Review: Prometheus (2012)
In 1979, Ridley Scott took science fiction to greater proportions with Alien, a terrifying cat and mouse chase between a blood thirsty alien and a desperately frightened crew trapped with the predator on their small enclosed ship in the middle of space. Alien has all the makings a great sci-fi thriller; patient direction, marvelous special effects, a suspense filled story and a mesmerizing lead, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), to follow and panic along with. The sleek look of the extraterrestrial villain made skins crawl, while Weaver’s desperate race for survival made neck hairs erect and the imagery of space was awe-inspiring. Over 30 years later, Scott returned to the Alien franchise to helm the prequel of his 1979 success with Prometheus, a subpar but magnificently directed film that’s a bit infuriating, but so darn good to look at.
It’s 2093 and the spaceship Prometheus has been traveling through the cosmos for two years to reach its destination LV-233, a moon believed capable of harboring life as well as answers to the existence of human beings. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), two archaeologists whose hypothesis led to the voyage’s funding, base their belief off a handful of ancient cave paintings all depicting a group of stars not visible to the painters at the time. The two join mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), Captain Janek (Idris Elba), a group of researchers, and David (Michael Fassbender), an android obsessed with old movies and embracing the illusion of his humanity. After awakening from cryogenic sleep the crew are briefed on their mission and set off to look for evidence of “Engineers.” But they soon realize their presence has a sinister effect of the moon’s environment and perhaps the Engineers are nothing more than a violent species set on destroying our very existence.
Now the plot alone should make for a great existential topic interwoven into a thrilling film, and it would have had writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof been able tell a cohesive story that’s not just a set up for a sequel. Instead, Prometheus is plagued with plot holes and poor character development. We meet crew members but have no insight to their intentions or even purpose within the story, making about 99% of certain characters deaths void of a sympathetic reaction from viewers. Most character’s motivations are unclear and I spent large parts of the film confused at the importance of people, namely Theron’s Vickers, a serious director with a chip on her shoulder and no pivotal role in the film at all.
Prometheus takes its time explaining the technicalities of space situations, like the CO2 levels of the planet and how long the members can sustain breath without their helmets, but virtually no time is spent fleshing out who these people are and understanding their interactions with one another. Aside from that, the crew all seem to be imbeciles. They are smart enough to navigate around and through the crevices of an unknown planet, but lack the common sense to not touch the planets vegetation and animals. In one scene a character’s helmet is sprayed with a corrosive fluid, instead of simply removing his helmet, he screams until the acid erodes the material and ultimately his face. The crew is smart enough to realize that certain areas of the planet have oxygen, but stupidly explore without helmets risking infecting the atmosphere and themselves with bacteria.
It’s a shame that the story of Prometheus is so lackluster because the film is profoundly beautiful in its aesthetics. Scott is an auteur of sci-fi in the purest form and it shows in the beautiful wide shots of the planets rocky surfaces and the ships architecture. The filming of Prometheus’ first scene alone is a captivating single shot view of a being’s DNA being regenerated to form new life, blowing my mind and setting up the film’s gorgeous look at futuristic space. I recommend seeing Prometheus on Blu-ray in high definition to fully enjoy for the incredible vision Scott lays out, but don’t expect to be impressed by the story. If anything you may walk angry at the lack of answers.
Gallery of Images from Prometheus