Saturday, March 8, 2014


(Ridley Scott, 2012, USA)

Damnably stupid.  The chasm of quality that separates Alien, Scott's space-bound monster movie masterpiece, and this bloated, slipshod, desultory pot of sci-fi gumbo, must be measured in light years.  Scott is perhaps the laziest filmmaker working in Hollywood.  While his considerable talents as a visual craftsman haven't deserted him, any sense of exertion, any flash of intelligence or perspective, is utterly lacking from his recent work.  He coasts like no other. 

The biggest problem with Prometheus isn't the script, which is depressingly inept, but in the fact that Scott - again, a truly talented craftsman, which is not meant as faint praise - allowed it to be filmed as such.  You can't blame Lindelof, who apparently doesn't know any better, for writing trash.  But Scott should at least be able to spot trash when he sees it, and either reject or try to fix it.  It's clear that he had some interest in the idea of expanding on the Alien universe mythology; even if it represents a rather opportunistic return to the well, he at least was willing to approach it from an angle other than the formulaic wasteland of sequeldom.

Prometheus, then, serves as a quasi-prequel, in which the mystery of the alien planet from the original Alien is, well, not really solved, but riffed upon.  It doesn't matter.  Things start off in the register of the silly, as we see a white-skinned, hairless, utterly ripped humanoid thingy imbibe some oily goo, after which he undergoes a CGI disintegration and winds up spilling his DNA all down a waterfall.   It's awkward and wholly unengaging, and things don't improve much from there.  For about the first forty minutes, the film at least manages to make sense, story-wise, even if the characters quickly reveal themselves to be B-television stereotypes.  And it's worth noting that Scott and Lindelof aim to leave certain aspects of the mythology (as it were) unresolved.  This would be admirable, even in its ineptitude, if it didn't reek so obviously of being groundwork for more sequels.  But after those forty minutes, even basic coherence goes out the window, as Scott apparently submits to Lindelof's kitchen-sink conceit, in which everything from zombies to face-huggers to Clash of the Titans is thrown in for good measure, while the story and characters, which aren't much to being with, are discarded completely to make room for the dippy, wholly unsuspenseful "action."

I can't think of another contemporary film that was so impressed with itself while simultaneously being so embarrassingly short on ideas.  Prometheus doesn't play as mere pandering entertainment, so it doesn't have any of the transparent, mercenary money-chasing of a Transformers sequel.  It's a pretentious film in the worst kind of way, presuming to impress an audience who it clearly has little respect for, doing so by making a series of halfassed feints at depth and vigor, but possessing neither quality. 

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