The first thing you’re likely to notice about Prometheus is the magnificent score by Marc Streitenfeld. The title theme especially has strains of the questing heroic in it, as if it were trying to express the innate desire of humanity to break free from our natural shackles and finally find answers to the greatest questions ever posed. It’s a masterful piece of music that simply doesn’t belong in this film, which is not so much dedicated to the proposition of asking the big questions as it is to being the film that finally answers the question: What happened before the events of Alien? That question, of course, is not so big. At this point, it doesn’t need an answer.
The focus of Prometheus is disappointing for two reasons. First, it was originally written to be a straight Alien prequel. Then it was subsequently was it redrafted to feel more like its own film, a true science-fiction movie in the most exalted sense of that phrase. The problem is that the story Jon Spaihts was originally hired to tell (the prequel) was so thoroughly reworked by the more original story of Damon Lindelof that the Alien bits now feel grafted onto a movie where they were supposed to be front and center. Frankly, the film that occupied my attention for two-thirds of the running time is the film I’d rather see…the story about humans venturing into deep space in search of answers about our very existence is much more interesting.
Second, in answering the Alien prequel question, not only do the writers cop out of even offering hints at answers to the grander questions they invoke, they fail to provide real answers for many things that happen in the plot. A person seeking to study the phenomenon Hitchcock labeled as the “icebox scene” should enthusiastically set to the task of studying Prometheus, which seems to offer them at a rate of one every ten minutes or so. What keeps you from noticing them at the time is that the film is exceedingly well-directed, well-acted, and well-animated. So much talent was assembled here to so compellingly present such a sloppy story. It breaks my heart for the movie that could have been, if only the people involved had given up the Alien connection. Still, I’m not sorry I saw Prometheus, even if it was ultimately less than I had hoped it would be.
Spoilers, as always, follow: (more…)