Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall Green, Idris Elba, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie with Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron
Plot: A group of archaeologists travel across the universe, theorising that their makers were actually a superior alien race.
Has there ever been a film that has divided fans as broadly as Prometheus? Ridley Scott proved that he knows how to open a dangerous can of worms with his ‘prequel-not-prequel’ to Alien. It was always going to be a risky gambit for the established director. His original space horror which essentially took a B Movie premise (crew of people trapped in a small space with a single creature), and filled it with so much character, depth and outright horror, it blasted into the annals of time, a true piece of cult cinema. The franchise went on to do great things without Ridley Scott at the helm. Scott might have come up with the terrifying Xenomorph, but it was James Cameron’s action-packed sequel that nailed the formula. However, as the series went on to become more and more hung up on the action, fans wondered what Ridley Scott’s vision of the future of the Alien really was. This is the answer and while it is definitely more fitting with the tone and style of the first iconic entry into the franchise, it is also the opposite of what anyone considers an Alien film.
Mainly because it isn’t an Alien film in the slightest. You have to feel sorry for Scott. Ever since he moved away from the franchise, he has had this story inside him burning, a story not about the terrifying parasite with an unstoppable kill ratio, but the people that put it there. But while the series went on to become a bloody horror series, it looked like the public wanted the opposite to the creator. And herein lies Prometheus’ biggest problem. There is no Alien, no physical place to squeeze the beloved Xenomorph into the story. Scott tries to pacify fans by adding homages to the creature (a serpent-like stand-in for the Face-Hugger, a giant creature that grows in a host’s stomach), but they only bring out comparisons to the first film, creating an even bigger longing for what came before. What Prometheus really is about is resetting the clock and letting Scott play, once again, in this universe. The theme of a crew of hopeful friends travelling through space, cut off from any support and faced with unimaginable horrors, is still present and a gripping story to follow. While it is far too talky to make this bitter pill any easier to swallow, it is far from a bad film. It simply isn’t the film we wanted to see. Ridley Scott doesn’t help matters by not really getting the most from his star-studded cast, talented individuals queuing up to star in an Alien movie. Charlize Theron is usually an amazing presence in anything, but here she can only hint at a wider story, her arc beautifully portrayed behind burning eyes, but never getting a chance to be unlocked. Idris Elba is a few stereotypes stapled together, a role that once would have been the fan favourite. Other characters provide comic relief. Even Noomi Rapace, while never bad, feels like a Ripley-lite. You can feel Rapace running not just from the Engineers, but the shadow of Sigourney Weaver. She doesn’t win that fight. Thankfully, Ridley Scott backs up Michael Fassbender with a character worthy of the actor’s talents. Scott also regretted not developing his android more (in Alien, Ash’s true form was a last act twist, so it could never be embellished), but here he makes time to develop Fassbender’s David. Fassbender is brilliantly creepy, yet also sympathetic, a character we are transfixed by, always wondering where Scott is taking the character. In David, we find the brilliance of that first Alien movie.
What we are left with overall is a watered down version of Alien, without the actual Alien, but still worthy of a watch. When we have accepted that this is a film more interested in story and the big questions (Ridley Scott is definitely inspired by Kubrick here), there is fun to be had. Scott’s Alien was always the most atmospheric and it is rewarding being back in that unsettling horror vibe. As a lone character wanders down a mysterious corridor, totally alien to him, there is no soundtrack. Scott fixes the camera in a close-up, blocking out the open entrance to the corridor right behind the character and lets our own mind do the hard work for him. Our brain is screaming out that the character will get mauled by ‘something’. Suddenly the fact the monster is not an Alien, but something unknown works, because we are back in the unexpected. Perhaps this is what Ridley Scott wanted all along. If only his new monster could match the Xenomorph, Prometheus might have worked. Sadly there are too many moments when Prometheus creates this brilliant mood and then squanders it away. And that is the true sadness behind Promethus. Even when you have made peace with the fact there will be no Alien, there is still this emptiness to the film. It builds up a great pay-off, a set built upon grand alien landscapes, enigmatic temples and large open spaces, ripe for a bloody set-piece or two, but the end result is a sad, unsatisfying feeling.
Final Verdict: Brilliant for all the small things, but the big things need work. Still Ridley Scott’s passion saves this from being a disaster.