Based on a pre-existing universe that he helped create in Alien, Ridley Scott brings us Prometheus; a quasi-prequel focusing on a bunch humans searching for the origin of all life on earth… in space.
When cave paintings of ancient and non-related cultures hint at life being “engineered” by beings from outer space, archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace) believes very strongly that our makers put us here for a reason, and that they want us to travel to their planet to give them our thanks.
After captivating the imagination of Peter Weyland — head of Weyland Industries (“the company” from the Alien series) — he agrees to send Shaw and her also-archeologist boyfriend across the universe with a ship and crew.
Despite the trip not quite going to plan Shaw refuses to believe that the human race is nothing but a science experiment gone wrong, continuously (and annoying) going on about her faith (in God?) and the meaning of life. Yeah, whatever.
Straight up: don’t expect Alien. In fact, don’t even expect a film like Alien. There are various “DNA” links and shared universe references; but that’s it. This film is very different in feel and tone to it’s predecessor.
Now, I’m not going to try to “understand” Prometheus in this review. Partly because I don’t want to spoil too much, and partly because doing so would just take too long; and I don’t think it’s worth it.
Despite the film’s intriguing premise, its script is pretty thin; complete with flat characters and an annoyingly uneven pace. It raises some fascinating questions about life, evolution, why-on-earth-we’d-ever-want-to-leave, etc; but it also — quite intentionality — leaves a lot of those questions unanswered.
I know that Scott and his screenwriters (Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof) didn’t want to give us all the answers, and I understand that you shouldn’t carry all your plot eggs in the one narrative basket; but living with a cautious expectation that you’ll have a sequel to play with just comes across as arrogant. And ultimately I was left wanting more.
The climax of the film is exciting, but not as exciting of the prospect of a follow up. Again, making a film with the idea of “explaining” it in its sequel is a little too presumptuous for me.
Given the film’s links to Alien, I know that you know that a lot of characters meet a grisly end. But what sets it apart from its predecessor is that I wasn’t emotionally involved with any of them, thanks to some very poor character development. So when one of them got their ass good-and-dead, I mostly just laughed. (Seriously! Would you try to touch an obviously annoyed cobra-like animal? Especially when you know nothing about it. Idiot.)
But I did really enjoy Michael Fassbender as David; the ship’s android-cum-butler. He’s the only interesting character amongst an annoying and uninteresting lot.
The film looks amazing. The set design and special effects are what should drive you to see this film, if anything. (And having been filmed in 3D, the extra dimension is flawless.) But due to no tension or suspense, nothing worth caring about and an interesting idea squandered through poor execution, its strengths are moot. You can’t put lipstick on a space jockey.
I think I’m going to leave it at that. Go and see it if you want a bit of a xenomorph back story; but if you enjoy a good thriller or science fiction film (or just good films in general) Prometheus probably isn’t the film for you.
It’s mostly just a missed opportunity.