Ridley Scott, director of ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner,’ returns to the genre he helped define. With Prometheus, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.
For his follow up to the 2010 film ‘Robin Hood’, Ridley Scott returned home to the realm of science fiction with the film ‘Prometheus’, initially the project seemed to be regarded as a quasi-prequel/spin-off to the Alien franchise which Scott started in 1979, however make no mistake ‘Prometheus’ most definitely exists as a prequel to ‘Alien’ (ignoring of course those pesky Aliens vs. Predator films).
As expected ‘Prometheus’ delivers something more akin to Scott’s sci-fi suspense ‘Alien’, over Cameron’s sci-fi action film ‘Aliens’. The film is generally slow paced, centred around the mystery of the origins of life on earth, and raises questions around the nature of life, science and to a lesser degree religion, some aspects of which the film delves into more thoroughly than others.
Over the course of the film Scott amps things up moving towards a climactic finale, however things becomes quite muddled as the different threads of the film come together resulting in the feel of an almost abridged/rushed version of events over the last act. Seeking to replicate some of the terror perfected in ‘Alien’, ‘Prometheus’ doesn’t shy away from some effective horror/suspense sequences, however none of which are able to quite match the potency of the original xenomorph with some character moments just coming across too familiar and too clichéd for audiences to really emotionally invest in.
In terms of the visuals in ‘Prometheus’ Scott has excelled, the film is packed with beautiful shots of scenery/landscape and key imagery across different interesting environments. The ship itself echoes some of the aesthetics of the ‘Nostromo’ particularly in the cockpit design, with the film having an overall focus on large scale landscapes, and widened environments over the claustrophobic corridors and sequences in his original film. It’s also nice to see an original Giger design still made its way into ‘Prometheus’ as well.
Hand in hand with the filming, the visual effects employed by the film are excellent, the ship, the environments, this is a great looking film with high production values, and a mixture of practical and CG effects shots. Despite the high budget though it isn’t flawless, there are a few shots in the film that don’t quite hold up to the standard across the board which isn’t to say they are poor, but are a drop in the standard of the overall film.
Marc Streitenfeld has stepped into the role of the late Jerry Goldsmith for the original music to ‘Prometheus’, which echoes some of Goldsmith’s work and brings that sense of familiarity to the events taking place on screen, overall it felt right however there were a few moments where things come across a little more uplifting that you might expect to be used to in a film set in this universe.
The writing of ‘Prometheus’ is credited to Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Spaihts previously worked on ‘The Darkest Hour’ with Lindelof coming off last year’s ‘Cowboys and Aliens’. Unfortunately this is the arena where ‘Prometheus’ is at its weakest. Without delving into the premise, the story of ‘Prometheus’ is intriguing, the journey of the characters is interesting, the questions raised are powerful and emotive but the film only lightly addresses its own mysteries, and while it doesn’t necessarily need to answer any of it, at the same time it doesn’t explore them all that thoroughly either.
The Alien franchise mythology has been mined for material resulting in this film, and at the same time has introduced many new elements for the setting. In fact it feels as though too many new elements are introduced again leading to a somewhat convoluted result on screen.
Adding to that another layer in terms of how the characters are managed, and the writing starts to feel a bit disappointing. ‘Prometheus’ is full of potentially interesting characters and there are a small few that are handled quite well, but for every character managed well there are two that are left to the side as a superficial filler for the crew of the ship. While some character motivations are delved deeply into, others seems to complete their own character arc, without the audience becoming any wiser until the characters come out with a completely turned around position at some point in the film.
Once again however to the films credit it boasts a wonderful cast with an outstanding performance yet again from Michael Fassbender who simply owns this film. While Fassbender steals the show, Noomi Rapace is perfect in her role, along with good supporting performances from Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, and Idris Elba.
For fans of the franchise, ‘Prometheus’ is filled with throwbacks and consistencies with the older films, the company Weiland (its motivations), androids, artefacts, the Space Jockey, there is so much familiarity to be found in this film. For every answer Scott has provided he’s raised another question, whether any more answers are delivered in the next thirty years we’ll have to wait and see.
As an ‘Alien’ fan this feels like a film that will divide the fan base, with the franchise being so stagnant for so long it’s hard to not be pleased with this new instalment particularly given the quality of the filmmaking behind it. The harsh reality however is that there are elements here that aren’t managed well and these story elements were crucial to delivering a great new film. If nothing else, ‘Prometheus’ will spark much discussion and debate of the coming months if not years, similar to how ‘Alien 3’ did.
Overall ‘Prometheus’ has its roots firmly in science fiction suspense, with a grander scale and much larger budget that Scott had in his original ‘Alien’ film, ‘Prometheus’ delivers something familiar, at times intriguing and always entertaining but unfortunately without being quite as tightly scripted, well delivered or horrifically effective as his previous effort.
Any ‘Alien’ fans owes it to themselves to see this film and decide how they feel, this fan simply cannot wait to see the film again and contemplate it over the coming weeks, no doubt engaging in passionate debate about its merits and flaws with other fans and possibly with a revisit of ‘Alien’. In terms of this review, I’m giving ‘Prometheus’ 7 out 10 stars, it is visually stunning, and while not handled with as much precision as you would hoped, it does deliver something interesting in terms of the mythology.
‘Prometheus’ is released in cinemas around Australia on Thursday 7th June 2012.