Prometheus, the movie

Enjoyable but unsatisfying; beautiful but pretentious. It is a big story told with beautiful and moving scenes. The leads all act very well, though there is a breath-taking gap between the main characters and the rest, who are two-dimensional stereotypes (probably not the fault of the actors). The minor-character scientists in particular leave me despairing of standards of higher education in the future. These guys are truly deeply madly stupid.

As for the larger tale — in most of my favourite big stories, especially in the genres of hard science fiction and in mysteries/thrillers, the authors have constructed a complex and rewarding reality which they hide from the characters and from us. And the artistry and pleasure comes in revealing this underlying ‘truth’ in small chunks, sometimes with false turns and dead ends, as step-by-step the bigger picture is revealed.

But there has been a trend in recent years to write TV series and film scripts with plots that suggest, nay, demand a big underlying truth but with authors who haven’t bothered to construct one, content to make up hints and portents and clues as fancy takes them. Resolving those is a bridge they (or their successors) can cross some other time. They make the hints and clues that seem cool and significant. Later on, maybe someone will make up a solution that can incorporate some or all of those clues. Or maybe not.

For me, this works fine in some genres but not in others. And although Prometheus falls into a bundle of genres, it bills itself as more hard science fiction than horror and as asking significant questions… the astronauts go seeking the origins of life.

It looks as though some of the holes in the plot can be explained by the need to edit the film to a manageable size. When our heros look at a cave painting of a human form apparently juggling 5 balls, they seem to quite absurdly draw the conclusion that this is a star system and that it isn’t just a map, but “this is an invitation.” Crazy. But one of the websites I looked at talked about a scene that doesn’t seem to have made it into the final film. Apparently before the voyage to the stars, there was an excavation on Mars or on the moon, where a holographic representation of these planetoids were found. Presumably it was there that they really decided it was an invitation. And presumable there “David” first learned he could manipulate symbols on a wall which would glow and do things, since he seems to expect this the first time we see him encounter them.

Other holes in logic are much harder to explain. Them nasty critters seem to love  human hosts, presumably as food. But, apparently, if you leave one alone for dead and with nothing to eat, it can still grow to a very respectable size (luckily in this case, as it happens). Or how about the way that some apparently very very clever people don’t realise that if you’re running away from a giant wheel rolling towards you, you want to run perpendicular to its path, not along it.

But if you treat Prometheus as light horror with a science fiction theme, it mostly works ok. And the visuals are glorious. We saw it with 3D glasses and I loved the subtlty of 3D usage as opposed to the gratuitous stuff flying straight at you every few minutes. 3D was woven in, not a gimmick to be exploited. Most of the time you could forget you were watching 3D, except that things really did have a palpable depth to them.

My verdict: unsatisfying but not disappointing. See it on- and for- the 3D big screen experience and we’ll let the writers and editors off the hook this time.