Prometheus (2012)

If you're like most people who have seen Prometheus, you're likely wondering why I'm talking about it on a blog devoted to Christmas. Actually, if you're like most people who saw the movie, you're probably more interested in when you're going to get the two hours you wasted watching it back. Well, I can't help with the second question, but I can shed some light on the first:

I'm talking about Prometheus here because it's a Christmas movie. No, really. The crew of the ship wake from cryo-sleep a few days before Christmas. One of them sets up a Christmas tree. There's some subtle Christmas music in at least one scene. The sole survivor flies away on New Years Day.

Oh, and the movie is about Christmas.

That last statement is 100% true and at least twice as meaningless. This is because Prometheus is about a lot of things. It's about faith as it pertains to God and the concept of God as it doesn't pertain to faith. It's about sacrifice; death from life and life from death. It's about childbirth and the act of creation. It's about the drive for answers and the search for truth.

And, on some level, it's about a once-brilliant director obsessing over a bunch of first-year comparative religion questions, sticking them in a blender and hitting puree (this is what the black goo* was supposed to represent).

More specifically, the movie focuses heavily on the nativity story. In fact, Prometheus can be described as a re-imagining of the nativity story in space. Only this time Jesus is an alien starfish-squid monster which dies to give birth to a weird proto-xenomorph. Other than those tweaks, the story is pretty much unchanged.

While we're describing Prometheus as things, I'd like to add boring, badly written, and childish. And, (sigh) also beautifully shot. He might not be able to tell a compelling story anymore, but Ridley Scott is still able to handle atmosphere and design.

Where were we? Oh yeah, the miraculous birth of the alien monstrosity that occurs on Christmas. Actually, I might want to adjust my earlier description of this as a re-imagining. It's actually more of a sequel. You see, all of this is kind of intended to tie back to Jesus. Only, in this version, his origin has been retconned to make him one of the space giants. It's a notable twist, though I think the retcons Prometheus imposes on the original Alien are actually more extreme.

The movie doesn't come out and say any of that stuff about Jesus being one of the giants, but it's surprisingly thorough about implying it. I should add this interpretation started as a theory on the internet, but has since pretty much been confirmed. The movie basically lays out the elements: something happened about 2000 years ago that caused the "engineers" to want to destroy humanity, but they were mostly killed off by... something... before they could. That "something" is strongly implied to be xenomorphic in nature, but the movie provides frustratingly few details, nor does it explain the connection between the death of Jesus and the catastrophe that hits the aliens.

The real problem with Prometheus isn't that the background isn't properly explained, though. It's easy to mock the Jesus aspects, but they don't really hurt the film. The real issues are much more mundane: the vast majority of the movie simply isn't that interesting to watch, the dialogue is badly written, and the character motivations are outright silly.

Yeah, there are some great sets, and some of the action sequences - when we actually get to them - are fairly solid. But these moments are the exceptions. The vast majority of the movie is a tedious exercise in vague theological statements and philosophical musing. There aren't many reasons to bother sitting through this one.

*Not to be confused with the black goo from X-Files which was created by a different alien race which also bio-engineered humanity.