Prometheus (2012) The last time I saw a movie as incomplete as Prometheus was when I saw I am Legend. I remember leaving the theater after I am Legend being really disappointed and thinking there were twenty minutes missing that would have helped the movie make more sense. Lo and behold, the DVD included an alternate version that had the missing footage, as well as a new ending that wasn’t completely stupid. After seeing Prometheus, I found myself having those same thoughts, only this time I felt there was an hour of missing footage. And, I’m not the only one thinking this. Everyone I’ve talked to said the same thing, pointing out all of the things that made no sense. In the end, we all agreed that were going to have to have to buy the DVD or risk never being able to sleep at night again.
Perhaps the biggest question I have is, why did Ridley Scott feel the need to make an Alien prequel? Maybe I’m in the minority, but I never wondered where the derelict ship came from or how the aliens came to be. Maybe Scott had more story to tell and its been nagging at him for thirty years. Maybe the studio just wanted another Alien movie made simply so they could print more money, regardless of how stupid the films get (see: Alien vs. Predator and its sequel). Regardless, it does not do the job of a prequel instead delivering a half-told and convoluted story with holes you could fit a comet through.
The film begins when a couple of archeologists, Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), discover cave paintings that depict tall humans pointing at a cluster of stars. They assume this means that early humans worshiped beings from space and quickly identify the star, believing they have been invited to visit. (Seriously, from cave art they read, Come on over!) A short time later, they are on a ship making its way to those stars, hoping they will meet those beings, who they refer to as the Engineers.
En route to their destination, the entire crew is in stasis, except David the android (Michael Fassbender). David spends the travel time minding the ship, playing basketball while riding a bicycle (why are there bicycles on board a spaceship?!), watching Lawrence of Arabia, and watching Dr. Shaw’s (and presumably the rest of the crews) dreams (its 2093, so I guess this is a thing by then). Basically, he’s being creepy. In a smarter movie, he would have been the main character (and one could make an argument that he was), but instead is relegated to a secondary character who were never sure is good or bad. When they arrive at their destination, the crew is awakened and briefed to the nature of the mission to explore the planet circling the star for evidence of the Engineers and the Engineers themselves.
Rounding out the crew are Captain Janek (Idris Elba), Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) a Weyland Corporation executive sent to monitor the mission, and a bunch of cannon fodder wearing space suits who definitely won’t survive to the end credits. Exactly one of the characters are developed to any kind of level where we would actually give a damn that they might die and he’s an android. Captain Janek is there because it’s a job, Vickers wanders around scowling at everyone, Weyland exists as a hologram until the end the last few minutes of the film when its revealed hes been on the ship sleeping, and Shaw and Holloway are the prototypical colleagues/lovers/unable-to-have-kids couple we see in too many movies these days. You’d think Ridley Scott would care a little more about this problem, but he seems to have focused solely on progressing the film to the point where our favorite acid-spitting xenomorph appears the whole purpose this film exists.
The ship lands on the planet, the crew explores some ruins, and things start happening that make very little sense. For example, they activate some kind of holographic recording system that shows the Engineers running from something (we never see that something) that we assume to be the xenomorphs, but by the end of the film, we know this can’t be true. So what were they running from? Another example is the crew finding a room with a giant human head and those jars I mentioned, but then finding a cargo hold filled with thousands more of those jars. So what was the point of that first room, other than proof that the Engineers were stupid or bored? Continuing the trend, David collects some goo, adds some to Holloway’s drink; Holloway drinks it, has sex with Shaw, thus passing it to her; Shaw is now impregnated with something (we eventually see as a not so great example of a CGI vagina-octopus-thing) and David examines her, acting like he knew all along that this would happen. I realize there is some context missing there, but it really is as confusing as it sounds.
Perhaps the biggest bwaaaaa moment of the film is when Shaw comes to the conclusion that the Engineers were responsible for humans existing, but had developed a bio-weapon (the goo, apparently) to eradicate humans from Earth and were on their way until that certain something that chased them in the hologram killed them all. Its this conclusion that brought home the notion that we, as an audience, missed something that must have been cut from the film. That, or the clues were so subtle that wed have to watch the film multiple times in order to catch them. And even then, we still would be asking the question, so what the heck is the deal with David, already?
If you want to pick the biggest problem with the story its that Weyland’s motivation is dumb. He wants to live forever and assumes the Engineers can make this happen despite Weyland having zero evidence the Engineers even have that technology (remember, hes literally going off of nothing but cave art). Plus, by 2093, humans have developed interstellar spaceships, dream watching technology, super-awesome medical pods, androids, cryogenics, and are actively terra-forming planets. They can even reanimate 2,000 year-old severed heads. Really, they cant make people live longer by now (not to mention infertility is still a thing because this movie needed that cliche too)? I think Weyland missed that humanity is certainly already able to extend life.
All of these things add up to a film that, while visually stunning, is missing key elements that render the story a muddled mess at best. The characters do things that make no sense, including the time-tested cliche where a character tries to outrun a falling structure in the same direction it is falling instead of simply running sideways (amplifying this stupidity is another character who literally rolls sideways out of the path of that same falling structure), jump to insane conclusions with no evidence, and Weyland hides himself on the ship even though it doesn’t matter whether hes alive or not. In the end, you will have many more questions, including the most important one when does the DVD with the directors cut come out?
Rating: Sadly, I have to recommend you ask for seven dollars back. The visuals are worth seeing, but you need money back for the DVD, since those questions have to be answered and you need to sleep again.
(PS: This review was originally written in 2012 and its now 2017. Having watched all of the deleted scenes on the DVD, nothing more is explained. So, there isn’t a better version of this movie out there that explains anything. Incidentally, this is why Alien: Covenant ended up being more of a redo than a sequel to this mess.)