10 Screenwriting Lessons You Can Learn From Prometheus

Welcome to a new series of articles we’re running here at WhatCulture, prior to a new section of the site…

T.J. Barnard

Editorial Team

Prometheus

Welcome to a new series of articles we’re running here at WhatCulture, prior to a new section of the site that will be opening up soon – one which will focus entirely on the subject of screenwriting.

Last week, I looked at screenwriting lessons we could take from The Dark Knight Rises. This week, it’s Ridley Scott’s sci-fi blockbuster Prometheus.

Back when the first trailer for Prometheus was unveiled online, most of us probably thought we were staring right into the big, beautiful eyes of a full-fledged sci-fi masterpiece. The movie contained within the frames of the trailer appeared to show something rich, dazzling, mind-blowing and perhaps even out of time. And it was Ridley Scott, going back to his roots with a huge, space-based blockbuster, one which starred Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba and…

Alas, it was not to be. It’s probably safe to say that most of us found ourselves largely disappointed come release day: Prometheus wasn’t quite the sci-fi masterpiece we were all expecting, was it? Saying that, if you happen to be one of the very few people in this day and age who can watch a movie without any preconceptions, then you likely found Prometheus to be an enjoyable, visually-stunning blockbuster – one which was absolutely worth the price of admission.

Visually arresting as Prometheus was, though, there was absolutely no way that anybody possessing even a passing interest in either movies or the screenwriting process could get past its bizarre and mis-guided screenplay, as penned by John Spaithis (The Darkest Hour) and later re-written (to its death) by Damon Lindelof (Lost). Confusing, convoluted, ambiguous in all the wrong ways, ridden with plot holes, it reeks of compromise, rushed scheduling, and a surprising lack of polish.

For most sci-fi aficionados, the biggest disappoint came with the obvious shunning of the “harder” sci-fi elements that made movies like Alien feel intricate and fully-realised. This, accompanied with the fact that Prometheus would forcibly removed you from the experience time and time again thanks to a cast of highly questionable characters, made it near-impossible for audiences to suspend their disbelief.

These fundamental flaws go all the way back to the script process, of course, and here I’d like to take a look at Prometheus and see which screenwriting lessons we can wrench from it…