With its mix of Hitchcockian tension, stunning art direction and sinister Freudian imagery, Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction thriller Alien is (imho) one of cinema’s finest achievements. So, in anticipation of Prometheus, a (kind of) prequel to Alien, I was drooling much like the film’s monster. Unfortunately, a messy, unengaging and ultimately confusing script from John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof renders Prometheus a disappointment.
The film begins with a dubious premise as archaeologists in 2089 discover cave paintings across the world that all point to a distant solar system and possible humanoid inhabitants. On the basis of this Neanderthal graffiti a team of scientists led by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace is despatched at great expense to investigate what might be our interstellar ancestors. Having seen the previous Alien films, though, we know something nasty must be waiting for them.
The story draws not only on Alien but also 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jurassic Park and the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus the titan who created man from clay and sought to save mankind from destruction by Zeus. Consequently, Prometheus touches on weighty themes such as the beginning and potential end of life on earth, the possible intervention of a superior being in our fate and what it means to be human. This could have been a thrilling mix of classical myth and science fiction but it fails to explore the various themes in a satisfying way.
The film mostly opts for noisy action spectacle although enough money and cgi experts have been thrown at it to occasionally make that spectacle pretty impressive.
The film visually references Alien with some scenes set in very similar locations such as the bridge of the famous Space Jockey’s ship. Unfortunately, Prometheus, has too many holograms and fairy lights that deprive it of Alien’s visceral and intimidating realism. Still, Alien obsessives will have fun spotting sequences, dialogue and even sound effects that are almost identical to those in the original film.
Prometheus would have been more impressive if it hadn’t been so choppily edited; it constantly darts about between characters and scenes which kills the tension and makes it feel as if were watching an extended trailer.
Also, the characters aren’t very interesting. Charlize Theron plays the obligatory corporate meanie with an ulterior motive for the mission although and while she’s a bit of a fascist, she’s an unconvincing villain. Noomi’s ok as the feisty female lead but she’s no Ripley. Much of the film’s focus, is on Michael Fassbender who plays the Lawrence of Arabia-obsessed android David. Fassbender’s one of the best actors around but he’s not as memorable a robot as Ian Holm from Alien, Lance Henricksen from Aliens or even the robot from Lost in Space. Guy Pearce also pops up briefly in a superfluous role that sees him wearing some appallingly unconvincing old man make up.
Part of the appeal of a prequel is that it might provide answers to some of the original film’s mysteries. Prometheus has a few revelations but these aren’t particularly satisfying. In the end it leaves us with more questions than answers and seems to be gearing up for a sequel; yes Prometheus seems to the prequel to the prequel to Alien.
Director: Ridley Scott
Released: 7th June 2012
Running time: 124 mins
- Film review: ALIEN: COVENANT, by Nick Gardener from Built For Speed
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- Film review: GRAVITY, from Built For Speed
- Film review: STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, from Built For Speed
- Film review: OZ-THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, from Built For Speed