Film Review: Prometheus (Director: Ridley Scott)
Scott Free Productions / Brandywine Productions / 20th Century Fox
When people hear the name Ridley Scott they try to think of the acclaimed producer’s better films of old such as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), and Black Hawk Down (2001) rather than his not-so-good recent releases like Robin Hood (2010). After the colossal failure of Robin Hood it seemed the world had seen the last of one of the best Sci-Fi directors the world has seen so when it was announced Scott was returning to the coveted “Alien” universe to redeem himself people naturally got hyped.
Scott and his crew spent an entire year teasing audiences about what his new film “Prometheus” would actually be about. Steadily the details came out, the film would be set in the same timeline as “Alien” and “Aliens” and would serve as a prequel to the two films. The film would answer pressing questions that fans had discussed for decades; Where did the “Space Jockey” come from? What was the “Space Jockey”? How did the ‘Alien’ race of “Xenomorphs” come to be? Why was the “Space Jockey” ship crash landed on LV-426? All this would be set straight with “Prometheus”.
Is “Prometheus” really the Sci-Fi epic that people were hyping themselves up for? Almost. It is an exceptional film but it has a number of problems that hold it back from being truly excellent. To begin with I will give a quick rundown of the plot.
The story starts with a landscape establishing shot of a distant world where numerous spacecraft are taking off while one single humanoid ‘Engineer’ sacrifices himself by consuming an omious black substance that proceeds to desintergrate him, bizarre opening to be sure. The story then flashes over to the Isle of Skye, Scotland, where Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a cave painting pointing mankind to a star system where the two scientists believe they may find their makers. Another flash forward shows the exploration spacecraft “Prometheus” en-route to the discovered planet. Here we are introduced to the crew of the ship; a motley collection of scientists, an android, and an unpleasant punk-wannabe (wonder who dies first?). There is also Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the corporate interest of Weyland Utani Corp (who are funding the expedition) who accompanies the crew to oversee the company interest – great things to come from her right? After a briefing from Shaw and Holloway to the crew the ship sets down on the planet after spotting a strange structure on the planet supposed to be barren. The eager crew sets out to explore the structure, desperate for the answers they came so far for. During their incursion into the structure the team discovers what they had hoped for; evidence of a race of ‘Engineers’ that may well have created humanity as we know it. However something far more disturbing and dangerous than any of them had expected is lurking in the facility… It seems humanity was not the only thing they created…
I will not spoil anything more than that plot-wise, you will need to see the film yourself or look it up on Wikipedia to get the full plot details but rest assured and despite all that Ridley Scott has said… THIS FILM SETS UP THE REST OF THE ALIEN SERIES. Now I will go into the good and the bad of the film. Prometheus features some fairly decent characters, some that are just amazing to see on the screen and some that just feel… flat in comparison. The best character in the film without a doubt is “David” (Michael Fassbender), David is an artificial human being known as a ‘Synthetic’ but unlike his creators, has trouble conveying actual human emotion despite. This gives him an extremely creepy and unsettling demeanor that results in some really awkward but enthralling scenes between himself and the crew. David’s motivations are plain and simple: Serve the crew and ensure ‘The Mission’ is completed. Despite his inability to convey emotions of his own David truly does understand the emotions of others and is able to use this to his advantage, I will not spoil what happens but it is brilliant how cold and calculating he can really be at times. Fassbender absolutely nails this character with a performance I’m sure people will remember come Oscar season.
The problems arise whenever Fassbender is not on the screen or when Ridley Scott lets his imagination wander too far. David aside, character motivation and development is all over the place and many times I found myself lost for a moment thinking ‘Hang on, why is he doing that…?’ ‘What does that mean? Did I miss something?’. The way the story develops is also a slight problem as some plot developments either come out of nowhere as a form of Deus Ex Machina or are so far-fetched they might as well be as such. There is also a massive problem with the pacing of the film and some edits could have been done a bit better, one such scene involves some horrific things going on inside the alien structure which abruptly ends as we switch to a light hearted conversation back on the Prometheus, it’s just weird. Maybe it is me just nit-picking too much about that but I strongly suspect there is going to be a LOT of additional footage to fill in these gaps with the DVD release of this film.
Prometheus gets a number of things right and some things very right. One of them is the lingering sense of horror that I feel partially comes from the foreboding feeling throughout the narrative. You do get more from the story if you are savvy with “Alien” and “Aliens” because if you are… you know where this story will eventually end up, you just want to see how it gets there. The horror and tension also comes from the scenes of physical bodily horror of which there are many, some scenes will stay with audiences long after the credits roll for sure. The film raises some good points and some pressing philosophical questions when the plot is on-track. It just feels like a mish-mash of ideas when it isn’t and that hurts it quite a bit. The set designs of the film are absolutely staggering to behold, from the rooms and facilities of the Prometheus itself to the sinister looking halls of the Engineer complex – It really is something to marvel at. The set designs themselves provide references and nods to the Alien series. A perceptive viewer will notice the resemblance between the Engineer complex and a Xenomorph hive right away and the resemblance between the Prometheus and the Sulaco (Alien) is too blatant to miss.
The film really is a hard sell, fans of the series so far will lap it up and will certainly appreciate it more than those that are not fans of the series. I’m not saying that non-fans will get nothing out of Prometheus, it still has it’s own story to follow – it just tastes better if you have had the other courses (Alien/Aliens) beforehand. If you go into this expecting masses of Sci-Fi gun battles with burly space marines kicking some ass then you should not be going into it at all, It’s not that kind of film.
Overall the film has it’s flaws, It’s certainly not the masterpiece that everyone was praying for but it’s not a bad film by any means. If you can get around the at-time bonkers plot and the pacing issues you should have a blast with it.
This film really deserves two scores,
Alien/Alien’s/Sci-Fi Fan: 8/10
Until next time’