Scott stumbles with ‘Prometheus’
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is billed as smart sci-fi, the unofficial prequel to his 1979 classic, Alien. With a slick trailer that mirrors the original Alien trailer, this film had fans of the franchise excited to see it resurrected to respectability after the Alien vs Predator films. Unfortunately, Prometheus lacks the groundbreaking nature of Alien and ends up a muddled sci-fi mess.
The story revolves around the crew of the titular space ship as they go on a mission to discover the origin of humanity. They are guided to a distant planet by doctors Charlie Holloway and Elizabeth Shaw (Logan Marshall-Green and Noomi Rapace) who have discovered a series of ancient artifacts all bearing the same star symbol. They are accompanied on the long journey by boss lady Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), Capt. Janek (Idris Elba) and android David (Michael Fassbender) among a seemingly endless slew of other crew members. Once our heroes arrive at the planet, they discover that they’ve made a grave mistake about the beings who created human life, which they’ve nicknamed Engineers, and that they’re in an awful lot of trouble. The plot starts getting weird when everybody seems to have different motives and goals for the trip and then Guy Pearce appears in bad old age makeup, just to throw another storyline in there.
With Scott directing what is essentially an Alien prequel, though he won’t officially come out and say it, Prometheus should be incredible. It should contain the eerie suspense and strong heroine of the first film and it should feel groundbreaking and fresh.
But it doesn’t.
Despite some cool effects and creature designs, the film feels like a disjointed, jumbled mess. It’s almost like screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof invited 50 of their friends to come in and throw ideas out there so they could fill up the 124 minute runtime. Characters appear and disappear for no reason, some scenes feel like horror movie cliches and the whole thing can get a bit pretentious and confusing, like starting a novel in the middle and trying to guess what happened in the previous chapters. Some of the character reactions and motivations are downright baffling. Dr. Holloway and Dr. Shaw have dedicated their entire lives to answering questions about the origin of life, but when they discover it, they have the enthusiasm of an unwatered houseplant. Vickers is a heroine sometimes, a villain another and seems to switch between the two on a whim, three characters even sacrifice themselves in a suicide mission with little more thought than they would put into placing a lunch order.
While Rapace is no Sigourney Weaver, she delivers a semi-interesting female lead. Dr. Shaw is a sweet optimist, but she’s also strong and proves she can be very tough. She’s a survivor, like Ellen Ripley, and we root for her, even when her decision making skills seem questionable.
The only true standout is Fassbender, who perfectly captures the endearing-yet-slightly-creepy vibe we expect in a good android. We can never quite be sure if he is here to help his human companions or if he’s on an agenda that views them as completely expendable. While this kind of flip flopping might fail with the other characters, it works for David and we end up anxiously awaiting the next move from our robot friend.
With a shaky script and way too many characters, Prometheus stumbles all over itself and fails to reach its goal. It feels more like one of those studio revamps of an existing series than a solid film from the director of the original. What’s worse is that it’s just plain disappointing. It would be one thing if this was a film we expected to be bad, but Prometheus had so much going for it and still bungled it all. Perhaps there will be a director’s cut down the road that explains something–anything!–in this film, but for now, it’s nothing to rush out to see.