oil Monster. Why not have it be an A-hole character?
Aaron, what were you expecting when you went into ‘Prometheus’?
Aaron: Let’s get one thing straight. ‘Aliens’ is a damn near perfect sci-fi/action film in every sense. Truly, it’s a Holy Grail of sorts. (Just to back me up, it sports a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). So, yes, ‘Aliens’ really is a five-star movie. With all the hype surrounding ‘Prometheus’, I expected something more like ‘Aliens’ and less like, oh, ‘Event Horizon‘.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but Scott and Lindelof did indeed set out to make a religion-versus-science movie, which Scott explains at length in this interview. The subtlety that Lindelof uses is as obvious as Jack versus Locke in ‘Lost’. At one point, Shaw is asked if she still has faith as she’s fiddling with her cross, and she says something like, “It’s even stronger now.” The whole movie is peppered with a pseudo attempt at a religion-versus-science plot, but then all of that is completely forgotten in the third act, so I can see why you may have forgotten about the questions raised in the first part of the film.
I felt like the movie started out great with Fassbender traveling around the spaceship finding ways to keep busy in deep space. That to me was the most interesting part of this movie. Once the people wake up, the movie goes downhill. The only other part I somewhat enjoyed was the self-Caesarian Shaw had to give herself. That part was tense. Everything else? I’ve seen it a million times over. I actually liked this plot outline better when it was called ‘Sunshine‘.
The other thing that the first two ‘Alien’ films have that this one doesn’t is real horror. Those movies are scary. This one is tame. Its effects are a hundred times better, and it looks pretty, but when it comes to suspense and terror, this movie has none (except the aforementioned alien abortion scene). I guess that’s what I expected – a terrifying horror sci-fi movie that was relatively smart. My mistake.
Luke: I like how sassy this conversation is getting! We’re never usually this argumentative, but I must say, it’s liberating!
Back to the science-religion thing, I have to admit that I find it funny to find you to citing an outside source (the Ridley Scott interview) when I remember you dismissing the need to mention outside sources in order to catch the drift of what a show/movie is trying to accomplish. (Specifically, I remember you saying this in a ‘Walking Dead’ recap post in response to someone quoting from ‘The Talking Dead’.)
Like I said, I never once felt that ‘Prometheus’ was trying to spark that debate. Whatever Scott says in interviews has nothing to do with the way I felt about it as I watched it.
My question is this: Why is nobody talking about the opening sequence? In all its beauty, people are missing something HUGE at hand. When I ask people how they took the opening scene, the majority response is: “That’s the creation of life on Earth.” However, I want you think back on what that “Engineer” is wearing. At first, he/she dons a white silk robe. After removing it, he/she reveals white ace-bandage-like underwear wrappings. Is it a coincidence that the crew of our ship wore those same wrappings and that Shaw wore an identical white robe? If you know Damon Lindelof, you know that he’s a master at hiding hints like this. (Being a fan, I actually enjoy the pay-off.)
Aaron: Those are two totally separate things. I was annoyed with ‘The Walking Dead’ because the creators were explaining away plot holes in an after-show. That’s completely different than talking about the theme of your movie in an interview. If Ridley started discussing why it’s silly of us to be annoyed at the inconsistencies in the film’s story, and started explaining away many of its gaping plot holes, then you’d have a case. In that interview, he’s simply talking about the themes of the movie, which is supposed to lean heavily on science-versus-religion.
I don’t think anybody is talking about the opening sequence, because it doesn’t make a lick of sense. And I think you’re REALLY reaching with your comparison of clothing worn by the muscle-bound alien and Shaw. You’re forgetting that Shaw and that alien are separated by millennia. To draw a conclusion based on what kind of undies they’re wearing is pretty silly. I mean, Lindelof was one of the brains behind the Hurley Bird in ‘Lost’. Did that go anywhere? Did it mean anything? Nope. There were a ton of things in ‘Lost’ that didn’t make sense because Lindelof introduced them and didn’t really have a way to explain them later on. Just what conclusion are you drawing from their coincidental choice in underwear and why is it so important?
Luke: I’m talking about the fun of it all. It’s like playing a huge game. I’d rather go along looking for clues and hints than have a major faith and science-driven debate. We’ve seen that a million times already. I’m in this for fun.
You reference the 100% Rotten Tomatoes score for ‘Aliens’. Why do think the sequel is rated higher than ‘Alien’? Because that goofball James Cameron decided to make it a whole lot of fun. (Don’t get me started on how it doesn’t deserve a 100% rating, because Bill Paxton’s character alone deserves to knock 20% off it. Game over!)
The brand of fun that Cameron implanted into the ‘Alien’-verse was nothing like what Scott did with the original – and the type of fun that Scott and Lindelof have infused into ‘Prometheus’ is completely different from anything we’ve seen in any of the four ‘Alien’ movies. ‘Prometheus’ blends Lindelof’s twisted and playful storytelling style with Scott’s brilliant filmmaking style. For me, it works. It’s works very well. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love it. Hell, I’m going back to see it in IMAX. But just as I know that all of the negative criticisms are never going to sway my opinion, I know that those who hate ‘Prometheus’ (and I know that there are plenty of folks out there who do) aren’t going to love it based on my opinion. You’re never going to experience it the way that I do, and I will never be frustrated with it the way you are.
Who would have thought that this would become one of the most controversial movies of the year?
Since you cited Rotten Tomatoes first, I want to point out that ‘Prometheus’ still carries a 74% rating there, which is more than healthy. Critically speaking, your opinion is in the minority. In fact, out of critics in our press screening, I believe that you’re the only one who strongly disliked it.
Aaron: To be fair, most of those guys in our group also really liked ‘The Adjustment Bureau‘. Anyway, honestly, I couldn’t care less about how the mythology of this movie relates to all the other ‘Alien’ films. I’m not that invested in the franchise (or really any movie franchise, for that matter) to get all worked up about the details of existing stories and whether they mesh. My complaint is that ‘Prometheus’ turns into a lame duck right after the characters get off the ship and start exploring. I worry for people not connected at all to the franchise who will most likely find this one to be confusing and pointless.
The problem is that buried beneath all the hype, beautiful cinematography and the big names involved is a very superficial story that lacks substance or any characterization. Somewhere, I heard that there were 17 members of the crew on board the ship in the film. You could tell me that there were 9 or 12 or 25 – it doesn’t matter because none of them have any sort of story worth telling. None of the characters resonated with me. They’re cardboard cut-outs of the lamest variety. I liked Fassbender as David, but his motives for infecting Shaw’s partner were murky at best. Why did he do it? To what purpose? What did he think would happen? Did he want to breed aliens? If so, why? Idris Elba’s character was the worst of the bunch. Here’s a great actor who gets relegated to a terrible Southern accent, and his best scene comes when he’s talking about why he’s putting up his Christmas tree. Later on, this captain who’s supposed to be protecting his men runs off to get laid at a crucial moment. (But it was Charlize Theron, so I’m tempted to give him a pass here). Only at the end does he put on his Hero Hat, but he’s too late. That “Let’s save the world!” ending was just too silly for words, even if it made for some neato CG.
To be clear, I didn’t outright “hate” the movie. I gave it 2.5 out of 4 stars in the newspaper I review for, but I couldn’t bring myself to give it 3 out of 5 online at The Reel Place. So that’s where it sits in my mind – a somewhat below-average movie that I never plan to watch again.
Yes, we know that you’ve probably reached your ‘Prometheus’ saturation point by now, but we’d like to know which of us you agree with. Luke says that ‘Prometheus’ is an amazing sci-fi adventure, whereas Aaron thought it was bland, and basically amounted to little more than a really, really pretty CG-polished turd. Please let us know in the poll below.