Sunday, June 24, 2012
Prometheus is a supposedly smart film, about the usual smart things: the origins of life, the nature of faith, magical black goo. Why then is it filled with so many stupid people? On a creepy alien planet, when a man is greeted by a cobra-shaped creature popping out of the aforementioned magical black goo—versatile stuff, this—he reacts as if finding a kitten on his doorstep. (Not to spoil anything but try to act surprised when kitty shows her claws.) Such is the film’s cartoonish rendering of its characters, most of who willfully fling themselves into the jaws of death while spouting lively banter like, “I’m a geologist, I like rocks.” As a species, we have travelled through space and walked across the face of the sky, but it seems we haven’t figured out a way to avoid reducing ourselves to a craven parade of dimwits and dullards just to hold together a weak sci-fi plot.
Ridley Scott’s return to the world of Alien gilds itself with enough grandiose, quasi-mystical nonsense to give itself at least a faint glow of intelligence, if none of the actual substance. The film’s tantalizing exploration of the origins of human life gives way to a series of uninspired horror-movie jolts, held together by the mutilated traces of some sort of story. Every incident occurs in a vague, disjointed haze, devoid of the context necessary to give the skeletal traces of narrative some impact. You can’t have plot twists without a plot, yet Scott vainly contorts the air in an effort to get a reaction out of his audience. All that remains is a self-annihilating vision of creation, which makes one suspect Scott himself is a little ambivalent towards this monster of his own making. The most striking feature of this morass is the film’s chain of flawed creators, each engineering its own equally flawed, ever more unstable progeny—an effective metaphor for the diminishing returns of this long moribund series, if nothing else. Hollow and self-regarding, Prometheus finally signifies nothing grander than its own failings.