Thursday, December 20, 2012

Super Short Review: Prometheus (2012)

What a clunker. I recently rewatched Alien (1979), a wonderful scary film: a film that manages to mash-up s.f. with monster-in-the-house horror and make it work. I attribute a lot of that to the dirty sneakers the starship crew wears; like in Aliens when the marine spits down an acid-burned hole to see how far it goes, the people of Alien do the things that humans would do. By contrast, the humans of Prometheus are largely cardboard cut-outs with very little in the way of motivation or personality. Like the alien Engineers, the characters of Prometheus have a human outline that doesn't look right the closer you get.

On top of that, the film badly fails at mashing together two strands of work, the theological/existential (why are we here, who made us, why do we age and die) and the horrific. Both of those strands exist in s.f., so the failure to mix them effectively very clearly shows its seams.

And then--and yes, this is stretching the parameter of a "super sort" review, but this is the last part, I promise--the film just doesn't make much sense. Alien Engineers are responsible for all sorts of life, from life on Earth (developed by an Engineer sacrificing himself) to the alien Xenomorphs of Alien. And we know this because there are lots of Earth cave-paintings showing a particular star structure that happens to be one of their bio-weapons labs...

So remind me again, why is there a map on Earth of where to go to find the bio-weapons? (At the end, we learn that these bio-weapons are meant for Earth, but in that case the bio-weapon lab should have a map to Earth, not the other way around.) And who even made those paintings? Is that from the aliens? (Why would they do that? Do we leave notes for lab mice?) There's really no good explanation there, which means that the film not only ends with some hand-waving about "the answer being out there," but it begins with some too.

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