Last weekend, Ridley Scott’s new Alien prequel, Prometheus rocketed into theatres.
A team of scientists travel to a remote planet to investigate what they believe may be the origin of humankind.
Overall, I enjoyed this film, but there is no skirting the issue that it is heavily flawed. The key phrase I kept hearing from people who'd seen it was ‘don’t go in expecting an Alien prequel and you’ll like it.’ This seemed like a foolish thing to ask. Prometheus exists in the Alien universe and every scene is deeply entrenched in the canon set up in the first two films of the franchise. It’d be like if I said to anyone standing in line for Episode I, ‘don’t look at it as a Star Wars film, and you’ll be all right.’
The best science fiction, in my opinion, springs from two factors. The first is taking a simple concept and making it more fantastical by what is inferred, and not necessarily shown. The second is to then ground it with dense, well drawn out characters to make it human. Prometheus doesn’t really succeed in doing either of these.
Even though I think it is solid when taken at face value, it is one of those movies that starts to crumble when put under a microscope. It does not infer anything, but instead tells you everything, and the pieces do not fit together as well as they should. I think the blame for this should – and the Internet would appear to agree - probably fall on the shoulders of writer Damon Lindelof. After Lost, this is rapidly becoming his M.O. The man is full of wonderful broad ideas, but often stumbles when it comes to the intricate details – and more importantly, their relation to each other.
As for characters, the crew of the Prometheus are nowhere near as substantial as the crew of the Nostromo in Alien. When shit goes down in that film, each character’s fate means something. Here, the best character is the android David (played awesomely by Michael Fassbender), someone who isn’t even human at all. That can’t be a good thing, can it? This is not to say the rest of the performances are anything less than stellar though. Noomi Rapace brings her usual intensity to the role as the film’s protagonist Dr. Shaw and though Charlize Theron and Idris Elba are both solid, they are ultimately rendered irrelevant.
Even after saying all of that, I still look on Prometheus positively. In terms of pure cinematic spectacle, it is actually very good. If the high level of care and detail that went into the effects and creature designs had transferred over to all facets of the production, then it would have surely been a home run. I know it sounds like I’m disappointed, but I think my experiences surviving four inferior addendums to the cinematic perfection that is Alien/Aliens have given me a pretty thick skin.