After perhaps the most commendable and expensive marketing campaign I’ve ever seen for a movie, I (along with the rest of the world) have been anxiously waiting for the release of the Alien prequel Prometheus for what seems like eons. However, in order to fully enjoy this film, it shouldn’t actually be viewed as a prequel. Yes, it attempts to answer some questions that were left hanging from the original Alien, most notably the ‘space jockey’ origins and yes, it all links back to the morally dubious Weyland Corporation. Oh, and the whole set in space thing. Despite this and the 30 year wait, Prometheus serves far better when viewed as a standalone movie, to avoid such debates on inconsistencies and geek-offs. Let’s not pretend this film is something it isn’t; it is a massive science-fiction, action-packed blockbuster designed for movie fans across the globe to escape for 124 minutes. Does it have aliens? Yes. Does it have stunning effects? Yes. And how about big flame throwers, face-huggers and a possibly sinister android? Tick for all of the above.
Having already been to the exclusive trailer screening in 3D, I had a good idea of what to expect. Did the trailer raise my expectations? Slightly, yet it was beautifully done with a fantastic and intense score by Marc Streitenfeld (who has worked with Ridley Scott on previous films such as Gladiator and A Good Year) to match the carefully edited montage sequence towards the end of the trailer. The best bits were all available to watch online before the official release – all of which ultimately left me initially feeling a tad unsatisfied after the screening. Nevertheless, it was visually stunning, with beautiful cinematography and surprisingly understated 3D effects.
Like any good science fiction film, Prometheus allows director Scott to explore more than just unknown worlds and dark corners of the universe. It challenges our opinions and beliefs on faith, alien life, the origins of mankind, life and death, artificial intelligence and, perhaps, the on-going issue of being allowed to smoke on spacecrafts (thanks to the stock, cigar-chomping character of Captain Janek, played by rising star of Luther and The Wire, Idris Elba).
The film focuses on Doctor Elizabeth Shaw and her Tom Hardy-esque partner Charlie Holloway who find a series of ancient drawings on earth, all connected and showing a constellation too far away to have been reached by humans. Shaw believes that these drawings and markings are not just a map, but an invitation. And so begins the exploration into where the human race started, and leads to a brutal fight for survival.
In one of the core thematic concerns of the film, faith is put to the test to varying degrees, particularly when Shaw discovers a horrific ‘miracle’ has occurred, aided by the disturbing workings of android David, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. A fantastically brutal scene, this is the moment when we see Noomi Rapace’s scientist channel her inner Ripley. The religious female lead and protagonist, we see her character muster the strength needed to fight and survive at all costs, eventually wielding an axe and running around after some heavy surgery.
Conversely, already as hard as steel, Charlize Theron describes her character Meredith Vickers as a ‘bit of an enigma’ and a ‘non-believer’. She’s on board to ensure everything goes to plan, wearing sharp suits and working for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, also known as ‘the Company’. Cold and calculating, she has her own motives for being onboard. The real star of the film, however, is blond-haired android David. Managing and roaming Prometheus while the crew are in a sleep-like stasis en route to their undisclosed destination, he wanders around like Wall-E, bizarrely copying scenes from his favourite movies. He has ambiguous motives and his most human-like traits are our less appealing ones. Sadly, the other characters are mostly cannon fodder. Good cannon fodder mind, including a possible homage to the Jurassic Park scene in which Wayne Knight attempts to coax a ‘cute’ dinosaur that turns out to be anything but.
Surprisingly, Scott admits that he’s not a massive fan of sci-fi, despite his two best films setting benchmarks for the genre. And with these films being Alien and Blade Runner, obviously viewers and fans are going to have high expectations. Compelled to return to his Alien roots, along with the story of Prometheus stemming from a question left unanswered from Alien (who or what was the skeleton found – later to be named the Space Jockey – on the derelict alien spacecraft and where did it come from?), Scott believed that the film needed to answer the following questions regarding the spacecraft and its occupants: Who are they? Why are they there? What’s in the cargo? Where are they going?. Sadly, some of these questions are left unanswered, alongside new ones that are thrown into the equation. Although this is presumably just making way for more prequel-sequels? I certainly hope so.
Prometheus is mass market sci-fi at its best, and fans of the genre should appreciate that we can openly discuss it without being vilified by arthouse purists. Yes, it stumbles and falls and I’m not sure if it truly gets back up again at times, but it is a very worthy addition to a summer filled with blockbusters and highly recommended for Scott fans and face-hugger virgins alike. This might not be the next Alien or Blade Runner, but it isn’t too far off.