Prometheus (Photo credit: Alex_Pink)
Being a big fan of the original Alien film, of which Prometheus is a prequel, I may not actually be the target audience for this film, I’m afraid. It seems to me that with Prometheus the filmmakers strive to appeal to a larger audience, to go a little broader with the imagery, and the appeal. While the premise is, therefore, appealing, and the trailers teased science fiction fans everywhere with potential answers to questions looming over us since 1979’s Alien, the ultimate result is, while enjoyable on every level, somewhat – if you’ll pardon the pun – abortive.
The film focuses on Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, played convincingly as British by the Swedish Noomi Rapace, who, at the very start of the film, discovers a link between imagery of vastly disparate cultures, pointing to a certain set of stars. Inducing that a link must exist, and eager to answer her invitation from the start, she is put on a spaceship to the planet, along with a crew, consisting of the ice queen Charlize Theron, her husband Charlie, played by Logan Marshall-Green, and the very convincing, though somewhat contradictory, android David, portrayed masterfully by Michael Fassbender. When they reach the planet, on which they expect to find some explanation for, or source of humanity’s existence, they naturally quickly get in over their heads, setting off the plot of the film.
Where the writing of the film succeeds is how unclear it actually is where the story will take us, exactly. Which has its undeniable charms in a world where every conceivable story has more or less been told. The price of masking in such a way the outcome of the story is that it has the appearance of being somewhat muddled. It doesn’t have the quiet restraint of its predecessors, preventing much real suspense. The characters are not exactly picked off one by one from the shadows, nor are they really allowed to make a stand against the forces they come up against. Instead, the plot resolves in ways that are actually less than dramatic at least by the standards of previous television tropes. I am certainly not one to begrudge a film originality, but unfortunately the film simply seems somewhat unfocused. From a script perspective, they could have at least taken greater care with the continuity of the world of these characters, the beginning of which we are meant to be seeing. It unfortunately comes off as more of a reboot, however.
This is the disappointing part, really. Where the Alien franchise has always shined. through good times and bad, was the spectacular, haunting, inhuman designs by H. R. Giger, as well as the largely practical special effects, which made everything far more convincing. Perhaps it’s just me, but there’s only so much appeal that CGI tentacles can have on the screen anymore, especially since we’ve seen them in every horror movie since the 90s. The exoskeletons of Giger’s aliens always felt physical and legitimately threatening. Whereas the unfortunate effect of a tentacle monster partially ruined what, to me, was a very disturbing scene, delivered very well by Rapace involving the unnatural births that first gave the franchise its infamy.
What I haven’t talked about yet is the final return of Ridley Scott to the sub-genre of dark sci-fi that he started. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to say about it, as this is one case where the director truly chose to stay out of the picture. The film gets in, and tells the story in a way that is undeniably stylish, but not necessarily spectacular. Which isn’t bad, really, as it sometimes helps pull us in, make us forget we’re watching a movie. I just wish that movie had a little more to offer.