I’ve been looking forward to Prometheus ever since I heard about it and I was not going to let an excessive spoilery marketing campaign put me off no matter how hard it tried. I have been blinkered for weeks, avoiding all (but the first) trailers, viral clips, songs, interviews, posters, yet more clips, reviews and cardboard cutouts. I might be terrified of the Alien(s) movies but I love them. It’s impossible to overlook what a hard act Ridley Scott has to follow with Prometheus – he has to follow himself. Not just because of Alien but also because of Blade Runner. Realising then that it seems a bit unfair to expect Scott pull off the impossible, I went into the theatre today with no expectations other than that I would have a good time in front of a classy, visually splendid and exciting piece of science fiction cinema. A summer blockbuster on a long holiday weekend. That is exactly what happened.
Prometheus is to all accounts and purposes the prequel to Alien, although it is probably best watched as a stand alone movie. That is, if you don’t want to tie yourself up in circles trying to fit its parts into the recognisable form of Alien with which we’ve been familiar for nearly a quarter of a century. There are elements that aren’t just recognisable from the Alien series but from all shapes and sizes of horror and science fiction stories – a crew divided by mistrust, confined spaces with unknown threats, a hostile and threatening environment, terrible atrocities until finally very few survive. In these films, it’s safe to throw in a robot as well – particularly worth doing when he’s played by such a fine actor as Michael Fassbender. Watching the robot, David, evolve into himself is a highlight of Prometheus.
And so, this is a comfortably familiar film and it is suitably disturbing in places although we are saved from true fear by its 15 certificate. But what distinguishes Prometheus is its look. The planet, the alien habitat, the Prometheus itself look fantastic and the 3D really works, giving depth and space, bringing us in to share the crew’s confinement or opening the vision up to glimpse space itself. Whether examining the planet through the frightened eyes of crew members or the wondrous awe of David, it looks spectacular. Apparently, the film was shot entirely in 3D.
The actors are an attractive bunch, although the crew are a bit of an unexplained mishmash of types. After the precedent of Sigourney Weaver, the female characters stand out in Prometheus with Noomi Rapace as the heroine Elizabeth Shaw and Charlize Theron as the boss, the formidably blonde Ms Vickers. The men are a little more expendable.
While I can imagine braver souls than myself complaining that Prometheus isn’t frightening enough (it certainly falls short of Aliens in the terror department), it is nevertheless gory, and an exciting film, with the crew trapped like laboratory mice in a maze and the drama matched by the stunning and grand sets. The two hours passed by with a flash.
Without going into spoilery details, there are flaws in Prometheus. The twists in the plot are unspectacular and unexplored, Elizabeth’s physical ability to keep going struck me as unlikely and not nearly enough information was provided about the crew and the mission. Why such a bunch of misfits? And quite a few of them seemed to do very little but stand around. I would have liked much more from some of the others – especially Vickers and the Captain, I also spent far too much time wondering if one of the female characters really was played by Jenny Agutter. She wasn’t.
So my verdict would be preposterous but exciting and great to look at. Nothing wrong with that. Good science fiction films are few and far between these days (I’m still reeling from the appalling Apollo 18) and Prometheus is an enjoyable step along the path to the next Star Trek movie. It’s well worth the look.
Postscript: I visited Florida this year and came across one of the original aliens from the second film. Fortunately it was in a cage.