Last Year’s Blockbusters: Taking A Second Look At Prometheus
Iron Man 3 will officially kick off the 2013 summer blockbuster season this weekend, but as a delinquent movie fan, I’m still working my way through last year’s blockbusters. It’s not my fault; living in a movie dessert means making tough choices when it comes to deciding which movies are worth the twenty mile pilgrimage to the nearest theater. While no one likes being left out of the conversation, the flip side to showing up a year late to the party is that I get to see a movie with fresh eyes, and I have to say, it’s nice sometimes to watch a movie without bringing along all of the critical baggage. Case in point: Prometheus.
Prometheus didn’t make my “must see right now” cut last summer, but I recently watched the ponderous kind of, sort of Alien prequel and found myself somewhere between impressed and baffled. It’s a movie overflowing with ideas and offering up precious few answers, which is probably a good thing. In my experience, most sci-fi and fantasy stories are interesting right up until the point the writer attempts to explain the wheres, whys and hows of the crazy plot. By leaving the story open-ended, Prometheus left us with plenty of things to ponder. It also left us with plenty to nitpick.
Here are the five things I took away from my incredibly late viewing of Prometheus:
1. Daddy issues and space don’t mix. Kids, if you ever decide to venture into the far reaches of space, it’s best to check your paternal hang-ups at Earth’s door. There was plenty of talk about creators in Prometheus, but “creator” was just another word for father. David resented his human father/engineer Weyland, the elusive Engineers who may or may not have been humanity’s creators were jerks if the one we met was any indication, and even Shaw, who was driven by her faith, only had that faith because her father was a missionary. Sorry dads, but in the world of Prometheus, everything is your fault.
2. Big ensembles can be a detriment to a film. As a TV aficionado, I love a big ensemble cast, but when a two-hour film with an expansive mythology to unload also has to service nearly twenty characters those characters all begin to blend into one giant glob of alien-fodder. Shaw, Charlie, David and Janek were all interesting, mostly well-developed characters. The rest of the doomed crew? Well, they were just there to be doomed. The most egregious waste: Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers. Theron was terrific in the few scenes she was given, but the character ultimately came off as an afterthought. (And to add actual injury to the insult they dropped the whole spaceship on her in the end.)
3. Shaw was no Ripley, but she was still pretty cool. The Alien franchise is a veritable gold mine for gender studies with Ripley standing as a Final Girl, post-feminist action hero, and all-around badass. However, even Ripley might have balked at the idea of performing an impromptu, self-administrated cesarean to remove a growing alien within. Shaw? She just went for it. That’s just the kind of person Shaw is though; she’s a driven, stubborn and incredibly dedicated explorer capable of plowing through any and all disasters from accidental alien pregnancy to the death of her boyfriend. Theories have been floated that she was the only member of the crew spared because of her faith, but I think her survival is owed not to her strong belief system, but rather to her relentless fortitude.
4. David is destined to be one of film’s best androids. Michael Fassbender imbued David with more humanity than most of the human characters. His child-like pettiness, hostility toward his human cohorts, and boundless curiosity were played with a cool detachment that made David impossible to look away from. Prometheus was an imperfect film, but it produced at least one truly iconic character.
5. Philosophical sci-fi is fun. I’m not going to pretend that I understood the ending of Prometheus, but I will say I enjoyed pondering the boatload of ideas the movie as a whole unloaded. The film touched on creationism, what it means to be human, the dangers of hubris, the possible repercussions of producing weapons of mass destruction, and the interplay between science and faith. Its greatest flaw is that it offered ideas instead of a coherent plot, but the ideas were almost enough to carry the film. While it wasn’t the prequel many were hoping for, Prometheus did push the Alien franchise into a headier direction, while still maintaining the scares and weirdness of the films that came before.
All in all, I can’t say I’m sad that I missed seeing it in the theater, but Prometheus is a blockbuster that I’m glad I watched. I’ll turn it over to you guys now. It has nearly been a year since the film’s release, has your opinion of Prometheus changed since then?
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