30 years after Ridley Scott changed cinema with his terrifying and brilliant film that started a phenomenon, he returns to the franchise to answer some questions and raise new ones. Set towards the end of this century the events precede those in Alien, and follow the scientific crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they set out to discover the origins of humanity.
The film is stunning; from the slick design of the Prometheus, the terrifying size of the dust storm, the creepy caverns, to the bots that map the caverns and Charlize Theron’s outfit. Ridley Scott’s visual style goes from strength to strength, and with today’s technology is as beautiful as it ever was. Linked with this style is the tremendous quality of the production; production designer Arthur Max has worked exclusively with Ridley Scott and David Fincher and clearly doesn’t pull his punches. The cinematography is also beautiful, the lighting of the Prometheus, the gloomy caves and the stunning aerial sweeps of the icelandic scenery at the beginning; it actually reminded me a lot of the beginning of The Shining.
The cast are mostly brilliant; Charlize Theron plays it very cool as Meredith Vickers, the captain of the Prometheus who views this expedition as a mission and nothing else; Idris Elba is groovy as Janek, the pilot of the Prometheus; but certainly the stars of the show are Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Rapace is brilliant as Elizabeth Shaw, the scientist who helped discover the Engineers’ (the alien race are referred to as Engineers) code in archaeological digs around the world. Initially on the mission as more of a consulting scientist, it soon becomes clear that Shaw is the one making the important decisions, and with the personality to drive the rest of the crew and the plot forwards. I don’t think Scott could have found a better actress currently working to carry on the mantle of Ripley. Fassbender is equally fantastic; having just finished watching 300 (because, you know, it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours), he really is an adaptable actor! As David he has exactly the right stage presence for the role; he is slightly aloof, dogmatically believes that all his actions are correct, yet there is always the feeling that he has an alterior motive. Generally he steals every scene he’s in, and those when he acts opposite Rapace are the best.
I suppose that I was expecting a film with more traditional Alien canon. On the one hand I was disappointed that it wasn’t that film, but on the other I’m glad it wasn’t! If the life cycle of the aliens had been exactly as all four previous Alien films, I think Prometheus may have come across as too stale and unimaginative, so for that it’s great. Of course I loved seeing more background to the Space Jockey from Alien, though there are still some unanswered questions.
I’ve read a few reviews, and many people seem to be complaining about plot holes. Now I agree that there are a few parts where there is no explanation and a little would have been nice; but on the whole, the people complaining about plot holes are simply complaining about daft things that happen in any Sci-fi film. Spoilers! Yes it was silly that Vickers ran immediately away from the crashing ship instead of ducking to the side, but that’s hardly the first time that’s ever happened in a film! Yes it’s silly that Shaw is extremely active for one who has just undergone invasive surgery, but that’s hardly new; Operas were doing that a hundred years ago as people who were dying of tuberculosis were singing their hearts out! Spoilers end. I watched Alien very soon after (the wife didn’t know that the Engineers were the Space Jockey from Alien, in fact she couldn’t remember the Space Jockey at all), and I’m glad we did because there are as many “plot holes” as people are calling them in Alien, they just get ignored because it is such a damn fine film. When Dallas is in the air ducts and Lambert tells him the Alien is on the move towards him, he sits in a junction where the Alien could come at him from all angles! Dumbass! Toward the end when Ripley is alone and has just set the auto-destruct, she is on the way back to the escape shuttle when she comes across the Alien. She is terrified and runs back to try and reverse the auto-destruct. Why? She’s holding a flame thrower. Torch the fucker! See, no Sci-fi is immune from silly plot points. So ends my defence of Prometheus.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent film. Stunning, superbly acted, exceptionally made and truly terrifying at points. Fabulous to see some background to the crashed spaceship on LV426, and it raises as many questions as it answers. This was the one film that I was really looking forward to this year (as well as the Hobbit naturally), and it didn’t disappoint. Now, having written this, I really want to see it again.