Science fiction is a dying art at the cinema, faced with a public that “just don’t get it”, it needs something spectacular to reinvigorate the genre, and I just pray that people see Prometheus; because whilst it’s not the spark that will ignite a sci-fi revival, it’s certainly the two rocks scraping together to create one.
Seeing constant signs of a star map in various ancient languages from around the world, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) manages to gather a spaceship, a mash up of crew, scientists, and a scheming android, in an attempt to discover the origins of the human species. Needless to say, things go tits-up.
What I love most about Prometheus is the great hard science fiction. Going after the gods and exploring the origins of the human race (and life on earth in general) is not something done every year at the movies, so the high concept is pretty unique. Everything is done straight and portrayed with a degree of realism. You can’t say the symbolism (“oh look they’re looking for God in a craft called the Prometheus. Ooo”) and thoughts conveyed are particularly strong, but they’re interesting to say the least. The visual imagengineer engaging and it has been a while since we’ve had a really good sci-fi “idea” film (Sunshine?), I’m more than willing to welcome Prometheus with open arms, despite a few hesitancies.
The cast’s performances is… a mixed bag. Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class) as David the android is top notch; he takes the template that Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen established in the first couple of Alien movies and runs with it; from his performance alone, you can tell it must be a bloody miserable existence if you’re one of these androids (left awake to do all the work whilst the crew sleeps and the Prometheus space craft flies through space, David spends his time learning ancient languages and playing basketball), if he was programmed with any emotions and feelings, I can imagine he would have put a gun to his head 3 months in. You do get the impression that David is an utterly evil and deceitful bastard under somebody else’s control, except perhaps he’s enjoying himself a bit too much (they should have give him some colouring to do whilst he was alone on the ship).
Idris Elba (BBC’s Luther) for a small role has some of the best character scenes. Playing the captain of the ship, he’s having a (space) whale of a time being a future sailor. Charlize Theron (Snow White And The Huntsman) is obviously having a competition with herself for one week only to see who can play the biggest entertaining bitch on film, and Guy Pearce (Memento) is extravagant as the near death, geriatric Peter Weyland, underneath all the make up and ridiculously spot on movements (or lack there of).
For all the good though, there is balance; the main two scientists who are meant to drive the film (played by Rapace and Dark Blue‘s Logan Marshall-Green), are just unlikeable; Rapace just doesn’t have the presence, or grit, to lead a film with this baggage. No-one was expecting her to be a new Ripley but her dainty frame doesn’t carry the film either. I was praying so hard for something horrific to happen to her that I was disappointed when someone I actually cared about, got crushed by the exploding alien spaceship at the end of the film. Also, I just don’t buy into the fact that relative unknown Marshall-Green is a scientist; he’s too good looking, and should be the cocky young buck who’s good with guns in a different class of film, instead he’s the cocky young buck… scientist? Totally unbelievable and a crap performance.
The worst bit about these two though, is the fact the characters just constantly bitch & moan, and are dissatisfied with what they find; they get worked up that are they are about to discover everything about the origins of the human race, yet despite discovering another reasonable planetoid, which is liveable (for humans at least), they moan they’ve discovered “nothing”. Hang on. You’ve discovered the creators of your species, found new organic life (even if it’s aggressive), new technology… how is that nothing? Surely these things alone are a bonus and advancement to the human race? It’s crap like this that makes what’s already happened in the film irrelevant. If the two main characters do not care about what’s going on, why should I?
Watching this makes you wonder, has Sir Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) lost it when it comes to directing? This was meant to be his triumphant return to the Alien franchise, and thoroughly reinvigorate it, but comparing it to the original Alien film, it’s not even close. There are absolutely no noteworthy horror elements or feelings of tension at all. It’s not that Scott is doing it wrong, it’s not even there, which when you think about it is harder to do. Without any tension, there’s no chance of building excitement up for the audience, so things just happen and there’s hardly any emotional payoff. Honestly, you can just read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia to Prometheus and you would get the same level of excitement whilst watching this. The sci-fi clearly makes up for the fact there’s chuff-all horror, which isn’t as annoying, but when you consider how good Alien was at doing horror, you can’t help but feel disappointed.
One of my fears when going into this was just how much would it tie-in to the Alien universe mythos. The beats of the drum that Damon Lindelof (Lost) in the build up before release wasn’t exactly encouraging. It ran into dangerous territory of using Alien to jump start a completely different franchise. I’m not really a fan boy of the franchise, instead I don’t think it’s right for paying cinemagoers not to see what they are expecting. Well I’m glad to say, Prometheus is a worthy addition to the franchise. Without giving away too much, what you expect to see IS there, but perhaps a bit… devolved. The nods are there, some stronger than others, but do not go into this thinking you’re going to have EVERYTHING revealed about the xenomorph culture. A few explanations are given out in single lines of dialogue. Annoyingly, it’s clear they want to do a sequel, but the curtain is pulled back here, just enough.
I’ll give credit to the actual good use of 3-D in Prometheus. Not in the sense of things jumping out at you, but little things like it adds to the grandeur of entering the new planetoid’s landscape; the cool bridge map constantly updated by the probes going round the complex and the Engineers star map room is turned from impressive to incredible; to be fair the production values and other special effects are top notch anyway, and the 3-D is just a well placed bonus.
Really, I wouldn’t be recommending Prometheus any other time; since it trips over it’s self contained faults massively; but since it’s been a while since we’ve had a GOOD film using sci-fi elements, I feel it deserves a pass, and is worth viewing. If you’re happy to be devoid of any tension and horror whilst watching a film, then go and enjoy all the jargon, squid monsters and Elba playing an accordion.