Ridley Scott is a visionary and an artist. From his early esoteric works like “The Duellists” to more commercial fare like “Legend”, all the way to his Oscar winning “Gladiator” his movies have tended towards being beautiful to look at.
Prometheus is no different, a truly remarkable movie to look at. It’s a the spiritual prequel to “Alien”; one of Scotts best movies and a true genre classic. But prequels have a long history of not quite working out. So with baited breath the sci fans who had loved Alien, loved Aliens, been on the fence about Alien 3 and hated all the others approached Prometheus.
A hugely expensive movie that was originally conceived as two movies, Prometheus begins with a tableu of a primordial world and a figure stood in front of a waterfall. This wordless sequence evokes “2001” which was clearly a major influence on the movie in terms of its look and at times its feel. It’s possible that Scott was also trying to follow the great man, Kubrick, in terms of scope too.
The crew of the Prometheus are led by Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Greene) to a remote unnamed world. They are joined by Meredith Vickers, an icy corporate exec played by Charlize Theron, Captain Janek (played by Idris Elba) and a group of other scientists. The final piece of the puzzle is Michael Fassbender’s David, an android and seemingly a helpful and emotionless member of the crew.
This is one of the first falling points of the movie. The crew of the Prometheus are generally not very memorable and many of them don’t even have names. The lead trio are very good in their demanding roles. Rapace is excellent in her physically demanding role. She has a few nice character moments and she isn’t a new Ripley which is nice. Theron is icy and remote, much as you might expect of a corporate exec. There’s a great physicality to her role too which is nice to see.
Marshall-Greene is good as the cocky Holloway and Elba is always reliable but he brings a nice off the wall edge to his weary Captain. Sean Harris and Rafe Spall are slightly wasted in supporting roles. The stand-out is of course Michael Fassbender who is superb, by turns funny, intriguing and scary as hell as the newest android on the block.
Once the crew arrive on the strange alien world and begin poking around, the plot picks up and then can’t quite maintain itself. The team splits up and seemingly does things for no obvious reason. There are some strange lapses in the plot and a plot twist that feels a bit far-fetched, even for a sci fi movie.
The horror elements, paying homage to Alien, are pretty nasty but don’t match the intensity of the original beast. That being said, there is one truly horrible and tense moment that hits a high note. But generally speaking the crew are dispatched in a fairly formulaic and fast fashion and we don’t know who they are, so why should we care?
The sci-fi elements are quite good although on my first time seeing this movie I can’t quite figure out why some of the characters think some of the things they do are a good idea. The ship, the weapons and even the space-suits feel more futuristic than those in the first movie but not in a jarring way. There are a couple of lazy moments where gadgets seem to work (or not) to suit the plot but this is par for the course in sci fi.
As the movie hits its third act the pace picks up but the plot seems to unravel even further and things don’t quite get silly but they never hit the ultra-tense mode of Alien. And that might be the point, we’re all comparing this movie to Alien and it isn’t a horror movie like Alien.
Prometheus is partly a disaster movie, partly sci fi and partly adventure and yes, it does have some horror moments including some body horror moments which are pretty wild. It poses a few interesting philosophical questions during it about faith and death but it never really answers them.
Beneath the surface of the slick sci movie that is on the screen is a deeper and more subtle movie but its hidden beneath a movie that, in the end, attempts to be too many things and doesn’t quite nail it. That isn’t to say it’s not a good movie, it’s a solid sci fi thriller and very enjoyable. But with Scott revisiting Alien, I guess expectation was sky high.