Posted: June 5, 2012 in Film reviews

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender.

Well  the incessant trailing and in your face ad campaign that’s been promoting Prometheus for more than six months does at least now make a bit of sense. They perhaps wanted to ensure they could get as many people through the door as possible before word of mouth revealed that, whilst no disaster, this isn’t a classic.

It’s the late 21st Century and Dr Elizabeth Shaw and her lover have persuaded billionaire Peter Wayland (Guy Pearce) to finance a mission to a remote star, the location of which has been displayed within multiple cave paintings and carvings throughout history.

Shaw believes the planet orbiting the star will prove to be the home of an alien race she calls ‘Engineers’, a species she believes created man.

Upon landing the crew of Prometheus discover an underground citadel, along with the decapitated body of an alien creature and a room full of vases containing a murky liquid… Whilst investigating further the crew of the Prometheus discover that the Engineers weren’t what they’d hoped, and that some within their own number have their own agenda that will put them all, and perhaps the entire human race, in jeopardy.

Ok, first the good. The film is gorgeous to look at, and Scott makes good use of some very different looking terrain to create the image of an alien world. Similarly the engineers look wonderful. Cast wise Fassbender again shows why he’s a major star, portraying the android David flawlessly—it takes real acting chops to present us with a character who can embody both child like wonder, and creepy emotionless at the same time.

The first half of the film is interesting, as the crew explore the curious alien world they’ve discovered, although at times its hard to discern just where the film is going. As the film moves towards its conclusion however, minor flaws become major ones, like tiny cracks widening into major chasms.

For starters the pacing is too fast. Obviously Prometheus is a product of it’s time, and patience isn’t a virtue these days, but it’s a shame more time isn’t spent building tension. In Alien it took Dallas, Lambert and Kane an age to trudge through the storm to find the crashed alien ship. In Prometheus the ship simply lands right next to the underground citadel and everyone bundles straight out and inside and seem to find everything far too quickly.

Later in the film a section featuring Rapace goes from her being sedated, to beating up some other crewmembers, to rushing across the ship, to finding her way into a medical scanner in order to…well you’ll need to wait and see. The problem isn’t the sequence of events, it’s the ADHD way it’s presented (although actually there are major problems with the sequence, specifically with everything she’s able to do afterwards).

It’s like they can’t wait to tell the story, and in many ways the franchise entry it’s most reminiscent of in this respect is the first Aliens Vs. Predator film, which actually had some interesting ideas, but quickly dispensed them in a rush to get from A to Z, not realising that sometimes what separates a good film from a great one is the rest of the alphabet in between, the pauses between the action. Alien is a great film because of this, as is Aliens, and whilst it’s flawed, Alien 3 again is a film that rewards patience.

I mention the other Alien films because clearly this is a prequel, even if not one in the strictest sense, and another problem is the overwhelming number of alien life forms/lifecycles going on in this film. I always hated the opening five minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, not because River Phoenix didn’t make for a great young Indy, but because they tried to shoehorn in every aspect of the man he’d become into that tiny fragment of his life. Explaining the hat, the whip and his hatred of snakes. It just felt false.

Prometheus does likewise with the Aliens. Showing us where different elements of their physiology likely originated, but whilst interesting, it also at times makes the film feel a little like fan fiction, with too much effort being given to shoehorning in things that don’t add anything to the film, and sadly demystifying the Aliens in the process.

This need to jam as much as possible into the film means some interesting ideas aren’t given nearly enough time to breathe, whilst sledgehammer exposition is too often the order of the day; witness as a character’s infertility is mentioned mere minutes before this becomes an important plot point, or how various elements early in the film are referenced so obviously they might as well have had a bit neon sign overhead saying THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER!

Character wise it’s hard to identify a stand out other than Fassbender. Rapace is just plain annoying, whilst Theron does her best with a character that’s sadly just too one dimensional,  Idris Elba is good value as Prometheus’s captain, but he isn’t utilised nearly enough, and might as well have been behind a glass screen saying ‘in case of needing a heroic captain please break glass.’  Guy Pearce…well he’s a favourite actor of mine but why Scott felt the need to cast him rather than just an old man I couldn’t say. As for the rest, aside from Logan Marshall-Green as Shaw’s lover, they’re a pretty anonymous and disposable bunch, and there are just too many of them (although the two pilots have an interesting running gag).

Scott is a good director, and a lot of time’s been put into world building here, it’s just a shame the script doesn’t match the scope of the idea. This isn’t the mess Resurrection was, but unfortunately it’s no Alien either…

  1. […] but beautiful gliding through the heavens. Three years ago Ridley Scott went back into space and it wasn’t a rip-roaring success, but what we can learn from comparing Prometheus with The Martian is this, when Scott has a decent […]

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