Before I get started on this review I want to get something off my chest, though I suppose out of my chest would be more fitting for a film inhabiting the Alien universe. I have loved horror films since I was knee high to a grasshopper, yeah, that’s the analogy I am using, you gotta problem with it, wanna fight? Seriously though, I have been a horror fan ever since I can remember, growing up however I just never dug sci-fi films or television. Star Trek and even Star Wars just seemed so silly to me. I know, I know, the irony of being a B-horror fan but disliking sci-fi for being cheesy, almost makes your head explode Scanners style. Clearly with a reference to one of the greatest sci-fi horror films ever, I have managed to overcome my distaste for “that other genre” over the years. The films that really opened up the genre for me, and show it could be more than what I had in my tiny little brain, were Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Ridley Scott’s Alien. So, why do I feel the need to tell you all this? Simple. Many of the criticisms I am seeing for Ridley Scott’s new film Prometheus seem to be rooted in fanboyism, or those that are finding inconsistencies with other films within the Alien framework. I personally don’t have that kind of connection to the franchise, due to getting into the game so late. That certainly does not mean I don’t adore the Alien films (well the first two at least) but I don’t have the expectations of the film that others may. Got all that?… Onto the review then.
After more than 30 years Ridley Scott returns to the premiere sci-fi horror series he helped bring to life. Scott once again sits in the director’s chair, with the script written by relative newcomer Jon Spaihts, and someone no stranger to science fiction, Damon Lindelhof, one of the creators of the mega-popular tv series Lost. The rumor mill on the film was that Scott had initially planned it to be a full-on prequel to Alien but due to budget cuts and other unknown reasons, the script was re-penned into what came to be Prometheus. The internet was ripe with speculation in the months leading up to the release of the film. Just how intertwined would the film be with the Alien mythology? Would it have any ties to the beloved franchise, or would it be a beast unto it’s self? After seeing the film, the answer is, well, both.
The film opens with a cryptic figure on the edge of a stunning waterfall, he carries with him some sort of small container of black sludge. He proceeds to open the container, and ingest its contents. As we take in the beauty of the crystal clear water, we bare witness to the contrasting image of this being’s body viciously ripping apart and plummeting to the watery abyss below. Those with a keen eye will notice something rather peculiar with the DNA strands that are shown within the depths of the water that have just engulfed this mystery entity. From here we are dropped into the caves of Scotland where archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have made what seems to be a marvelous discovery. Scribbled on the cave walls is a figure pointing toward the heavens above.
When we get our first glimpse at the ship, Prometheus, we get a taste of where the film is going to take us over it’s 124 minute run-time. Both the ship and crew members, which we find out have been resting in sleep pods during their journey, will most certainly feel a bit familiar to those even vaguely aware of the franchise. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) introduces our crew to the hologram image of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), who welcomes them aboard. He then proceeds to give the floor to Elizabeth and Charlie, who let us in on the real reason they are all on this voyage. They have found that common image we saw earlier on the the cave wall between numerous cultures, throughout many aeons, all of which could not possibly have been in contact, thus making the image that much more bizarre. The image points to a planet, the planet they just landed on that very morning. They believe that they may be on the brink of the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, a direct link to our creator, and the potential of answering the most substantial questions that have plagued man since the dawn of time… Who are we and who spawned the human race?
Prometheus is a remarkable film from a technical stand point. I am very firmly in the practical special effects camp, but CGI is put to very good use in the film. I have also been very leery of the use of 3D in films as of late, Prometheus however, utilizes it in a way that only enhances the film, and never feels shoehorned in. Don’t expect body parts to be shooting at your face, the film puts its 3D to much better use, immersing you in the world the characters inhabit. The score is also of note, for the most part it lends itself quite well to the film. There was however one particular piece of music that I found a tad too cheesy and somewhat distracting. Overall though, I was impressed with the choice of music. I found most of the performances very convincing, I was particularly impressed with what Noomi Rapace brought to the film. She has both the look, and depth of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, all while bringing a completely new dynamic to what we have come to expect in a heroine.
The film is not without its flaws unfortunately. I mentioned that most of the performances were pretty spot on, Charlize Theron’s character Meredith, just never really got off the ground for me. Not to say that Theron didn’t put in a serviceable performance, but it was just a little too one dimensional. My biggest gripe with the film however is without a doubt the black hole sized plot holes. From what I understand, they trimmed around 100 minutes from the film, and I expect that those scenes may very well tidy up some of the aforementioned holes. I also noticed a few moments in which characters were doing things that didn’t seem to make a whole ton of sense, given previous character development, or characters ignoring major occurrences that we witnessed only one scene earlier. I am very anxiously awaiting a Director’s Cut release and to see the complete vision of the film.
I am sure the big question for many is, just how much does it connect with all the previous Alien films? I don’t want to give away too much, but trust me when I say there are many nods to the franchise, some obvious and some a little more under the radar. Clearly director Ridley Scott, and writers Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts have love for the series, and want to bring it out of the artistic coffin it was buried in quite some time ago. It becomes rather evident early on that they want to do so with an original vision, which I respect the hell out of. The thought of Hollywood simply rebooting Alien makes me cringe. I want to make things absolutely clear, if you go in anticipating the film to be filled with Xenomorphs, you may very well leave the multiplex disappointed.
Prometheus on a whole is a breath taking piece of cinema, especially as a big budget summer blockbuster in this day and age of all style and little substance. It brings forth a lot of very important questions that each and every human being has struggled with to an extent at one time or another. It does this in a film which is technically stunning on all counts, has a very strong script, believable dialogue, a solid sprinkling of gore, and characters that you will find yourself very heavily invested in. If you can let go of your preconceived notions of what the film should be, or should not be, and how things do or do not connect with previous Alien films, you will not find a better sci-fi or horror film this year.