What makes a movie terrible? There are three major elements in play: script, acting, and production. Plan 9 from Outer Space, noted as the worst movie ever, had defects in all three (though its ineptitude is often found charming). Low production values won’t derail a good story. Bad acting might, but movies with good effects and a decent plot can still provide solid entertainment. But if a movie has an execrable plot, a $130 million dollar budget and stellar actors won’t save it.
Prometheus is a well-funded gore and goo fest that flirts with (rather, dry humps) themes such as: one generation or species replacing another, faith versus despair, and the rights to life of parasites. It has pretty, capable actors who commit fully to the nonsense. And it is dreck. To wit:
3 to 4 billion years ago, a white giant diluted himself with black toxin and destroyed himself, seeding primordial soup with his DNA and giving rise to the human race. 30 thousand years ago, more giants visited the humans and taught them how to draw pictures of a star system. 2 thousand years ago, on a moon of one planet of that star system, giants created a species of malevolent worm, intending to send it to earth to kill all of the humans. When the worm turned against its maker, one of the giants was left in biostasis, with none of his kind able to rescue him, despite their technological mastery. In 77 years humans will visit that moon, finding the worms intended for them. The humans will possess a robot that will infect a man with wormness; the man will thereby impregnate his girlfriend with a worm-human hybrid (she aborts it with a nifty surgery machine). The robot’s motivations for this act are recondite. Those two humans came to the moon because they wished to meet the giants, whom they assumed (without proof) to have created humans. The rest of the crew came for personal or financial reasons. The robot and the crew figure out giants’ plan to send the worms to earth. The captain of the ship destroys the surviving giant’s vessel (he’s out of biostasis and headed to earth). The robot then helps the impregnated woman to find the other giants, without telling her what he did. Also, the aborted human-worm hybrid face rapes the giant and creates the monster from the Alien movies.
Sometimes a script is just bad; sometimes an idea is savaged by production notes and plot meeting clusterf*cks. Viewers will probably never know the genesis of this cinematic failure, just as Elizabeth Shaw (the sole human survivor) will probably never get a satisfying response from the white giants. What would they say, anyway? We told your ancestors about this star system so you’d come someday, but we didn’t start working on your welcome party until tens of thousands of years later (we got impatient and decided to send it to you). We were going to get you some balloons but a biologically engineered death sentence seemed the way to go. Did you like it?