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?