What can be said of Ridley Scott's Prometheus? It is a beautifully shot film. it is a wonderfully scored film. It is a well cast film. It is a very flawed and ultimately disappointing film.
Prometheus marks director Ridley Scott's return to the universe he first introduced film goers to in the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien. Derided by several critics upon its release as an average and forgettable monster movie Alien was destined to become an iconic genre film and a pop culture staple. It spawned three direct sequels of varying quality, two dreadful non-canon prequels, several rip-offs also of varying quality, and has been parodied and referenced numerous times in other works.
With Prometheus Scott seeks to explore several concepts that he introduced in his original film but that were never followed up on in any of the sequels. Most notably the Space Jockey. What is a Space Jockey? It is what the crew of the film dubbed the giant deceased alien seen when the crew of the Nostromo first enters the derelict vessel. The seemingly elephantine humanoid is briefly inspected by the curious crew and it is never seen again in any of the subsequent films.
Admittedly this a very interesting idea. While the Space Jockey was touched upon in the Dark Horse Aliens series of graphic novels it was fascinating to finally find out what Scott would have done with the concept had he been the one to continue the franchise. The results are unfortunately mixed at best. While promising answers Prometheus delivers few and leaves the audience with even more questions.
As has been stated the cinematography is gorgeous. Every shot is carefully planned and executed. The sets look amazing and are explored in glorious detail. The score is heart pounding and at the same time haunting. The film is in every visual and audial way an epic. It is the plot that ultimately prevents Prometheus from becoming a classic on par with its predecessor.
The concepts of creation and faith are introduced but are never explored in great detail. When the identity of the Space Jockeys, re dubbed Engineers, is finally revealed it is a disappointment and the motives behind their actions are left unexplained. The former may be more the fault of thirty years of fan speculation and imagination than anything else while the later is less excusable. By the end the film feels more like a set up for a new franchise than the stand alone story that it should have been.
The performances are mixed ranging from Michael Fassbender's excellent turn as the android David and Idris Elba injecting life into the barely-in-the-film role of Captain Janek to Guy Pearce caking on the old man make up and hamming it up as the ridiculous Peter Weyland. Noomi Rapace as the films main protagonist Elizabeth Shaw is okay but lacks that something that made Sigourney Weaver's Ripley memorable. The rest of the cast does a decent job but nobody stands out or leaves a lasting impression.
In terms of its alien menace Prometheus lacks the dark disturbed genius of H.R. Gigers designs. Everything is too clean and neat. The alien architecture is titanic in scope but does not invoke the same feeling of agoraphobia that it did in Alien. The creatures spawned by the Engineers are merely gruesome rather than the stuff of nightmares and the Engineers themselves are too familiar in form to be terrifying. Granted this is not meant to be a sci-fi horror film but Gigers creative influence is sorely missed.
I recommend that fans of the original Alien see Prometheus and decide for themselves wether or not they enjoy it. Maybe some will find answers where I only found questions. Maybe some will ask questions that I never thought of asking. As for me, I found his film to be an admirable if very disappointing attempt to expand on an incredibly interesting universe. At least I can say that it was not unnecessary.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.