"You will never come up against a greater adversary than your own potential, my young friend."
-Star Trek, Next Generation, as said to Wesley Crusher.
Prometheus opened this weekend-- which, I should point out, I did not go see-- to at best lightly-praising reviews. Most of the reviews have been poor to mediocre. This is in contrast to the strong levels of buzz and expectations that had been built up over the past months. I was excited by the trailers, but not to the point of "THIS is going to be the movie of the year" or such. I was, frankly, surprised by the expectations raised, at least to the level of hype I saw. Where did this excitement come from? How was it earned in the first place?
I think it mostly comes down to the idea of Ridley Scott returning to the "Alien" universe. There had been five cinematic follow-ups to his 1979 masterpiece, of course, and only one of those was really any good. Despite that, the Alien franchise has a strong fanbase, who have been waiting for a work worthy of their devotion. So I think part of the hype came from the idea that he'd be bringing his unique vision and touch back to the Alien franchise. And from what I've heard, this movie did not really deliver.
So, where did this hope and hype come from? Was it the idea of Ridley Scott?
I'd like to present the theory that the idea of Ridley Scott does not live up to the reality. He is a director whose expected potential doesn't match what is actually delivered.
I'll put this out first: of Mr. Scott's 20 feature length films, how many are truly great pieces of cinema? Worthy of giving him the title of "Legendary director Ridley Scott", putting him on a similar tier of "name" directors as Spielberg, Hitchcock, Allen, Scorsese (a tier that I believe many cinephiles place him on)? I would argue that, at most, four of his films might belong on a list of enduring greats: Alien, Blade Runner*, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator. And that last one is questionable.** He has several other movies that are solid, but relatively unmemorable. But most notable on his resume are movies that had high expectations-- or at least strong buzz and hype-- which were not met: Legend, 1492, Hannibal, GI Jane, Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood, and now Prometheus (at least in initial judgments). And several of those are, I should note, ambitious failures, which might be why he's given such high regard.
And maybe that's almost enough to give hope that the potential will pay off the expectations.
*- Frankly, I don't care for Blade Runner at all. In any iteration. But many give it high regard, so I'll include it.
**- It did win Best Picture, so someone out there would probably defend it as an enduring classic. That someone would not be me.