On my second viewing of Prometheus (2012), which I reviewed last week, I realized what was happening–both on a macro level and in the details of the film’s story. To my infinite shame, I didn’t fully understand so many of the movie’s big (though trite-bordering) lines, like “Big things have small beginnings” and “Sometimes to create, you must destroy.” Now I’ve got a better idea of what they implied. One of the last lines in the movie, “Why did they want to kill us? Why did they change their minds?” requires some serious back-tracking to make sense of–recall these engineers were dead for 2000 years when it takes (at most) two to get to Earth. I’m pretty good with plot, but I feel almost intelligent for making that connection. Though, in my defense, this movie takes the “Show-don’t-tell” maxim to the Beckett end of the spectrum.
What Scott had said about the movie, and perhaps why he was so reticent to call it a “prequel,” is that it was in the same universe as the Alien films. On the second viewing, the prequel nonsense is killed off and gestating in your mind is the idea that this is the beginning of something bigger. It’s like the first Star Wars (1977) movie, but more distinctly Wagnerian in it’s mythological tone. How’s that for a loaded description?
Unlike Star Wars, however, I got the impression that questions unanswered were deliberately asked (and unanswered). “It does leave you with some nice open questions” is an understatement. David’s actions account for most of these vagaries. Really, the next movie should be called Prometheus Part II because the unanswered questions are so pronounced. “un-AN-surd KWES-chuns.” If there is a second part to this story and it is put together with the same skill, then this will be something very special. I’d go so far as to call it the peak of the sci-fi genre. Without the second half, it’s a failed project.
While it does stand alone in a structural sense (if sets the goal of the protagonists and comes to a kind of resolution), it is, at best, awesome in retrospect. It’s a bit like the Harry Potter books in that earlier books in the series are made better when understood within the whole arc. But each Harry Potter book undeniably stands on its own (with the possible exception of The Half-Blood Prince). How they can go about answering the major questions without being painfully conversational, I have no idea.
All that said, the pacing of the movie is imperfect. It’s great, but imperfect. It could be considerably enhanced by an extended version.