The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Why I loved Prometheus

with 51 comments

Judging from the first reactions to Prometheus I think the PR people did their job a little too well.

There was no way this film was going to meet the expectations those cool trailers and gorgeous posters and viral campaign built up, and exceeding it was out of the question.

Even before I’d read a single review or watched the movie, I was certain a lot of people would react with disappointment. They demanded a new classic, something to immediately bring into the Pantheon of films to be admired, not to say worshipped by film lovers eternally.

What they got was a very good science fiction movie, it was hardly something you easily would label “masterpiece” or “groundbreaking”.

Let the haters feel miserable and cheated. Let them boil in their own stew. I went in with moderate expectations and an open mind and left with a feeling of satisfaction. But then I’m a science fiction fan, not to say geek. To be honest I think it helps quite a bit.

What I got
I don’t usually go into a science fiction movie expecting to penetrate the existential depths like in a Bergman movie, to enjoy smart conversations like in an Allen film or to ponder over socio-psychological dynamics as with Leigh. I don’t expect characters to be multidimensional or develop over time.

  • I went to Prometheus to explore some strange new worlds, which is as near as I’ll ever come my childhood dream of becoming a space traveler.
  • I went to face truly alien aliens, made with all the effort and skill that the special effects department of today can offer.
  • I went to see big things blow up in a big way because it gives perspective on the severity of my malfunctioning washing machine.
  • I went to tickle my imagination and get a reminder about all those questions I used to ask back in the days before my life was invaded by trivial adult issues: Why? From Where? Where to? Who else? and What if….?
  • Remembering my heroine from the previous Alien films, I also hoped to once again get to see a leading female character who wasn’t there to be a sexy and vulnerable piece of decoration, but who also was capable to take care of herself and other people.

I got all of that and more, including a couple of surprises. I particularly loved the performance of Michael Fassbender as an android and a bad-ass scene with Noomi Rapace which I don’t want to spoil, but you’ll know it when you see it and you won’t forget anytime soon.

It was every bit as spectacular to watch as I possibly could have hoped for. Big, boisterous and unapologetic.

The flaws
And now, before anyone else will bring up the flaws, I’ll do it myself. Because: yes, the film isn’t perfect.

For instance they have hired Guy Pearce, born 1967, for a role where he’s supposed to be about a hundred years old. So they have to put on a ton of make-up, but make-up only can take you so far. It looks like the mask it is and I just don’t understand why they casted him in the first place. Why not just hire an actor in the right age?

But the biggest problems have to do with the script or the cutting. All of a sudden a character appears out of nowhere. Last time you saw him he was as good as dead in an entire different place and you have no idea of how or why he moved. There are glitches, not to say big holes, which makes me suspect that they film was way too long and the rough cutting lead to that entire scenes were removed. Perhaps an extended future version can make it run a bit smoother.

On a few occasions I cringed when I heard people saying things that were unnatural and uncalled for, with the only purpose to inform us about things we already had figured out on our own. Very clumsy exposition.

But there were also examples of the opposite: some parts remained obscure to me. For instance I still don’t know the meaning of the visually gorgeous opening scene and how it fit together with the rest. (I’m pretty sure though that clever people will explain everything on blogs and forums in the months to come and whatever mystery that remains after that will be explained in the sequel.)

A choice
I won’t dwell further on the problems, because there are more than enough of people out there who can point them out. It’s the same with all movies: if you just look close enough, you’ll find plenty.

Eventually the choice is yours. Either you can go to Prometheus, expecting a new Alien classic and become disappointed when it doesn’t deliver that. Or you can go there with an open mind, suspending your disbelief and enjoy the ride of what I think eventually will be the best science fiction movie of 2012.

Finally the eternal question: should you watch it in 3D or 2D? Well, the 3D doesn’t add anything as far as I can tell, but it doesn’t take away anything either. Unlike in the case of John Carter I didn’t notice it and wasn’t annoyed. There is no ugly and distracting viewmaster effect and the characters didn’t look like paper dolls.

In my opinion what matters most is the size of the screen and sadly it seems as if the theatres are doing everything to favor 3D. Given the choice between 3D in a huge cinema and 2D in a shoe box sized cinema, I went for 3D in a big cinema and I recommend you do the same.

Big is beautiful.

Prometheus (Ridley Scott, US, 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Prometheus

51 Responses

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  1. Just got home from seeing it. I agree on the 4 star rating and I whole heartily agree on everything you said. I was expecting more, I was expecting the epic-ness of the first Alien movie. Sure, Prometheus is a very good movie but sadly it didn’t reach that epic level. Which is a pity because all them trailers, ads and spots really hyped me up so much.

    I was expecting more gore, more fear. I might have grown up way too much perhaps? The first alien movie was filled with so much suspense that you jumped at any sudden noise. I think Prometheus is solid, just lacks that scary factor. But I think I really like the story and I am very curious about that opening scene as well!

    • Expectations is the evil, isn’t it? I mean, both you and I think this is a solid four star movie and yet we focus so much on what kept it from being a five star one…. How much easier wouldn’t it all have been if this had been a stand-alone movie without the ties to film history!

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 7:33 am

  2. I don’t think I want to be the first to respond Jessica but it seems I must. For a start, I agree on your mention of the marketing campaign. I actually think the secrecy involved before this film’s release has went against it dramatically. If the filmgoing public didn’t expect such big things, I don’t think the level of disappointment would be as big. Also, without the secrecy Scott could just have released a film and that was that. I dont understand the hype involved. As a piece of escapism, it works entirely but when the expectations take over, it leads to an audience reading too deeply. I was guilty of this and as a result, nit-picked every small detail that didn’t make sense. I tried my best to avoid reading reviews and I never once watched the trailer when it was released on the Internet. Yet, I still couldn’t give this film my full approval. Why did Scott blatantly claim it wasnt a prequel, when it so obviously is? Why Jessica. Please tell me why? ;-)

    Mark Walker

    June 4, 2012 at 1:23 am

    • Added to which and in defence… That opening scene was spectacular. I haven’t worked it all out yet but I don’t care about that part. It looked so good, it was probably the best part if the film for me.

      Mark Walker

      June 4, 2012 at 1:27 am

    • I don’t know Mark. Perhaps he wasn’t entirely pleased with it either and wanted to put a bit of distance between this one and the classics? But in vain.

      And yes, I loved the opening, either I fully got it or not. There’s so much of visually stunning parts in this film that I’m really looking forward to the sequel, which I hope will come, to get more of it.

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 7:38 am

  3. I’ve heard decent things about the movie, the issue is, hype rarely lives up to the product. At least in my understanding, I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the cinema expecting a great movie. Though I have gone to the cinema expecting a bad movie (every video game movie ever created.) Generally even the greatest movies have a lot of flaws too, but it’s what they can make you feel or experience that matters.

    Also, you need to go check out my site, it got a new paint job, I’d love to get your opinion.

    • Oh Holly, I’m definitely going to check up on that! You’ve been a bit of an irregular poster in the past so I don’t visit as much as I should. Thanks for the nod!

      It’s a pity this film was so hyped and the PR campaign certainly didn’t make it any less.

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 7:35 am

  4. [...] Bra film, Captain Charismas filmblogg, Syndare i filmparadiset, Toppraffel, Viktor Jerner och The Velvet Café. [...]

    PROMETHEUS

    June 4, 2012 at 7:59 am

  5. I am happy you enjoyed it Jessica, I was very underwhlemed when I saw it friday at the IMAX, although I thought it was stunning I just found it all too much. Under developed characters didn’t help.

    I will buy it on Blu-ray as it will be an excellent disc to showcase but otherwise I was disappointed

    • I think Henke put it very well in his comment below: I loved the film experience more than the movie itself, if you get the difference. For all its flaws it worked for me, for which I’m very grateful. Not everyone out there is as fortunate.

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 9:05 am

  6. Nice piece, Jessica. You have written a valiant defence of the film experience, not so much the movie itself. And maybe that is how it should be. I really liked the film, I don’t love it – yet, and I gave it a 4/5 which is slightly stronger on my scale than yours.

    However I found it flawed also. I feel like many of the flaws are connected to editing, and hopefully there will be a director’s cut released in the future. One of the biggest dissapointments is the lack of the super suspense that Alien had, as Alyssa is talking about above.

    I succeeded to avoid almost all trailers and viral campaigns. One of the best that I found after I saw the film could be this TED Talk.

    Henke

    June 4, 2012 at 8:46 am

    • Yeah, I think you’re spot on: it’s the experience I like so much, regardless if the film is flawed. I haven’t avoided all campaign material rigorously, but that was one that I never saw. Time to check it up!

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 9:05 am

      • Oh bonkers, I misspelled Julyssas name! Sorry, sorry, Julyssa! Where is the edit button? :-(

        Henke

        June 4, 2012 at 9:16 am

  7. Great post. Yours is actually the first one I read that actually loved the movie, so it’s nice to hear the other side. I loved this: “I went to see big things blow up in a big way because it gives perspective on the severity of my malfunctioning washing machine”.

    fernandorafael

    June 4, 2012 at 9:24 am

    • Thanks! I hope you’ll like it too. Just try to not go in there expecting a new classic. Enjoy the ride for what it is.

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

  8. Planning to go see it tomorrow, so have not read your review, but since I have not seen the trailers at all I hope I will be very surprised by what will happen.

    Nostra

    June 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

    • Good on you for staying away from all information so far! Finally your patience will be rewarded. I hope!

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 9:32 am

  9. Oooh you’ve seen this already?? Glad it meets your expectations, Jessica. I am very curious about this one and right now it’s sort of ‘critics proof’ in that I don’t care what the critics say, I’m gonna find out for myself :D

    ruth

    June 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    • Yes, for a change we were a week early in Europe. Usually it’s the other way round. This week I’m going to see Take Shelter, which came out about half a year ago or so… Make yourself as untouchable as you can to the critics and make up your own mind. I’m looking forward to see what you make of it!

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm

  10. I didn’t read this review – I’m off to see this on the weekend, and don’t want it spoiled! Glad you liked it, though! Will return soon with my thoughts!

    Rodney

    June 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    • Then I just hope you’ll enjoy it. See you back later!

      Jessica

      June 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

  11. Two friends in the office have seen this, and both are highly recommending it. Whether I will have a chance to see it in the cinema is very much an open question (baby is now overdue).

    I do think your point about expectations is a very good one though. Certainly I would never expect a film like Alien. I also don’t understand it on another. If one goes into the cinema always comparing the film you are watching to its illustrious forebear you are doing both films a dis-service surely. Firstly the film you are watching – you are not really watching it, rather you are comparing it. It is a comparison the film you are watching will almost certainly lose next to the emotional investment in the illustrious predecessor. Better to watch it for what it is, and go from there.

    The illustrious predecessor also gets cheated though, for no film is flawless no matter how often we remember that way. We put them onto pristine pedestals which do not fit. Spectacles can be rose-tinted, but, borrowing (and no doubt misremembering) a line from my favourite science fiction author, greatness happens through imperfection, the imperfection is part of the triumph of greatness.

    stnylan

    June 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    • Thank you for your very thoughtful and well formulated comment!

      That line is great. I tried to google it but couldn’t find it. Who is the maker of it?

      And best of luck with your upcoming baby adventure! I will look out for updates on your blog.

      Jessica

      June 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      • It is from a Lois McMaster Bujold novel, I *think* Brothers in Arms. I will see if I can’t dig up the actual quote. Come to think of it, it may be the sentiment of a short dialogue.

        stnylan

        June 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

        • Shame on me. I’ve never heard of him. I probably should. My sci-fi literature reading is lacking considering I still label myself a fan.

          Jessica

          June 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm

          • Her actually :) I must confess I totally forgot to check this last night, will try to remember tonight :)

            stnylan

            June 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm

  12. There were indeed sky high expectations, so I’m glad I’ve learnt, as you have, to lower mine accordingly. I gave Prometheus 7.6 in my monthly reviews. Worked very well in terms of suspense I think. Seems I’m in the minority of bloggers who actually liked the ambitious script. Only time will tell if Prometheus is a future classic ( :

    Chris

    June 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    • Well, I didn’t think the script was that bad. As you say it’s ambiotious and there’s a lot to like about it. It was just annoying with those beauty spots, which must have been some sort of late panic measures to cut down the running time.

      Jessica

      June 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm

  13. I had a very good experience too! Although I really like the Quadrilogy, Prometheus did not become a cinematic holy grail for me and thus I managed to enjoy it thoroughly. I also concur with most of your points, positive as well as negative.

    Sofia

    June 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    • Congratulations! You seem to have approached it from a good angle.

      Jessica

      June 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm

  14. Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed the spectable and the setup but thought the plot was all over the place, the ickiness felt shoehorned in rather than because it was an organic part of the plot, and there were a lot of good actors wasted on the material. Now I haven’t actually seen any of the other Alien/s films so maybe I missed the callouts, but I don’t think it did stand that well on its own. Sometimes I think less is more with plot, we need time to see characters react to events rather than just throwing more and more trauma at them. It makes me want to go and rewatch scifi films I do rate highly such as 2001 and Pitch Black, where they took the pace a bit better imo.

    Idris Elba was totally awesome though, I loved his scene with Charlize Theron.

    spinks

    June 5, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    • Actually what I really wish is that they hadn’t bothered with the Aliens and had given us a thoughtful film about AI and the relationships between David, and his ‘family’ because that would be been awesome.

      spinks

      June 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      • You’re onto something there. I really loved David’s part in it and I couldn’t refrain from thinking about what if he has some plans there… building a bridge from Blade Runner to Alien perhaps? Blade Runner is one of my favorites, not just favorite sci-fi movie but favorite movie altogether btw.

        I haven’t seen Pitch Black. You think I should? You on the other hand really need to catch up on the Alien franchise! :)

        Jessica

        June 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

        • Ooh! That’s a nice thought that. “A bridge between Blade Runner and Alien”. Now that, I’d be happy to see. Blade Runner is not only my favourite Sci-Fi but one of my all time faves of any genre.

          Mark Walker

          June 5, 2012 at 11:42 pm

        • My beloved was shocked that I hadn’t seen Alien yet either. My excuse is that I don’t like horror films, but have agreed to watch it sometime this week, since we have it on DVD :) I liked Pitch Black, it’s a low budget tense scifi thriller that ‘does what it says on the tin’ (ie. it’s well executed) — not one of those must-see films but I liked it. Have you seen District 9, btw?

          spinks

          June 6, 2012 at 8:57 am

          • Nope, I haven’t seen that either. Need to do that. My next scifi will be Gattaca, which I haven’t watched either. I just got hold of a DVD.

            Jessica

            June 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

            • Oh I do look forward to your take on Gattaca – I loved it :)

              stnylan

              June 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        • Pitch Black is super awesome! Can’t believe you haven’t seen it!

          The LAMB (@LambThe)

          June 10, 2012 at 12:34 am

          • You have no idea how many glaring gaps there are in my film education! I’m working on it though. Movie by movie, day by day.

            Jessica

            June 10, 2012 at 12:58 am

  15. Wholeheartedly agree on the rating. The expectations for Prometheus are absolutely epic. Yes, it could never quite live up to those expectations. But we’ve got an intelligent sci-fi film that gave me a pause for thought at the end. I can’t remember the last time a space set sci-fi film has given me that.

    Jaina

    June 6, 2012 at 11:01 am

    • Ouch, here’s a comment I’ve missed to respond to, so sorry for the late reply. I agree completely with you that we’re starved for intelligent science fiction. The ones that come out are mostly low budget films and while low budget sci fi can be very very good, it’s nice to get a film once in a while where they haven’t had to leave out anything that requires massive special effects.

      Jessica

      June 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm

  16. [...] as general ranting”. She has thoughts up already for “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Prometheus” (Grrrr for getting to see “Moonrise Kingdom” already, LOL) if you want to check them [...]

  17. [...] Jessica over at The Velvet Cafe had moderate expectations: “What [we] got was a very good science fiction movie, it was hardly something you easily would… [...]

  18. Great post! I adored the movie and despite the criticism for it I loved the script – so many refrences, parallels and hints. Fassbender was absolutely sensational as David and it was wonderful to see Rapace in a role that finally used her talent, unlike in Game of Shadows.

    sati

    June 10, 2012 at 12:08 am

    • So glad to hear you loved it too! I’ve just spent a night going through all the flaws together with a bunch of Swedish film bloggers. But for all the flaws we spotted, most of us still loved it. I consider watching it a second time in a theatre.

      Jessica

      June 10, 2012 at 1:01 am

  19. Jessica,

    I would like to invite you to our blog- http://www.xsmarkthespot.sqaurespace.com. My co-writer (and ex-wife!) posted a detailed article from a female perspective on this film, and to be truly honest, came up with ideas and thoughts that had never ocurred to me. I was hoping you might find the time to read her article and comment on it. We would both appreciate your imput!

    I will be posting my review on Prometheus in the next couple of days. I had to see it a second time to have a more critical perspective before I wrote anything on it. My fist viewing was just such an eyeful of images that I needed to take a breath.

    As always, we really enjoy your blog. And good luck on the LAMMIE nomination!

    Karl Kaefer

    June 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    • Karl, I’d be delighted to check it out. I subscribe for your blog but I must have been doing something wrong since your posts never turn up in my reader, which is where I primarily read new blog posts. I’m glad you’re giving me a heads-up.

      While we don’t always agree, you share my love for science fiction and I really like to see your take on things.

      And thank you for your nice words and good wishes!

      Jessica

      June 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm

  20. [...] of DreamThe Velvet CaféA Swede Talks MoviesFilm IntelSobriety Test Movie ReviewsMovies Hate You TooThe Smoking PenFr. [...]

  21. I really enjoyed the movie.

    And like you, I especially liked the androids’ role. It’s what brings up most questions to me. What are his motivations to put a drop of poison in his glass? Why did he want to put Noomi in the freezer? To make sure that the evil corporation can keep the monster?

    And really, is there any point in trying to find out the motivation or ethics of David? The simplest solution is that he’s programmed to do so.

    carrandas

    September 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

  22. [...] 8. Prometheus I got to explore strange new worlds, I saw truly alien aliens, I watched big things blow up in a big way and I gave my imagination a good tickle. That’s all I the sci-fi geek inside me asks for. [...]


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