Might be some plot spoilers. People's opinions on plot spoilers differs.
Ridley Scott’s second feature film Alien still remains, after thirty years, one of the greatest horror/science fiction movies ever made, it is the essential haunted house story in which there is no escape from the monster lurking about the tight, claustrophobic hallways. Thirty years on Alien was followed by three sequels, two spin off series (Predator and Alien vs. Predator) and finally Prometheus which Scott claims is not a prequel, but the film is still set in the Aliens franchise’s universe.
In the distant past an advanced humanoid (looking a bit like a well built Lord Voldemort) lands on Earth, consumes some dark liquid and disintegrates. Several thousand years later (in 2089) a team of scientists discover a cave containing a drawing which connects several ancient civilizations (Mayas, Egyptians and Babylonians etc) despite the fact they never communicated with oneanother. The archaeologist couple who discovers the cave painting are Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Green) who are then hired by the Weyland Corporation to travel aboard the ship Prometheus to the distant moon LV-223 as the constellation the moon is part of matches the map the cave painting seems to be displaying. Upon arriving on the moon of LV-223 the crew of seventeen finds a huge caving system and a head of an alien that died many thousands of years ago. The explorers recover the head and naturally, as it is humans exploring in space, from there on things start to get drastically worse.
Ridley Scott is not best known as an actors’ director but more of a visual director with the ability to create immense landscapes as he did in the likes of Blade Runner, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. Prometheus is another great example of Ridley Scott’s talents in creating an outstanding visual spectacle. Shot on location in Iceland and the Isle of Sky (in Scotland) Scott and his cinematographer Dariusz Wolski transforms Earth’s very own landscapes into believable alien worlds (with the help of GCI) as the landscapes in the scenes shot in Iceland are years upon years of untouched Earth surroundings which successfully gave off a prehistoric image of the world. The interior of the alien world and set designs are also mightily impressive as Scott creates a film that is visually magnificent, however Prometheus is let down in other areas.
One of the reasons why the tension in Alien worked so well was because of the fact that the characters felt like real characters as they were all fleshed out individuals. This however is not the case with Prometheus as the characters that Scott and screenwriters (Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts) draw are woeful characterisations. There are around seventeen members of the crew and much of them not developed beyond clichés (the hard-nosed, no bullshit corporate leader, bad ass captain and nerdy scientist) while the secondary characters seem to have been completely forgotten about. The god devoted central character, Elizabeth, is one of the two characters who are even remotely interesting. Such the extent of the poorly written characters is that the most interesting characterisation is that of the robot David (Michael Fassbender). If the most interesting character is a robot then we have a problem as we are about as emotionally invested in the characters as David is.
Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender (whose performance is modelled on T.E Lawrence) are excellent in their respective roles. Rapace convincingly portrays her many different emotions of anger, desperation and grief while Fassbender makes a credible, emotionless android. The supporting cast do their job in playing their less than interesting characters, but they hampered by some terrible dialogue and a script that swings from interesting to downright silly and frustrating. Characters come and go, sometimes we don’t even know of their passing, sometimes we even forget they existed as the seventeen or so crew members become far too much for Scott to develop into real, fleshed out individuals of whom we care about. However, Scott manages to draw some tension as a viewer becomes fascinated by the alien world, but however these moments work well because the link to Alien becomes apparent as we are aware of what may be lurking in the darkness and it becomes a terrifying thought.
The themes that Scott’s film discusses are ones that have discussed many times before, namely the dangers of human space exploration, faith and where the human race originated from. Prometheus examines the creationist versus Darwinian debate discussing whether we were created or evolved. This philosophy never comes across as greatly interesting as the two minds who wrote the script seemed to be coming at the production in different directions. One writer wanted an interesting film that debates the meaning of humanity while attempting to puzzle out where we are from, however the other half seems content on adding as many lame one-liners as possible.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus isn’t a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is undoubtedly a disappointment due to the high degree of anticipation of which a Science Fiction film had not received since Star Wars Episode I. For every good moment there is a frustrating one just around the corner as Scott’s film is badly let down by shoddy writing and dire characterisations. Prometheus is never boring but it could have been so much better.