Movie Review of Prometheus (2012)

by JoHarrington

Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus was one of the most widely anticipated films of 2012. An epic story, spanning galaxies, which raises more questions than it answers.

I was keenly aware when 'Prometheus' was released, but I purposefully avoided reading anything about it. I knew that I'd eventually want to see it, and I didn't want any spoilers.

Unfortunately, that meant that I totally misunderstood what the film was about! Those discussing it most, on my social media channels, tended to be my Pagan friends. Therefore I assumed that it was a film about THE Prometheus, as in the Greek god.

I'd somehow managed to miss the biggest clue of all - Ridley Scott's involvement.

Buy Prometheus on DVD

Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba.

Prometheus is a Story Within the Alien Universe

However, don't assume that means that Ripley is coming back. It's set a long time before any of that.

I do love a good Ridley Scott film.  He has that thinking outside the box ethos, where innovations are made on a vast scale.

Unfortunately, he then has the propensity to milk said innovations until there's nothing but repeats to bleed dry.  Nevertheless, I was confident here, as Prometheus wasn't a sequel.  (Though, to be fair, Aliens was a classic.)

As soon as I saw his name, I wondered which way he'd jump.  What I hadn't quite grasped yet was that this movie is in the Alien universe.  It acts as a prequel, but so far back as to neither touch nor deliver us anywhere close to opening sequences of those films.

So not about Greek gods then.

I changed a few mental gears and settled down to enjoy science fiction rather than Classical Age mythology.  It's all good. I love the Alien films.

This was not the same old, same old; and Predator wasn't in sight.  In fact, I was reasonably close with my preconceived assumption. 

We join the story as the spaceship Prometheus nears its destination planet.  On Earth, a couple of exploring academics (he's a scientist and she's definitely got surgical knowledge, but their actual disciplines are never disclosed) have found a pattern.  It all leads to the creator(s) of the human race being extra-terrestrial.

The space voyage is therefore a kind of extreme genealogy; gone to meet the ancestors in the solar system.  Naturally, being a Ridley Scott film, things quickly become very, very wrong.

International Launch Trailer for Prometheus (2012)

Buy the Special Edition Prometheus Box Set

Comprising Blu-Ray 3D, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital formats, all in one package.
Prometheus (Blu-ray 3D/ Blu-ray/ DVD/ Digital Copy)

Great Effects, Great Ideas, But...

There were some great special effects and cinematography.  I didn't see this film in 3D, though I imagine that some of the sets would have been amazing.

The philosophical ideas were also wonderful, with their shades of Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods.  But then they weren't explored.

I felt like Prometheus was constantly plumbing the depths of fundamental questions about life, the universe and humanity.  Then, once there, it was afraid to mine them for even its own answers.

Instead we were left with rushed or hushed story-lines, so that we could return to more action.

It was patently set up for a sequel, clumsily skating over enormous plot-holes. So much so that the movie became an elaborate trailer for its own follow up.

More on the Deeper Issues in Prometheus

Fellow Wizzley author Mladen has explored some of the aforementioned fundamental questions.
Can strong psychology be found behind the weak plot, full of unrealistic and hollow pseudo-science, in Ridley Scott's Prometheus?

Introducing David for that Cyberpunk Charm

While the majority of theater going audiences associate Ridley Scott with the Alien franchise, us geeks are still harking back to Blade Runner.

In the character of David, we got to have our cake and eat it. This WAS both universes colliding.

Michael Fassbender was fabulous as the android with his own agenda.  His performance really was one of the highlights of the whole film for me.

In fact, it was only his presence which saved some of the ropier scenes.  However, I couldn't help but think that we've been here before.  It was all very reminiscent of Blade Runner's Rachel.  Though that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Watch Prometheus on Amazon Instant Video

Prometheus [HD]

Elizabeth Shaw's Survival Instinct

There is a scene in Prometheus which I think is going to stay in my head for a very long time.

I can't go into details without spoilers; and this is one scene which needs to unfold in all its disturbing horror.

The sequence begins at 1hr 17mins.  It's probably the best (and most gruesome) moment of self-preservation that I've ever seen in any movie.

I'm going to have to take it on trust that future medical technology enhances its realism. But if so, major respect to the character of Elizabeth Shaw.  She's one woman who understands the meaning of doing what you have to do to survive.

Prometheus DOES pass the Bechdel Test

.. but only just. And, if you're giving the film this brownie point, then you'll just have to close your ears to some of the subtly sexist language elsewhere in the script.

There were three named women in this movie, two of whom were major characters. 

Elizabeth Shaw took center stage throughout, but mostly surrounded by men.  As a result, they were the other half in most of her conversations.  Meredith Vickers was nominally in charge of the ship, but her crew was also mostly male. 

Then there was the ship's medic, Ford.  She was the one who actually saved the day, insofar as passing the Bechdel Test was concerned.

These three simple questions are designed to assess the portrayal of women in Hollywood films.  Even in such seemingly safe hands as Ridley Scott - who has a reputation for depicting strong, female leads - the test shows how the casting and the plot can divert us with sleight of hand tactics.

In fact, Prometheus had a lot of overtly and subtly sexist language.  For example, Dr Elizabeth Shaw, for all of her extreme intellect and pragmatic genius, was dismissed in the script as 'the scientist's girlfriend'.  Meanwhile Vickers was persuaded to have sex by a man accusing her of being a robot and an Ice Maiden.

(Note to Vickers: the correct response to to laugh in the face of the patronizing gentleman.)

Are there two or more named female characters in the film?  Yes.  Do they have a conversation?  Yes!  In fact, there are two or three different scenes in which these women share words.

Is that conversation about anything other than a man?   Ah.  That's when everything narrows down to one single, solitary scene:  Shaw and Ford discussing DNA over an autopsy.  Shaw does talk to Vickers about philosophy and the origin of life on Earth; but Vickers just brings the conversation back to men.

Without that scene, Prometheus would not have passed the Bechdel Test.

Three questions are asked of each movie. They are so simple that it would be harder to fail than pass. They examine the role of females in that film. Nearly half fail.

Watch Alien or Blade Runner Instead

Despite the great/disturbing scene with Elizabeth, and the brilliance of David, I still prefer Ridley Scott's other films.
Alien Quadrilogy (Alien / Aliens / Al...Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Collect...
Updated: 10/04/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 10/03/2012

Nice one, thanks!

Yes, I so know what you mean. :) But good luck with it and I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Mladen on 10/03/2012

That's the one. :D

I can link to one of your modules where you mention Tesla, if the information is valuable. You can make it more valuable if you want before publishing. I think linking to the module giving some new info about Tesla should be fine even if the core of the article is about something else.

We will see what can be done with Prometheus. it will have to wait the night, so I have enough free time to watch some parts again, and then rethink the plot. Huh, sounds problematic having in the mind the film i watched. :) but I am good in finding sense where it lacks. ;)

JoHarrington on 10/03/2012

This one? :D Self-promote away. Anyone coming to our conversation here later might want to see it.

I'm not sure how appropriate a backlink would be. It's only a passing mention and that is hearsay too. But have a look when it's published and see what you think. I won't be offended if you decide it's not useful to your Tesla readers.

I've just posted to the forum about joint reviews. I think it'll be alright, but it's worth checking, if only for future reference. I hope you can write it with impunity, as I really do want to read more about the psychology and science.

I'm not a scientist, but I did hear a lot of what sounded like pseudo-science with some proper stuff thrown in. Am I being too harsh? Write the article, so I can find out!

Mladen on 10/03/2012

Yes, I wrote about Tesla. You can find it on my profile page. I am not going to use this comment area for self-promotion. :)

If you are writing about him, let me know if I can set backlink there, since Tesla's work and life are too big to be told in just one article.

I will see to write a review about Prometheus, but first I need to think about it more, and watch few scenes again. Sure, I will do something different from what you have done here, avoiding steeling ideas or making copy of your work. Mine thing will be more about psychology and science in the movie.

I will contact you by PM with the ideas, so you can find yourself there. I am sure this will be an other successful coop between you and me. After long time. :)

And yes, i agree Prometheus was made for a sequel, or at least as prequel for Alien.

JoHarrington on 10/03/2012

That is such a coincidence! I've just mentioned Tesla in an article that I'm writing. I thought to myself, 'I'm sure that Mladen wrote about him, I'll have to check.' That broke my concentration, so I paused for a second and here you are commenting!

So did you write about Tesla? >.>

Back to the plot, yes, I'm with you. It's not that 'Prometheus' is bad, but that it's blatantly obvious that it could have been much, much better. It seemed to me that they were setting it up so much for a sequel, that this one barely made sense. And there were plot holes aplenty.

LOL i know the scene that you referred to, with the snake like creature, and yes! That just did not ring true. You would not mess with an alien life form, that you knew nothing about.

I thought that the first scene was very beautiful, but I barely knew what was going on. I like your take on it. Mine was simply that he was sacrificing himself to the Gods.

I'd be happy for you to write a review too. You've got something different out of it and that might be useful for our readers. I don't know what the Wizzley team's thoughts on covering the same ground is, but I, for one, would be fascinated to read your review. And I'd link it up here.

Mladen on 10/03/2012

Finally I have watched the movies. And this is partially 'cause of your article, Jo!
I wanted to see if the movie can THAT BAD having in mind all those reviews I have read across the NET.
It is good do go and watch movies without prejudice. I didn't see it in theater because the tickets were all sold out that night when I went, and since then I have read dozens of reviews saying only bad things about it. So, I gave it up.
I said, after reading your side of story: "Well if it was good enough for Jo to spend time writing her own review, then there must be something in it". :)

I wasn't totally disappointed with it. I assumed it would be far worse. And I am sorry for missing it in 3D.
There are lots of ridiculous scenes in the movie (trying to play with snake-like alien creature which is hissing on you and thinking that THAT CREATURE is harmless and cute). Oh, c'mon!
What plays with my mind, is the first scene. Were they really there to leave genetic material in order to create life? Well, if so, that was one really strange way of doing it. They could simply spill 1L of blood in that river and not kill one of their own. There is more logic in the possibility he was punished, criminal, or something else they wanted to get rid of. That substance they gave to him was ACTUALLY destroying even his DNA. I think it wasn't meant we happen from that visit. Maybe that is why they were coming back to destroy us.

I don't know. There are lots of strange moments in that movie, and I could continue with this "my side of story" until I write an article-worth-length of this comment. Instead I should have written the actual Wizz. :)

I am sorry for leaving you this a mile long comment to read, but ideas were popping out, and the movies really was puzzling, which made me thinking about it more in depth.

Good to be back to your articles and Wizzley!

JoHarrington on 10/02/2012

Oooh! I bet that would be a sociological discussion worth reading. I have a few ideas too.

I preferred the days of E.T., when we weren't so terrified of other cultures.

Sam on 10/02/2012

I have to confess I read up the plot on Wikipedia and then decided it isn't worth a couple of hours of my lifetime ;-) And, btw, why are most alien films lately depicting other lifeforms as so incredibly hostile to us? Any sociological explanation? I have a few ideas ...

JoHarrington on 10/02/2012

I was exactly the same with Blade Runner! But I think I was too young the first time. I didn't really get what was happening. I saw it again 10 years later and it blew my mind.

Ridley Scott had nothing to do with Aliens? That one is the best one!

Thank you for your comment.

Andrew Handley on 10/02/2012

I pretty much agree with everything you've said here, although I actually ended up seeing it a second time and found that I enjoyed it a lot more (most Ridley Scott films have been like that for me, especially Blade Runner- hated it at first, love it now).

And technically Ridley Scott only directed the first Alien :)

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