Anghus Houvouras discusses the most disappointing films of all time; first up is Ridley Scott’s Prometheus…
With all the discussion created around the most disappointing films of all time, I thought it was time to delve into a regular discussion on the topic. If I learned anything from the first two articles [see here and here], it’s that people have a very different idea about what constitutes ‘disappointment’. For me, disappointment is a film not just living up to expectations, but ultimately failing to deliver on its promise.
So much of that promise is wrapped up in potential. Most of the films that made the two previous lists were sequels to properties and franchises that had achieved something special. When they tried to replicate that success, the results were anything but. Lofty expectations are the precusor to crushing dissapoinment. When a film has been elevated to such a height that its flaming descent and fiery impact feel that much more painful. That sentence seems to describe Prometheus rather well. Expectations are what turned a well intentioned misfire into an absolute wreck.
Obviously, we were expecting better. Ridley Scott revisiting the Alien universe for the first time in decades. The man who crafted one of the most exceptional pieces of cinema. Equal parts horror, thriller, and science fiction. There are few films that hold up as well as the original Alien. Once the word got out that Ridley Scott would be taking the helm on an Alien prequel, the bar was already set to a ridiculous height. Expectations were now through the roof.
Prometheus is a shipwreck of a film. Apologists be damned. It’s just bad. Truly wretched cinema that deserves very little consideration. An interesting premise taken nowhere by writer Damon Lindeloff. A cast of the most idiotic characters ever committed to film. Plot twists that make little sense. And it’s cardinal sin: giving no resolution to any of the many questions it raises. It’s like a maze without an exit. You keep going deeper and deeper but you never get anything other than lost.
The characters aboard the Prometheus are truly too stupid to live. This is an expression I love to bandy about when talking about horror films. You have a cast of characters in a terrifying situation who wind up getting picked off one at a time. In order to facilitate their demise, the filmmakers usually drop the IQ of the characters about 40 points. This is fine if you’re making a film about drunk teenagers partying at a cabin in the woods who are about to be dispatched by a shady drifter. When your characters are scientists, turning them into stupid meat bags feels a little convenient. When a horseshoe shaped ship is falling down and the characters run vertically instead of horizontally, perhaps you deserve to die horribly.
So much about Prometheus is just bad. Painstakingly bad. The kind of bad you’d expect to find in a Resident Evil film. Not something from a talent like Ridley Scott. There’s an absence of logic that permeates Prometheus. Even if you can forgive bad science and shoddy logic, you really can’t forgive the complete abandonment of common sense. When characters do things that completely defy basic fundamental sense. The map guy gets lost. The biologist runs from corpses of aliens which he was brought to study. The aliens who leave a map on earth to a planet that is basically their secret weapons facility. Why would you leave a map of that lying around?
The laundry list of questions Prometheus poses is so long that even diving into it feels daunting. My favorite take on the subject is from the ever entertaining cast of malcontents over at Red Letter Media:
Trying to find coherency in Prometheus is like trying to find a penny in a dumpster full of broken glass. And that’s what is soul crushingly disappointing about the film. It’s not just that the film isn’t really all that satisfying. Lots of films miss the mark. It’s because the film misses the mark so wildly, which is mind boggling given the talent involved. It squandered every opportunity to give fans the kind of smart science fiction film so many had been craving. I think that’s why there are a very vocal minority of people seem to give Prometheus a pass, in spite of every obvious idiotic aspect of the film. Everybody wanted to like Prometheus. I think most fans would like one more good movie set in the Alien universe, but it seems like a Herculean task. If Ridley Scott can’t deliver a decent Alien movie, what hope does anyone else have?
The truth is Prometheus is a monster disappointment. A bad movie in a really nice coat of polish. A dumb movie posing as something smart. A film with an amazing pedigree of talent that end up making something pedestrian. Prometheus is truly one of the most disappointing films of all time.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the graphic novel EXE: Executable File, is available from Lulu.com.