In the film world, Prometheus has been arguably one of the most anticipated projects in quite some time. Seeing director Sir Ridley Scott return to the genre that made him famous with Alien has been a fanboy’s genie wish for ages.
Having Scott return to the Alien universe? Don’t even get some people started.
Prometheus initially started out as a straight prequel to Alien. Eventual co-writer John Spaihts created a draft for the prequel, but when the film headed in a different direction, elements of Spaihts’ story remained intact. Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof then took the reins and largely crafted the movie seen today. Both received credit for their work.
If I can say anything about Prometheus, I’ll say that this factor looms heavily over the final product.
In a brilliantly maddening way, Prometheus lives up to the hype of its ideas but drops the ball when it comes to narrative coherence.
A film that tries too hard to be something that it is and probably shouldn’t be (an Alien quasi-prequel), Prometheus suffers from not being able to be its own film, but then again, some of the key plot points would not have received their greatness without a connection to the Alien universe.
See where I’m at? Let’s start with what works before I get all flustered.
Story-wise, just know a crew of space explorers aboard the Prometheus (led by Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, funded by Peter Weyland – a dying industry titan) head to a new planet to discover answers about the beginning of mankind. Once arrived, the crew finds out certain, terrifying truths that might alter the fate of their mission. That’s as far as I’m going to go.
Prometheus truly stuns with its grandiose scale. Honestly, I can remember times where I felt like I was with the crew walking into the formidable abyss. Scott and company, benefitting from today’s technology, have created a truly unique universe for their film to take place in. While Prometheus does borrow a few key elements from its kind-of predecessor, H.R. Giger’s designs look spectacularly haunting. DP Dariusz Wolski also brings the ‘wow’ factor with his impeccable cinematography. Even though I have problems with this film’s story, I think the visuals are flawless – absolutely flawless.
Prometheus also captures the perfect atmosphere for its events to unfold. While not everything adds up by the film’s end, you never feel disengaged with the universe. Honestly, the world of Prometheus is a wonderful character in itself. The film creates a sense of awe with its swelling score. Alongside the visual presentation, the stage is so beautifully set that you almost could care less about what’s going on dramatically.
Scott also infuses his eye for chaos in a few key scenes, creating some extremely memorable jolts of terror. Yes, this film has a few moments of pure, gory greatness. Those who are easily squeamish might want to squint during a few of the film’s more icky moments (don’t worry, you see them coming from a mile away – plenty of time to prepare).
Performance wise, it’s easy to laud approval onto Michael Fassbender’s innocuous David, an android with a personality but no level of human emotion. Fassbender completely makes the role his own, giving the robot a faux-soul that can be quite compelling.
Noomi Rapace also excels as Shaw, the film’s primary protagonist. Rapace makes Shaw a woman of devout faith and stark curiosity. Shaw’s dialogue is always laced with conviction and awe. She’s genuine in her life’s pursuits and will be daft if she’s about to let her grand questions go unanswered. I found Shaw to be the film’s strongest anchor, as well as one of its most effective leads.
To review Prometheus, I have to mention that nobody makes movies like this anymore. The ideas are big, bold and brutal. I found myself entranced at the heights the film tried to reach, and while it’s all science fiction and nothing more, the film still can be thought-provoking (in a cinematic way).
I say all that to say that this is a frustrating film.
While everything on the level of what your eye sees and what you experience as a film-goer is hard to knock, I have plenty of issues with the narrative presentation.
The film suffers from a lack of characterization outside of its two leads (Rapace, Fassbender). Charlize Theron, perhaps, is the film’s largest waste – her character a purely corporate presence with no story and a twist that feels unnecessary and forced. Theron gives the role a nice, icy touch, but it’s an under-written, unnecessary character that wastes a great talent (at least Snow White and the Huntsman gave her something to do). I enjoyed Logan Green-Marshall’s Dr. Holloway, Shaw’s skeptical beau, but his character also suffers from a lack of things to do and a key maddening character development.
The crew members are simply that. Besides Idris Elba’s charming captain (a character I wish had a larger role), the for-hire folks on the Prometheus are one-note workers, simply fodder for the plot to chew on. The two scientists (Rafe Spall and Sean Harris) are also wasted characters whose idiotic tendencies leave you scratching your head.
Without delving into any spoilers, this film has some fairly gaping plot holes that never see any resolution – something I’m never crazy about. I understand the beauty of ambiguity, but there are times when this film absolutely leaves some stones unturned that needed to be pushed down a mighty steep hill.
I won’t go into the Alien connections (except I’ll have the decency to tell you that they’re there), but I found the factors to be a mixed bag – some cool, some frustratingly lazy. I feel that in a way, Prometheus could have been its own movie, but in the end, the Alien connections make their roots so far down that they’re necessary by the film’s conclusion.
Prometheus has flashes of brilliance. With some major plot-tweaks, the film might just have been a masterpiece, but instead, we’re left with a flawed thing of beauty. Ripe for discussion, the film will leave many film-goers (including yours truly) polarized and hungry for answers. The film also leaves the viewer angry in the fixable plot holes and weak characterization outside of its two leads. It’s a maddening product, but one that can be both appreciated and criticized.
If you have seen this film and wish for more discussion, please feel free to let us know in the comments section. A new post dedicated to spoilers could be easily created. Also, note that this film is rated R. The film does contain a large dose of violence, some language and brief innuendo. Viewer discretion is advised.