So you may have read my Top Ten Films of 2012 list – but there is something else that I felt I needed to write about: my most disappointing film of 2012.
Don't get me wrong. This isn’t the worst film I watched this year – not by a long shot. In fact, it’s actually pretty decent.
What I mean by ‘most disappointing’ is that it was a film I was very much looking forward to watching ever since it was first announced. It was a film that I avoided looking at any trailers or promotional material just so that I could enjoy it to the fullest when I finally got to sit down in a darkened theatre, giddily awaiting the certification screen that signalled the start of the movie.
To be fair, the weight of expectation was so great for this film that it couldn't possibly live up to its hype. Or could it?
After all, it was a director returning to his franchise that he had originally spawned and thirty years worth of progress in terms of filmmaking techniques and special effects had passed since then. Coupled with a massive budget at his disposal, this would surely be an ample opportunity to bring to life anything on screen that could be conjured up in his imagination.
But alas, no. It was to be severely underwhelming.
That film was Prometheus. (Note: Spoilers ahead!)
As I stated earlier it wasn't a bad film. It just wasn't very good either. Visually and production-wise, the film was fantastic. Everything looked amazing. The design of the tech, the spaceships, the creatures, the special effects – no problem with any of the production values of the film. It was all top notch.
Where it fell flat was with the story and the execution thereof. The film raised a million and one questions - but only answered a fraction of them. In some more esoteric and open-ended films this may be okay. In an ambitious science fiction movie embedded deeply in the Alien mythology, it is most definitely not.
Now I know it’s not meant to be a direct prequel to the Alien films and that it’s supposed to stand on its own terms… so then why work against that by continually shoehorning in nods to the aforementioned saga? Such as Shaw’s very Ripley-esque voiceover at the end? The revealing of the ‘Deacon’ xenomorph? The corporation with the funding behind the expedition having ulterior motives? Shaw being impregnated with an alien life form? The Android purposefully putting the crew in danger? For a film that's not wanting to be an Alien film, it seems to be trying so hard to be one at times.
Identity problems aside, not enough focus was given on the creatures – the genealogy just came off as overly complicated and inconsistent. Black goo plus Engineer equals beginning of all life on a planet. But black goo plus human equals human with eye worm? Eye worm human plus sex equals tentacle baby? Tentacle thing plus Engineer equals deacon? What about black goo plus worms equal snake thing? Snake thing attacking a human equals mutated human chilling in a crab position? I’m sure it made sense for whoever planned it all out but for the regular viewer it all seemed frustratingly random.
The reason why the Xenomorphs in the Alien franchise were so terrifying was that there was some scarily relatable logic to their methods of breeding. There is a queen. It lays eggs. This makes sense as we see this regularly in nature. Facehuggers hatch from these eggs and seek out hosts to impregnate (via the terrifying prospect of oral rape). This parasitic life form is then incubated and grows within the host until it is ready to burst its way out. You can easily follow this linear path of reproduction as it is made up of things we can relate to in our own natural world combined with our worst fears of being violated. In Prometheus it was all a jumbled mess without consistency and therefore failed to be scary in anyway whatsoever.
I have no problem with a bit of mystery – but literally nothing was explained. Why did the Engineers leave messages that were (perhaps) inviting the humans just to attack them later? What were they running from in the hologram recording? Why cast Guy Pierce if he is just going to be in old man prosthetics, makeup and a wheelchair the whole time? What was the point in hiring all these brilliant actors in a movie and literally give them nothing to do except to act clueless about what’s going on and then die in unmemorable and unimaginative ways?
Seriously, having Idris Elba, Rafe Spall and Sean Harris in the film was such an exciting prospect for me (being a great fan of each of their respective bodies of work) and yet their roles were largely thankless and their talents squandered by literally giving them nothing to do except just hang around and then… well, die.
Charlize Theron as the icy Vickers was initially promising as an interesting character but unfortunately ended up being pushed in to the background when the real antagonist (if you can even call him that) reveals himself. Plus she dies in the dumbest way imaginable. Sidestep woman, sidestep!
The only saving grace is the android David (played wonderfully by Michael Fassbender), the only truly fascinating and engaging character in the whole thing. They should have just made the film be about him to be honest. It's a shame that because they were too busy juggling around all the other bullshit that the never really managed to explore the truly interesting ideas of how he became to develop a moral compass of his own, his desire to be more human or why the he decided to dip the black goo in that dude’s cup of water, or how did he even know what would happen if he did so? His motivations weren’t clear at all.
Anyway, long story short – I remember leaving the cinema with a very ‘meh’ feeling. I had clearly seen some kind of spectacle; it just wasn't really engaging or meaningful to any degree to make me care about the characters or their fate at the end. It's a shame as the film presented interesting themes about the origins of religion and the creation myth, aliens as our makers and the parallels of David to his makers as the humans are to the engineers - all of which and more are tantalisingly hinted at but not explored nearly enough. Was it Ridley Scott’s fault? Or writer Damon Lindelof’s? Did the actual story and characterisation get (ahem) Lost somewhere in the process of creating said spectacle?
If I hadn’t been so excited about the film in advance I probably wouldn't have cared too much, but for these reasons for me, Prometheus was the most disappointing film of 2012.
27 Dec 2012