It wasn’t dire but it did have some serious problems. Hold on to your pants; here we go.
Here are the two main problems with Prometheus, in my view:
1) Some have said that people were expecting Prometheus to be another Alien film and they were disappointed that it turned out to be something else. For me, though, it was, if anything, too SIMILAR to the Alien films. It set out to be something very different but ended up being quite similar to the first Alien in many ways. Non-military crew find a seemingly deserted vessel, they unwittingly bring an alien thing aboard, people are killed off in ones and twos, there’s an android with a secret agenda, blah blah blah. Fine, but too Alien for a film that wanted to be something else.
2) The ENTIRE cast of characters is composed of poorly written (often barely written at all), one-note, forgettable, irrelevant, reckless, unlikeable asshats.
Let’s take a quick look.
Two cowardly scientists. That’s all they were, really. I don’t know their names, they were just those two cowardly scientists. Loud, rude geologist and whimpering biologist. Aside from the fact that their one character trait (one trait between them, I might add) is that they’re scared while everyone else is curious, what are they doing there? The geologist himself points out that he’s not needed if they were never interested in rocks, and the biologist… Well, when they find the very first actual genuine alien corpse in human history, his reaction is “yeah, I’ll just leave now. Obviously you wouldn’t benefit from a biologist when looking at this new biological discovery. I also have no professional interest in it. I just want cake.” I’m paraphrasing. Morons and non-characters. Fuck off.
The betting twins. You know, the two guys who have that bet. That is their ONLY character trait (again, one between two). When it comes to their noble sacrifice, the film even has to remind us that we’ve seen them before by once again bringing up their irrelevant wager because it’s ALL THEY ARE. Fuck off.
Chance. Or was it Chase? The one the captain calls to whenever he needs something. Yep, that’s his character right there. Captain’s minion. I don’t think he ever says more than “yep”. Fuck off.
The captain himself is probably the only believable character, but a sad waste of Idris Elba. He’s basically just a guy doing a job. I suppose it’s a credit to Elba’s performance that what could have come off as a cliched “I’m just here for the paycheck” douchebag instead seems more like a normal working joe who happens to be in the wrong place and doesn’t really know what to do about it. Not a good character but at least convincing. Well, except for his token moment of idiocy, leaving the bridge completely unattended to slope off for sudden and implausible sex with The Woman. So close, but fuck off.
Speaking of The Woman, she’s just a blank. The only reason I remember her name is Vickers is because I know a Vickers myself. She’s just…nothing. She’s like the Icy Commander except she’s not in command. She’s like the Secretive Company Agent except she’s actually repeatedly cold shouldered by the real Secretive Company Agent. She could have been the Asshole Who Comes Through but she doesn’t come through. My point isn’t that those would be good characters, but that she isn’t a character at all. The one thing she does of note is kill Charlie, which scores her a point for putting me out of my misery but doesn’t really make much sense. Not a bad decision really, but a little extreme and irrational for someone who hitherto has been just a person-shaped block of balsa wood. Oh, and she’s Weyland’s daughter? So what? It’s thrown in as an aside, was sufficiently foreshadowed for me to see it coming, and had no impact on anything at all. Fuck off.
Which leaves us with the three main characters and Misc. All the Misc. characters don’t even get a single personality trait, they’re just bodies. During that cargo bay brawl there were more crew killed than I had realised were even aboard. The blandest of redshirts. Fuck off.
So the mains then:
David. Pretty well performed, and suitably ambiguous. He was obviously up to something and his “how humanlike am I really?” stuff was a bit limp, but he was ok. Satisfactory.
The Believer. I don’t remember her name. You know, the woman who was a true believer about the whole alien creation myth thing, who made stupid decision after stupid decision. Yeah, just bag up the head and bring it along, possible contagion be damned. Yeah, dash out into the fatal storm (which was mysteriously non-fatal after all) to grab the head. Yeah, just crack open that helmet and revive the head with some electricity. Tests first? Protective measures? Nah, what do you think we are, scientists? Oh and yes, you just go ahead and ignore sensible medical advice in order to instead have the alien parasite forcibly removed from your body. I know David had an agenda but I think “we’ll freeze you and take you to a proper medical facility to remove it” is actually a pretty solid plan. Nah, she’d rather concuss all of the medical staff then order a computer to perform a different procedure than the one she needs, all while time continues to pass and the parasite continues to grow. What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t even start me on her weird mixed-faith, pseudo-science cultish obsession. Fuck off.
Which brings us to Charlie. He started off bland but fine, briefing the crew about their discoveries. Just some guy. Then the instant they reached the surface he became a spectacular fuckhead. Rip off your life-saving helmet to breathe the air. Yes, they said it’s breathable but it’s AN ALIEN PLANET. No sense of self-preservation? But he wasn’t as moronic as The Believer, he was just completely unlikeable. He drank heavily for no reason, he taunted David for no reason, he was completely disinterested when they opened the head, he ignored that infection of his eye and just went about his business, plus he and The Believer had no believeable relationship at all. They felt like strangers. It seemed as though Charlie was meant to be the Charismatic Maverick but it didn’t work. I don’t like Charismatic Mavericks in films anyway. They’re usually reckless and dangerous but are lauded as heroes through the rule of cool. At least they usually have a reason though. Doing reckless things because they need to be done or you believe they’re morally right or they might save lives is justifiable. But Charlie was just a dick for no reason. Like when he took off his helmet while everyone still had sensible reservations about the air. What did he gain by it? Nothing. Nothing was achieved. When Charlie’s death was imminent I welcomed it, and not in the way that it can be satisfying to see a well-written asshole get his comeuppance. I welcomed Charlie’s death because it meant I wouldn’t have to put up with him anymore. He was persistently annoying and completely pointless. Fuck. Right. Off.