Film Review: Prometheus
Prometheus (In 3D)
Director: Ridley Scott (2012)
Prometheus is one of those films where in order to communicate my incredibly well-made, finger on the pulse, opinion, I’ll have to do some spoiling. To avoid doing that right away, I’m mixing things up slightly, skipping the usual facetious opening few paragraphs and instead jumping right into my patented facetious plot summary. I’ll then surmise whether I feel you should watch Prometheus or not, then I’ll put in a spoiler alert , then finally I’ll execute said communication, so this may well be a bit of a disjointed affair, the real irony being that I can only truly explain if you should watch the damn thing to people who have already seen it.
Commencing plot summary in 3,……..2,………..1……….. Prometheus begins with an alien bloke/thing killing him/itself by breaking down his/it’s DNA in order to create life on earth, which is a pretty decent thing to do if you ask me, although there were already trees, water, oxygen, the atmosphere etc, so arguably the alien dude/thing didn’t so much creating life as speed up an already in motion process, anyway, skip forward from that to the year 2089. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the second best thing in this film) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a cave painting that gets them rather excited. Especially Shaw, who grins like a crocodile on ecstasy upon sighting the crude imagery, thank non-existent god there wasn’t a Picasso nearby or her brain might have exploded. This is Sci-fi, so naturally cave paintings that cause excitement equal big things, and lo it was so, that by skipping forward another four years (2093 if you don’t like the math), the spaceship Prometheus arrives at a random planet. It’s not all thanks to the cave painting actually, Shaw and Holloway actually found the same signal in seven different civilizations, and we all know anything that occurs seven or more times isn’t a coincidence, especially in a sci-fi film.
The ship belongs to the Weyland Corporation (WC), as is the case with all sci-fi corporations, the WC isn’t all that interested in science, so there’s a military edge to its crew, which includes a classic cold shouldering, I’m in charge because I’m high-up in the company but don’t actually have any rank, leader, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, not her fault but she’s jointly the second worst thing about this film), a noble captain whose black and therefore ok to only give a first name to, called Janek (Idris ‘where’s Wallace String, where’s Wallace’ Elba) a geeky scientist (Rafe Spall), a mentally unhinged geologist (Sean ‘surely Control should give me better roles than this’ Harris) and a Scottish person (Katie Vick).There are others, but they don’t really get enough time for me to care to talk about them.
Finally, this is a film set in the Alien universe, and as we all know, in the alien universe the more prominently (whether you know it or not) an android is featured, the better an instalment it will be, Alien Resurrection being the exception that proves the rule. Rounding off the crew then, is the the ships android, David (Michael Fassbender, who is the greatest thing in this film by a long long longy long long way). The difference between David and the many androids that have come before/will come later is David doesn’t pretend he’s not a dick with his own agenda.
Luckily, if you choose to look at it that way, the cave painting symbols do indeed turn out to be a map, and thus the crew of Prometheus stumble upon an abandoned alien installation. An installation that has a helpful replay button David can use, which shows the crew what the previous inhabitants did just before they either died, or escaped from ‘something’. Unluckily, as with the majority of Sci-fi film excursions, the crew turn out to be the impractical types, with little or no common sense. They’ve also clearly not done their homework or watched Event Horizon. All the classic mistakes are here, taking your helmet off without fully analysing the alien atmosphere, not securing your priceless alien cargo down properly, choosing to hold your finger out to an alien worm with teeth, trusting an android even after he turns his monitor off and of course, the clichéd, ‘not questioning what your told’ approach to plot twists.
Plot summary stops here because I don’t wish to ruin things for those wanting to see Prometheus. There’s a lot more to say/rant about, but first I’ll pretend you asked if I think you should watch Prometheus. Should you watch Prometheus? Well, to answer your question, I first have to give warning, while set in the ‘Alien universe’, the ‘Alien universe’ stuff is the worst part about the film, as an alien film, it’s pretty poor. On the other hand, as a sci-fi film Prometheus is a decent watch. The whole finding and ‘investigating an alien civilization that may have created us’ plot is engrossing and well executed, the action’s tight, the body count’s suitably high and there are mysteries within mysteries that are worth sticking around to find out. There are admittedly a bunch of questions that aren’t properly explained, but what do you expect from a film that was written by a guy who wrote LOST episodes. Seriously, if I’d written any LOST episode, I wouldn’t tell people and if they asked, I’d lie and say I didn’t even know what LOST was.
So here’s what I’ll say, if you’re looking forward to an Alien film, don’t bother, if on the other hand the idea of Ridley Scott returning to the ‘intelligent sci-fi genre’, is what floated that boat of yours, then Prometheus is very much worth a watch. There’s a great build of suspense, some incredible visuals and a show stealing android, the 3D was shite, but I only saw it in 3D because my brother needed to sleep. It’s not a perfect film, nor is it one of Mr Scott’s better sci-fi films, predominantly because the stuff Mr Scott’s done before is so great. I’m going to use a bread metaphor; Prometheus is a nice fresh piece of toasted brown bread, there’s no seeds or anything that ruins or enhance the flavour, nor is it a fancy sort of like granary or cheese infused, it’s not fried, nor does it have a spread or filling, but it’s a hell of a lot better for you than white bread, and every ingredient has been mixed with a degree of care. Spoilers coming up cause I need to rant.
The worse thing Prometheus does is to try and incorporate the Alien franchise at all, I understand the box-office appeal that comes with using the word ‘Alien’, or ‘Alien universe’ or ‘Alien prequel’, even if the third one took place in the sentence; ‘it’s not an Alien prequel’, even though technically it is. Don’t believe me? Observe the trailer, see how they used all those bits of Alien iconography, the eggs, the life pods, the ‘old alien’ mask, the spaceship, Noomi Rapace screaming ‘get it out of me’ and holding her stomach, her stomach rising and falling. The only thing missing is a shot of a Xenomorph (Geek term for big scary alien from the Alien franchise) itself, but even then there’s a mutant space worm with a Xenomorph face. I don’t want to call shenanigans but that FOX studio did as much as it could to suggest it was an ‘Alien film’. Also, this may sound like a crazy thought, but I’ll bet incredibly few fans of the franchise ever gave two shits about where Xenomorphs originated from. Now that it’s been revealed Xenomorphs are the unintended by-product of an aborted half human/half black goo foetus and a larger alien species whose DNA is 100% identical to humans, an alien which coincidentally is itself the progenitor of the human race, I’m willing to bet even less will. Going further, if everything in the mix is black-goo and blocks of human DNA, how the fuck is the end result a Xenomorph? Where do acid blood and a double mouthed exoskeleton come from?
I’ll be mentioning this scene again, but there’s a moment where a mutated worm with a Xenomorph face jumps down a scientist with learning difficulties throat. Why not just have that the scientist body disappear and leave it open as to whether that’s the beginning of the Xenomorph species? If you’ve got to have more, have a moment where they stumble upon said scientist with learning difficulties body, complete with burst chest. Then move on and have everyone too busy to investigate the matter further. Something subtle like that, and this could be an ‘Alien film’. It may just be my opinion but, AN EXPNETIALLY GROWING ABORTED ALIEN FETUS SHOULD NOT BE PART OF THE FUCKING ALIEN BACKSTORY! How the fuck did the foetus get so big anyway? Fucking ridiculous! I honestly think Prometheus is a separate story that got pitched and then incorporated into the Alien franchise because every sci-fi American studios release these days needs to be part of some pre-existing franchise, a remake or unambitious shite.
Here’s my second gripe, why is everyone except the android an idiot willing to accept everything without question? Charlize Theron’s character is the best example, she had a private medical chamber that’s only equipped to perform operations on males, despite her clearly being a female (though that would have made a good twist, especially after she fucked Idris ‘us B’ Elba), sure she sensibly kills an infected scientist with a flamethrower, but she follows this up by letting the rest of the crew board unhindered. This despite the fact she has no possible way of knowing whether the rest of the scouting group have been infected or if they may spread the infection on board, very poor stewardship. Then there’s her attempt to outrun a rolling giant doughnut shaped space ship, an attempt that sees her neglect to spend the second that would be required rolling harmlessly away to the side, instead trying to outrun a ship she has no possible chance of outrunning by staying in its path. Her top moment though, occurs when unambiguously malevolent android David turns his camera off right at the point where he reaches a secret doorway. David gets back to the ship and she doesn’t even challenge him about it. ‘The android may be up to something, ah well, the script flows quicker if I don’t worry about it’.
I want to emphasise that it’s not Ms Theron’s fault, she a fantastic actress and I only single her character out because she’s the only one given enough time to be that stupid and not get killed halfway through. The next best example would be learning difficulties science man, returning once more to the previously mentioned worm scene; he happily makes goo goo noises and holds his finger out at the giant worm with flashing teeth, and is then surprised when the thing bites him. While a lot of the main cast are good, the supporting characters are very one dimensional, which, come to think of it, was a big gripe I had about LOST too, funny that.
That out of the way, there are three good reasons while I’ll be buying the DVD…….
First, Prometheus is a well told, old school sci-fi story, despite a one dimensional supporting cast and the odd idiotic decision made for plot convenience, it’s refreshing to see a Hollywood release this ambitious. Since Avatar, sci-fi has tended to relegate itself to big dumb, one eye on the 3D box office releases or horrors, or sometimes both. The result being the likes of Battleship, Battle for LA, Super 8 and fucking Apollo 18 have graced our presence not as B movie releases, but as actually intended blockbusters with the type of promotion that used to be reserved for real blockbusters like Alien 2. Prometheus bucks the trend in a big way, despite the major handicap of involving a LOST writer, there’s an incredibly nice pacing, a wonderfully subdued approach to explosions and gore, and an emphasis on scale and tension. It’s exactly the stuff that made Ridley Scott a household name in the first place, and makes me like it that little bit more. I’d say I’m impressed by Prometheus simply because where things haven’t worked, you can still give them credit for trying.
Look, if you read my Battleship review, you’ll see I enjoyed it from the ‘dumb fun’ aspect, but when every release attempts to conform to the same model, all that happens is a dumbing down of the audience and a further cheapening of the cinema experience. In a year that’s already seen big dumb fun with the avengers, and is awaiting the darker gothic trip of Batman, it’s a very positive thing that a film like Prometheus has gotten such heavy promotion.
Secondly, there’s a scene that’s breath taking in its beauty, I speak of course about Noomi Rapace getting an abortion/caesarean/male orientated stomach surgery in order to remove an alien fetus. It’s a scene that burns into your psyche, Rapace pitches her blind panic perfectly, and, ignoring the ramifications for the Alien mythology, it’s nicely placed within the plot. The scene before involved a dead Holloway, but instead of a grieving period that would have slowed things down, we got to see Rapace locked in a pod while live surgery is performed on her, all in a desperate bid to stop an ‘alien’ hatching, a move that ramps the pace up to 11. It’s from this point we head to a break-neck conclusion, minus a convoluted plot twist about an old man who hid the fact he was still alive for, from what I can tell, little more than shits and giggles. Rapace is so good in this scene, I’ll ignore the fact I’m expected to believe a character that just had her stomach cut open could run and jump around the way she does for the rest of the film. I think there can be no better testament to just how good this scene is than the fact that despite relegating the Xenomorph to subservient bi-product of human sexual activity, black goo and a barren womb (as opposed to the beautiful and perfectly evolved killers fans want/have been led to believe them to be), and the creation of an exponentially growing fetus, I still rave about it. It’s like being kicked in the balls just as you have a multiple orgasm, you just can’t stay angry, or so I’m told, I’ve never had a multiple orgasm, or given anyone one, in fact, what’s sex like?
Finally, I heard rumours Michael Fassbender nearly wasn’t in Prometheus because he wanted too much money, well whatever he ended up getting he deserves double. His portrayal of android David is what makes this film. Every David scene is engrossing and counteracts the idiot crewmembers/Alien crap. The ‘Android turns bad’ plotline is a well-travelled one, yet when done well, it remains captivating and this is where Prometheus’s strength lays. David looks creepy as hell with his slick, slightly receding and overly neat hairstyle, especially combined with a permanently fixed smile. He speaks far too politely to be human, permanently seems to mock the rest of the crew and has this air of superiority about him. Despite all that, he somehow can only really be described as cool. In a sci-fi about exploration, Fassbender’s portrayal adds an extra dimension, it’s no coincidence that after Prometheus ended, regardless of David’s role in poisoning crew member(s), neither my tired brother nor myself could label David as a bad guy. We left it as he’s an android with his own agenda, a character who we can’t really understand, which is manna from heaven in a character driven sci-fi like Prometheus.
I’ll close by mentioning Dead Space, because I promised my exhausted brother that I would. It may be a coincidence, but there’s a big resemblance between the aliens encountered in Prometheus and those in the game Dead Space. It’s a fair point from what I’ve seen, but my knowledge isn’t great on the subject, all I can say is it’d be a pretty cool full circle if Alien, which heavily influenced Dead Space’s design, led to Dead Space which influenced Prometheus’s design, that or just a boring way to end a film review, I don’t care.
Written by Sam ‘Watched every episode of LOST so you don’t have to’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions
Why not be kind and drop HFP a like on facebook