Film review by Jason Day of Prometheus, starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Directed by Ridley Scott.
To like this post, comment on it or follow this blog, please scroll to the bottom. Use the search function on the left of the screen to look for other reviews and updates.
Landing on a mysterious and remote planet, a crew of scientists investigate what looks like the origins of mankind, a race of giant humanoids, linked to ancient artefacts and paintings back on Earth. They also uncover an horrific virus that could spell the end of man.
The Alien movie franchise has progressed (or regressed, depending on what you thought of Alien vs Predator, 2004) light years from its auspicious beginnings in 1979, back in’t day when you could believe a tagline like ‘in space, no one can hear you scream’.
Given that the future of mankind in these films has been well and truly trodden into space dust, the only way to squeeze extra dollars from this cash cow is to go back in time.
For those of you not initiated to the screams and excesses of those movies, a quick summary:
- Alien (1979) – an alien kills a mining spaceship’s crew one by one. Only Ellen Ripley lives
- Aliens (1986) – Ripley returns to the alien’s planet with Marines and finds lots of aliens
- Alien 3 (1993) – Ripley crash lands near a remote prison, with the alien in tow
- Alien: Resurrection (1997) – Ripley is genetically recreated and is part alien herself
- Alien vs Predator (2004) – an alien from another movie battles aliens from these movies
As these films prove the law of diminishing returns they also show that Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is one of the unluckiest characters in cinematic history.
Director Scott is back wielding the megaphone duties and two of the producers from Alien, David Giler and Walter Hill, join him for a prequel that had some exceptional marketing and PR behind it.
Mysterious trailers; tantalising video ‘extras’ of Michael Fassbender’s android and Guy Pearce’s shady billionaire philanthropist, excitable online chatter from film fans and sci-fi geeks the world over about what this and the movie itself meant added layers of mystique. All of this seduced audiences into thinking this was going to be something very special…and shifted ticket sales, too.
In reality, Prometheus is 124 minutes too long, a high concept that should have remained as such. Stretched out as thinly as possible, its limitations are laid bare rather than expanding an audience’s appreciation of a classic movie.
Despite this, it gets off to a cracking start, with opening shots of stunning, crisp and barren landscapes (some of the exteriors were filmed in Iceland and Scotland).
In swift fashion we move to horror as one of the giant humanoids (glimpsed only as a fossil in Alien) is infected with a virus. The camera swoops in on his veins and skin cracking open, contrasting this parasitic earthquake with the tranquil serenity of the landscape around it.
Scott has a bigger budget than he could ever dream of back in 1979 (around $120m compared with $9m back then) that permeates down to little details like the design of the crew’s ship, now lit with coloured light and more homely than the cramped industrial Nostromo.
The spacesuits have a oily, sexy look, replacing the functional, ‘Michelin Man’ ones we are used to seeing.
This last point creates a problem for the film. Prometheus is set before the events of the first film in the franchise, yet technology and style are more advanced.
Its not only anachronistic, but eventually the film tries so hard to shoe-horn in new ideas and concepts that it clashes with the original production.
The origins of man being extraterrestrial, rooted in von Daaniken’s Chariots of the Gods or, for those of a certain generation, X Files episodes, are neither original nor interesting. This film is one hell of a rehash job and it none too cleverly stitches together its constituent parts. At one point in Prometheus the crew inspect alien artefacts with incredible dexterity, speed and confidence, despite never having viewed such items before.
This narrative thread may have worked as an original film itself, entirely removed from this franchise, but is clumsily tacked on here.
Despite producing such a glittering, brilliantine film and with Noomi Rapace’s ‘demon seed birth’ scene one of science fiction cinema’s most unnerving moments, Scott gets too consumed in marrying these disparate elements and forgets how to wind an audience up with unbearable tension, as in the first movie.
Back to the good things though and, despite the over done support performances, Fassbender is riveting as the shifty android David, glacially suspicious but impeccably mannered from the outset. Activating a huge hologram of the cosmos, David dances with the images, with childish delight.
The themes of parenting and genetic immortality are handled well: Charlize Theron is the unemotional daughter of Guy Pearce’s aged billionaire philanthropist (unrecognisable under layers of prosthetics). She is less attentive than David, the son he has created and clearly favours. The whole mission concerns Pearce’s thirst to live forever and the crew of Prometheus (though unaware of Pearce’s presence) hurtle themselves into space to extend human knowledge and existence, ignorant that they may annihalate themselves.
These are some of the best moments of the film, lost amidst the tangle of Alien tendrils.
Cast & credits
Director: Ridley Scott. 124mins. Scott Free Productions/Brandywine Productions/Dune Entertainment. (15)
Producers: David Giler, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott.
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof.
Camera: Dariusz Wolski.
Music: Marc Streitenfeld.
Sets: Arthur Max.
Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie.