JIM ROSS reviews the biggest movie of the year so far, Prometheus, and finds spectacle but little else.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Despite my previous assertion that film spoilers don’t matter, rest easy that this review contains none. Prometheus is an extremely hard film to stick a simple star rating on. The good bits are fantastic, and have the heart pounding. The bad bits are awful, and have the eyes rolling.
Prometheus sees Ridley Scott’s return to the the universe of his classic 1979 genre redefinition Alien. The film opens with archaelologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discovering a cave painting on Skye in 2089, which matches others from civilisations with no contact with each other. Rapidly fast forwarding to the year 2094, we see David (Michael Fassbender), an android indistinguisable from humans, tending to the ship Prometheus during a two year voyage.
Awoken from cryosleep by David and Weyland corporate representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), Holloway and Shaw explain to the rest of the crew that they are approaching the distant moon LV-223 in search of a race they believe have a hand in the development of the human species and life on Earth.
Prometheus has a far grander scope than Alien, and, combined with the fact that the latter is a classic of two genres, this makes a direct comparison unfair. However, the film has all the visual trappings of Alien and the H.R. Giger design aesthetic that marked the original (and Aliens) before slowly fading from the franchise. The world that Scott has created, both literally in LV-223 and figuratively in the sense of the wider mythos and horrific creatures present, is undeniably spectacular. As with much of the great science-fiction, with grand vision comes grand themes. However, Damon Lindelof (chief modifier of Jon Spaihts’ original concept) has neither the screenwriting nous nor storytelling ability to deliver upon the ideas inspired by the works of those such as Erich von Däniken.
Throughout the film, creationism, Darwinism, and what exactly constitutes a deity are discussed by the characters as if they are Theology or Philosophy students in a supervision. The lack of subtlety in Lindelof’s approach is striking, and doesn’t ring true in the dialogue. Rather more worryingly, Prometheus falls prey to some terrible logic and scripting only present in rather lazy blockbuster films. On numerous occasions characters forget their motivations from five minutes earlier to do things that really stretch the believable limits of human stupidity, self-awareness and hypocrisy.
Despite this, the horror elements of Prometheus are intense and often visceral. Combining this more familiar feel with the grander themes of ideas-driven sci-fi results in an engaging, if not terribly original, film. The superb performances of Rapace and Fassbender are also worth the price of entry, the latter almost stealing the film as he embodies David’s robot nature with little more than economy of movement or a clench of the jaw.
Prometheus is flawed, heavily so at times, but during the running time you probably won’t care. Fans of the Alien franchise (of which it is definitely a tangent, rather than prequel as such) will enjoy the fact Scott has rescued it from the Alien: Resurrection and AvP doldrums. If you can overlook the more asinine and inconsequential ‘twists’, and some horrendous movie logic, then you’ll enjoy the ride.