Visually stunning but fundamentally flawed, Sir. Ridley Scott’s return to the universe of his classic 1979 Alien will leave many impressed by the spectacle, but will leave considerably more immensely frustrated by the incomplete, somewhat illogical, and often incomprehensible narrative, which comes complete with jerky stop-start pacing and editing issues that leave the end product one of the most tragically disappointing must-see movies of all time.
Like any great sci-fi, it attempts to ask far more questions than it ever answers, taking an existential approach to its subject-matter and introducing elements of (im)mortality, faith, and the origin of mankind into what was already a rich franchise, albeit one which had never gone in this direction. With a scope far grander than the Alien movies, it still provides what are unquestionably prequel elements to his original Alien tale – giving us the pieces we need to put together what happened to make the ship crash on LV-426; what happened to the giant Space Jockey aboard that ship; what his agenda was; and where the ‘aliens’ came from in the first place – but it also takes off in a violently tangential direction, one which has a considerably more epic feel to its philosophical structure. Indeed Prometheus is just the first chapter in what could be a worthy Alien spin-off tale; one which, despite its flaws, has the promise to truly deliver answers to Big Questions in further, better thought-out sequels.
Unfortunately, until then, we’re all going to be pulling our hair out wondering “What the hell?” and “Is that it?!”
The film kick-starts with a fantastic sequence which essentially shows the birth of mankind, whilst also giving us a glimpse at our purported humanoid forerunners: an alien species who pilot gigantic spaceships.
Then, in 2089, a group of scientists finds what looks to be an ancient star-map and, literally connecting the dots with several other archeological star-map discoveries, put forward a theory that mankind was created by a group of ‘engineers’, and that these beings came from a planet a long way away, mapped out by the various drawings that have been etched over the preceding Millennia.
Several years later the vessel Prometheus is dispatched, the project funded by the eccentric industrialist Peter Weyland, founder of the Weyland corporation. Their mission: to follow the star-map to the distant moon LV-223 and find the ancient alien ‘engineers’ with a hope to answering some of the biggest questions you could ever ask about the origins of mankind. What they find, of course, is far more than they could have ever anticipated.
They went looking for our beginning. What they found could be our end.
After creating the masterful sci-fi horror classic that is Alien, and watching it spin off on an uncontrollable trajectory – initially progressed by James Cameron into the action sci-fi classic that is Aliens, before being somewhat derailed by David Fincher’s conceptually interesting but deeply dissatisfying Alien 3 and then completely lobotomized by the clone-job Alien: Resurrection – director Ridley Scott was originally persuaded to return to the franchise over a decade ago. Indeed he had actually agreed to take James Cameron along for the ride, and the project that the two were working on – a prequel to the Alien films which explored not only the origins of the xenomorph killing machine but also looked into the background of the ‘space jockey’ who was the first reported victim of the alien creature – sounded very promising.
Then the Alien vs. Predator movies happened, and ruined not only any chances of a decent crossover (which can be done, as is evidenced by the vehemently superior graphic novels) but also added further nails to the coffins of both standalone franchises. Cameron was dismayed by the AvP ideas – what he portentously saw as being franchise-killers – and both he and Scott soon abandoned the prequel project.
Cut to 2009 and, with a daring new two-movie Alien prequel screenplay penned by The Darkest Hour’s Jon Spaihts, Scott was lured back in to once again helm the project. Intent, however, on taking things in a different direction, he hired Lost’s hack writer Damon Lindelof to do a second draft, and help craft this into a more autonomous franchise flagship vehicle which exists in the Alien universe, but which is not bound by its limitations.
The end result? Surely one of the most flawed and frustrating must-see movies of the last few years.
But there’s the rub: you still have to see this movie. Don’t go into it with high expectations; try to avoid the trailers and promotional material as much as possible (apart from the trio of viral videos – they’re quite good); and don’t expect a film which either acts as a direct prequel to Alien, or follows the same formula. Certainly don’t expect a flawless masterpiece – a timeless sci-fi film which will stand tall amidst the best in the genre – as you will undoubtedly be hugely disappointed. Just expect a grand spectacle, arguably slightly more effective in 3D (although it does not need it, the effect does enhance it) and undoubtedly an enjoyable way to spend two hours of your life – not to mention the endless days you’ll likely spend trying to get to grips with it afterwards, which is a nice, if ultimately even more frustrating, side-effect.
Assuming that the majority of those who have come this far in the review have already seen the film, and that anybody else is prepared to have their movie experience irrevocably spoiled by a revealing and comprehensively detailed study of the movie in question, I now turn to the specifics of what went right... and what went so very wrong.
THE BIG BANG
Right from the opening prologue, it looked like things had gotten off to a great start: sweeping, epic musical scoring draws you in, as you follow the aerial camera shot, flowing over the Earth to reveal natural landscapes that could almost have been from an alien planet, and rolling over the expanse of a grand lake (in one of my favourite scene-setting shots of recent times), before we realise that we are being chased by a large shadow, cast from above, and threatening to engulf all that is below it. We find a man in a robe standing by a waterfall; a giant flying saucer looming overhead. Disrobing, we see that he is indeed not quite a man; instead a white-marble-skinned humanoid. He looks up at the ship, pulls out a small container and proceeds to ingest the contents – a dark liquid, as black as oil, but with the constituency of molasses. Soon, he convulses, and is basically eaten from the inside-out, the liquid bonding with his DNA at a molecular level; his half-disintegrated body falling into the waterfall below, only for his broken DNA strands to disseminate in the water, hinting towards the birth of mankind. The P R O M E T H E U S title then fades in, much like the original A L I E N title appeared at the beginning of the 1979 classic. And so we begin.
What a great start. Within just a few minutes, you’re struck by the scale of the production, and left feeling in no uncertain terms that the director has a much bigger story to tell than you could have possibly imagined – one which involves more than just a look at serial-killing extraterrestrial life, but actually explores the birth of mankind!
Already, however, we are faced with issues that, ultimately, would contribute towards the true downfall of the production. The prologue effectively spoils the ‘big reveal’ which could have been better used later on – when we discover that the ‘engineers’ in the movie (previously known as ‘Space Jockeys’) are actually just humanoid creates rather than the strange elephant-head giants that we know and love from Alien – a fact which could easily been forgiven, had the scene actually meant anything. Instead you’re left with a bunch of questions – What was this guy doing on Earth? Why did he ingest the liquid? Was he intentionally creating mankind using his DNA? If so, surely he didn’t have to kill himself to do that?! And, perhaps most importantly in terms of plot coherence, is that the same dark liquid we see later in the movie? (If so, then how come they were going to use the same liquid to destroy mankind? – More of this later) – all of which are simply never adequately answered.
The Scotland-based scene that follows, rather optimistically set in 2089, is made utterly redundant by the subsequent, far more atmospheric sequences, which takes us to the space vessel Prometheus. Aboard it we find the ship’s android patrolling the empty vessel, learning new languages and watching old movies, whilst the crew rest in hyperspace; it’s a great sequence, which truly sets the scene, whilst also harking back to the eerie ghost ship feel to the Nostromo at the beginning of Alien. When the ship arrives, the crew are woken up, only then to be told why they are on this particular mission (wouldn’t you like to know beforehand??). They are told that some scientists – who are also along for the ride – have found pictograms drawn from thousands of years ago, showing a humanoid species that predates mankind, and that apparently comes from the stars. It also shows the location of these ‘engineers’.
This is all good and well; a solid plot foundation, you might think, upon which to play out the more dramatic, horror- and action-driven elements of the film. But you’d be wrong. Because, as we later find out, the map leads the ship to a moon where the engineers have been creating weapons with which to annihilate mankind. Hang on a second. Something doesn’t quite fit there. Let me ask you this: why would engineers who created mankind draw them a map to an off-world munitions base, located on a moon, where they were creating some kind of WMDs with which they hoped to eradicate mankind? Why would the map not lead to their homeworld, or at least somewhere a little safer than a weapons base? I mean, why would they draw the map 35,000 years before they decided to kill mankind, and thus almost 35,000 years before the weapons base was even in use? Beside, why would you ever draw your ‘opponent’ a map to one of your military facilities, for any reason?
Moving swiftly on... our ship’s crew lands on the planet, investigates the first of several clearly engineered structures, and finds a black-box-like recording of what happened to the engineers. It looks like they were running from something (although we never find out what), towards a giant room. Upon entering, the exploration team discovers a giant humanoid head (as per the poster), surrounded by a sea of hundreds of flask-like pods, which look like cannon shells upended in the ground. With the atmosphere in the room contaminated from opening the door, these pods start ‘sweating’ a dark liquid which looks remarkably like the liquid seen in the prologue sequence (although this makes little sense when we later find out what the liquid was designed to do).
Amidst the ship’s crew we have the aforementioned requisite android, whose actions are predictably Machiavellian. Indeed I still don’t know what this android’s agenda was. Created by Weyland himself to be the closest thing the mad industrialist had to a son, it would appear that Weyland wanted the android to do whatever it takes to find the engineers, as it is later revealed that the industrialist is a mere few breaths away from dying, and wants to ask the alien ‘engineers’ whether they can do anything to prolong his existence. The trouble is that the android behaves like he has been programmed by the android from Alien, Ash – i.e. like he is programmed to recover not only the engineer, but actually the WMD that he was working on, and also to test it out on the crew members to see what it does. This doesn’t make any sense. Why would Weyland’s agenda involve killing the crew members? And, if the answer is that it wouldn’t, why then would the android’s actions ever go beyond Weyland’s orders?
A drop of the black liquid doesn’t kill the crew member it infects; it instead merely introduces a parasite into his body – a strange little worm that can be seen crawling around his eye. Having sex with his sterile girlfriend, however, leads to an almost-instant pregnancy, the spawn of which grows to term within just a few hours. Why would the black liquid disintegrate the engineers but merely infect humans? And why would it then lead to a strange squid-like baby after sex?
Whilst this is all happening a couple of the crewmembers rather implausibly get totally forgotten about and left behind in the structure only to – surprise, surprise – meet up with some creatures that slither out of the black ooze: long, snake-like tentacles with penis heads. Deciding to attempt to befriend them (which also makes no sense, when these were the same two guys that split from the group because they ‘only came here to look at rocks, and don’t want to mess with anything actually living’) they are soon taken out – one gets a penis-snake down his throat; the other gets his helmet melted by acid-for-blood, and promptly is infected by the black liquid itself. That’s all fine and well, but when the black liquid causes the latter scientist to turn into a spider-crawling psycho-zombie (who would not look out of place in The Thing, or its prequel), it all gets a little bit silly really.
Tense action sequences are soon unceremoniously interrupted by further unnecessary exposition and the team, once again, decides to go back into the structure, so that Weyland can personally confront the last remaining ‘engineer’, who appears to have been kept alive in stasis. Aside from the fact that nobody has actively discussed the squid-baby-alien that may or may not still be alive, which was just plucked from one of the crew members after she had sex with somebody who was infected, the scene where the team finally ‘talk’ to the engineer still had the potential to work. To answer some questions; to at least have the engineer go “sorry, but we decided you were such a horrible species, and were so predisposed towards killing one another, that we chose to wipe you out and start again”. But, oh no, instead the engineer goes all “Hulk, smash!” on all the humans around it, and then sets his ship on course to complete his original assignment – infect the Earth.
What do the remaining crew of the Prometheus do? Well, if you saw the trailer beforehand, you probably had a fair idea (don’t even get me started on how fed up I am with 3-minute trailers that give away EVERYTHING!). They decide to crash their ship, Star Trek prequel-style, into the alien vessel, to prevent it from destroying civilisation back on earth. Great, but what should be an epic scene is ruined by little inconsistencies, like the two random, underdeveloped ships’ crewmen who decide to stay with the Captain when, clearly, he could have piloted the ship all by himself – and even offers to do just that – and also when the cold-blooded ‘corporate’ suit instead takes one of the many escape pods and saves herself. It really detracts from what should have been a weighty sacrifice just like it was for Kirk’s dad.
Cut to the end and we find the remaining ‘engineer’ is hunting for the last remaining human, who promptly unleashes the squid-baby (now all grown up into a Kraken) upon him. Engineer takes a snake to the throat and goes down, only to ‘give birth’ to an alien (queen, we can assume) which bursts straight from out of his chest. (If you remember, one of the scientists suffered the same snake-down-the-throat fate inside the complex, so surely he would have also ‘given birth’ to an alien?? This logical conclusion is never addressed.)
The film finishes with our sole survivor, assisted by the still-functioning ‘head’ of the android, piloting one of the other alien vessels into space. Her intention? To find the engineer’s homeworld and finally get some real answers. Um, well, judging by the reaction of the last engineer that you came across, lady, the answers aren’t really going to be forthcoming...
As can be seen from my extended dissection, Prometheus is a fundamentally flawed film that simply has too many plot-holes and inconsistencies in it to ever be hailed as a sci-fi masterpiece in-line with its predecessor(s). Its botched scripting is most likely as a result of the input of screenwriter Damon Lindelof, who worked similarly destructive ‘magic’ on Lost, and, in that respect, I have deep concerns about where the story will go from here in the planned sequel.
However, on the flipside to all of that, there are several great and wonderful elements that Prometheus has to offer, not least is the fact that it sets things up for a companion franchise to the Alien saga; and one which has the potential to be even broader and grander in scope. Taken as a standalone feature, it is massively flawed, but a sequel (or sequels) could drastically change that should it choose to more satisfactorily answer the questions posed here.
Within the film itself, we get numerous references to the original Alien film, from the shots of the exploration team – suited up with helmet lights – investigating the alien structure, to the various creatures themselves, to the defiant lead female protagonist and her predilection towards wandering around in her underwear, to the engineer’s elephant-helmet and space-gun, to the trademark chest-bursting threat, to the ‘kill me’ sacrifice scene, to the devious android character, and the untrustworthy corporate ‘suit’. The film is simply littered with fan-pleasing references, nods, and outright parallels.
The score, with an epic design reminiscent of the classic Christopher Reeve-era Superman movies, is fantastic, but not quite fitting to the subject-matter – promising much more than the movie actually delivers in terms of grant scale and answers to Big Questions. In fact, the most appropriate bits of the score come in the form of the direct samples from Harry Gregson-Williams’s original Alien compositions. (More can be read about the score on Chris's comprehensive accompanying soundtrack review.)
Indeed, despite Scott’s apparent attempts to deviate from the path of a trademark Alien film, there are far too many elements present here to avoid drawing parallels, and, more tellingly, it’s these elements that stand out as the best bits in the movie.
From the opening landing of the ship Prometheus, we are reminded of the landing of the Nostromo in Alien, only here we are allowed to revel in the magnificence of modern technology and CG at its best – seeing a full daytime 3D shot of the huge, intricately-designed craft touching down, its forward-protruding glass cockpit making for one of the best 3D-friendly ship designs ever committed to film. It’s the first of many shots which, whilst not bragging about the way in which they use the 3D effect, still, almost imperceptibly, work wonders with it.
As the various land vehicles are unleashed, we feel very much a part of the action, the personnel carrier and its accompanying buggies tearing through the dirt landscape, carving out a dust-cloud wake which looks simply stunning. Scott may not have a full handle on the production, but he makes the most of these kinds of wide, panoramic shots – and it really shows. There’s a grand spectacle to most of the first act that should leave many in awe.
Over the course of the next half hour there are a few more nice touches – the black-box recording of the last stand of the engineers (which give the advanced-technology movie a wonderful opportunity at future/retro technology as suggested from an alien race); the little roving scanner drones which map out the complex (allowing for another fantastic 3D model to be created, this time of the complex itself); and the trademark motion-scanner-style beeping that indicates an unidentified life-form at the far end of the same complex in which two of our ship’s crew are trapped. Unfortunately almost all of these wonderful little ideas eventually come across as little more than abortive attempts at suspense, the tension from them soon dissipating through either poor editing or poor decision-making in terms of where the plot goes. (It’s moments like these where you wonder what happened to the genius behind the first Alien movie, and give you cause for concern about the same man now taking his hand to his other most noteworthy classic production, Blade Runner, and similarly devaluing it with a sequel/spin-off.)
Without a doubt the best scene in the entire film is the auto-surgery sequence that sees our lead protagonist performing an against-the-clock operation on herself after she finds out that there is an alien embryo gestating inside her. It’s almost brilliant enough to justify the entire movie’s existence. That the resulting offspring is more of a squid-like creature (rather than trademark Alien) than we would have maybe hoped for is neither here nor there – it’s a great scene, full of tension and palpably painful body-horror. It’s just a shame that they don’t capitalise on this brilliant set-piece because, had this been a better film, the scene could have easily gone down in film history as the Prometheus franchise’s equivalent to the classic Kane chest-bursting scene from Alien.
3D AND BEYOND
Still, it’s a great moment in a movie that is undeniably littered with them. The 3D effect itself, as I’ve already hinted at, is used more subtly than many fans would like. Indeed in the preceding preview trailer for the new Spiderman film (I’m still in the ‘do we really need another one so soon?!’ boat) you can see just the kind of 3D use that audiences love. But where Spiderman, and several other 3D features, uses the technology to go for the full-on wow-factor, I have to commend Prometheus for using the effect to only make the film seem yet more real. The CG ship landing? The ship felt real. The corporate suit’s personal cabin, complete with a holographic wall that could display anything imaginable – from a desert to a beach to a jungle – well, the first time I saw it, I wondered whether there was actually a giant ‘back garden’ in part of the ship itself, the 3D hologram looking so wonderfully deep. Later on we get 3D map renderings aboard the Prometheus, the black box recordings of the ‘engineers’ seem palpably physical, and, of course, the alien-ship star-map sequence (possibly the best 3D moment that you may have caught a glimpse of before seeing the movie) where the android, David, stands in the centre of the known and unknown universe as it spins around him in electro-neon glory.
And even beyond these – and several other – standout moments, what truly feels innovative and compelling about the movie is the grander, epic scale to it all, and the parallels and full-circle ideas which tie it so firmly into the overall Alien universe.
Ignoring the plot holes, the basic idea still posits the notion that a highly intelligent super-race of life-forms created mankind, and that they also later created these highly dangerous WMD ‘aliens’ which they were planning to use to cleanse several planets, including Earth. This very concept allows for some fantastic parallels to be drawn – as the later movies showed that mankind itself foolishly thought (repeatedly) that they could harness the power of these alien killers for use in its military structure, and mankind’s own creators obviously thought the very same thing in the first place; and they were both wrong. The beautifully tragic irony is not lost on this viewer. No, there are some great moments in this movie, and even some great sci-fi ideas. It should have been a classic.
However there is yet another big problem – beyond the plot-holes – which fatally damages the production: namely, the stop-start feel to the editing, and thus the pacing, of the whole film. We are confronted by superbly tense setpieces, with very real consequences, and then given little-to-no time to digest the ramifications. Her partner having been infected and then burned to a crisp – through his own self-sacrifice – our lead protagonist isn’t given a minute to reflect upon the loss; it’s just another plot set-piece which ties into the original Alien franchise (I mean, I’m surprised he didn’t just shout “Kill me!”), which would have been fine, had they actually followed it through to a satisfying conclusion. Instead it just feels like: right, that’s done, on to the next scene...
Similarly, the impact of the aforementioned excellent auto-surgery set-piece is largely squandered by a subsequent exposition scene where almost everybody involved chooses to forget – or just plain ignore – the alien squid-baby sitting in the next room, mainly because to address the issue would take too long, and they all knew where the plot was supposed to go instead. It just feels contrived, and borne out of a haste to tell a grand story, but in a limited runtime.
And whilst Scott is on the record as having repeatedly stated that this is his definitive director’s cut, I don’t buy that for a second – there’s no way that the story he wanted to tell here is a less-than-2-hour affair; the pacing is so abrupt at times that you can’t help but feel like they’ve omitted large swathes of dialogue and character development sequences; the film’s cohesive flow distinctly suffering as a result. Perhaps he’ll do a u-turn and release an expanded cut on Blu-ray (the pre-order of the disc has already been announced), and certainly the movie would benefit considerably from a longer, more considered cut, but one has to wonder whether he didn’t short-change fans expecting something epic now. Personally, I’d have happily sat through another hour of Prometheus – indeed I actually looked at my watch wondering why it was going to be over so quickly, especially when it felt like it got off to such a good start.
Performance-wise, we largely return back to positive territory, as there are a trio of great performances in this film, as a few very nice characters are brought to life. The original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself, Noomi Rapace – leaving behind her redundant participation in the similarly disappointing Sherlock Holmes sequel – takes the centre-stage as the Ripley-like female protagonist, who finds herself unwittingly caught up at the centre of the tale. Rapace, who was made distinctly un-sexy in A Game of Shadows, manages to bring it all back here – even in non-native English – and brings forth a fantastic performance that will likely leave you feel fairly invested in her character and her plight (but for, perhaps, her random final decision to confront the engineers on their homeworld which seems utterly crow-barred into the plot just to telegraph the inevitable sequel), and feeling for her physical stress during this outing. The auto-surgery she undergoes will stay with you for quite some time (more so if you know someone who’s had a C-section) and, even if she largely shrugs it off in a matter of seconds, through the help of a few pills, it’s a memorable, well-acted, set-piece. However, perhaps her greatest character moment comes in a brief scene where her eyes well up as we realise that she is haunted by the fact that she cannot conceive children; that she is sterile. Although it’s later revealed to be little more than a plot device, Scott hangs over this moment just long enough to allow it to resonate.
Charlize Theron was originally up for the lead role in the movie, before she was pulled from the project due to her Mad Max 4: Fury Road commitments. When that project got delayed (for the umpteenth time), she somehow forged her way back into Prometheus, stealing the role that would have unfittingly gone to Michelle Yeoh (who was brilliant in the sci-fi disaster movie Sunshine, but likely would not have fared as well here). Theron gets to play the corporate suit aboard the ship, in overall command of the crew, and with her own secret agenda to boot. What makes her such an interesting character is the later revelation that she is the daughter of Weyland; that she is indeed human, despite acting like a cold-hearted android; and that she is driven by envy and bitterness over her father’s lack of love, insistence on not giving up his mantle, and affection for another child –namely his android creation, David. One of the great moments, where Theron’s character gets to mirror the actions of Alien’s Ripley herself, sees her determined – at all costs – not to let an infected crew-member on board the ship. It’s a great scene, especially when you know what happened to the Nostromo crew when they went the other way!
The android, David, is perhaps the best outright character. Michael Fassbender continues to impress, after a near-flawless series of excellent characterisations – from his seminal biopic Hunger to his early indie flick Fish Tank; from his excellent turn as Magneto in the flawed X-Men: First Class reboot to his charming assassin in Soderbergh’s alternative spy thriller, Haywire. Hell, the man can even do period costume drama, with 2011’s Jane Eyre standing amidst the better interpretations of the literary classic. Here he manages to largely avoid the mannerisms and behavioural tics of both Ian Holm’s Ash from Alien and Lance Henriksen’s Bishop from Aliens and, whilst they were both great Alien-universe androids, Fassbender’s David, perhaps due to the fact that he is an earlier model, is afforded a greater emotional depth. Convincing to the last, the only flaw in his character comes not from Fassbender’s performance, but from Scott’s direction and Lindelof’s script – as noted already, why would David be looking for alien technology that could be used to further the Weyland corporation’s weapons division? (As that is surely the only possible reason why he would infect one of his own crew with the black liquid, cause Noomi’s scientist to get pregnant with an alien child, and then attempt to force her back into stasis so that they can return the alien foetus to Earth... all of which would have made sense, had he been Ash from Alien or the corporate Burke from Aliens.) Still, the great thing about Fassbender’s David is the brimming latent emotion within him, which makes him a little bit like a (genius) child in this one respect – despite his vast knowledge and superior intellect, his lack of human understanding still leaves him out in the cold, and he doesn’t like it.
Amidst the rest of the crew, few of the others really stand out, and some actually devalue the piece a little bit with their over-the-top, oftentimes disjointed, characterisations. The best of a bad lot is Idris Elba – most recognised on TV as either the grouchy, slouchy London detective Luther or the smooth drug kingpin Stringer Bell in The Wire, but also pretty decent in films like the comic-book adaptations The Losers and Thor – who plays the ship’s seasoned captain with a painful US accent, but just enough of his trademark charm and gruff charisma to make him stand out amidst the rest of the largely throwaway support. It’s certainly enough character development to make you feel that this guy might have actually sacrificed himself to ensure the survival of the human race – and the same certainly can’t be said for his two joke-cracking pilot crew-mates.
Indeed none of the other cast members really make a memorable dent in the proceedings, other than perhaps a bad way. Rafe Spall, who was such a brilliant psychopath in The Shadow Line, is utterly wasted here as one of the scientists who does the least sensible or logical thing, and reaches out to touch the strange slimy alien tentacle he comes across. Joining him for his illogical step is Sean Harris’s Fifield, a rock specialist with a bright red Mohican and a money-grabbing mercenary attitude to boot (I kid you not). Fifield goes way over the top for this part – painfully so – and, worse still, the character isn’t even consistent in his fear of alien life, instead simply joining Spall’s scientist in their ill-fated attempt at first contact.
Logan Marshall-Green will always feel like a bit of a poor man’s Tom Hardy to me – not just in looks but also in manner. However he does the job as Rapace’s boyfriend, even if he doesn’t have anywhere near enough character development – and even if his pivotal death scene is soon glossed over rather than capitalised on.
Then there’s Guy ‘Memento’ Pearce’s turn as the elderly Weyland. Now, I get why they used Pearce for the viral marketing campaigns, ageing him from the 2023-set campaigns so that in Prometheus, he looks ancient. What was he, 150 years old or something?! But seriously, the makeup looks comedy. It’s like the work they did on Eastwood’s botched J. Edgar biopic, only even more prune-like. For a character who you’re supposed to take seriously, it’s a real shame that they went so over the top in the makeup department.
So, as you can see, Prometheus is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Whilst it boasts true spectacle, an epic scale unprecedented in the Alien universe – and in the sci-fi genre of late – as well as some fantastic existential questions which truly resonate in the piece, it gambles away much of its early promise with a plot-hole-laden script that simply fails to satisfy on almost any level. Similarly, whilst the film offers some brilliant set-pieces, some moments of pure exciting escapism, it often throws away the significance of these scenes through disjointed pacing and, frankly, bad editing. Even the trio of excellent performances at the peak of the ensemble cast cannot save the project from being largely swallowed up by its own ego.
And it really shouldn’t have been this way – Prometheus should have been a great masterpiece; it should have been Sir Ridley Scott’s first true classic in quite some time; a seminal entry in the sci-fi genre which has the potential to open up an equally noteworthy franchise for further expansion.
Indeed, all we really have to look forward to now is a sequel, and the chance that they might, somehow, fix some of the mistakes made here, redeem themselves somewhat, and craft a more perfected game-changer with which to transfix audiences. In the meantime, all this does is raise my concerns about the fate of the Blade Runner franchise with Scott’s doddering hands now turning towards what will likely be just as equally flawed spin-off meddling. Should Scott leave his seminal early sci-fi classics well alone? Well, in the case of Alien, if this single Prometheus movie is all we get from him, then the answer in unequivocally yes.
6,702 word review written by Cas Harlow.
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