Prometheus has finally landed. Sir Ridley Scott’s long awaited return to science fiction bursts onto our screens like a Xenomorph trying to break free of John Hurt’s chest. The pseudo prequel to the genre-defining Alien has attained a considerable amount of hype, but with a gap of thirty-three years since its predecessor, is Prometheus worth the wait?
Well firstly, those who are expecting another Alien film will be in for a surprise. Although situated within the same universe, and having some overt repercussions to the plot of Scott’s 1979 film, Prometheus is a drastically different venture. For those who have been hiding in an airlock the past few months, in an alien eggshell, Prometheus sees a group of explorers going to the far reaches of space in the hope of discovering the meaning of life, the ship’s crew seeking our ‘engineers’ (or Space Jockeys for Alien aficionados) for these answers. Needless to say, given the mythological origin of the film’s title (Prometheus being the titan who was punished for giving fire to humans), things don’t exactly go to plan for the small group of intrepid explorers.
Prometheus is first and foremost a spectacle, which deserves to be appreciated in all of its cinematic glory. The dark, claustrophobic setting of the Nostromo is replaced by the beautifully realised ruins of the Engineers’ moon civilisation. Prometheus’ opening sequence consists of a breathtaking CGI waterscape, with the visuals from there on in, continuing to create a stunning backdrop for the events of the film to enfold. Just as superbly rendered is Scott’s vision of the future; from the intricate design of the title ship, to the re-mastered decor of the extraterrestrial ship encountered in Alien. Once again Scott explores the philosophical questions posed by our foray into robotics, our own example of playing god, through Michael Fassbender’s David. Fassbender’s eerie turn as Prometheus’ resident android is unquestionably the highlight of Prometheus; the insight into his isolated life and his treatment by his ‘creators’ providing one the most interesting philosophical subplots of the film.
As unforeseen as the film’s moments of shock horror, is the extent to which the philosophical ideas beneath the narrative is explored in Prometheus. However, this is where numerous viewers will potentially begin to find fault with the film. Prometheus constantly alludes to something greater, the director clearly hoping to pursue these themes in a sequel, and as such never offers us any real answers. The divide in opinion that Prometheus’ unanswered questions have caused might be forgiven if the film didn’t also suffer in terms of its action/horror plot. The narrative falls short on several basic sci-fi horror elements; the movie rushing its setups, the deaths of the individual crew members lacking any real resonance, and the noticeably absent sense of sustained menace that characterised its forerunner.
Furthermore, David aside, the rest of the crew of the ill-fated exploration are far from developed, arguably fulfilling almost B movie stock characters. Whilst Charlize Theron and Idris Elba provide decent performances (bar Elba’s horrific accent), the same can’t be said for the film’s leads. Having starred as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Noomi Rapace’s reluctant heroine Elizabeth Shaw is a surprisingly pale imitation of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, whilst Logan Marshall-Green’s Dr Holloway is utterly detestable for a character that is supposedly meant to garner some empathy from the audience.
Nonetheless, it is not the plot, but the film’s philosophical undercurrent that sets Prometheus apart from the rest of the genre. Although, some might argue whether the film can stand on its thematic content alone, Prometheus is nonetheless a must-see film of 2012. Bring on Prometheus 2 (providing James Cameron doesn’t get his hands on it).