More than 30 years since the original Alien film, director Ridley Scott returns to the franchise in an attempt to breathe new life to this disappointing era of sci fi. Prometheus stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron with cinematography by Dariusz Wolski.
It’s the year 2089. The spaceship Prometheus is making its way to a distant moon called ‘LV-223’ based on the cave scrawling of our ancestors. The project is funded by the Weyland Corporation owned by the near extinct Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who seeks answers to life’s biggest questions. Why are we here? Who created us? On what day did God create Justin Bieber, and couldn’t he have rested on that day too? To answer these questions, the crew includes the very, very religious and infertile Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her archaeologist partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Overseeing the operation is the typically soul-less android ‘David’ (played by a Michael Fassbender you’d want to read you bedtime stories), but as they reach their destination, it becomes clear things are not what they seem…
Damon Lindelof hates The Matrix Reloaded. He hates it because the Wachowski brothers included a character, ‘The Architect’, who would answer all of the audience’s questions. So Ridley Scott’s decision to bring in a writer famous for his ambiguity to write a prequel to the straightforward, minimalist ‘Alien’ is quite bewildering. It’s true, you will be asking yourself many questions after the film, but far more than Lindelof and Scott would like. Prometheus is full of plot holes, character inconsistencies and laughable dialogue. It’s a shame, because I enjoyed the first hour or so a great deal. Slow pacing, an engaging narrative and incredible visuals all make for an at least partly immersive sci fi. I’d say it’s as soon as the action starts that Scott slips up over and over. For some reason (I suspect the forced 15 rating), the violence, instead of being tightly wound and gruelling to watch, comes off as just plain funny. It probably isn’t helped by lines such as ‘ARGH! IT’S BREAKING MY ARM! IT’S BREAKING MY ARM! YOU’RE MAKING IT WORSE!!’, but I found myself laughing all the way through much of the second half, with little making any sense and even less making sense as the pacing quickens to bring the film rapidly to its unsatisfying, and quite frankly lazy, finish. The questions Lindelof wants us to be asking overlap and contradict each other until you realise just how little Prometheus actually says, and how it quite obviously is a springboard for a bigger franchise.
Over the last 40 years, every shot of the sci-fi godfather movie 2001: A Space Odyssey has been dissected in search of some deeper meaning – there’s certainly nothing wrong with visual ambiguity. Yet there’s nothing particularly ambiguous about Scott’s interpretation of Lindelof’s script; he never seems to grasp at any sort of bigger picture, relying far too much on visual allusions to the rest of the franchise. The decision, too, to not feature a main character is a bold, but ultimately wrong, move. Fassbender seems to get the most screen time, but then isn’t Rapace supposed to mirror Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in some way? Scott’s lack of humanism, his surface level direction and Lindelof’s lack of main character aren’t essential to making a great movie, but it kind of helps in the sci fi genre. Plus, whereas in Alien each character and their attitudes towards the mission was quite clearly established, I can only remember some of the 17 member crew of the $1 trillion ship Prometheus (all of whom are only debriefed about 10 minutes before landing) based on certain rather outlandish behaviour.
Ultimately, I can’t help but think of Prometheus as a bit of a mess. Lindelof’s screenplay has so many problems, but its Scott’s direction that misfires time and time again which turns Prometheus from the decent film set up in the first half to the downright disastrous film it becomes.