The film world is in need of an antonym for ‘spoiler’. So often a review will warn a viewer about potential hazards in relation to plot points, twisty turns and turny twists but rarely will a critic give advice or a proposal that may ultimately aid a readers enjoyment of a movie. Prometheus needs such aid.
So be warned/be thankful that within this review we have a plethora of, free at the point of purchase, ‘unspoilers’. If you think that these may hinder your enjoyment simply click away, watch the film and join us after for a healthy debate. Because if one thing is certain from Ridley Scott’s venture back into space, a healthy debate is coming.
We begin on Earth. A place not set foot on in the Alien films that count. But no-one’s setting foot on this Earth yet because its uninhabited nature means feet don’t exist yet. That is until an ‘Engineer’ visits – think Dr. Manhattan without the big blue cock – drinks what can only be described as a ‘shitty cocktail’, carks it and begins life as we know it by tumbling into a waterfall. Millions of years later, approximately 80 from this StarDate, two explorers find a map that they think will guide them to their ‘Engineers’ home. When they get there the welcome mat is missing.
So first, the ‘unspoilers’. Ridley Scott’s DNA-sharer is not an Alien movie in the sense we know and love. It isn’t a horror (save for one scene) and for the majority of the running time it isn’t humans battling a foreign creature. And for Alien purists, this is an important ‘unspoiler’, the Space Jockey you’ve seen in the trailer? It’s not THE Space Jockey of Alien. The planet they’re on, it’s not THE planet from Alien and its sequel.
With those facts buried deep into your subconscious we’ve just ‘unspoiled’ the end of Prometheus. Because if, like many, you’ve gone into Prometheus thinking you’re going to get the prequel to Alien – as some nefarious marketing bodies have hinted – you’ll be spitting acid by the final credits. Sadly even with these provisos, you may still.
Returning to the ‘nefarious marketing bodies’ Prometheus is pitched as “Ridley Scott returning to the genre he helped define”. It isn’t. It’s Ridley Scott returning to the genre Stanley Kubrick defined with a monolithic dose of 2001:A Space Odyssey injected into the spine of proceedings. Yet for all the intelligent science fiction aimed for, the sad fact is the end through line, what pilots the movie, is more Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. An odd numbered – and therefore, according to the Law of Bisley, shite – Trek film in which Shatner and pals went looking for G.O.D.
It’s an epic understatement to state that some things work better than others. The biggest slap in the face is the infuriating “forget answers to your questions, have some more questions” attitude adopted by all. Quelle surprise, one of the writers worked on Lost. This manner of delivery is exacerbated by the fact that when Scott tackles simple – Jaws in space, detective hunts replicants, Gladiator seeks revenge – he’s a master filmmaker. When he attempts complexity – the convoluted Body Of Lies, the everyone and his horse Robin Hood – he falls flat on his face. In short, Prometheus is far too complex for its own good.
Which is surprising considering the script – a two hander by Jon Spaihts, panned for The Darkest Hour, and Damon Lindelof, – contains such childlike, laughable dialogue delivered with such earnestness it could be used to fight off a colony full of Xenomorphs. Pity poor Charlize Theron, for she, as a purposefully passionless character, gets the brunt of the dire dialogue. Keep your eyes peeled for her delivery of the singular word ‘Father’ late on in the game. It’s a true howler. While that may be the most memorable, everybody gets at least one.
After slinging around this much bile it’s high time we addressed the positives. And there are many, many more positives than the above ranting would infer. Visually, Prometheus is stunning. Jaw-on-the-floor, work of art, every frame a picture, stunning. Every new blockbuster should present the pinnacle of what visual effects can achieve, but they so rarely do. See Prometheus on the biggest screen you can and sit as close as you can.
Another positive is the casting. Before we even saw one frame of Noomi Rapace she had our sympathies. How do you compete living in the shadow of Weaver’s Ripley? To be far, she doesn’t. And can’t. But when the film focuses on her (far too late in the day) she shines, bringing an air of likeability and purpose to a film lacking both. In the only real full-out horror scene – one to make pro-lifers turn on a dime – she gives us a performance as powerful as any of her Lisbeth moments.
But the real star of the show is Michael Fassbender’s David. His Pinocchio by way of T.E. Lawrence is a joy from start to finish. He’s so good that he persuades the director to spend too much time with him, threatening to derail events. This transgression, while hardly his fault, is more than forgiveable, especially considering what he’s given to work with dialogue wise.
That it has taken until well after the film is finished for this reviewer to even contemplate an ‘anatomically correct Fasswang’ joke shows just how successful his creation is.
See Prometheus. The truth is it deserves your opinion, even if it’s a negative one. The scope of its ambition is matched only by the speed in which it loses its way. It will provoke debate and we dare say that in the future – viewed with the inevitable sequels – it may be judged differently. For now, throw away all thoughts of ‘that’ space classic from 1979 and perhaps your pleasure will be enhanced.