Could this be the most anticipated movie of the year for any self respecting film fanatic? Quite possibly, although Chris Nolan will surely give Mr. Scott a run for his money next month when DKR is released. Which will fare better both critically and commercially? Only box office takings will tell, I guess. Regardless, last Friday I finally got to see the much anticipated “Prometheus”; a movie that’s maintained popularity through the grapevine (or the internet, whatever) since the project was initially announced to be a two part prequel of Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece “Alien” a couple of years ago. Of course, I’d imagine most of you who are reading this review will know this, along with other trivial information such as the number or re-writes the script has undergone, the number of changes made to the plot since original screenwriter Jon Spaihts was replaced with Damon Lindelof and of course battles over production values between FOX and Ridley Scott. If you’re currently oblivious to this movie’s production hurdles and would like the inside scoop, there are some excellent websites online with very informative content, there’s even an Alien encyclopedia or “Xenopedia” which will have the most seasoned franchise fanatic tipping their hat in respect.
So, after all the hype, all the viral marketing and numerous trailers that by many accounts promised the biggest Sci-fi epic of the decade, did “Prometheus” deliver? Overall, yes, it’s a perfectly entertaining and at times awe inspiring contribution to the genre and film in general, HOWEVER, I highly recommend that should you harness any ideologies or preconceived notions that “Prometheus” is a comprehensive addition to the Alien film franchise, you should abandon any expectations prior to screening the movie, because you will very likely be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. Yes, I know Sir Ridley has stated numerous times that this is not a prequel to “Alien”, however one cannot be blamed for harbouring certain expectations, especially with the involvement of Space Jockeys, the Weyland Corporation and most favourably, Lindelof’s revelation that the addition of the Xenomorph will be present on some level. So, after finally seeing “Prometheus” for myself, would I consider it a prequel or more of a spin-off? Well, that’s still debatable. The origins of the Xenomorph species are explored and ultimately given purpose. However, that is about as far as it goes in terms of prequel definition. The reason I feel compelled to make this as crystal clear as possible is because I realise a lot of you will likely see “Prometheus” in 3D, which (if you’re not too careful) may distract you from titbits of valuable exposition you may (admittedly like myself) overlook during your premier screening. I was initially left with more questions than answers in regards to the connections “Prometheus” seemingly adapts to the rest of the franchise, however in retrospect (thanks to clarification from some very agitated fanboys) it would appear there’s less to worry about than initially expected. To expand on this would require the revelation of minor spoilers, so I’m going to cut this particular segment of my review and post it in the comments section below, clearly marked with a spoiler warning.
Okay, so now I’ve gotten all of the Alien connections hoo-har out of the way, here’s “Prometheus” in a nutshell… Following a series of identical star-maps dating before Christ and discovered in ancient caves and ruins scattered over different continents, a group of scientists set off in search of extra terrestrial life that may hold key answers in regards to the origins of our existence, presuming a thesis that the map serves as an invitation to “meet our makers” so to speak, is in fact accurate. Unfortunately for the crew aboard the star craft Prometheus, the thesis does hold some merit, and upon reaching their destination, any preconceptions of a welcoming committee are quickly dispelled.
So, where do I start? Well, visually, “Prometheus” is a real treat. The special effects are indeed epic, the set designs are lavish and the various forms of extraterrestrial life are imaginative and well constructed. The cinematography is jaw dropping and continues to prove that Ridley Scott is a master craftsman behind the camera. Visually, the movie does indeed deliver the goods that the impressive International trailer suggests.
The problems with “Prometheus” rest solely with the script. Upon impressions based on my first viewing of the movie, it feels somewhat evident that the production either suffered from the feature’s numerous re-writes and subsequent drafts since original writer Jon Spaihts signed onto the project, or the movie was mercilessly hacked apart during the editing process at the studio’s request. Until Ridley or Damon elaborate on the matter, I will keep an open mind and pray for a director’s cut. The story is ambitiously multi-layered with various undeveloped subplots involving a star studded cast of characters, most of which struggle to achieve relevance during the film’s running time of 2hrs and 4mins. It’s hinted early on that Charize Theron’s character ‘Vickers’, who oversees the Trillion Dollar excursion under the command of her employer; The Weyland Corporation, has a hidden agenda and may even harbour a personal secret, although these elements are only explored where necessary in order to drive the main story forward, thus presenting our female antagonist as a unforgivably one dimensional character. The same can be said for Holloway (played by Tom Hardy doppelganger; Logan Marshall-Green) who serves as the great scientist who wrote the thesis that seemingly inspired the voyage to begin with. Holloway is supposedly a genius in his field, embarking on the greatest adventure of his life, yet for some unknown reason he’s been driven to hit the bottle. One criminally underused character in “Prometheus” is that of Janek, the ship’s captain (portrayed superbly by Idris Elba of “The Wire” and “Luthor”). Janek is basically the male embodiment of Ellen Ripley. He’s a strong, self-sufficient, natural born leader with no agenda other than to protect his crew, but that’s about as far as it goes. Janek doesn’t get anywhere near the screen time he deserves, however Elba does his very best with the little he’s offered. In all honesty, this felt like a missed opportunity to promote a strong, inspirational black protagonist within a Sci-fi epic (because, let’s face it, Lando Calrissian sucks). Noomi Rapace serves well in her leading role as protagonist Elizabeth Shaw, as does Michael Fassbender who stars as David, the crew’s obligatory android/humanoid. The roles of these two characters (Fassbender’s especially) are significantly more fleshed out than others, and rightly so considering they both appear to be the focal point of an otherwise action and effects driven script.
Despite it’s many flaws such as the short running time (considering the movie’s ambitions), the undeveloped subplots and one appallingly abrupt resolution which left me literally shouting “is that it?!” upon the credits rolling, “Prometheus” generally delivered an above par cinematic experience. Also, as I now know what to expect without harbouring any preconceived expectations that it shall be the greatest thing since bread came sliced, I do intend on returning to my local cinema for a second viewing, this time in 2D IMAX, so I can fully appreciate Ridley Scott’s latest offering for what it is; a thoroughly entertaining space adventure that still shits on the vast majority of summer blockbuster popcorn flicks.