(Ridley Scott, 2012)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Ridley Scott's precursor to the 'Alien' franchise greatly intrigues but ultimately underwhelms despite arresting visuals and Michael Fassbender's magnetic performance.
Beware: 'Prometheus' isn't really an 'Alien' film. It's a prequel in the broadest sense of the word, instead creating its own world separate to the one of chest explosions and that signature rapid machine gun sound. It's a richer, deeper exploration. And an ultimately less satisfying one.
Ridley Scott, who of course directed the original 'Alien' film, returns in the director's chair and brings with him his impeccable flair for cinematography, set design and casting.
Returning also is his one flaw as a filmmaker and it's a considerable one which has seen him re-edit his own films numerous times for the home entertainment release: he struggles to make the story coherent. And 'Prometheus' is brimming with misguided story.
It tracks a mixture of explorers, scientists and corporate-types that travel to a distant world in the year 2093. A group of prehistoric cave paintings on Earth have led them here with the belief that all human life originated from the planet. When the team discover what could be our ancestors, numerous questions come to the surface and Scott is accomplished at maintaining that sense of wonder.
Meanwhile, lifeforms begin to appear and threaten the crew but not in that shadowy "what if?" way that made Scott's original 'Alien' a masterpiece and also not in the way that saw James Cameron obliterate everything with epic action for the hugely satisfying sequel 'Aliens'. The action in 'Prometheus' hovers awkwardly in the middle. It feels less like an 'Alien' film and more like a convoluted stab at Carpenter's 'The Thing', right down to its themes of exploration, invisible threats and flame-thrower problem solvers.
What does work perfectly is (most of) the casting. Michael Fassbender as the curious android David is remarkable, stealing every moment. His desire to learn more and curate his own lessons sees him imitate Peter O'Toole in 'Lawrence of Arabia' in a moment of childlike innocence and then go forth to put his crew in jeopardy to see how they'll react. Throughout he's assuming the role of a science professor experimenting in the classroom, determined to accelerate his mind even if it means burning down the school. He's a meddler, an asset, a threat and a servant with more power and intent than everyone he serves. He very nearly saves the film.
The original girl with the dragon tattoo Noomi Rapace does well with the Ripley/Sigourney Weaver role. Her character has more depth and vulnerability too thanks to a family and religion subplot. She is the true, fully-fleshed human that Scott latches his film to and she doesn't let the picture down. Her performance also jolts us with the most heart-poundingly charged scene - an unflinching moment of gruesome self-surgery.
Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce are also solid as the queen-bee and leader of the shadowy Weyland Industries, granting the film a 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre' infusion of greed and determination in the face of a hostile, unknown environment. The rest of the cast are mostly cardboard cannon fodder - either annoying or naive.
By the end, and despite all the set-up, 'Prometheus' runs of steam, lazily lying back on the old standard of having a moronic 1950s style Universal Studios beast chase an injured (but faith renewed!) damsel in distress around. What a let down to find out that such an important figure in mankind's development isn't even worthy of B-movie dialogue.
Hats off to Scott for bravely trying something new. Let's just hope for a 'Blade Runner' style director's cut to really reveal the brilliance that is surely simmering below.
Check out our wealth of videos and stills from 'Prometheus' HERE at Cinemas Online.
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