Film: Prometheus

I’m good at avoiding spoilers, so all I knew going into Prometheus (2012) was that it had garnered wildly uneven reviews. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how much I was going to hate it.

A prequel to the Alien franchise, Prometheus stars Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist whose archaeological digs turn up evidence of an alien species suspected of possibly kinda sorta maybe being responsible for creating humankind. Somehow this lands her on an interstellar expedition to a distant alien planet, along with her scientist boyfriend Charles Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), thanks mostly to the largesse of a megacorporation with a hidden agenda. Are the aliens the “Engineers” of humanity? Will Shaw and Holloway solve the scientific mystery? What is the evil megacoporation’s evil agenda? Are there any well developed characters in this movie?

This is wretched science fiction. Just wretched. It’s almost like it started shooting before its script had emerged from development hell, and bits and pieces of various revisions were left in the final cut by mistake. Oh, at times it’s very, very pretty to look at: the visual effects are spectacular, particularly when massive spaceships are sweeping across beautiful alien landscapes. And for the first half an hour or so, there’s a certain low-key intrigue to its sadly over-familiar build-up: the cryosleep journey to an alien world, followed by the awakening of the crew by the lifelike android caretaker David (Michael Fassbender, convincingly robotic). Then we meet the crew, which features a frosty corporate overseer (Charlize Theron), a cocky pilot (Idris Elba), and a passel of under-developed redshirts. The mission is outlined by the hologram of the megacorporation’s CEO, a prosthetically (and unconvincingly) aged Guy Pearce, and then the expedition is underway.

But what a stupid expedition. The film’s early promise — what there is of it — evaporates quickly once the ship touches down and sends out its first away party. The story goes off the rails almost immediately in a blaze of illogical behavior, bad science, red herrings, dopey horror tropes, continuity errors, narrative loose ends, and wasted acting talent. The most egregious problem is the absurd incompetence of the scientists. They blunder into this alien environment like linebackers blitizing a quarterback, poking and prodding like entitled idiots, only to be surprised when their lack of caution leads to disaster. Meanwhile, inconsistent character behavior paints members of the crew as secretly devious, but then fails to explain their brief, casually sociopathic episodes. The corporation’s hidden agenda is a fizzle of an anticlimax. And inevitably the plot devolves into horror-survival mode, which might have been entertaining if any of the characters had been worth keeping alive. Alas, nobody comes off well, with the possible exception of Idris Elba. ¬†Poor Noomi Rapace; what a thankless, pointless, demeaning obstacle course of a role.

Once again, the Hollywood spectacle manufactory sinks all kinds of money and talent into a big, eyeball kicky what-the-fuck of a movie. What a disappointing waste.

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