Prometheus (2012) – directed by Ridley Scott
Finally, Prometheus has landed. My anticipation of this film has been, at times, fever pitched. A loose prequel to one of my all time favourite scifi films, Alien. Was I destined to be disappointed? Surely, nothing could come close to the original Alien. I was about to embark on a discovery to see if the poisonous fangs of Hollywood had sucked the life out of this genre. All I could do as the trailers for Batman, Spiderman, and James Bond rolled on was to try and forget Scott’s original film and take this on face value. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t manage it.
Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner), written by Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts, Prometheus concerns the ill fated crew of the titular space ship. The crew, put together by magnate Peter Weyland, is sent off on a trillion dollar expedition to explore the origins of mankind. The speculative “origins” are based on archaeological evidence discovered by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). It really is quite a far fetched premise and there was plenty to discredit the situation that the crew found themselves in … but this is a science fiction, blockbuster, hollywood styled film so I just ran with it. Prometheus inconclusively asks some pretty big questions. Somehow, evolution and creation are simultaneously treated as fact but interestingly neither are portrayed in a positive light, and this film leaves as many questions as it answers.
Right from the get go I will state quite categorically and unequivocally that this film is nothing like Alien. There is the odd nod to Alien, both in style and narrative, however, the film shares just as much with Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey, or Cameron’s Avatar. To be fair, Scott did say the similarities with his original Alien are only in the DNA. He was bang on. Its narrative, pace, tone, and themes go in entirely different directions. They are more grand. Where Alien safely contains itself within a narrative bubble about space truckers who investigate an SOS signal, and thematically explores the monstrous feminine, Prometheus attempts to take a gigantic bite from the biggest question of them all. Who are we and where do we come from?
Prometheus falls down in so many areas. The score was uninspiring, distracting, and unnecessary. I found the script to be clunky in places, with some questionable and inconsistent character motivations. Weyland seriously needs to have a long hard look at his HR department. Some of the muppets hired for this “trillion dollar” expedition were laughable, the lack of professionalism … well let’s just say that it was a leap too far. While there is a suspension of disbelief that must be adhered to in a scifi film, Scott uncomfortably flirts with it in an inconsistent manner. In parts Prometheus felt like it was pandering to the Hollywood execs with some scenes that felt a little tacked on to broaden its audience.
Now I have dispensed with the negatives, I can mention some of the good things. Scott is the master of effortlessly carrying you along for the ride. I was caught up in the story despite its visions of grandeur. It is a very entertaining film laced with some very interesting and colourful characters. Notably good acting from the ever reliable Michael Fassbender, who plays with impeccable clarity, the Peter O’Toole styled android named David. Fassbender’s performance is perhaps the only one that lives up to the stellar performances of Weaver, Hurt, Holm, Dean Stanton, from the original Alien. Although Charlize Theron’s cold “bitch” like Vickers, and Idris Elba’s laid back captain deserve mentions.
It’s so difficult not to compare this film with Alien. My hat off to you if you can (and you’re better off for it), but unfortunately I couldn’t. It has the same pedigree but somehow it’s mutated into an entirely different breed. Perhaps this is intentional. If so, then Prometheus is just too self-aware for its own good. You can’t deny that Ridley Scott, in his attempt to create a grand opera, has ultimately created a really entertaining film. But that is all it will be. There is no awe … that was left on Alien’s Nostromo. Now I ask myself; do I need to be concerned for Scott’s intended sequel to Blade Runner?
Just watched this last night in 3D (harumph) with some buddies who like this sort of thing.
I came away with near perforated eardrums as the sound volume was set so high that you couldn’t help but flinch when the alien tentacle smacks against the window she’s peering through – the synched combination of the sound effect, music score and the visual impact was like having a Howitzer aimed at your face.
I don’t really get off on this genre and this screening helped reaffirm that opinion. These characters go off on an ill conceived (expensive) mission, wander naively into some dangerous situation and seem surprised when their blasé attitude quickly turns to terror when they encounter something alien (what exactly were they expecting). They escape with barely their lives intact and then decide to return that situation a couple more times with no more plan other than to grab a flamethrower. My suspension of disbelief is not very willing at this stage; to me the obvious plan is to gtf outta there. For this reason I would categorise this movie as horror rather than sci-fi – dumb characters who never learn, constantly wandering into places only an idiot would go with big snake-like objects phallically going down their throats
Plus that old guy (Guy Pearce?) looks like his makeup was done with a Halloween kit from a $2 shop.
That said, it has made an impression on my memory and, like Alien, I’m glad I saw it for historical purposes.
Yep you’ve pretty much summed up most of negatives that are floating out there on the Internet about Prometheus. That and the inability to run sideways when an object is rolling towards you. Prometheus, for me, is nothing more than a popcorn flick. I quite enjoyed it but as you suggest there is just too much to discredit it. Although a lot more has been made from its religious overtones, all these are derailed by its ludicrous character motivations.
My major concern is that it is often compared to Alien (a masterpiece in my opinion and an entirely different kind of film). I really do think that Ridley Scott has sold out … he’s alluded to it himself. I, like yourself, am not mad on the sci-fi genre and I noticed that the ones I like tend to be stories that have a certain sense of reality or believability to them. In a sense they could be transposed into the real world. Or otherwise could be considered psychological dramas rather than sci-fi. You mentioned before Duncan Jones’ Moon, which I think is an exceptional film especially for a debut feature. Others that come to mind are Children of Men (a must see), Gatica, Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, Cronenberg’s Existenze, and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (which gets a little “out there” towards the end). I’ve got a soft spot for District 9 as well. Any of these tickle your fancy?
(Ha ha yes why didn’t she quickly run to the side like when an elephant charges you). Yes they may tickle my fancy – thanks. For me a truly good sci fi movie needs to have some wonder about it e.g. 2001.