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.