Sunday, June 24, 2012


Going into the film Prometheus, I remembered a few things about the titular titan.  One, he gave fire to man at great cost to himself, getting himself chained to a rock and sentenced to an eagle-eaten liver a day.  I knew he had something to do with Pandora's story, though I couldn't remember exactly what it was.  I missed, of course, the biggest and most relevant part of his myth: he created man out of clay.  That was a pretty major one to miss, given the premise of the film.

Man's search for his creator is a common theme throughout history, though it's rarely as overt in modern stories as it is in Prometheus.  My favorite moment in the entire film came between a drunk, disappointed scientist and an android:

"We made you because we could."

"Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your Creator?"

The problem, for me, was that the rest of the film did not keep up with the standard set in that small exchange.  There were some interesting questions posed and some frightening moments and imagery (more on that later) but overall I felt rather disappointed by the film.

I am by no means an expert on the Alien movies.  I've seen the first and a good part of the second (though I don't think I've ever seen the whole thing), but if I've seen even a frame of Alien III or Alien: Resurrection (or Alien vs. Predator, for that matter) none of it has stuck with me.  As such, I can't really speak to this film as a prequel of sorts to those movies.

What I can do, however, is lament that every "twist" was telegraphed well in advance; there were no true surprises in store.  I know that a good storyteller needs to leave clues so an ending doesn't smack the audience as random or unearned, but those clues could do to be more subtle than the ones in Prometheus.

The film also fell into a trap that has always bothered me.  That is, when a character is revealed to have more sinister motives than previously expected and suddenly the way he acts around others is changed.  Prometheus is far more subtle than, say, the villain's sudden German accent after he's outed as a Nazi in The Rocketeer, but the shift was certainly present and it just didn't sit well with me.

Now, on to the scary moments and imagery I mentioned earlier.  The first Alien used a lot of rape and birth imagery to horrify its audiences, even if those audiences weren't quite aware of it as it was happening.  Prometheus follows that trend in no uncertain terms; in fact, one of the most unsettling (and effective) sequences in the entire film dealt with the latter in a fairly literal way.  It builds into the theme of the film quite well, really.  In Greek mythology, the new generation of deities always defeated and surpassed their parents.

As I write this, I think I'm talking myself into liking it more than I had originally done.  My initial criticisms still stand but I do have to give the film credit at least for the ideas it presents, even if it doesn't support them as well as I'd like.

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