Prometheus Film Review

Since its inception Ridley Scott’s first foray into science fiction in 30 years has been shrouded in mystery, with conflicting reports claiming how much Prometheus was linked to Alien (1979) its status as a prequel was confounded over with every announcement studied by eager fans. When the film’s advertising campaign began, more and more was revealed about the plot and its ties with the Alien franchise made concrete with overelaborate 3 minute trailers full of expository monologues. What first started as a genius piece of marketing stirring insurmountable hype soon became over-revealing and unnecessary. The anticipation for Sir Ridley Scott returning to the genre he helped defined and excelled in was most extraordinary, perhaps Prometheus could never live up to the hype. In retrospect the film’s approach to marketing becomes apparent, operating as a crutch and padding to aid a film struggling to stand by itself. It’s a visually astonishing experience, full of suspense and wonder, but ultimately lacking though far from a failure.

A crew on board a ship financed by the Weyland company travel to a distant galaxy thought to hold the key to mankind’s origin. Cave paintings dating back a whole millennia before mankind was thought to exist are discovered by Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, they’re subsequently whisked off for their expertise to join the ship Prometheus in a bid to find those responsible for human life.

Britain’s own Idris Elba is Prometheus’ captain though Charlize Theron (doing her best Nurse Ratched impression) makes it clear she’s in charge of operations. The crew of 17 are only partially defined in character with some poorly constructed attempts in the script to get them talking, most are forgettable with their lines falling flat and shamefully cliched. One man who doesn’t blend into the gorgeous set design however is Michael Fassbender as the ship’s replicant droid David; he riffs off of previous performances from Ian Holmes and Lance Henriksen adding his own unique spin making David a very intriguing man. The most engrossing character in this piece isn’t human at all but a droid just as keen to unlock the mysteries of his existence.

As expected from Ridley Scott the visuals and set design are unrivalled with even the grandest of CGI wide shots being awe-inspiring instead of distractingly full of itself. As the ship lands to investigate the alien hub in which the answers of all life could reside we enter familiar territory and boy does Scott know how to light these scenes. As we follow another group of suited explorers full of naivety we’re right back in 1979 when the Nostromo first intercepted that apparent SOS signal. This time we’re granted more time in the eerie haunted house of a ship, the suspense is built as the mysteries are impossible to decipher, we just have to wait and see what’s in store, left scared but wanting more just like those in the film. Bit by bit we piece together the purpose of the strange being from Alien, the creature in the chair since labelled ‘The Space Jockey’. Once in the horror arena the Prometheus fires on all cylinders hitting every target, in a terrifying moment of body horror an infected Noomi Rapace desperately performs an operation on herself, claustrophobic and nightmare inducing this is where Prometheus succeeds most and with upmost tenacity. It’s let down however when Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof’s script ventures into higher existential plains, levels it can’t do justice, merely coming off as conceited attempts at profundity. At this point the film sags and feels desperately uninspired, as it lumbers clumsily towards an ending it ill-advisedly passes the finish-line at a satisfactory juncture going further towards an illogical underwhelming cut-off point, sacrificing all comprehension in the process.

With ideas above its station Prometheus would have been strengthened had it played the game straight and simple, as a horror piece it conquers and reminds of how Ridley Scott was born for stories of this scope and grandeur, to an extent its great to have him back. Whereas Alien and Blade Runner (1982) are two of the finest examples of science fiction, perfect films that exercised style and substance to great effect it’s therefore unfortunate that despite a relatively promising start Prometheus is mere window dressing in comparison.

Joseph McDonagh

6 comments

  1. Thats harsh words. I think the fact that it tackled such a huge scope is impressive. I think the more you watch it, the more you will like it. Personally, its not for the ALIENS fans, its for the ALIEN fans. Im happy with it and glad it can be added to the ALIEN canon.

  2. Joseph McDonagh

    Hi there,

    Glad you liked it and wish I could have been kinder to it, ALIEN was a big deal for me growing up and to see the mythos crushed by such a weakly scripted poorly designed film just left me empty and disgruntled.

    The Alien films have never been character pieces but have indeed been films filled with ‘characters’, with PROMETHEUS anyone written in only existed to push the story along. As a story it was part horror/part existentialist sci-fi, when it operated as a horror film it did so well but was only a loose remake of events witnessed in ALIEN. When it goes down the Arthur C. Clarke route it clearly doesn’t know what to do with it’s high ideas, having them talked clumsily and in clunky fashion by its cardboard crew members.

    PROMETHEUS didn’t need to be an ALIEN-prequel and ALIEN didn’t need expanding upon. The ambiguity has been ruined from knowing too much and being underwhelmed by seeing under the Space Jockey mask.

    I just wish I like it as much as you, I wish Ridley Scott made a better film. His visuals were on top form as expected but it’s no surprise PROMETHEUS was written by the same guy who wrote LOST – a TV shot with plenty of interesting ideas that takes them no where without a clue how to flesh them out.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, nothing better than to chew over what we ALL think of new releases.

    Joseph

  3. Amer

    I totally agree with this review Joe, but as we discussed, I personally feel that Prometheus is fantastic for expanding the alien mythologies, but fails in terms of character development. I know not all movies require in depth characters and what not, but as you pretty much said, they were mere plot devices, and there was no time to really understand them enough. 17 crew members, yet the whole movie revolved around 5? (correct me If I am wrong) – The fact that most of the ‘crew’ were nameless and pretty much faceless, was weak. The excuse that they were mechanics working in the ships lower regions was mere excuse to use them as expendables in that awful killing spree scene. Also, yeah, sometimes less is more, I wanted the franchise to elaborate on the purpose of the Space Jockeys so much, but was ultimately underwhelmed when they turned out to be a super human race. Kind of reminds me of the Terminator franchise, where Cameron only offered us haunting glimpses of the future, instead of force feeding us too much, killing the effect. BUT – as underwhelmed as I was, I was also pleased that the Space Jockeys weren’t another alien ‘knock off’ species and had a lot of backstory and character behind them, it was poorly executed though. They spent too much time concentrating on the mythos of the engineers and their purpose in the alien franchise than actually fleshing out something that was easier to digest. I love this movie, It has still got me thinking – but yet it has so many flaws. I guess going into it with low expectations made it more worth while for myself. It can never come close to alien, but for what it is, it’s cool. ANYTHING but another AVP 2 Requiem (which makes the first seem like an epic masterpiece!). Try not to see it too much as a prequel, rather than a spin off. The Space Jockeys finally have a movie of their own, and no doubt in time when hollywood milks this franchise to death, the alien ‘DNA’ will have no purpose to it anymore. Maybe we will get a Prometheus prequel in another 30 years… Anyway, I am babbling.

  4. Shirley

    Yes I agree that as a prequel it answers the questions that were raised by Alien, but is overall disappointing. But as a film in its own entity I think it is great. I really enjoyed the film and those existential questions that are raised and of course it will not be able to answer them as we ourselves cannot answer them, but it gets you thinking about how insignificant we really are in this universe and emphasises how we have this human-centric vision of ourselves which is absurd as we don’t know what else is out there. It is a film of paradoxes as it is about creation, yet at the same time destruction. I found this film really interesting to watch.
    I think though that there will be a sequel as I have found this:

    http://www.totalfilm.com/news/prometheus-credits-lead-to-new-viral-material

    It seems that this view of the übermensch is going to be a continuing theme.

  5. Dave

    i liked it but somehow ive got the feeling its somewhat 30% away from beeing a Masterpiece.Important 30% the 30% that divides Batman Begins and Dark Knight..

    Its basically more 2001 then Alien and the Dr Manthattan Race cant compete to HAL :Y To give the Female Lead a Boyfriend was the stupidest thing ever and his death even more. To much Characters let them each get shallow.

    Emotionally i would say the Movie is too perfect, too clean too focussed on making the Point.

    Alien I i dont like the other Movies.

  6. Dave

    [SPOILERS AHEAD]
    i liked it but somehow ive got the feeling its somewhat 30% away from beeing a Masterpiece.Important 30% the 30% that divides Batman Begins and Dark Knight.

    Michael Fassbender carried the Plot alone over some sequences and hindered even by the Plot. The Receiving Command twist i didnt like it because it ruined the Character.

    Its basically more 2001 then Alien and the Dr Manthattan Race cant compete to HAL :Y To give the Female Lead a Boyfriend was stupid and his death even more he was to plot heavy to die this way (less than gracefull) in my oppinion.

    Emotionally i would say the Movie is too perfect, too clean too focussed on making the Point. Burdend by a reappearence of Mr Exposition.

    I think the follow ups migth be better i hope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *