Prometheus should’ve been a triumphant return…
It marked the return of Ridley Scott to science fiction, a genre he hadn’t tackled since 1982 with the classic Blade Runner; it also marked his return to the Alien franchise that he himself orchestrated way back in 1979 to horrifying effect.
Cinema goers girded their collective loins, expected the unexpected and held their breath for surely the most anticipated Sci-fi prequel since The Phantom Menace.
The result was much the same…
Before I unleash the inevitable backlash, let’s spend some time in the company of Prometheus’ good points, of which there are actually a few. Simply put, THIS. FILM. LOOKS. GORGEOUS. Scott has one of the finest cinematic eyes, of course, and everything is a feast for those hungry, hungry ocular spheres that sit in the middle of your face. The ships, the planet, everything has been thought through and fleshed out (more than the script has, apparently) and even though we seem light years away from the grit and smear of the space truckers from Alien, it’s still a fully formed world.
Also, desperately trying to make their characters as fully formed as their surroundings, are the actors, primarily Noomi Rapace’s gutsy heroine and Charlize Theron as a corporate ice queen, but it’s Michael Fassbender’s fascinating, Peter O’ Toole fixated android, David, that steals so much of the movie he should be court ordered into doing community service. Also, it has Idris Elba playing a concertina; which is nice.
The final plus note, and fairly important for a movie even randomly lodged in the Alien series, is the high level of nasty the movie is determined to achieve with some legitimately gruesome fates handed out to many of the cast and a show stopping extra-terrestrial squid caesarean that is guaranteed to bring the house down.
This all eventually brings us to Prometheus’ Achilles heel which is pretty much everything else. The story concerns a scientific research team searching for the source of all life on earth by using a star map found in multiple archaeological digs around the world. Upon arrival, their scavenger hunt for “God” leads them to abandoned temples on a far away planet which introduces them to The Engineers, a race of DNA tinkering demigods who are a heavily ret-conned version of the fossilized “Space Jockey” from the original Alien. However some fucking around with the black goo the Engineers use to warp and create life (this IS a horror movie after all) causes mutation and death and as events rapidly spiral out of control the crew find out that their whole expedition may have been funded with an ulterior motive in mind.
If all this waffle about finding God and searching for the origin of life sounds all proper deep and stuff, I can assure you it plays with all the depth of an unused spittoon.
Every time the movie tries to burble out something profound it’s continuously undermined by the ridiculously low survival instincts of it’s own characters, most of whom blindly wander into death’s merciless embrace like a toddler chasing after a Haribo on a string. I shit you not, Prometheus, almost proudly, parades out some of the biggest fucking morons I’ve ever seen in a movie. I’d expect some stoned jock in a Friday The 13th flick to go wandering off into the dark on their own like a blithering idiot but not someone armed with a fucking PHD!
It’s this clumsiness that brings the lofty aspirations of Scott and co-writer Damon Lindlehoff flaming back to earth like a spaceship in a nosedive and only succeeds in delivering fun, but strictly B-list thrills. Too different to measure up to Alien’s legacy and too dumb to stand on it’s own, thanks to Prometheus… God is dead.