Excited, I attended the advance screening late last week with a few hundred other attendees with high expectations. The early trailer that was posted a few months ago hinted at something special, another worthy addition to the excellent Ridley Scott catalogue. Since then, a number of reviewers have come to the conclusion that Prometheus is either an excellent thriller or a horrible addition to the Alien canon. To be clear, it’s not a direct prequel rather more of a reboot of the Alien universe.
Personally I tried to go in as blind as possible. I’d only seen the first teaser that was released months ago and then a further trailer that revealed a little too much before the avalanche of further film-ruiners. If you can and have, keep avoiding it all because it pays off in dividends.
The ship Prometheus, built for space exploration purposes is heading towards an unexplored universe that dangles the carrot of answering the biggest question of all – the origin of life. Carrying a crew of highly intelligent explorers that do inexplicably dumb things, CharlizeTheron is the captain of this ship as Meredith Vickers and while a little one-dimensional, given her limited material she does okay. She’s in super-tight mode and wants the mission to succeed based on everyone obeying her every order. Naturally, everyone’s a cowboy and wants to explore based on their own agenda.
You can generally guess what will happen from here. It’s unfortunate that Prometheus chooses to go down the same route as countless other sci-fi/horrors and it’s an even greater shame that Ridley Scott is the man at the helm that allows the ship to be steered there. Having brought us previous genre-defining works such as Alien and Blade Runner, Prometheus initially hinted at something that was an equal to his prominent works. It’s not but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good film.
Written by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof and the guy that wrote the vitriol that was Darkest Hour Jon Spaihts, one wonders why Scott even read anything from their personal printer. There’s flashes of greatness that the 3D presentation only improves however very clunky dialogue hampers the moments in-between.
The standout performance by far is Michael Fassbender’s David, an android that pre-dates Bishop and is even more cunning. Having just recently appeared in one of the year’s best films in Shame, this is another role that more than cements his ongoing reputation as one of the best film actors of right now. NoomiRapace is a close second as Elizabeth Shaw, arguably the biggest offender of making sure Vickers doesn’t get her way all the time. She was seen most recently in the Swedish Dragon Tattoo trilogy and is only prohibited here with the occasional poor dialogue, particularly one scene that is meant to be sympathetic but is almost laughable instead.
The film’s success lies in these two performances and the growing horror that slowly builds across the first and second act. Despite all of this it’s the ending that is the biggest disappointment. Realistically expecting a massive finish – and for all intents and purposes, it is, if we’re talking destruction of huge objects – a dull conclusion is what we’re gifted with instead. There’s the usual running-away-from-unbearable-horror thing going on but it’s so oft repeated these days that it really needs something special to distance itself from the rest of mediocrity and you’re given the impression it was a rushed idea to meet a studio deadline.
An emergency operating theatre scene almost compensates for the occasional drudgery of the dialogue but not enough to fix it up completely. It’s not a disappointing film by any means as Fassbender and Rapace are above and beyond the best of the film but a poor finale to an otherwise very enjoyable film brings it down heavily. Scott knows how to create a fascinating universe with the new toy of 3D but if he’s planning on making more of these – and it strongly hints at such – then he really needs new scriptwriters.
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