The recent DVD/Blu-Ray release of Prometheus has revived a lot of the disappointment that followed the film’s cinematic release in June. People watching it for the first time feel let down, while most of those re-visiting it see no need to alter their original opinion – some critics, like Nigel Floyd, have even hardened in their stance that the film is bad, whether over-hyped or not.
I haven’t yet seen Prometheus at home, but I did see it twice in quick succession at the cinema – quick enough, indeed, to grant me a perspective which may have eluded those who waited longer to re-watch the film.
I should stress that – initially – I shared everyone’s disappointment, so I’m not really defending Prometheus’s shortcomings. If a film seems simultaneously jumbled and over-simplistic on first viewing, then it’s failed to do its job, regardless of any post hoc revisionism. But by seeing it again so soon after my first viewing, I knew exactly where the flaws were – the knotty plotting, the unexplained events – and actively looked for solutions.
And they they were. In fact, I found, the whole thing hangs together pretty well, as long as you pay attention and are happy to fill in the odd gap.
The question then is: why did I – and countless others – struggle the first time around? Were we just being lazy?
Well, yes and no. Yes, there may have been complacency among audiences, but no – it wasn’t our fault. Because what’s really fascinating is how quickly Prometheus gained a reputation for explaining too much, and rightly so. Certain parts of the plot – mostly the ‘big ideas’ – were flagged up so early, clumsily and prosaically that the screenplay itself set expectations to snore. Rather than being alerted to stay sharp, audiences were lulled into thinking everything would be explained for them. If anything, however, the balance of exposition needed reversing: the big themes given less exposition (they permeate the story by default), and the creepy little details highlighted more.
The film isn’t bad. It’s just self-defeating. When you actually assemble the myriad elements of the plot – which, I stress again, requires far nerdier attention-to-detail than it should (see right and here) – you’re left with a fascinating set of questions which, potentially, lays the foundations for a really good prequel series.
And that, in the end, is the truth about Prometheus. It is just a start. What follows next is key. If Lost-writer Damon Lindelof can shed his reputation for failing to answer his own questions, and show us that the
buried meticulous detail in Prometheus is more than mere ornamentation, the hype might yet be justified.