By now, you’ve probably heard about Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi epic, Prometheus, and possibly even seen it. Hopefully, you have not based your enjoyment of the film on what critics are saying. Although there are several who have embraced Prometheus, flaws and all (Roger Ebert, The Guardian, HuffPo, The New Yorker, Screen Rant, and David Chen from /Film), there seems to be an overwhelming majority who are trashing every aspect of the movie.
I’ll be honest. I do feel sad for people who didn’t like Prometheus. This is because I have this idealistic desire that the things that make me happy will make other people happy, too. Not because I think my tastes are superior, but because I believe in the power of art to uplift us—yes, even art that is made manifest in a fairly terrifying, rather gory, and somewhat bleak quasi-horror science fiction film like Prometheus. (Keep those words in mind: SCIENCE FICTION.) If I didn’t want to share the happiness that movies, music, and other artistic pursuits bring to me, I wouldn’t have started this website.
While I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I also feel a bit of pity for the people who didn’t like Prometheus, especially those who went in expecting one thing and got something else. I’ve been through that before and been frustrated myself.
Perhaps most shamefully of all, I feel a more than a little angry when I read the overtly hateful, snarky, and dismissive comments from those who didn’t get Prometheus. Not because they aren’t smart people (although undoubtedly there are some not-smart people who hated it) but because they seem to want a movie to explain everything or at least make complete, unambiguous sense within the two hours they’re in the theater.
Some of these people don’t like to think in movies; they prefer somewhat mindless entertainment. Some of these people, however, do like movies that make them think, but maybe they weren’t expecting Prometheus to be as complex and confounding as say, Inception. That probably makes me sadder than the hate brigade.
I don’t expect everyone, much less my fellow movie critics and writers, to agree with me that Prometheus is an amazing and wonderful film. But I do expect some measure of civility (or at least logic) when they disagree. It is possible to dislike a movie without making fun of it. Though that can be cathartic, the descent into negativity I’ve noticed with Prometheus reviews is troubling, especially when it feels very much like some reviewers hated Prometheus before they even saw the movie. (This is a general trend in pop culture writing, particularly on the Internet, which I find disheartening.)
But here’s the thing: It’s easy to hate a movie outright and let a few flaws get in the way of the good parts. It’s harder to provide a thoughtful critique that calls out a movie’s flaws without calling people out individually and berating them, or placing all of the blame for the movie’s “failure” on one specific person. And still holding grudges over a television show that ended two years ago.
I’m not going to link to any of these reviews out of respect and a little bit of spite, I suppose. They’re easy enough to find for those who want to read them. You writers know who you are and I daresay, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Is Prometheus a perfect movie? No. Is any movie a perfect movie? Maybe a handful. But this isn’t actually about whether or not Prometheus is a perfect movie or even a good one, it’s about being a critic, not an executioner.
Bloody Disgusting’s June 1 review, a full week before Prometheus premiered in North America, was eerily (and depressingly) prescient:
It’s extremely high concept in a way that it will alienate half the audience, while the other half will snarkily approach it with the “I’ve already read about this” mindset. In short, I expect harsh criticism.
I also wholeheartedly agree with their accurate, yet non-confrontational chastising of those contributing to Prometheus‘s inevitable critical backlash:
Without giving anything away—which is extremely difficult—the ideas presented are quite anti-Hollywood. What I mean by this is that Hollywood (executives, filmmakers) likes stories to be told in formula and to be overbearingly clear. Prometheus is anti-Hollywood in the sense that Scott and co. tell the story the way they want to tell it without any care as to whether or not theater patrons will understand. It sticks firm and will gladly take criticism.
We are all constantly screaming for originality in film; that’s what was delivered.
The site has been amazing in its candid, yet balanced, coverage and analysis of Prometheus, including multiple reviews, discussions on The Art Of Prometheus book and viral campaign, and a link to an incredibly impressive and lengthy analysis of the symbolism and themes in the film from a LiveJournal user named cavalorn. (Please note all of these links include spoiler-heavy content.)
You might feel like you shouldn’t have to read all of these auxiliary materials to love, appreciate, or even “get” Prometheus. And that’s fine, too, but to dismiss the film out of hand as brainless, confusing, or lacking in ideas is unfair. It cannot simultaneously be too complicated and dull. (I’d also like to mention that scientists aren’t infallible and that if they didn’t make “dumb” mistakes in movies, we’d have an awful lot of pitifully short movies around.)
There are plenty of people who saw Prometheus and thought about it and thought about it some more and looked up stuff on the Internet or in books and figured out things about it that perhaps weren’t clear during those two hours in the theater. Some of these people aren’t even movie critics (gasp!), but perhaps they should be.