Prometheus Review


To make a film that seeks answers to questions of mankind’s origin is bold. To shoehorn that film into a maybe-it-is-maybe-it-isn’t Alien prequel is bold to the point of being a little foolhardy. This is, for better or worse, Prometheus, and you certainly won’t see a film quite like it this year (or most others).

Set in 2093, director Ridley Scott‘s film chronicles the mission of the vessel Prometheus to land on a distant moon and learn its secrets, which a pair of scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), believe might involve our creator(s). “Big things have small beginnings,” promise the film’s trailer and tagline, but it seems that’s not exactly the case.

Almost immediately after landing, the 17-man crew encounters problems. There’s a massive storm that overtakes them almost straightaway, as well as questions surrounding the trustworthiness of the ship’s leader, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and the android David (Michael Fassbender). Ultimately, though, the crew makes a number of incredible discoveries, but what do they mean?

As with many films steeped in mythology and mystery, certain “answers” will feel unsatisfying, but Prometheus gets more right than one might expect. Take away the Alien stuff, and this is an undeniably successful motion picture. But the characters, worlds, and ideas of Prometheus and Alien don’t quite fit together, and attempts at incorporating the latter into the former muddies the water quite a bit. Thankfully, even when Prometheus misses, it does so swinging for the fences, and as a result, it’s never dull—not for one second.

The film’s biggest strengths, perhaps unsurprisingly, are visual in nature. The world built by Scott and his team is spectacular, as is the Prometheus itself. The characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Elizabeth and the ship’s captain, Jarek (Idris Elba), draw us in instantly with a very easy-going type of charm, while others, like Holloway, are underdeveloped. David, meanwhile, is a mix of the two. He’s the film’s most interesting individual (like Ash was in Alien), but his motivations and intentions aren’t always clear and a source of occasional frustration.

Prometheus is a talky picture and languidly paced, at least for a while. We never see the ship moving at full speed, even during the film’s frenetic climax. It’s a little like 2001, at least in that respect, and the screenplay’s lofty ambitions only heighten that comparison. By punctuating the proceedings with intense bursts of action or fright, Scott ensures even the most impatient viewer doesn’t become restless. Of course, the cost of disrupting a film’s finely tuned flow is that not every flash, bang, or boom is organic. Again, a case of Alien syndrome, by which the film loses points every time it tries to bring us closer to Ripley and the Nostromo.

As such, it’s harder than anticipated to discuss Prometheus without spoilers because most of my points of criticism relate to specific plot developments in the film’s latter half. It’s also hard to tell what kind of movie Prometheus would have been had the Alien connection never even come into the equation. I tend to think it would have been cleaner and more satisfying, but to what end? So we watch it, enjoy it, and move on when the next big summer blockbuster rears its ugly head? The Prometheus we have may be imperfect, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting and thought-provoking than 99% of what major studios churn out. And no film like that should be dismissed.

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