It’s been 33 years since Ridley Scott’s Alien, a film which has since gone on to become a classic and is widely regarded as one of sci-fi’s most seminal pieces. After many sequels and spin-offs – some admittedly better than others – the highly anticipated Prometheus heralds Scott’s return not only to the genre, but to his universe, with the film being strongly marketed as a prequel and being said to have ‘strands of Alien-DNA’. Whilst Prometheus just about works as a standalone sci-fi movie, fans of Scott’s aforementioned work may be left disappointed.
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After a visually arresting opening sequence, the story begins in 2089 with two archaeologists – Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) – who discover ancient paintings hidden in a cave on the Isle of Skye which give clues to the origins of mankind on Earth. Four years later we find them on exploratory spaceship Prometheus, where they and others are awoken from their two-year slumber by android David (Michael Fassbender). They have reached their destination – a distant homeworld of an Alien planet – where they hope to make contact with their creators.
It’s a mission that raises some interesting questions; ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘Where did we come from’ are among the food for thought on offer here. Unbelievably, many of these answers remain desperately out of reach come the end of Prometheus. Rather than extracting everything they can from these topics, the film seems in a rush to move on to other plot lines. This in itself is not hugely detrimental; however, many of the events which transpire in said sub-plots suffer from a lack of exposition, leaving only more unanswered questions in its wake. Rarely has beautiful simplicity been more needed, and wanted.
Part of the reason why Prometheus finds itself in this problem is the poor script. Whilst almost all of the characters’ personalities are established well enough early on, they are given little or no time to evolve as the film races off in search of another plot thread (perhaps with the exception of Dr. Shaw). As an easily avoidable consequence, it’s difficult to emotionally invest in characters, some of which struggle to be anything more than one-note. All we can do is lament about how nice it would have been to see more of the likeable Janek (Idris Elba) and the authoritarian woman-in-charge Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who share one of the movie’s rare humorous moments and whose stories warrant further exploration.
Even with all these problems, Prometheus is still an enjoyable watch. If the story is far from a masterpiece, the visuals are near flawless. From the incredibly shot landscapes to the huge Prometheus in the vastness of space, you can only admire the cinematography on display here. Of course, all of this is bolstered on the immersive IMAX screen, even if the 3D is unremarkable.
For the most part, the star studded cast are effective in their roles. As Dr. Shaw changes and develops, so too does Rapace elevate her performance. However, Fassbender is the undeniable standout here; his unflustered android has easily the most intriguing arc, and Fassbender remains magnetic throughout.
“Any Last Words?” With outstanding visuals and strong acting, it’s a shame that Prometheus is let down by a poorly constructed plot, and functions as more of a set-up than a complete sci-fi epic. Guess we’ll have to wait for the inevitable sequels for some answers…
Prometheus lands in UK cinemas today. Watch the trailer below.
Starring | Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green and Rafe Spall.
Director | Ridley Scott Cert |15 Run Time | 2 hours 4 mins