Prometheus is a worthy contender for the most talked-about film of the year. After an extensive marketing campaign and all the hype surrounding Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film since Blade Runner, initial reviews came in mixed. I’m a big fan of Alien and after a season of exams, I finally got to see the filmon Friday at the Arclight Multiplex on Sunset Blvd. To be as open-minded as possible, I have not yet read any reviews or discussion boards; I hope this will make my contribution to the film as personal and individual as possible.
Review – Prometheus
2012, 127 mins, 15, Dir. Ridley Scott, starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron
Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi after 30 years, Prometheus, was described by the director as having ‘some of Alien‘s DNA’. It seems Scott was being deliberately vague – the film is closer to Alien than previously thought, as revealed in the closing few minutes. Nevertheless, it’s an ultimately more ambitious film, dealing with the origin of life within a sci-fi veneer and asking vital questions about technology and our existence. While the cinematography is startling, the many different aims of Prometheus show it to lack focus, and after all the hype it proves to be mildly disappointing.
We follow the journey of the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they search for clues of man’s origin. As they explore the foreign and hollow buildings of a distant planet, discoveries are made which both advance and threaten the mission. Matters come to an aggressive head when one of the scientists is infected with foreign DNA and the by-the-book superior officer refuses to provide any help.
That description, sparse as it is, omits the many plot twists that take place as Prometheus unfolds. One of the excellent things about the film is that it constantly has the ability to surprise, with sudden outbursts of slimy violence and major shifts in direction. What is even more surprising, however, are the things that Scott chooses to keep from us. While Alien was shrouded in mystery, Prometheus seeks to (in part) answer these mysteries, but doesn’t bother to explain a lot of things that are happening onscreen. This is understandable given that we experience the film mostly from the point of view of the characters, although it arguably gives the film a strange sense of incompleteness. Perhaps it’s too ambitious for its own good.
Nevertheless, it contains a few standout performances. Michael Fassbender in particular gives a terrific turn as David, a truly sinister and deceptive android. Ironically, the one character without emotion has the most intriguing character arc, with an unexpected change in his motives halfway through. Unlike the small, contained crew of the Nostromo in Alien, however, the crew of the Prometheus is very large; with too many characters, some of them are reduced to simple clichés and we only (partially) explore the backstories of a few.
While the opening title sequence is visually stunning, some parts of the film feel clunky and clumsy. The first attack by an alien creature on two hapless engineers is impressively shot but marred by erroneous dialogue. Still, the pregnancy scene is suitably intense, and the gory reaction of one of the scientists to the alien gene that makes its way into his system is also horrifying. The headache-inducing 3D, however, is ineffective as usual and only darkens the picture unnecessarily.
Prometheus stands as an efficient science-fiction film, but not much more. Its story is muddled, its philosophical focus incomplete, its execution occasionally clumsy. Despite its 15 rating (R here in the US) it never quite reaches the claustrophobic terror of Alien, and its main monster, a slate-white giant man with a penchant for destroying races, is not as memorable. It fails to live up to the hype. Nevertheless, it contains some fantastic design, and it is great to finally see the mysterious origins of the world glimpsed in Ridley Scott’s original sci-fi classic.
6 out of 10