Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" Surpasses "Alien"
Country: United States
Release Date: June 8, 2012
Distributor: Brandywine Productions
· Ridley Scott
· Noomi Rapace
· Charlize Theron
· Idris Elba
· Michael Fassbender
· Logan Marshall-Green
· Guy Pearce
Movie Review: Prometheus
by Eric Deters
Published: June 10, 2012
Like any sane human being, I was pretty pumped for “Prometheus.” It’s Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction and every tantalizing trailer we were shown gave us more and more to look forward to. From newly announced cast members to that awesome (AWESOME) sound effect in the trailers, the movie was shaping up to be one of the biggest this year. It looked terrifying and exhilarating, grandiose and personal, and on top of all that, just plain cool. It’s an odd metaphor, but the fact that that awesome (AWESOME (AWESOME)) sound effect that was in almost every trailer was nowhere to be found in the film I just watched says something about my feelings toward “Prometheus.”
“Prometheus” follows a large crew of scientists and engineers as they make their way to an undisclosed planet where they believe to have pinpointed the location of whatever extraterrestrial beings created human life. Chief among the scientists are Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who, after discovering identical markings at several distinct locations (both through space and through time) are hired by the Weyland Corporation (not quite the famous Weyland-Yutani Corporation that appeared in “Aliens,” which is technically set in the same universe, but don’t mistake “Prometheus” as a prequel to “Alien” or its sequel) to explore the planet that the markings led them to. They are accompanied by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), an executive from Weyland who is overseeing the project, David (Michael Fassbender), an android made to serve Vickers and perform background checks on the scientists, and Janek (Idris Elba), who is the captain of the titular ship Prometheus. While the writing for each character isn’t particularly strong, every actor does a remarkable job portraying their characters, particularly Elba and Fassbender, most likely because they have the best dialogue.
The expeditions the crew conducts when they land on the planet are the real tension-building moments, wherein they map a labyrinthine cavern underneath the planet’s surface and discover what lies beneath. The themes of the origin of human life and religion play a big role in the early parts of the movie, and it seems to be building towards this really crushing conclusion with a very bleak answer to the questions it poses, but it never does. For a movie in which, around halfway through, everyone starts dying at an alarming rate, the movie has a far too optimistic and bittersweet ending. Not only that, but until the final minute or so, somewhere along the line, those high-concept ideas are dropped to the side in exchange for some truly awesome set-pieces. I came into the movie most excited for those set-pieces, and they were done in a wonderful way, but if I’m going to judge the movie on the merits that it tries to set itself up on, it failed to make the story mean much at all.
The most distinct point of shark-jumping (or fridge-nuking, if you prefer) happens when an entirely unexpected character arrives on-board the ship. Hopefully that’s vague enough to spoil nothing, but at the very moment that that character shows up on screen, I kind of forced myself to turn off my brain and wait for the part where even more people are killed in increasingly gruesome ways. Every attempt at a twist starting around ten minutes before that reveal falls embarrassingly flat, when all that the movie really had to do was throw crazy alien stuff at me to keep me satisfied. To compare it to “Alien,” it’d be like interrupting the xenomorph start ruthlessly picking off the survivors on the Nostromo to tell us the backstory of each character on the ship; at that point, it really doesn’t matter, and it’s super-distracting.
To be honest, however, I don’t attribute most of those failings to director Ridley Scott. I think the fault lies squarely on the writers’ shoulders, Damon Lindelof (of “LOST fame) and Jon Spaihts. In fact, everything that I can find fault in with this movie has to do with the writing. Characters are, for the most part, flat and only interesting because of the supremely cool situation they find themselves in. The attempt at a barrage of twists near the end only results in one or two cool moments (both have to do with one of the big moments from the trailers), and the last 10 or so minutes try a bit too hard to be like the ending of “Alien.” There was a fairly cool reveal just before the credits, and I’m going to assume everyone knows what that’s along the lines of, so I won’t really bother with it.
Ridley Scott’s superb direction and eye for the cinematic and visually stimulating saved what was an entirely too ambitious story. The Prometheus itself is stunning both inside and out, and the simple fidelity of all of the film’s visuals (even in 3D!) is something to behold. This may have been the first time I’ve ever seen a 3D movie and not thought to myself, “This would be better in just about every way if I didn’t have to wear these glasses.” The reason? They fixed the darkness problem. Every 3D movie has some kind of problem concerning to brightness of their film except for “Prometheus.” Even in the scenes that are deliberately dark everything looks fine. The problem is, this shouldn’t be a positive thing for this movie alone. This should just be a thing. That being said, “Prometheus’s” actual 3D is fine too, which I’d put under the “immersive 3D” category.
The body horror was where “Alien” really shined, outside of the absurd amount of tension, and “Prometheus” does not disappoint here at all. The face-huggers from the original films are back but in a new way, and they’re even more fantastic now, although they don’t give way to chest-bursters. I won’t go into too much more detail on all the specific ways that “Prometheus” decides to brutally murder cast members, but I will say that I think there may have been a few too many ways. I know the term only really applies to detective-mystery stories, but it felt like there were a lot of red herrings, or different mechanisms for death than there should have been, and they aren’t entirely consistent. Again, I can’t explain that much either, but I think you’ll understand what I mean if you watch the film.
It’s hard to describe what’s excellent about “Prometheus” without delving too much into spoilers, but unfortunately, it’s fairly easy to talk about what wasn’t good about it under the same conditions. I know the review in general made it seem like I kind of hated the movie, but I didn’t, honestly. It’s just a disappointment, and in a lot of cases, that’s just as bad. The movie is truly something to behold from a visual standpoint, and the ways that it both pays homage to “Alien” and surpasses it in the gore department are particularly outstanding, but the fact remains that the lofty hopes that Lindelof and Spaihts had regarding the story just didn’t pay off the way they needed to. “Prometheus” was one of my three most anticipated films for this summer, but I have a feeling it’s not going to stack up against “The Avengers” or “The Dark Knight Rises” in the long run. I’m confident that people will have a lot of fun watching “Prometheus;” just don’t go in expecting a revolutionary film.