One of the most anticipated films of the year, Prometheus sees return to the more adult filmmaking of the earlier Alien franchise after the Vs. Predator offshoots we’ve had the unfortunate experience of encountering of late.
With markings in a recent archaeological discovery confirming a pattern suspected across numerous prehistoric artefacts, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) uncover a star map linking to planets far, far across the universe. Believing a distant moon could hold secrets to the origins of mankind, the duo lead the exploration, touching down in 2093 after two years of travel in a suspended sleep. However, despite a talented team, humanoid et al, what they find not only threatens their existence, but the future of the human race as a whole.
A lot of talk has been of how this movie joins in with the Alien mythology and whether it’s a prequel, sequel or spin-off. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but let me just say it links in very cleverly and seasoned fans will see nice references throughout. Whether you’ve seen the Alien movies or not though, won’t affect your enjoyment of Prometheus, at least in terms of a plot point of view. Although from a filmmaking perspective, the differences are stark.
Prometheus boasts the inquisitive tone of Alien and an undoubtedly grand spectacle that could have made for a thrilling adventure, but it fails to follow through. While the characters are a lot of fun and the films keeps teasing moments of excitement, it’s also oddly devout of any real intensity or suspense.
On the distant moon the team encounter an increasingly fearsome alien species but there’s never a sense of threat. You’ll be on the edge of your seat but only a couple of times, where as Alien or its sequel left you squirming the whole way through. There, the moments of respite were the exception, but in Prometheus it’s the other way around.
Any film from Ridley Scott, however, shouldn’t be dismissed that easily, and Prometheus is still a very accomplished production. The cast are fantastic throughout, although it’s Michael Fassbender, rather than lead Noomi Rapace, who steals the show. Fassbender plays David, an android initially in place to monitor the ship while the crew are in stasis during their flight before soon aiding the exploration team in their endeavours. But when his real objectives are slowly revealed, Fassbender is superbly subtle leaving you left you ill at ease in his moments of deception, yet wondering as an android, whether there’s still something a little deeper, bubbling under the surface.
David’s character is very well handled in the script, his character development carefully spliced into the narrative, but others find their motivations a little more muddled, if explored at all. You always feel like Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers has ulterior plans as an employee of Weyland Corporation, financial backers of the expedition, but the character never really goes anywhere. Idris Elba as the ship’s captain and Rafe Spall and Sean Harris as a botanist and geologist are very accomplished, they just have very narrow roles.
As you’d come to expect, the CGI and production design are fantastic. The alien planet, spaceship and individual tombs the crew explore are all effortless in execution, guessing the future and far off planets with what feels like perfect realism. In IMAX, the film looks even more stunning, even if the 3D proves a needless distraction.
With a stuttering story, some elements of the narrative struggle to hit home but Prometheus is still generally a success. I’d be delighted to se e a sequel, which pays testament to the final act, and though there are a number of drawbacks, the Alien franchise is back on track and we’re excited again for its future.