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Prometheus - Film Review

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by Jacqui Schneider (subscribe)
I'm a QBI (Queenslander born interstate) and like to write about things that inspire me in my adopted hometown. Living by choice in the inner southside of Brisbane.
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I've always been a sci-fan. As a young girl, I was lucky enough to have a friendly adult neighbour who had an extensive library of sci-fi books which I was permitted to steadily plough through. I was enthralled by those covers showing star systems in endless black space, oddly familiar yet strange planets, saucer-shaped spacecraft and glimpses of shiny-suited alien beings. And a bit later there was Erich von Daniken, whose ideas swept the world and whose theories have never really gone away. Then the film Alien appeared on the scene in a groundbreaking way, because the characters seemed so real and the unpretentious heroine sat around in her T-shirt and underwear with her hair all messy, while stroking the ship's cat. And she swore! And it was damn scary.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

Then there were various Steven Spielberg offerings such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, documentary-type films about people who claimed to have been abducted by alien beings, and even mainstream series like Star Trek (my favourite is The Next Generation) a future where space travel across vast distances is very much the order of the day and, which many now watching re-runs realise, envisioned items in the late eighties and early nineties that we recognise today as iPads, 3-D printers ("replicators"), smart phones with NFC, and so on. And for a classic sci-fi blockbuster, it's hard to beat Roland Emerich's Independence Day.

Being an admirer of Ridley Scott's other sci-fi classics – Alien and Blade Runner – I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see his latest epic sci-fi film Prometheus, in 3D to boot.

Poster design by BLT Communications, LLC.

Wow, this one is going to deal with the origin of humankind, no less! And of course I presumed the special effects and the impressive gadgets of the future would be awesome.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

So I was expecting great things. I even checked out the legend of Prometheus beforehand, discovering that this Greek god is attributed with fashioning the first humans from clay and water. And he apparently gave mankind fire, which enraged Zeus.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

I can only say, the resulting film just goes to show that filmmakers still really need a good storyline as the basis for a film. Without a solid and engaging story, a film lacks direction. In fact, story is pretty much everything. A good story will bring us, the viewers, to the suspension of disbelief that we need to be carried along by a film, even without amazing special effects. A good story can overcome mediocre acting, or average dialogue. Look at what Alien achieved on a low budget, shot entirely on sound stages. Ridley Scott would do well to remember this.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

So why did I feel let down by Prometheus? The special effects were awesome. The gadgets and technology of the future were amazing and also believable (my favourite were the "pups", little spherical thingies that, when launched, fly off to map the inside of a structure using a kind of laser infra-red beam, sending the complete internal map in 3-D back to be recreated in CAD-like imaging as a hologram. And they make a sound like puppies whining). The acting was quite good, and sometimes excellent, with praise due to the android played by Michael Fassbender whose voice was eerily reminiscent of omnipresent computer HAL from 2001. We also had Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, and Noomi Rapace, the original Swedish "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" in main roles.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

But the story? Well for me, that is where I felt let down by this film. There were just too many "Huh?" and "What the …" moments; things that simply didn't make sense. And it was too complex, or at least, confusing.

If you are yet to see the film and planning to, I suggest you don't read any further. Come back and read this after you've seen it.

So, just how did the main character work out that our humanoid ancestors were actually coming back to earth to destroy humanity when they were suddenly stopped in their tracks countless centuries ago? (This is kind of given away already in the trailers anyhow, when our main character Elizabeth exclaims, "If we don't stop them there won't be any home to go back to!")

And why would such a sophisticated being not even pause to communicate with the people that released him from his centuries-old "deep sleep", who even looked very similar to him, but instead mindlessly kill them in his rush to launch the ship? Hey, he's been waiting for hundreds of thousands of years in suspended animation, surely just 10 minutes would be OK? Our amazing android who had analysed the origins of every language on earth to discover a kind of "original" language even spoke to him and the humanoid seemed to comprehend. But our ancestor humanoid creator being just bashed the android and knocked his head off! Huh? And why do all the humanoids – who are presumably our "creators" – look exactly the same (white, brutish and without expression) and indeed, why do they behave like complete barbarians?

It turns out that the planet our team of explorers are lead to by all the star maps from ancient civilisations is actually just a depot, a fairly inhospitable and uninteresting one at that, and one that is crawling with those horrible face-hugging Xenomorth creatures that use our bodies for part of their life cycle and had infected the ship on Alien. So why would our technologically advanced "creators" have told all the ancient civilisations that that was where they came from? And even given them the star maps that were duly recreated on stone tablets and cave walls around the world, only to be discovered by our archaeology duo aeons later and interpreted as "an invitation"?

And when the alien ship crashes and starts to roll right towards our heroine, how come she keeps running in the same direction the ship is rolling towards instead of simply running to one side to get out of its way? She had plenty of time. That scene was just too silly. And it seemed to go on way too long. Talk about B-grade cliché. Mr Scott, surely you are worthy of more?

This is not to say Prometheus is not entertaining, but just don't expect this to be a great story or even a great film and it certainly doesn't live up to all the hype. There are some good performances and the sets and special effects are pretty awesome, but somehow, the whole thing just does not come together. The story is the problem in my view.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

And it's always a bit of a groan factor when the sequel is so obviously set up in the last few scenes of the movie. It's a fair bet Prometheus II is already on the drawing board somewhere. It's kind of like some bean-counting producer dictated all the elements that seem so predictable and boring, like, "You have to set up the sequel, and you have to have suspense with the heroine running from danger and a lucky escape in the closing scenes." Or something like that. But even that doesn't make sense. I mean, this is Ridley Scott we're talking about. Surely he can find all the financing he wants without having to listen to some finance dude dictating the storyline?

Along with the premise for the film, this too remains a mystery.
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Why? It's Ridley Scott's latest
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