Monday, June 11, 2012

Plot Structure


This post is about the plot of Prometheus, the new movie released this weekend. If you haven't seen the movie, you may not want to read this post just yet. 

When Bad Plot Structure Happens to a Good Movie Series

My hubby and I went to see the new Ridley Scott film, Prometheus. We are both BIG fans of Ridley Scott and we both enjoyed the Alien movies (the first and second films, anyway).


The plot of the movie was not very good. Why was it not very good?

It lacked a solid plot structure.

Three Act Structure

Most movies released from Hollywood or any movie studio typically follow the Three Act Structure.

They follow this structure because it's been tested and it works. It works rather well, actually.

But every once in awhile I sit and watch a film that does not follow this structure and I am usually very disappointed in the film.

And this is what happened with the much anticipated film, Prometheus.

The film is supposedly the prequel to the first of the Alien movies. However, there seems to be two plots going on at the same time and neither plot is any good or well developed, for that matter. 

What Went Wrong

So, the audience is led to believe that the story is about a group of space explorers searching for the origins of life. They discover an archaeological find that links to other archaeological finds and therefore justifies the spending of a trillion dollars to go and explore in outer space for this "alien species" out there somewhere. 

This leads our protagonists to a mysterious moon, a mysterious underground civilization, and a mysterious hologram that shows a desperate attempt by the inhabitants to escape from something that is chasing them. What is that something chasing them? Your guess is as good as mine since we are never told. 

Okay. Interesting enough.

But then the second story begins and that is one of the mysterious "goo" that seems to contain very dangerous DNA of a strange alien species that can overtake a living organism and kill it rather instantly. Is this the origin of the Alien creatures from the 1979 movie we all love??

I'm not sure because there is no explanation or allusion to the "perfect organism" we were introduced to in the original Alien film.

Darn!  That's what I was hoping for.

Who is the antagonist? This guy here? The mysterious "goo"? The old guy?? There
are too many to choose from or care about...

One Big Mess

Because the film has two stories going on at the same time, there is no solid plot structure. There are two pivot points early on...then some minor points throughout...then another big pivot point that isn't very captivating...then a very GROSS surgical scene that is improbable if not impossible to believe could ever happen...and on and on and on.

When I gaze at my watch several times during a movie, that's not a good sign. I am bored and can't wait for the movie to end. I gazed at my watch several times during this movie. 


The Crisis point of the film happens and you think you know where it's going, but then it takes yet another turn that is a let down until it reaches the Climax scene and then, the resolution.

But because there are two stories going on at the same time, the Crisis and Climax scenes do not leave the viewer satisfied. They leave you very unsatisfied. 

The mystery of the goo is never completely resolved. And frankly, I left not caring much about it.

We were really hoping for a prequel to Alien. Instead, Prometheus
doesn't deserve to even been spoken in the same sentence as this great sci-fi classic.

The Importance of Good Plot Structure

So, in the end this movie is a big glob of a mess that could have been so good, so well structured, had it been written by screenwriters who didn't want to tell two stories at the same time.

We were introduced to protagonists we didn't care about, given too many antagonists to care about, and a plot structure that had more holes than the Titanic.

All in all, what I learned from watching Prometheus, is how important it is to follow a solid plot structure. Don't try to tell so many stories at the same time. Give your audience solid characters to care about. And give us a fantastic antagonist to fear.

The first Alien movie did all this. I cared about each character. I rooted for them all. I was scared to death of the antagonist...the Alien and "The Company" at the same time...and the setting. Well, the setting goes down into Hollywood history as one of the best sci-fi settings of all time.

Needless to say, we were very disappointed in Prometheus. It is with a saddened heart that I write that I cannot recommend it. We had been looking forward to seeing this film for many months.

At least I learned something from it! A take away is always a good thing.

Your Turn:  Did you see Prometheus this weekend? What did you think?



  1. Haven't seen it and didn't plan to, but that's mostly because it looked too scary. :P But this comes from the one that doesn't want to see JAWS, so...

    Glad you learned something from it, even if it was a let down.

    1. Yeah, it is always important to try and learn something from a mess like this. At least we can take comfort in that sometimes even the professionals don't get it right!

      Ha ha!

    2. Oh and it looks scary in the previews...but it wasn't scary at all. Another disappointment! :(

  2. I didn't read the post because we're going to see it and I don't want any spoilers! :) But after I watch it, I'll come back and put my two cents in!

  3. Sounds good, Jessica! I look forward to your comments...

  4. Hi Ruth! First of all, thanks bunches for stopping by my blog the other day!

    Okay, so, I think you may have just saved me from seeing a movie I would've come out of cringing. Thank you, thank you. I know there are people who talk about plot structure as if its contrived or formulaic, but your disappointment in the movie is proof of why we NEED good structure! Great post!

    1. My pleasure, Melissa! Glad I saved you from spending too much money on a mediocre movie. Wait to rent it! It's worth a couple of bucks and will look fine on a flat screen TV at home. Ha ha!

      Yes, a good plot structure would have made this movie much, much better.

      Too bad for us! :(

      Thanks for visiting