Prometheus - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
RIDLEY Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien was a game-changer that redefined the sci-fi genre in the way that it married claustrophobic tension with original thinking. His return to space for Prometheus is more content to play the game.
This is as much because, by the director’s own admission, ‘everything is used up’ within the genre as it is, one suspects, because of the studio’s need to offset the risk of green-lighting something big, bold and original with something that works financially and can possibly spawn a franchise.
Hence, Prometheus wants to have its cake and eat it but remains a tasty proposition despite falling short of the classic status of the film that preceded it.
If anything, the big problem here is that while it aspires to a higher intelligence than most blockbusters and is keen to avoid merely being seen as an Alien prequel, it’s at its best when playing to those conventions.
For no matter how much the director protests to the contrary, this is very much an Alien movie, if not always directly related plot-wise then almost certainly in spirit.
The plot beats, especially, follow the same genre conventions that Scott gave birth to [via John Hurt], albeit played out on a grander scale than budget [and studio ambition] allowed back in 1979.
Hence, we have a group of spacemen and scientists travelling to a remote planet and biting off more than they can chew. On this occasion, it’s a mission to seek the origins of mankind led by two scientists – Noomi Rapace’s faith-based Elizabeth Shaw and her boyfriend Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) – and supported by a crew backed by a possibly shady corporation.
There’s also an android (Michael Fassbender’s David) with his own agenda, as well as creepy things that invade people’s bodies and almost always look for a painful way out.
To reveal too much more would be unfair except to say that everything is linked, ultimately, to the universe Scott first visited in Alien and, in particular, to the origins of the space jockey first found by Ripley and her crew.
In so doing, it enables the director to explore many of the themes he has long held dear, whether it’s faith versus science, God complexes or humanity, as well as the chance to revisit some of the tricks of his trade.
There is a variation on the infamous chest-bursting scene that’s as grotesque as it is stunning (and yet again playing on the idea of giving birth), as well as some suitably intense sequences involving crew members prodding slimy things they really shouldn’t and subsequently falling prey to mutation.
It’s during these crowd-pleasing ‘icky’ moments that the film works best and is at its most fun, although some of the character motivations are fascinating to explore too.
Rapace is excellent at channelling her character’s demise from optimism to despair, physically and emotionally putting herself through the ringer, while Fassbender provides another acting master-class as the cold, calculated David – an android seemingly frustrated by his own lack of a soul who will stop at nothing to unlock the answers his crew members are seeking. He has an eerie, almost camp presence that takes its cues from the likes of HAL in 2001 to Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (which is visually referenced). And he’s also a source of a lot of the film’s humour.
There are good performances, too, from Charlize Theron, as a cold company exec, Idris Elba as the ship’s apparently flip but caring captain, and Rafe Spall and Sean Harris as two of the crew’s more unwitting ‘victims’.
The look of the film is stunning (and obviously still in debt to HR Giger’s original designs), while the effects are flawless. Even the 3D adds depth, while the film deserves to be seen in IMAX format given the spectacular scope and scale of proceedings.
Where it may leave some disappointed, however, is in the delivery of its more ‘original’ elements and the questions it poses but fails to satisfactorily answer, one suspects because of its eye on future sequels.
For it’s in this department that it sometimes feels like it’s pandering to potential sequels, while owing a great deal more to Alien than it’s willing to admit (especially given its teasing final sequence).
If you can cast that to one side, though, and lower expectations then Prometheus remains an ‘event’ movie of high calibre that further underlines Scott’s reputation as one of cinema’s great visual artists.
Running time: 124mins
UK Release Date: June 1, 2012
- Read our review
- Sir Ridley Scott interview
- Noomi Rapace interview
- Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron interview
- Prometheus: Photo Gallery 2
- Prometheus: Behind-the-scenes photos
- Prometheus: World exclusive footage unveiled in London
- Prometheus - First-look Photo Gallery
- Prometheus - Second trailer