Prometheus (2012, Ridley Scott)

prometheus

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

A distant moon is identified as the home of the aliens who seeded life on earth. So, in 2093, the Weyland Corporation sends a ship of explorers and scientists to investigate…

The cast: The best thing in the whole movie is Michael Fassbender’s eerie, creepy yet oddly charming performance as the android David. He’s a fantastic creation; pleasingly, we’re never entirely sure of his motives. (Incidentally, he’s the fourth android in the Alien series, after Ash, Bishop and Call – ie, it’s following an ABCD pattern.) The closest thing to a lead character is Dr Elizabeth Shaw played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace. Rather than a redhead from Cambridge (I MADE A DOCTOR WHO REFERENCE!), she’s a wishy-washy archaeologist from… Well, to be honest, reading up about this film after rewatching it was the first time I’ve realised she’s meant to be English. Also in the phoney-accent club is Idris Elba playing Janek, the captain of the Prometheus. He at least has a rakish attitude to go with the cod-American drawl. Guy Pearce shows up as Peter Weyland, the boss of the company funding the expedition. He’s a very old man so Pearce has to wear prosthetic make-up. Oddly, he’s never seen young, the reason one would guess a 45-year-old had been cast. (Can we assume Peter Weyland is the son of Alien vs Predator’s Charles Weyland? The dates match, and Charles’s death in that earlier film would explain Peter’s obvious daddy issues.) Other members of the scientific crew include Shaw’s boyfriend, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green); geologist Fifield (Sean Harris with a bonkers hairdo); and biologist Milburn (Rafe Spall, who’s also got an unconvincing American accent). The mission supervisor is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, doing her best with a bland role).

The best bit: Impregnated by alien DNA, Shaw has to perform an emergency caesarean on herself. In this body-horror sequence the film suddenly feels like an Alien movie: it’s urgent, gross, unsettling, twisted, gripping, and it thrusts a character into a terrifying situation. (Sadly, the tension doesn’t last. She’s soon racing around like nothing’s happened. And takes a strangely long time to put some clothes on.)

Review: Well, expectations were high. A science-fiction movie directed by Ridley Scott? And not just any sci-fi but a prequel to Alien?! Scott had been saying for years that he wanted to see the backstory of the dead ‘space jockey’ creature glimpsed in the original film. Sadly, maybe inevitably, Prometheus can’t match the hype. It’s not a total failure, and is an intensely *interesting* film. But as a piece of entertainment it’s a real dud. For every intriguing idea or nice visual, a muddled character beat or sloppy line of dialogue makes you groan. Let’s start with the positives. Firstly, as mentioned, David is a fascinating character. In a nice contrast to the humans and their idealistic search for answers, he’s someone who already knows everything about his creators… and, frankly, is a bit disappointed. The scenes of him on his own before everyone else wakes up from cryogenic sleep are really nicely done. We see him learning things, playing basketball and watching an old movie – all with childlike wonder. Secondly, the film is tackling some weighty issues, such as the origins and nature of life, while religion keeps cropping up in interesting ways. The characters are, in effect, searching for God and as the ship arrives on the moon it’s Christmas. However, the date is marked only by a tatty fake tree and no one gives it much attention. Shaw’s crucifix necklace, meanwhile, acts as a nice metaphor for her power within the story. (The similarity of ‘Vickers’ and ‘vicar’ is probably a coincidence, though!) And finally, the design work of the ship’s interiors is spectacular. In fact, all the environments – both indoors and out – looked really superb in 3D when I saw this at the cinema in 2012. However… (Deep breath.) The longer the film goes on, the more the problems mount up. Front and centre is the issue of stupidity. To be interested in and care for characters we need to have confidence in them. Prometheus, though, presents some of the most idiotic scientists yet seen in SF cinema. Honestly, there’s some really awful behaviour on show here. Shaw’s character beat about ‘choosing to believe’ in things is laughable enough, but then Holloway sarcastically teases her about being a sceptic. (Surely *every* scientist should be a sceptic?!) The team’s geologist gets lost in some caves, while the biologist shoves his face close to a creature that’s clearly going to bite his head off. Shaw also runs the wrong way when a massive space ship is about to flatten her. Put some comedy music on it and you could be watching a spoof. An even bigger problem is the film’s general lack of oomph. You get no kick to the stomach; feel no dread or tension. The CGI Engineers are bland and uninteresting. The weighty thematic issues rarely lead anywhere. Some of the supporting actors are terrible. Dialogue can be blunt and functional. In short, the big-picture stuff is not bad at all – but everyone knows the devil’s in the detail…

Six clips of Lawrence of Arabia out of 10

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