Film review: PrometheusBy James Chapple
October 24, 2012
THERE was understandable pressure on director Ridley Scott’s shoulders when Prometheus was announced – prequels are dangerous things.
In Alien, Scott gave birth to a monster, one of sci-fi’s most terrifying and enduring creations but the franchise’s eponymous star has not been well served since bursting out of John Hurt’s chest and on to cinema screens in 1979.
And with each subsequent outing – Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and finally the decidedly ropey Alien Resurrection (1997) – it was only Sigourney Weaver’s iconic turn as heroine Ellen Ripley keeping the series alive. But in Alien alone, Scott created a universe that feels as fresh today as it did 33 years ago and in trying to pay it homage while at the same time, trying to forge its own lore and identity, Prometheus falters.
Set in the late 21st century, Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and partner Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) uncover a series of cave drawings spanning thousands of years, seemingly pointing to the same point in space.
This, they hope, will finally establish mankind’s true origin but upon their arrival on moon LV-223, their mission quickly proceeds to unravel with grisly inevitability. Joining Shaw and Holloway aboard Prometheus are Vickers (Charlize Theron), a ruthless corporate stooge, and the ship’s irrepressible captain Janek (Idris Elba), as well as the usual motley crew of wholly expendable monster fodder.
And while Rapace delivers a fine performance without channelling Ripley too closely, it is Michael Fassbender, starring as the ship’s android David, who coolly steals the show, maintaining an assertive hold on proceedings to ensure the mission, bankrolled and thus corrupted by Vickers’s employer, is fulfilled.
In stark contrast to its predecessor, however, there is little of the dank, claustrophobia that characterised Alien. Prometheus is a visual marvel that trades subtlety and suspense for wondrous set pieces and vast CGI landscapes – a survival horror this most definitely is not. The plot, while muddled, and with more than a few clunky nods to Scott’s original – including a graphic chestburster scene subverted to recall an extra-terrestrial c-section – is substantial, and so it needs to be with Scott seemingly already set on producing a sequel due in 2014.
Prometheus boasts a strong cast, magnificent designs and a pacey plot which keeps you on your toes right to the very end. By toning down the horror in favour of action, Scott may have created a more shallow experience but nonetheless, Prometheus is an ambitious undertaking that has perhaps suffered from its branding as a prequel in the lead up to its release. No, this is a reimagination of the Alien universe and with a sequel in the pipeline, there is ample room for Scott to create a legacy to rival his original work.