We put Prometheus on trial, debating whether Ridley Scott’s sci-fi was an epic classic or just confusing drivel.
Ridely Scott’s Prometheus. The build up to the film was palpable, with the viral campaign whetting the appetites of sci-fi fans the world over. Scott denied the notion that the film was an Alien prequel, setting tongues wagging even further. When the film was released in June 2012 it opened to mixed critical reception. We put the film on trial…
Prometheus is a film that is all gloss, little substance. Some films are deliberately vague, like this years’ The Cabin in the Woods, yet it’s a deliberate story telling device that’s utilised to keep the audience guessing until the big reveal.
Prometheus, however, has no big reveal. We’re are told a number of confusing and mysterious anomalies yet given no explanation or pay off. In fact, the film entirely relies on the expectation that the audience will crave a sequel. This is pretty much guaranteed given how little actually happens during the film, which is surprising for a movie that is packed full of quick frantic moments.
It’s its ‘point A to point A’ storytelling that strips Prometheus of any weight or gravitas. The sheer reliance on setting up a new franchise almost excuses the film-makers of denying the audience of any pay off. Quotes from Lindoff and Scott claiming the film can stand on its own are bull-shit, as it is deliberately given enough of a cliff-hanger ending to leave things open for a sequel.
There’s just not enough going on here to justify spending two hours back in the Alien universe. When the credits begin it conjures feelings of anger and frustration of being lead through an enigma with no sign of any discernible answer. Prometheus is sloppy unfinished film-making in the guise of a complete package.
Prometheus suffered from the sheer build-up it received from the inveterate eyes of critics and those disappointed by the last few Alien films. Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof didn’t help, with their constant protestations that it isn’t a prequel to Alien, but is set before Alien, that it shares the ‘Alien universe’, but features none of the characters from Alien.
The expectations of the public were thrown when finally they were presented with a glossy, decent sci-fi film, with moments of genuine cinematic beauty, that seemed to serve as nothing more than a little aside to the Alien mythos. What the public wanted was to see what happened to the Nostromo, where the aliens came from, and their little home planet with alien babies, alien jobs, little alien cars and alien dentists.
Much of this wrong-footing was down to Damon Lindelof, one part of the driving force behind the hit TV show Lost. Throughout the series run, Lindelof waged a campaign of misinformation and downright opaquery that infuriated millions of people who wanted all the answers right now, right this second, and were threatening to throw the dummy out the pram if they couldn’t get them.
The same is now happening with Prometheus, and, instead of understanding that it is the first in a series of films that will enlighten the audience about the origins of the Alien universe, they are screaming to their mummys ‘Who are those muscley men? What are their names? What are their jobs? What is that one’s shoe size?”, as if those answers will matter.
Answers don’t equal resonance, they are an easy fix that ensure the viewer won’t be forced to think too long; in fact, answers are the opposite of resonance. Prometheus is the first in a series, and it laid a pretty stunning groundwork for whatever comes. It doesn’t matter who the engineers are, only that they existed in the universe. They don’t necessitate an explanation.
The crowd of Prometheus-haters consist of the same people who populate the crowd who didn’t understand the ending of Lost, and who don’t appreciate Damon Lindelof’s elliptical style in our world of easy answers. Just have patience.
The tagline really should have been Alien: The Marmite Years; fans of the Alien franchise are either going to love or hate Prometheus. For all of its promise there is no getting away from the fact it disappointed many. Although cinema shouldn’t have to spoon feed its audience it does well to provide them with some pay off. We’re going to sentence this one to a week in the pig sty with the possibility of parol after two days for offering up some answers.
What did you think of Prometheus? Let us know below!
Debated by Luke Allen and Robert Batchelor.