note: article contains spoilers
Gods of the Gaps
As was the case with numerous other film fans, the film that I was looking forward to the most this summer was Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”. Simply because Ridley Scott is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, his visual aesthetic is uniquely cinematic and even if the scripts he shoots are very much hit and miss it is worth to go watch a Ridley Scott film just for the visual presentation. And then there’s also the promise of a new “Alien” film, again, by the man who made the original. It’s hard for me not to salivate like a famished animal at the very thought of such a film.
But the initial word after the film’s release was rather mixed, and not in that “Antichrist”-mixed or “Enter the Void”-mixed sense where the audience and the critics are so stunned that they don’t even know what to think of the film. That would be the mixed reaction that would propel me in the cinema the very second I recognized it. But no, the mixed reaction around “Prometheus” was the one with an overbearing sense of utter disappointment; in the sense of “I expected more, but I might be happy to settle for this”. That dirty kind of mixed of utter conformism. So I decided to wait, lower my expectations and see the film once the dust around it has settled. And now that I’ve seen the film it still managed to upset me.
Watching “Prometheus” was one of the most frustrating cinema-going experiences of my life. Half the time I spent snickering at its dimwitted characterizations, and the other half I just had an overbearing desire to shout obscenities at the screen at the top of my lungs. And I wouldn’t mind if it was just plain bad like “Alien: Resurrection”, I actually get quite a kick out of watching that film. But I do mind because there is so much potential for a truly great sci-fi film here, and it’s all just being tossed out of the window or is soaked in to the most ridiculous clichés of the sci-fi and horror genres.
An example! We have scientist that run off in fear from possibly the greatest discovery of mankind when there is no danger present, only to get lost, and eventually return to the same spot. But now there is potential danger, there is an alien creature, but what do our frightful scientists do? Oh they don’t run this time, they want to play. Guess how that goes for them? The writing in this film is just plain horrible, and that is further evident in the film’s religious subtext.
The film feels like it’s written by someone who despite his better judgment clings on to a blind belief in to a maker that he’s not even sure exists, and if he does it’s a maker that hates us all. And with this the movie may challenge your personal beliefs, but it is not a gut-punch of a challenge but merely a glancing blow because the film tries very hard to serve all comers with its fiction that is friendly to both atheist and believer opinion, and both Creationist and Darwinist belief. This practically makes the ideas impotent and toothless from the very start, and of course the film doesn’t even bother to give suitable answers to the grandiose questions it poses, so ultimately its plot reveals itself to be nothing more than an overblown circle-jerk.
The only question that remains for me is “why”? Why the hell would you even try to attempt to answer such questions with SCIENCE-fiction. Especially when the question themselves present the blindest of all alleys, and you’re tackling it with the tool that’s by its very nature destined, if anything, to disapprove the concepts this film is trying to justify with it.
Another frustration is the connection to the “Alien” film. It proves that the idea of the derelict space-ship form the original film is a textbook example of less is more. By explaining everything about it in “Prometheus” it is robed of all its mystery and splendor, and is ultimately reduced to nothing but a vestige of its former foreboding and alien beauty. In the end this connection to the original “Alien” feels like shameless fan-service, which is just confirmed by the very last scene of the film. And it is my honest opinion that “Prometheus” as a film might have benefited from not having this relation at all.
All this leaves “Prometheus” a film that poses many questions, some of which it doesn’t even attempt to answer, and some that it answers with the simple concept of religious faith. It’s a film that proudly embraces the idea of the “God of the gaps” in the end, and for me that is an unsatisfactory conclusion in fiction as it is in reality.
But still, despite the half-baked ideas at the core of the film, I'd recommend "Prometheus" to anyone even remotely interested. It might spark an interesting debate, and also because on the technical side "Prometheus" is a gorgeously shot film, with some great effects, designs and convincing performances. And if you're able to look past the dimwitted nature of it all, or justify it for yourself in ways in which I was unable to justify it for myself, there might be some genuine thrills and pleasures within.
Noomi Rapace - Elizabeth Shaw
Michael Fassbender - David
Charlize Theron - Merideth Vickers
Idris Elba - Janek
Logan Marshall-Green - Charlie Holloway
Prometheus on IMDb