Review: Prometheus / Cert: 15 / Director: Ridley Scott / Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof / Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall / Release Date: June 1st
“Big things have small beginnings,” notes Michael Fassbender’s sneaky android in Ridley Scott’s excellent, if slightly all over the shop sci-fi horror film, Prometheus.
It began, sort of, with a distress signal awakening the crew of the Nostromo and poor Kane (John Hurt) peering into a recently opened alien egg sack. The rest is screen history. And history stays well and truly in the past. Scott does not repeat himself for the benefit of box office or to please fans of his 1979 movie. Without spoiling things too much Prometheus is defiantly its own thing and intent on delivering an entirely new mythology. No doubt there will be some grumbling at this proposal.
Scott was really not teasing us when he said links are provided with strands of DNA. The director was telling the truth. But this should not disappoint too much because instead of an Alien re-tread we get a spectacular and awe-inspiring adventure that seeks to ask major, if fantastical, questions of how life on Earth began. Though no more fantastical than our current belief systems.
Taking inspiration from Erich von Däniken’s 1968 tome, Chariots of the Gods, Scott and his screenwriters propel the viewer into the setup quickly. Before you know it the crew has landed on LV-223 and a palpable sense of dread builds.
Of course there are channels to Alien. For years, Scott thought about the creature known as the ‘Space Jockey’, whose carcass we glimpse when Dallas, Kane and Lambert search the spacecraft they’ve come across, and here explained as an ‘Engineer’ who helped birth life on Earth. This film was, at one point, a direct prequel before a new avenue opened itself up for exploration.
Everything more or less exists in proto-form. There are vague but recognisable traces of those iconic monstrosities – the facehugger and xenomorph – but Scott doesn’t dwell upon them too much. DNA is vastly important to the picture not just as a plot device but as a thematic wonderment. It is the building block of life yet when meddled with can deliver some seriously freaky results.
The story begins in the distant past where a terraforming humanoid being sups from a vial of mysterious fluid and collapses into a giant waterfall. It is hugely inferred this creature, whose DNA is soaked into the water, made our living world possible. This is what Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) firmly believes too, yet she also believes in the existence of God. “Who made them?” she ponders, at one point. Logic is not Prometheus’ strong point at any juncture but the sensations it produces are magnificent.
To demonstrate Prometheus is entirely its own entity the terse, direct style of Alien is replaced with more fleshed out characters and motivations. One would even hesitate to declare Prometheus a prequel in the current understanding. It is more a film whose origins are distant cousin to Alien. Relatives not on good terms, one might say. Though a final scene seems to provide an indisputable conduit, the film’s numerous plot holes only add confusion rather than clarify matters. No doubt some will seize upon this as a major weakness. Of course it is very hard to not constantly compare one to the other in order to navigate, on first impression, the vast differences.
Conceptually, Prometheus is very strong. It is sci-fi cinema par excellence. Where it fails is the often clunky dialogue, simplistic reasoning and lack of narrative clarity. But Scott isn’t exactly known for being a master storyteller. Where his powers of mastery lie is in concept and design. Cinema is more than just ‘telling a story’ and there are other considerations to be had. The premise here, anyway, is enough to give the movie some nuclear-powered energy and it never once flags or feels boring. Not even remotely so.
Of the cast, Michael Fassbender shines as David, the heir to Ash. Here we have a brilliantly written character and equally brilliant performance that is the heart and soul of the picture despite David being entirely synthetic. He seems almost mercenary at times and his child-like interest in things belies something perhaps more sinister. David is treated shabbily and commanded several times not to touch the urns or wall murals whilst in the temple, but does so anyway – like a naughty boy. Is he luring the crew into a trap or simply curious? Helpfulness can turn to hindrance. Scott and Fassbender are clearly on the same wavelength with this character and David is a lot of fun.
Prometheus is a movie of the grandest themes imaginable. It is the search for our origins and cautions that if we play with fire we’ll get burnt – quite badly, in fact.
Expected Rating: 10 out of 10