Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba
Release Date: June 8th, 2012 (North America)
Archaeologist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map throughout various ancient civilizations pointing to a habitable distant moon. However, it’s not just a map. It’s an invitation to DEATH AND ALIENS AND EXPLOSIONS AND STUFF!!!
Technically, Prometheus isn’t a comic book adaptation. However, it’s connected to the Alien franchise (whether it’s a prequel or simply in the same universe is up to you). And while Alien isn’t a comic book franchise, it’s been adapted into comic books so many times that like Star Wars, it’s embedded into the comic book culture.
If you do happen to be a huge Alien fan like myself, the one question that was always left burning since 1979 was “who was the space jockey?” Who was that giant dead humanoid on that crashed alien ship? Prometheus answers most of this question right at the start, which has a beautiful cinematic scene of prehistoric Earth that rivals any Discovery Channel shot.
The next set of sequences take place on the ship Prometheus, with android David (Michael Fassbender) walking around the ship while everyone else is in stasis. It’s a slow shot of sequences, but a brilliant shot of sequences. Its mellow yellow, popsicle orange, and creamy white color palate recalls our first visit to the Nostromo in Alien, and feels like it could’ve been part of a modern-retro Stanley Kubrick film.
However, Prometheus is nowhere close to being a Stanley Kubrick Alien for several different reasons. It has beautiful backgrounds, great special effects, and terrific cinematography, but it lacks a well-written story.
Prometheus: A Wes Anderson film
For one thing, this sci-fi horror/thriller film has your typical people acting stupid. The other characters in the Alien franchise (Alien through Alien: Resurrection) were scared, hesitant, cowards, savants, funny, or just plain vicious, but stupid they were not (except when it came to cats). If a strange alien snake crept out of a lethal black liquid and was slowly moving towards you, would you A: Run the other way, B: Slowly back away while thinking of a way to get rid of it, C: Walk towards it while saying “What a beautiful snake. It’s OK, I just want to pet you. I’m not going to-OH GOD IT’S GOT MY ARM AHSOEROHJIOBJOAHJEOWIJOAWEIGOWHGOAWJITOAWEJ!!!!”? If you picked C, you might be in this film. Another idiotic thing, something I find in other films as well, is that when a huge thing is falling in front of the characters, they always run forward rather than simply avoid it by moving to the side.
Still, as dumb as the characters are from time to time, there’s no doubt that this has a superb cast. Noomi Rapace did a fantastic job as Elizabeth Shaw, but I think it’s a slap in the face to say she’s Ellen Ripley simply because they both happen to be female protagonists of the same franchise. Both are strong women, but they have different strengths. Ripley is more like an army lieutenant in the sense that she’s stubborn, willful, and courageous. Elizabeth Shaw is more like a strong woman of faith, because she does what needs to be done while still maintaining her hope and compassion.
However, the real standout performance here is Michael Fassbender as android David 8. He’s somehow able to give the android emotion without it coming off as a human emotion, but rather a dangerous sense of curiosity. With clever jokes, witty lines, and a strange sense of detachment, David is clearly the most interesting character, with a performance that rivals other famous actors playing androids, such as Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty (Blade Runner).
These Fassbender androids are faulty. I don't know why they come equipped with three legs.
Along with humans lacking common sense and depth, the aliens also are weakly written here. The brilliance of the xenomorphs (a.k.a. “aliens”) was that their biological makeup and the process from facehugger to xenomorph was completely believable. However, the biological makeup of these aliens is the equivalent of a giraffe giving birth to an octopus which attacks a hippopotamus which creates an alligator. Even the black biological liquids creates a variety of nasty effects which make no sense at all.
The engineers’ motivations are also an element that makes no sense. With the xenomorphs, you knew their motivation to be a threat was akin to a dangerous insect. Even the predators in Predator made sense, because they’re hunting for sport. But as far as why the engineers are hostile, it is unexplained. I suppose Scott is waiting to explain it in the next film(s) of the series.
Sure they're morally questionable and they send you on dangerous missions. But have you seen the benefits they give?
That’s probably the biggest annoyance out of the film’s faults. You leave the theater with more questions than answers. I realize that the Alien series has always left some profound questions at the end. But here’s the difference. The original film series answered all of the questions that needed to be answered. While Prometheus leaves the important questions to be answered in the sequels, making the whole thing feel more illogical than it needs to be. I admit, I loved the theme’s question of “How do we know where we came from, and if we’re made by somebody else, who made them?” However, most of the other film’s questions, mainly the biological ones, should’ve been answered rather than leaving us with a few gaping plot holes.
Although Prometheus does deliver an extremely suspenseful and beautifully shot film, its scope feels far too wide, stretching out the plot and cheapening both the story line and character. It’s ultimately a very disappointing film, especially considering all of the potential it had (Although couldn’t that be said for most of Ridley Scott’s recent films?). The film left me desiring a great film that would have a more interesting approach to the space jockey with a story line rivaling Alien. But as Stephen Stills once said, “And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”