Culture, Movies — June 8, 2012 11:24 am

Prometheus: A Cautious Review

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Is there life on distant galaxies? What are the origins of humankind? Does the black man always die first in horror movies? Enter last night’s premiere of Prometheus in search of these answers.

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For what it’s worth, I hate horror movies, so read this review with a critical eye. But after a convincing argument from a friend on the benefits of embracing the horror film genre, I thought to broaden my movie-going repertoire and brace myself for the mid-summer blockbuster. More on that argument in a bit.

Prometheus serves as a prequel of sorts to the 1979 Ridley Scott classic, Alien – a movie that has sparked sequels, fear of the unknown and a since retired ride at DisneyWorld that scared the pants off me as a kid. In this new take on the storyline, a group of scientists head to a distant planet on a privately-funded expedition in search of the origins of human life. With the help of David, an engineered robot (played by Michael Fassbender), the crew discovers more than they anticipated.

There is recurring banter between the humans and Dave on Dave’s capacity to sense pain, feeling, and human emotion. As the designer of the robot (played by Guy Pearce) notes, Dave comes as close to a son as any robot can be…save for the one outstanding thing, a soul. Unfortunately for my midnight premiere-filled sentiments, this was the exact feeling that I carried for the movie.

Truth be told, there was a lot of hype leading up to the opening of Prometheus. I even managed to squeeze in a viewing of Alien a few days beforehand to gear up for the showing, but it fell disappointingly short of expectations. All of the necessary elements were in place: a good cast, a cult classic as the foundation, a new generation of eager moviegoers to a Ridley Scott big-budget masterpiece, a basic storyline, female leads to save the day. What happened, though, felt like a great concept with poor follow-through.

I was looking for a movie that had me on the edge of my seat for a sustained amount of time, for that quickened heartbeat and the clawing of my hands into whoever’s arm was next to me in order to brace myself for what was next. I was hoping to cheer on the resolve of a heroine who refused to go down without a fight. I was expecting an outright good guy and bad guy (read: humans versus aliens) fight. Ok, I was expecting an updated remake of an incredible film. Instead, I walked out of a two-hour movie with weak character development, just-ok effects, but most importantly, not too scary aliens. The heart rate was pretty steady, and simply put, I left wanting for more.

Perhaps my expectation for the movie was too high, but perhaps the fault lies in my expectation for horror films as a whole. I typically avoid horror films for fear of said finger clawing and heart palpitations, but I was gently reminded that those reactions are no less real emotional responses, just as the intrigue of a psychological thriller or the from-the-gut guffaws of a perfectly executed physical comedy film elicits. Movies – good horror films included- have the capacity to allow us suspend reality and simultaneously experience and reflect on real emotions in a short amount of time. Add the collective energy of people attending a midnight showing, and you have a cocktail for an incredible roller coaster of an adventure.

Who doesn’t think about the origins of humankind and the possibilities of exploring life on distant planets and galaxies? I know the team here at TPQ does. Prometheushad great promise to bring me into the barrel rolls and breath-catching moments of that ride, but we slowly clicked our way to the top of the first drop and didn’t have too far to go afterward. To see the roller coaster analogy through, we ended the ride right back where we started – and unchanged for the experience.

For the movie-going experience, late night excitement and respect for a classic film that reflects the value of embracing the horror film genre, I do not regret seeing Prometheus. If you fall into any of these groups, take a break from the summer heat and enjoy. When you do, though, keep the expectations at bay… and root for Idris Elba’s (and the rest of the team’s) survival.

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  • I always root for Idris Elba’s character’s survival.

    I’m going tonight and my expectations are so high I can’t help but be disappointed. I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed raising my expectations all week.

  • Ebert gave it 4 stars. 74% at Rotten Tomatoes. And 7.8 over at I’ll still give it a go. Thanks for the review, though!

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