This was on my most awaited list for 2012. I was vigorously following the marketing of this film. I prepare for this film by watching Alien. And when I finally got to see this awhile ago, all I could say was, “Hmmm, well I was kinda expecting this.”
Beyond a doubt, Ridley Scott is definitely what one would call a “visionary director. In the beginning of his career with Alien and Blade Runner, Scott exhibited a very visual eye. His visual compositions are amazing and all you need to do is recall the following: the claustrophobic interiors of the Nostromo and the Space Jockey ship from Alien, the opening shot of Los Angeles in Blade Runner, the battle sequences in Gladiator, and the chaotic streets of Mogadishu in Black Hawk Down. These films show Scott at the top of his game. However, if there’s something that these films have which the rest of his most recent films (yes, including Prometheus) do NOT have it’s a decent, or at the very least, a competent screenwriter.
Like I said earlier, when it comes to visuals Ridley Scott is definitely your man. The cinematography, the production design, the puppet effects, the make-up effects, and the visual effects are definitely well done. Specifically for the production design, the filmmakers decided to go “old school” and build physical sets instead of going CGI.
When the CGI enters the scene it’s just as pretty. The star map in the Space Jockey ship was really pretty, as well as the other HUD on board Prometheus. Ridley Scott was going for an epic feel to the film with regard to production design, and the CGI just enhances the feel ten-fold.
As for the 3D, I have mixed feelings regarding its implementation but with regard to dimming and blurring, I don’t recall seeing anything distracting from the experience. I’m actually glad that Ridley Scott didn’t bother too much with in your face 3D effects and even uses the whole 3D effect as an experiment with tension (I’m referring to a particular scene, you’ll know it when you watch it).
As for the suspense, the film does not do with the claustrophobic tension from Alien and opts for a more straightforward sense of suspense. It’s not as scary, gory, and terrifying as Alien, but it works for most part.
Also, Michael Fassbender gives a terrific performance as the android David. He practically stole the show.
The Bad (SPOILER ALERT, in some portions)
As I’ve always said time and time again; while primarily a visual medium, film is still driven by a narrative. Now while Prometheus‘ plot and story aren’t horribly bad, I’d have to say that it felt quite forced.
If you’ve been following the film’s development, it supposedly evolved from a straight-up Alien prequel to some sort of “pseudo-prequel”/ original story which somehow involves the Space Jockey from the original Alien film, and that, according to co-writen Damon Lindelof, if a sequel would be made it would be titled Prometheus 2 and not Alien.
I’m not entirely sure if his definition of prequel is different from THE definition of prequel (though in a postmodern world, one gives his own meaning of the truth), but I’d have to say that based on what I’ve just seen, I definitely saw a prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien. Believe me, I went in to watch an original story which would involve ancient astronauts laced with Lovecraftian cosmic horror undertones (which again, Alien borrows from). I went in to watch a Lovecraftian story where naive and unscrupulous men and women would search for knowledge which definitely isn’t meant for them. I wanted to watch a film which to relies on these story elements alone that easter eggs to the original Alien would feel like a cherry topping on an otherwise superb ice-cream sundae. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world.
The film’s script felt like fan-fiction. Now I don’t know if it’s because I’m all too familiar with the Alien mythos that Prometheus left me with a very irritating itch, but I have to say that the film’s attempt at being a pseudo-prequel to Alien did the film more harm than good. The philosophical musings are underdeveloped, and clashes with the half-baked attempts to tie this film to the Alien franchise. While the film does not have the usual Alien tropes of xenomorphs, facehuggers, and chestbursters (SPOILER ALERT), the snake-like creature, the face-hugger prime, and the creature gestating at Noomi Rapace’s womb replaced them. Admittedly, it was interesting to see these creatures in action, but in essence these are simply the prototypes of the xenomorphs from the original series: prototypes meaning half-made, concepts, incomplete, uninspired.
There were also moments when the characters’ action do not seem at all believable. The climactic scene with the crash of the alien craft was preceded by a totally random character realization that I went, “Wait a minute, did I miss something here? Why’d they decide on that immediately.” The explanation as to why the Space Jockey (or Engineer as what the characters call them, and SPOILER ALERT again) created humanity and decide to kill them is severely lacking and unconvincing (and if this is some deliberately plot-hole for a sequel, oh you bastards!).
You could argue that this film is supposed to appeal to non-fans of Alien, that this film was meant to be stand on its own free from the tropes of the aforementioned film. However, the images and the last shot of the film counter the idea of creating an original story independent from Alien and instead gives us a film desperately trying to break free from Alien‘s shadow only to discover a ball and chain attached to its leg.
Granted, I enjoyed moments of the film. The visuals are great, but they’re expected from a Ridley Scott film. There are portions of suspense but not to the level of Alien. Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are definitely eye-candy for this film, and Michael Fassbender gives another impressive performance in his ever growing repertoire.
However, the biggest hindrance to my enjoyment of this film is its own identity crisis. One could imagine the film asking itself, “Wait, I’m supposed to be an original story. WHY THE HELL ARE THOSE XENOMORPH PROTOTYPES BUSTING MY CHOPS?!”
I never thought I’d say this, but the Alien franchise seems to be a horse beaten to death already. The mythos has been overexposed already. It’s too familiar already. Yes, the idea of the ancient astronaut, while not exclusive to the Alien mythos, has already been touched upon in Stargate during the 90s. Though it’s an interesting idea, there is no need to tie it to Alien.
Simply put, Prometheus falls under the bad category of prequels: the type of film which sets the audience up for the first film of the franchise. I knew beforehand that the end of the film would explicitly feature a xenomorph. I just didn’t expect that the journey to seeing how that xenomorph came to be was exactly what I speculated before the film was released. Now, I usually do not mind predictability in plots, but I do love being proved wrong in movie guesses occasionally.
3.5 stars out of 5.