Review: Prometheus

With a quite spectacular prologue that adds even more mystery to the plethora of questions already raised since the announcement of Ridley Scott’s long awaited re-entry into sci-fi, hopes for Prometheus are lifted to equal the level of hype that has surrounded this pseudo ‘Alien’ prequel; make no mistake this is a prequel, perhaps not quite inhabiting the same ‘xenomorphic’ world seen before, but certainly so in terms of timeline and in the connecting of the ‘Alien’ dots.

The ship Prometheus is heading for LV-223 after scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find a repeating star pattern in ancient cave drawings and artefacts dotted about the globe which may answer the question of man’s own origins.

A two year hyper-sleep journey takes us across space to a bleak, hostile world where the identical reconnaissance of a mystery Alien structure takes place, before the usual and expected Alien sticky gooeyness and “glitchy” tech, highlights terror ahead.

Director Scott, returning to the genre that provided him with his first great success in 1979’s Alien, this time goes bigger on bolder themes rather than presenting a straight-up space horror. The aforementioned, brilliant prologue sets a higher tone, posing the questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ man was created and the sporadic success Prometheus achieves is in the answering of the ‘how’ but not so clearly the ‘why’.

Science, religion, creation, Darwinian theory all have a space in Scott’s new world, all while leaving tantalising further questions even after the end credits as to ‘why’ once more; but more revelatory, man’s unsuspecting hand in creation itself. In an age of DNA manipulation and marvelling at ever advancing artificial beings the ‘why’ may be nothing more than the compulsion to meddle; and it’s Michael Fassbender’s android David, that may best answer the why, neatly simplifying with his own creation at the hand of man providing the best example.

Fassbender owns the movie, with David being the most dimensional protagonist, mysterious and seemingly fulfilling an agenda not only for The Weyland Corp’ but more tantalisingly, something more personal for the advanced super-bot himself.

Noomi Rapace fills the strong female lead well, embodying (literally) all the Ripley-esque qualities expected from a strong Scott lady. The rest of the cast are either underused or portray only character stereotypes, namely Charlize Theron as cold company bitch Vickers and Idris Elba as Ship’s captain Janek. With a crew of seventeen, the Prometheus cast is too big with ancillaries as always, presented as fodder; leaving too much characterisation for too many neglects any emotional connection, no more so than in Rapace’s and Green’s lovers/colleagues who lack any real chemistry together.

Scott skilfully leaves enough for us to make our own answers and join our own dots to the original, but then halts any grand inertia created by going at big themes by providing the remainder of the movie as what seems at times to be a by the numbers Alien rerun. It’s only these deliberated grand questions that separate out the two movies and stop Prometheus from being a flat out prequel, and dare I say, near remake.

Similarities are numerous and bring the inevitable comparisons, leaving Prometheus with an uphill challenge of equalling it’s queen; always on a hiding to nothing when Scott decided to make his new foray, but making easy comparisons with an almost identical world, story and set design only serves to highlights Prometheus’ shortcomings when trying to attain Alien parity; it is an otherwise fantastic and meaningful stand-alone Sci-fi entry.

Never reaching the required level of terror and menace of it’s forbearers either, Prometheus’ scares are mild and the story progresses as expected, all while lacking the style, realism and atmosphere of Scott’s other Sci-fi entries; that certain ‘something’ is missing in Prometheus.

Set designs are fantastic but ‘feel’ like sets, and with too many characters creating a commune rather than isolation – the greatest of all horror devices, there is no genuine tension.

Prometheus still manages to provide some fantastic Sci-fi highlights; Rapace’s ‘self-surgery’ and  the glacial terrain panning prologue, fantastic in look and feel as well as ambition, Scott’s Space odyssey moment, bookending brilliantly with a finale that on the surface seems elementary, but still leaves plenty to ponder.

With a cynical view, Prometheus could be looked on as a franchise re-launch posing as a stand-alone entry (expect sequels), but with the deeper questions probed about ‘how’ and ‘why’ as well as tantalising threads rather than solid links to the ‘Alien’ world, Scott manages to elevate what is mainly a re-tread into a good Sci-fi entry that just does enough to be viewed in isolation, without face-hugging strangulation from the classic original.

Not the classic or epic it should have been perhaps, but still a worthy Alien entry that on reflection may get even better with repeat viewing when continuing to join the dots well after the credits have rolled.

10 responses to “Review: Prometheus

  1. I have to admit, I haven’t seen any of the Alien films. They are definitely on my list. The thing I don’t get is that this isn’t really supposed to be directly tied to those movies, right? They just inhabit the same universe. So why all the direct comparisons?

    Still, good review. I am excited to see this movie and will probably like it a lot more than everyone else, because I haven’t seen the original films.

    • i have seen all the Alien films and the comparisons are not only there to be seen but are inevitable also when we consider “ridley scott returns to sci-fi” The comparisons are in the story and the style and there are links enough to class it as a prequel or at least a preceding story. I envy you in some respect not seeing the original films as you will be completely uninfluenced. thanks for the comment.

  2. Excellent review Kevin. As I mentioned in my review though, I don’t think Scott delved into the existential questions he posed. He skippered over the top and left it at that. This could have been a much more deeper and fulfilling film had he explored further. It’s was all style (which was great) but no real substance. From the man that done Blade Runner, you expect more meaningful things.

  3. Wow, this an extremely well written review. Prometheus was the one movie I was looking forward to most this summer and all the reviews I have been reading say that it falls short which is really discouraging. I’m in the US so I won’t be able to see it until Friday but now I am getting nervous about it. I could see where the writing could focus too much on the theories of the film rather than the development of characters. From interviews with Scott and Lindelof they only talked about the ideas of our existence and the meaning of the name of the film. So I could see where they would underplay the characters of the story. Guess I will have to see for myself.

    • Thanks for your comment. I wOuld certainly urge you to see it, don’t be put off by any negative press (even my own) its still well worth seeing. I doesn’t provide all the answers and leaves a little to decide for ourselves which I prefer.

  4. I agree that there is indeed ‘something’ missing from the film, and it’s a feeling I can’t shake off. The film looks gorgeous for sure, but as Mark Walker said, it’s style over substance. As a sci-fi regular, the heavy philosophising in this film seemed contrived to me. And while deep questions were left unanswered (as they perhaps should be), the overt manner in which such questions were raised felt blunt and pretentious. There’s a way to encompass such thought-provoking themes without preaching directly at the audience, and I think Ridley Scott did a better job of it in his previous science fiction films.

    • very true. Grand themes are all very well but when Scott and co decided to go that way then they must deliver on the promise. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to the why, as I have wrote the why could be staring us in the face if we look at ourselves. Do we not create for creations sake? David being the embodiment of this. Is the ability to create ‘life’ albeit artificial, evolution of a species? did the Aliens create us for the same reason or did meddling play its part? Scott doesn’t really answer this and if i can extend any fairness to him perhaps we are left to draw our own conclusions. either way i still liked it and a revisit may be on the cards. Thank you for your visit and excellent comment.

  5. Enjoyed your review of Prometheus. I agree with you on the inevidable comparisons to the other Alien films. Prometheus is a solid stand alone story that builds on the Alien premise of the previous films. I look forward to any sequels that would answer some of the unanswered questions. The film made me think that we as humans are a gnetic engineering experiment gone bad. If that’s the case how where the Aliens created? I like films that ask you to think.

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