Monday, 16 July 2012


From the very moment Alien is evoked Prometheus is doomed, not because Prometheus might demystify the allure of its mother-offspring or be lost in its shadow but because its inheritance inhibits it, paralyses it and brings crashing down. Bathos. Anti-climax. Head tilted heavenward, eyes lashed to the ground. An android because of Alien. An axe because of Alien. A white shirt and panties because of Alien. This is nonsense.

La pregunta de todos : 'Where are we from?' 'Why?' ends with the birth of a spindly creature (the least impressive one of all, despite evolving from the others) hissing unmenacingly. All our journeys, our existential tumult our hope our fear, the awesome void, laic sanctity, divine whim, expectant children are all for nought because all we are doing is meeting an old friend in a strange place.

Small things have big beginnings.

There is such potential in that opening sacrifice, the grandeur, the otherness. There is a frisson and a tremble ("They engineered us"). There is more potential here than in a hundred Aliens. It is always almost there.

Parallels, yes, allusions. Black goo that creates and destroys: oil, Iraq, arrogance and hubris. That works and could have been explored. Feet-washing, miracle births, arms outstretched cross-like, 2,000 years, christological symbolism. A Greek fable in the name and sprinkled around works like a clever wink for a pat on the back.

With little of its own grandness. Prometheus doesn't feel what it says in its sinews and in its heart. It is curiously empty. It lacks atmosphere. There is no time for things to sink in or their significance to be felt. It is one thing after another. Prometheus does have ideas, and complexities and 'themes' but what do they do? They don't flourish through the story or through the people. It knows the world but not itself.

That which it does best is universal: parents and children, bonds of love given, withheld, squandered, unresolved (life, death and sex). Cycles. What is creation? What are we worth? Are we Gods?

Even better, it has thoughts, though rare:

"Why do you think your people made me?"

"We made you 'cos we could"

"Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?"

Eventually all this gets lost.

We want visions, art to give its answers and not more questions. It has that freedom and we give it that right but Prometheus is a timid shout.

All that existential wonder and terror is flattened into fight or flight, aaaah into AARRGH!! Peril and not much more.

Prometheus needs its own story. Why other mythologies? Why Greek , why Christian? Is this so we recognise it as myth, as something important? Abominable monsters and the cold gaze of Engineers ultimately point not upwards to the hands of Gods but down and back to us and what we already knew was not enough to know. We have the Bible, we have Alien and Prometheus stays in their shadow.

Elizabeth is the light of the film, the through-line through the dull gloom, still looking for her God despite, longing for her father gone, wanting to bring life into the world and to understand it. She wants to embrace her instincts and feed her mind. She carries on to another planet, another adventure. She fulfills the imperatives of her faith in testing it. She has dreams and doubts and pains unlike the crew, the room-fillers. We don't believe in them.

One would like to think she is like us.

We should decide : do we go with her now to find our maker, fair, foul or fate, or do we want a story about a story, a myth about myths, truths about truths? Do we want another  Alien, a tuppenny fright, or do we want something different; bigger, better, bolder?


  1. Yes. Prometheus was doomed the instant it decided to tie closer to the Alien franchise, and that's what prevents it from being a great movie and just leaves it at being a "good" movie. It still has many many great sequences and many many bad ones, but I prefer to think of the best ones, including the best I've seen all year: the surgery/abortion.

  2. Jaime,

    There are indeed very good bits. A great scene is not a great scene on its own, however - it needs context. Everything that happens has a before and an after. It is an impressive sight, no doubt, and hard to watch, but there is virtually no emotional wake to that caesarean.

  3. I guess I liked Prometheus a lot more than most people did, and I think in the future its reputation will rise (like Blade Runner). It's terribly confusing (wayyy too much going on)and too many characters, but it sure isn't "by-the-numbers" (if it had been, it would have been much more popular!). But...that awful scene where the tech guy is talking to the alien eel shape as if it were a pet was pretty cringe-inducing.
    Charlize Theron MADE the movie for me, as under-written as her role seems to be. Possibly that's because of time constraints/editing? On second viewing, the look on her face as Weyland introduces David as "the closest thing I have to a son" is priceless.
    I've already heard that the dvd release will contain hours of footage that had to be cut, I'm looking forward to checking it out!

  4. Rob,

    I agree that there are too many characters. Characters don't have to do anything crucial to the plot or particularly remarkable but the purpose of the co-pilots, for example, is hard to fathom. I'd have to watch the film again.

    Only Vickers, David and Elizabeth had the required intensity of characterisation, motivation and acting performance put into them worthy of a film of this (intended) magnitude.

    They could have dialled down the action/creatures in favour of more time spent on the ties of parents/children. That time would have been doubly worthwhile because it would give more emotional heft to the scenes of danger.

    Thanks for the comment.