Review: Prometheus

I know nearly every review for the film will make mention of this so I’m going to get it out of the way at the start – Prometheus sees Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to sci-fi, a genre where he made such stone-cold classics as Alien and Blade Runner. Can Prometheus possibly live up to such a lofty billing, or will it be fanboy crushing damp squib like a certain Phantom Menace? Read on and find out.

Prometheus is a prequel of sorts to the Alien franchise, existing within the same universe. But whereas Alien was essentially a ghost house in space (a bunch of spacetruckers dealing with a sneaky, vicious, near-invunerable extraterrestrial), Prometheus has much grander themes – Two young archeologists, Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover ancient pictograms depicting a distant star system that they believe hosts the very creators of life on Earth. Aided by the suspiciously helpful Weyland Industries, who supply a state-of-the-art exploratory vessel called Prometheus, they head out into deep space to find the makers of the human race and get the answer to the ultimate question – Why are we here?

Prometheus was supposed to herald the return of the intelligent sci-fi blockbuster, and in many ways it does. The film is jam-packed with grand themes and ideas. The problem is that the writers, James Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, take a scattershot approach with these ideas, shooting them off willy-nilly and seeing what, if anything, sticks. Instead of one or two great thoughts and theories, we have five or six okay ones. It feels diluted. Adding to these woes is the dialogue, which is exposition heavy and dullsville to the extreme. I dare you to watch this and be able remember an interesting and quotable line at the end of the film. Trust me, you won’t be able to.

The single best thing about Prometheus is Michael Fassbender’s David, an android put aboard the ship to assist the crew. He gives an eery and convincing performance in which you’re never quite sure of his intentions. And, considering he’s a robot, he’s the most developed and well-rounded character in the film (which bodes well for Scott’s sequel to Blade Runner). In the film’s one of the very few meaningful moments, we catch David watching Lawrence Of Arabia, and mimicking Peter O’Toole, quoting the film and even dying his hair a similar colour. The scene hints at what could have been.

I don’t want to have to compare Prometheus to Alien all the time (it’s lazy, and thematically they are very different films), but it must be done. Nostromo’s crew may have been gruff surly lot, but they were relatable. Their moaning about pay, getting home, and petty annoyances, is the down to earth stuff that drew us in. The crew of the Prometheus on the other hand are afforded no such opportunities, falling into forgettable stereotypes and existing solely to further the plot or die as gruesomely as possible.

Prometheus has a wonderfully talented cast, but they are spunked away disappointingly. Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers just hovers around, uttering the occasional menacing line and appears to be in the film solely for a shockingly obvious and inconsequential reveal. Idris Elba’s Janek comes closest to Nostromo’s crew as the hard-drinking, womanising, accordion-playing captain of Prometheus. Noomi Rapace’s Shaw is given most of the film’s heavier baggage to carry but little time in which to express it, so her reactions often feel cartoonish and rushed. Indeed, it’s nearly two-thirds in before Noomi is given a proper chance to act as she experiences a deeply unsettling procedure, which facilitates a change to her becoming a stronger, more Ripley-like character.

Scott retains his power to give us a fright – there are some wonderfully nasty moments, but they are few and far between and hampered by rushed/forced set-ups and weak pay-offs – and you can never fault his eye. Prometheus is beautiful to look at. His first film in 3D, it doesn’t distract in the slightest. The ship is slick and clean, the sets epic and grandiose, and certain Giger-inspired designs still have the power to wow. The positives are massively outweighed by the negatives, though. The film is flat, with no emotional involvement whatsoever. Any drama seems to be wasted away in the awkward back and forths between the ship and alien ‘temple’, as if the makers didn’t know where they wanted the action to take place. By the time things start exploding at the end and you get the inevitable hint at the sequel(s), you realise you simply don’t care.

Prometheus IS a film that leaves you asking questions – but not the ones it intended. A flawed script puts paid to that as you desperately search for reason and logic in the nonsensical actions of its characters. Of course, there are none, and ultimately this leads to frustration and disappointment.

Prometheus is out in the UK now and in the US on the 8th July.

More Reviews:

The Grey

Iron Sky

The Avengers (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble)

Ghost Rider – Spirit Of Vengeance

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Drive

Haywire

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Melancholia

Coriolanus

Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Tron

The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Hackers

WarGames

Super 8

The Parallax View

Cowboys And Aliens

Swamp Thing

X-Men First Class

The Human Centipede

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

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One Response to “Review: Prometheus”

  1. I think the main problem with the film was it’s lacked of mystery.

    Okay, there were a few confusing elements like zombie Fifield but in the original film(s) we were always second guessing what everything meant. In fact, in Alien hardly any questions we had were answered. One example was the ‘space jockey’ – which is the whole reason this film exists.

    Sadly though, in Prometheus we are constantly shown something intriguing or un-predictable to then have one crew member explain it to another. Was the conversation about weapons of mass destruction between Janek & Shaw really needed? Did we need to hear Shaw tell us exactly what she was going to do with the other ship? Did we really need the opening scene?

    For me, although enjoyable, this film didn’t feel like an Alien film to me – But then again, maybe that was the point!

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