By Chris Campo
Contains Mild Spoilers
Prometheus is one of the most divisive films to ever exist. Some love it, some hate it. Some like it, some think it's okay. No matter your opinion on the film, you will never be in the majority, nor the minority. If you were to line up, say, fifty people who have seen the film, odds are each person will have a different opinion on it. I actually love that. It ignites passionate conversations and that's almost worth more than what's seen on screen. I myself have had very lengthy, very nerdy discussions over this film. Needless to say, I am very excited to talk about it again today.
I saw Alien well before I saw Prometheus, but seeing Prometheus in the cinemas opening day sparked something in me. It led me to become obsessed with the franchise. I immediately went home and watched the original Alien again and again, to the point where it easily became my second favorite film of all time, so I do owe a great deal to Prometheus. But do I like it? If you were to have asked me that in 2012, I would have said I absolutely loved it, but I haven't yet revisited it in maybe 3 or so years. With the follow up, Alien: Covenant coming out in just a few weeks (JACK NOTE: Next week here in Australia!), I decided to watch it again to finally answer the question "do I like Prometheus?"
Prometheus opens on a beautiful, exotic looking planet. Here, we find a tall, blue humanoid figure standing atop a waterfall. This is what is later referred to as an Engineer, as in an engineer of life. In its hands it holds some sort of substance in a small bowl. The engineer then willingly takes a sip of this substance, and begins to completely deteriorate, falling from the cliff of the waterfall into the water, and what once was its skin, bones and organs, spread throughout the water, creating strands of new DNA, seemingly creating the foundation for life as we know it.
We pick up thousands and thousands of years later, which is where we meet Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). Shaw is a scientist who, with her lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), has recently discovered multiple clues from ancient civilizations about a distant planet where these Engineers may be located. With funding from the Weyland corporation, the two brilliant scientists embark on a mission to this planet aboard the ship Prometheus, along with a small, 17 person crew. Included in this crew is a friendly android named David (Michael Fassbender). They may have come to planet LV-223 looking for the creators of life, but what they find may put their own lives in great, terrifying danger.
Yes, I like Prometheus. Honestly, I still love the film too, despite it not being the masterpiece I remember calling it upon its initial theatrical release. Prometheus is beautiful, harrowing, thought provoking and, for the most part, very well performed. It does often feel like its suffering from an identity crisis, and sometimes comes across as being incapable of answering its many big questions. Still, there are some damn iconic scenes and imagery throughout this movie. Some of the moments and beats in this film I will literally never forget, and although it's not directly connected to the events or characters in Alien, you can feel the green alien blood pumping through its veins.
The film balances freshness and familiarity with great, great ease, mostly due to the return of Ridley Scott, director of the very first Alien. Scott's direction is every bit as intoxicating as it was in the 1979 classic. Much like Alien, this is a slowed down experience. The pacing is nothing like a typical Hollywood sci-fi adventure flick. Scott takes his time getting to the action and tension, giving us more time to buy into the story and become familiar with the main characters, not so much the supporting cast, but we'll get to that later. When the scares and excitement do arrive, you'll find that the wait was well worth it.
Even if you don't care much for the film's story or characters, it's hard not to become transfixed early on, and all the way through to the end. To be more specific, visually transfixed. This is one of the most gorgeous looking films of the last decade or so. Scott utilises almost entirely practical sets and they're just eye candy for any film lover, or anyone who simply likes pretty things. Of course, there's digital effects too, but they're also so impressive that you never really care about, or even notice them. The film is shot by Dariusz Wolski, who went on to lens the equally beautiful The Martian and the upcoming Alien: Covenant, which is just another reason to get excited for that film.
As I said, this film, despite being only five years old, has what I consider to be many now iconic moments that never fail to amaze. The reason I covered the opening of the film in my synopsis is because I love it so much. It's a beautiful, memorable moment, later matched by another astonishing scene where they first find proof of the engineers, entering the room with the black goo covered pods. It manages to be both pleasant and utterly horrifying, and I have no idea how. But how can you discuss Prometheus and not talk about that caesarean scene? It is easily the best scene in the movie and in my opinion, even rivals the chestburster scene from Alien for the best scene in the franchise. The film then goes out on a bang with that scene. Yeah, you know which scene. The very last one of the movie. How bad-ass was that?
Unfortunately, for as much good as there is, there's also a great deal of dumb moments that can sometimes cheapen the film as a whole. Infamously, there's the scene of Charlize Theron's character running away from something, and the only thing she needs to do to avoid certain death is to turn either left or right. It's an often laughed at moment and rightfully so. I will never fully understand it. Another dumb moment arises when a character gets drugged, and the drugging is so obvious that it would be impossible for them not to notice it. On top of that, an entire portion of the movie feels more like a zombie space film. I won't get too into it, but a character practically turns into a zombie for no real reason other than to pump a little more action into the film, making it feel awkward, out of place and over before you know it.
These moments aren't the only thing the writers got wrong. Some fundamental story missteps happen along the way. It's not an awful script at all, but there are some huge annoyances I have with it. Firstly, the film seems to outsmart itself, leaving audiences lost in the process. What I mean by that is it often poises big and sometimes philosophical questions, but never bothers to answer them. This wouldn't be as annoying if some of these questions didn't directly relate to the main plot, but they do. Additionally, a lot of the action and conflict is set off by dumb character choices and sheer coincidence, which can get infuriating. A whole portion of the story is literally kick-started by two highly trained and intelligent scientists messing with a life form they have no knowledge of. Are the characters really that dumb, or did the screenwriters want them to be just for that scene? You never want to have points of your script feel forced, especially when you're crafting such an exciting story. A lot of plot inconsistencies also arise, especially in the final act.
A big portion of the cast in the film really shines, despite some bad dialogue here and there. Noomi Rapace is wonderful as Shaw. She fully commits to every scene and is the sole supplier of the film's emotional pull. I'm a big fan of Rapace and Prometheus is the reason why. It's her best performance to date. Another huge standout is Michael Fassbender, who play's the obligatory android character in the film, David. We get to know David pretty well throughout the film's run time and it's time well spent. Michael Fassbender is electric here, proving yet again that he is one of his generation's finest working actors. Idris Elba plays a smaller part, as the captain of the Prometheus, but he's Idris Elba, so you already know that he absolutely steals every second he's given.
Charlize Theron's performance is a bit all over the place. Sometimes she can be quite engaging and mysterious, while other times it feels as if she's sleepwalking on set. It pains me to say that because typically she's one of my favorite actresses. I have no idea what the hell Guy Pearce is doing in this film. He plays an elderly Peter Weyland, and while the make-up is good and Pearce looks old, why didn't they just cast an actual old person? Pearce was in his early forties when this film was shot. Logan Marshall-Green turns in probably the worst performance in the film. He's just so boring and lacking in charm, and to make it worse his character doesn't really go anywhere thematically interesting. The other characters on board the Prometheus are rather pointless as well, and we learn literally nothing about them.
Despite those third act inconsistencies, I do ultimately love the film's finale, for many reasons. I won't spoil anything, of course, but there's a lot of excitement to be had in the third act. It's big, it's grand, its extravagant and also surprisingly emotional. While it does end on a cliffhanger without answering questions, it does a really good job hyping you up for what comes next, hopefully (and probably) in Alien: Covenant. Although I already mentioned it, I just have to reiterate how cool that damn final scene is. I vividly remember sitting in the theater shaking in fear.
I am in with the group of people who love Prometheus. It's not perfect, there are a lot of issues, mostly with the story, but the pros outweigh the cons, at least to me. I get that the flaws are too much for some people, I really do. I also believe that Ridley Scott and his team will do their very best to right their wrongs and knock it out of the park with Alien: Covenant. The only thing more exciting than that is how little the wait for that film is now. Bring it on, baby!
Like the article? Make sure to spread the word on social media.
You May Also Like: