Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Damon Lindelof, Jon Spaihts
Starring: Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Patrick Wilson, Sean Harris
(15) Running time: 124 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Damon Lindelof, Jon Spaihts
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
(Warning! Spoilers ahead!)
To write a review of Prometheus is going to very difficult without giving away at least a few plot points, so I apologise for that now, but seriously there is a lot to get through here. You will probably benefit from already seeing the film before reading this since the film is SO incredibly complex, and there is a lot to talk about. First and foremost, I have to say that Prometheus will no doubt be the best sci-fi film of the year: however it is doubtful it will be the best horror. Prometheus is a magnificent achievement by director Ridley Scott, and even after thirty years away from the genre he so masterfully became King of with Alien and Blade Runner, Scott has proved here he has not lost his touch. You will recognise all the little details from the hypersleep chambers to the food served at breakfast, and Scott has used his earlier designs and given them a fresh overhaul. Make no mistake, the look, design; the incredibly epic scale of Prometheus is simply dazzling. This is a BIG movie, and to fully appreciate it, it needs to be seen on the biggest, loudest screen you can find. Prometheus will quite literally take your breath away from the gorgeous opening shots of an empty land and it’s waterfall, to the frantic, thrilling finale. All the visuals are matched with superb music, and for the most part, the film is very close to perfect.
The main issues people are going to have here is comparing the film to Alien, and if you go in with that in mind, you WILL be disappointed: Prometheus is NOT Alien, Scott never officially said it was a prequel, and instead Prometheus wants to explore new worlds, worlds which cross reference with Alien in a clever way. Prometheus is about something bigger than Alien was, this is about the creation of life itself, and those niggling questions in the back of everyone’s minds: just where the Hell do we come from? These questions have been playing on Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway’s (Marshall-Green) minds forever, and being scientists, they want answers. Markings on a cave on the Isle of Skye in Scotland finally bring them clues, and three years later they are in space, aboard the Prometheus on course to land where they believe our creators came from. Weyland Industries are funding the expedition, and have put the tough talking Meredith Vickers (Theron) in charge to over-see what happens, although you will begin to distrust her as she is a cold hearted individual at times. Janek (Elba) is the ship’s Captain, and brings the machoism in everything he does, and I mean this in a good way, and the rest of the crew are made up of about fourteen pretty much non-existent characters. The main talking point in the characters is really Michael Fassbender as the android David.
Fassbender continues to deliver on his acting skills, and here as an android his skills are truly tested, and perfected. It can’t be easy acting with no emotion, but Fassbender pulls it off in a terrific performance. At times he can be quite sinister too, even a little frightening as his curiosity and thirst for knowledge gets the better of him. He has an agenda, and like all good robots, he must stick to it. Oscar’s await Fassbender, let me tell you, for he truly mesmerizes here and manages to out act everyone else while doing his best to remain emotionless. The only person who gives him a run for his money is Noomi Rapace as Shaw, a character who is sadly being compared to Sigourney Weaver’s classic Ripley persona, and Shaw is anything but. She is a fragile, emotional scientist who is gentle, caring and sadly is forced into a dramatic situation which asks for her to become stronger than she ever thought she could be. Believe me when I say Rapace has never had to put herself through so much trauma since the Millennium Trilogy. Theron, Elba and Marhsall-Green all deliver performances worthy of being lead characters, but the rest of the crew sadly just fade into the background, and when the shit well and truly hits the fan, you won’t even care who dies, and this is a major major flaw in a science fiction movie, especially one based in space where characterisation is one of the main focuses. Just look at all the classic space horrors: Alien, Aliens, Event Horizon, Sunshine and many more, you HAVE to have strong characters since you have such a limited number of people on screen, and if the audience looses their connection with them, your film is fucked! Thankfully Prometheus pulls off a few choice characters, but sadly it is not enough, and this is one of the biggest problems with the film.
Saying that though, the striking visuals will simply take your breath away, and Scott has well and truly embraced 3D. The special effects are absolutely flawless, and Scott welcomes you into his world to the point you really do feel like you are there. There are many big range scope shots of giant landscapes, space itself, the planet the Prometheus is heading for, there is no end to Scott’s vision, and not many directors could have pulled off such an amazing and dazzling display of gobsmacking brilliance. It is the sheer scope of Prometheus that makes it very hard to dislike, and when the film does get to its bad points, it is quickly forgotten by the next big spectacle. However, I feel it is the scope and epicness which may have diluted what could, and should have been a terrifying film. See, I really do not want to compare to Alien, but that film was simple, claustrophobic and filled with nail biting tension; Prometheus isn’t. Yes there are scares, and yes it does get intense, but I feel Scott’s imagination ran wild here and he forgot the basic principles of terror. There are moments which show off the director’s incredible skills for menace, and at Scott’s age, the fact he can still make a film as good as this he should be applauded, but maybe he should have thought before announcing he intends to “scare the shit out of you”.
Prometheus is more a deep, very very deep look at mankind and where we may have come from. The film also very cleverly makes a point of how man’s interference and curiosity can often be his downfall. Yes, the film does lead on to the events of Alien in a roundabout way, but here it is shown that had we not needed answers, had we not been so damned curious, and had we just left things alone, the events in Alien may never have happened. The crew disturb something here, and it is the crew’s interference in the atmosphere that sets off a chain of events that could not be undone. It also turns out our makers are violent bastards who like to play God. They create, and they can destroy, just like that, as witnessed in the opening scenes, yet for some reason they change their minds when it comes to Earth, even though (as in most films that look at creation and the like) they can clearly see the errors of their ways with the way the human race behaves. Our creators in this film do not get a proper in depth look as to why they may have turned on us, but you can pretty much guess. I will not go into details, but it is one of the many un-answered questions here, and here lays the films other downfall. The narrative is all over the place, and yes the first hour is an incredible build up of tension and information that will have your brain working into over-drive and your concentration totally fixed, but as the film leads into its final forty odd minutes, it kept losing me. Plot devices come and go and it almost felt like Scott and his writers just could not decide what to do with them and to be honest the final forty minutes are a bit of a mess. It is thrilling, don’t get me wrong, but the film doesn’t flow comfortably as it should, and then it felt like there were far too many endings, with the final shot crying out for a “to be continued…” tagline.
There are moments of greatness here, and shocking moments too, and moments of pure genius, but these are mixed with questionable, sometimes even lazy writing which sadly let the film down. Why would the Captain almost laugh about two of his crew being stuck in an alien tomb, how does Shaw manage to run around after a particularly nasty operation, what exactly was David up to with his motives (they do make sense, but why), and how come everything, good or bad, neatly slots together? How come the Space Jockey’s/Engineers, have recorded certain events, and why, if they are so technologically advanced, are their holographic recordings to badly projected? I feel I am simply being picky here, and I shouldn’t, but after such a brilliant build up, I left the cinema feeling a bit lost.
Usually after a great film I would leave on a high, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit let down here, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. The film is incredible, it really is, it is an amazing achievement, but it left far too many unanswered questions, and for a film as important as this, I cannot find any reason for the at times lazy writing and poor characters. My analysis is that Scott had far too much to say, had too many ideas and his ambition and desperation to do his Alien film justice got the better of him. However, Prometheus is a dazzling thrill ride, and superior piece of science fiction that will not be matched until the inevitable sequel. Scott has done himself proud, he has done his fans proud, and he has done Alien proud and on face value Prometheus is one of the best of its kind, far better than Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, the film has nicely opened up a whole new universe of things to discover, and I want to join Scott in discovering them. Prometheus is stunning, amazing, dazzling and incredibly thrilling and almost delivers exactly what you were hoping for. It is when you begin to pick apart the film that you will notice the flaws, but then again not many films are flawless. A great film, although with some problems, but nothing that can’t be rectified by the next big spectacle on the screen. Prometheus is far from perfect, and is not quite the terrifying experience I was hoping for, but it is a damn good film and one that will stand the test of time very well. It is no Alien, but then Scott never said it would be, this is Prometheus, a whole new world, a whole new adventure and a damned fine film. Cheers Mr Scott, I have enjoyed the ride.