Film Review: Prometheus
Hello again! After a month away from the blog, I have dusted off the keyboard and am back with a vengeance…
So let’s kick things off with a review of the much-hyped sci-fi horror Prometheus.
Prometheus is a prequel to the Alien franchise, and marks director Ridley Scott’s first return to the series since the original film. It concerns the crew of the titular ship – a mixture of scientists, archeologists and one android - who embark on an expedition to a distant moon. They are following a trail of clues relating to early civilisation.
Noomi Rapace takes over heroine duties from Sigourney Weaver, while Michael Fassbender plays the latest android in the franchise, following in the footsteps of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen. The supporting cast includes Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. The script is written by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof (Cowboys and Aliens, TV’s Lost).
After a reasonably slow introduction, things pick up when the crew land on ‘Moon LV-223′ and begin to explore a mysterious structure that looks man-made but is potentially alien in origin. There is an effective build-up of tension, and an unnerving sense of imminent violence. One great touch is a holographic image that projects inside the structure, depicting the previous inhabitants fleeing from an unseen hostile presence. Another highlight involves a character trapped in an enclosed space with a nasty critter.
The special effects are very good, particularly the depiction of the turbulent storm clouds swirling above the moon. I was also pleased to see that the filmmakers use a combination of CGI and practical effects, instead of resorting to complete CGI. Scott’s direction is confident, although visually, this film has less personality than each of the original four Alien films.
Where the film falls down is the script, in particular the final act. Unlike some, I was not as bothered by the lack of characterisation early on – the Alien films have often resorted to thinly-drawn types - although none of these characters are as memorable as the team in Aliens for example. What bothered me more was the way that all of the accumulated tension simply evaporated during the climax, especially since it introduces a new character very late in the piece. That device worked for me in Sunshine, but here it feels clumsy.
The script also introduces some potentially interesting conversations about creation and purpose, but they end up feeling like buzz-words more than ideas. One thematic idea that the script does follow through with is the idea of faith vs. science, and I wish that they had abandoned this thread entirely. It is both cringe-worthy and obvious, to the point where Rapace’s character loses her crucifix chain at one point before seeking to reclaim it. This debate can be fascinating, as The X-Files proved with the Scully character, but that nuance is absent here.
Ultimately though, what matters is the manipulation of suspense, and for the most part, Prometheusdelivers. Yes, several parts of the story are under-cooked, but it kept me engaged and often tense with anticipation. This is a solid, if slightly forgettable film, and it helps to erase the memory of Alien vs. Predator.