Monday, June 11, 2012
I have no idea what to write about PROMETHEUS. It doesn't do enough for me even to feel strongly for it one way or another. It's an extremely neutral, middling affair. Despite its enormous tonal and philosophical ambition, it's neither scary nor particularly fascinating. It has a few decent thrills, some solid performances (Fassbender's T.E. Lawrence wannabe robot is the obvious eye-catcher), lovely visuals, and one truly grueling scene involving a self-performed c-section, but for the most part it seems largely eventless and vapid. I couldn't really say that anything really stood out to me in any strong or impacting way. Perhaps the problem is, having finally seen it, it doesn't really feel all that necessary. It's just one expensive set-up to both the ALIEN franchise and its own desire for sequels, but not a stand alone film in its own right.
The best description I've read of PROMETHEUS is from John Semley at Slant who calls it "high-minded fan fiction." That's exactly they way it comes across, like some super-fan saw ALIEN, loved the idea of the Space Jockey carrying a cargo of ultimate killing machines, and decided to write a story following his origins. This seems like a cool idea in theory, just like I'm sure the idea of telling Anakin Skywalker's story seemed like a cool idea back in 1998. But once the film starts developing, you realize that some mysteries are better left unresolved and that the tantalizing image of the Space Jockey from ALIEN will forever be more interesting than anything PROMETHEUS has to offer. And what does PROMETHEUS have to offer about the Space Jockey that we couldn't already deduce from ALIEN? Before PROMETHEUS, anyone could have told you that the Space Jockey was likely from an advanced alien race that had massive stockpiles of weapons designed to destroy any lifeforms it encountered. This is implied from ALIEN. Now, in the context of PROMETHEUS the only thing else we learn is that the Space Jockey and his race is, in fact, responsible for creating human life. Why his race of superior beings did this and who created them is left for a different movie entirely. So, what's the point of PROMETHEUS then? It feels less like a film and more like someone poking around in the ashes of a fire, trying to rekindle it again.
This is the huge problem with PROMETHEUS: It's not that it's pretentious or so overly ambitious that it falters under its own weight, it's that it is so narratively and thematically underdeveloped that all it can do is wallow in its own half-answers and barren mythology. Exactly like SHAME, it just doesn't do anything in itself but simply exists as a foregone conclusion. As a narrative, it goes no where towards answering its copious questions and leaves you right back where it started. When the the iconic xenomorph alien is birthed in its final moments, all we have learned from the film was something that was revealed to us in its opening two minutes and all we have to look forward to is something that came out in 1979. But wait! A sequel following the adventures of Shaw and Fassbender-head you say? Where they finally find the engineers' real planet and grill them on the mysteries of the universe? I'm afraid that just like the engineers the characters want to question, there's almost no answers a PROMETHEUS sequel could give us that wouldn't be disappointing. Like I said, some things are better left unresolved.