Urban Industry

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Movie review: Prometheus

June 06, 2012

Oh, the weight of expectations. You could argue that Ridley Scott’s return to the sci-fi genre after a 30 year absence was always going to lead to incredibly heightened anticipation that would ultimately end in disappointment. So how does Prometheus fare amid the hype and fanfare that has preceded Scott’s prequel/non-prequel to 1979’s ‘Alien’?

First of all, a disclaimer of sorts – myself and SeanH here at Urban Industry have been more than looking forward to this film. We recently sat down and caned the whole Alien quadrilogy back-to-back one Saturday evening in anticipation. Hell, we even booked a half day off last week to make sure we caught the first showing on the day of release. On the back of this, unsurprisingly I came away feeling a bit deflated. After the huge marketing campaign and my own fanboy hype, I suppose this was inevitable. My best advice would be this – go and see ‘Prometheus’, take it for what it is – an intelligent science fiction film, and try and cast off the ‘Alien’ comparisons/expectations in your mind. I would hesitate to call this a prequel per se, more a story set within the same universe as Scott’s original film.

In saying all this, I feel like I’m excusing the film. Or at least making excuses for its perceived shortcomings for not being a true prequel to 'Alien'. First and foremost, I think it should be acknowledged that Prometheus is one of the most visually stunning and intelligent science fiction films of the past decade. Indeed, this is true science fiction – not some meathead blasting CGI nasties to pieces. It never feels like Scott is pandering to the crowd and his vision is clear throughout, right down to the director’s signature elaborate set design of the ship itself. I only viewed the film in 2D and can’t comment on the 3D effects, but what I did see was stunning. What Scott chooses to populate the vast expanses of the planet LV-223 with however is where the film begins to show its first cracks. Noomi Rapace heads up the cast as the archaeologist Shaw, who along with her boyfriend Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) convinces an elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) to fund a mission to follow a star map discovered by the two that possibly holds the secrets to man’s creation. To divulge much more of the plot would be to venture firmly into spoiler territory. Some big names pop up in the cast – Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, and Idris Elba as the ship’s captain Janek. Both of these characters are a bit short-changed, and seem to spend a lot of their time staring at screens. However, Michael Fassbender excels as the android David, and his ambiguous performance adds intrigue and menace to the proceedings. Other smaller players include Sean Harris as Fifield, and Rafe Spall as Milburn. Both of these characters are presented as some kind of wacky odd couple, but their forced eccentricities soon become irritating. Add to this a few other non-descript stock characters and it feels a bit like the cast come off as 2D themselves…

I feel like I’m being hard on the film as it didn’t live up to my impossible expectations. There are a few things that really annoyed me about the film – Rapace doesn’t convince in the title role, and her dedication to her increasingly asshole-ish boyfriend is hard to sympathise with. The Engineers/Space Jockeys end up looking like extras from a Tool video, and ‘that’ scene near the end seems tacked on to appease the fanboys. Add to this a misplaced score and a thoroughly uneven second half, and it’s not hard to see why ‘Prometheus’ has had quite a frosty reception from critics. However, with all the chat surrounding the film and having had a few days to mull over it; I think I will try and see the film again. This time with a clear head and unburdened by expectations. I urge you to see it too, and support a truly original science fiction film. Oh, the weight of expectations indeed…

2.5 chestbusters/5

by SeanM