It is the most eagerly anticipated film of the year with a teaser trailer that has had everybody salivating for more.
Coming from Ridley Scott, one of the coolest directors on the planet, and starring Michael Fassbender, one of the classiest actors around, how could Prometheus fail to be anything but brilliant?
Well let me tell you, don’t believe the hype.
Billed as a prequel to the original Alien, what it actually boils down to is an over-long rerun of the 1979 film complete with feisty female, spooky android and vicious, predator aliens. This time round the story starts on earth in 2085 with archaeologists discovering some prehistoric cave paintings that seem to indicate our forefathers were visited by extraterrestrials. So, an extremely wealthy backer in the form of decrepit Michael Weyland (Guy Pearce, unrecognisable in prosthetic make up) is found and a spaceship is built; Prometheus which is to set out and find the planet pictured in the paintings.
The crew are put into suspended animation, looked over by android David (Fassbender) who spends his isolation watching Lawrence of Arabia (an intriguing element of the storyline but one that is never developed). Eight years later Prometheus arrives on a desolate planet and the crew are woken up. They include the laidback captain (Idris Elba), an ice queen representative of the Weyland Corporation (Charlize Theron), and Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) the archaeologist who originally discovered the paintings. The crew immediately discovers a huge, artificial structure and a pile of dead giant aliens — not a good sign, especially as what killed them is nowhere to be seen.
This is when Ridley Scott should really start to ratchet up the tension with fear and dread lurking around ever corner and in every pool of the slimey goo the crew encounter in a massive central chamber of the structure. But it never happens. Things start to go drastically wrong with parasitic life-forms taking over one after another of the crew members; Dr Shaw being impregnated with something that really shouldn’t be in a human womb; and David following an agenda that no one else on the ship has any notion about. But not once do you feel that frisson of fear tingle down your spine, or jump out of your seat as something nasty explodes on the screen.
Although the design of the film is exemplary (Scott has a brilliant eye for detail) what little you can see through the stygian gloom fails to scare the willies out of the audience. The script lacks any sort of nuance and some of the characters are so badly drawn they really are just ciphers — you know they are not gong to last long because you know nothing about them and thus they are thoroughly expendable. There also seem to be huge holes in the plot so you find yourself thinking ‘hang on a minute, why did he do that?’ or ‘where the hell did that come from?’
The final, explosive climax has stupendous CGIs but again, it isn’t exactly climatic as Scott doesn’t keep you guessing as to who is going to be left standing at the end of the day – you will work it out ages before the finale.
Fassbender is very good as David, in a clipped, sarcastic fashion and Noomi Rapace is nicely vulnerable yet resilient as Dr Shaw, but the film as a whole is disappointing and feels slightly deflated as if it has lost half its innards. I say this as a huge Ridley Scott fan who came to this movie absolutely wanting it to be as skilled and as subtle as the original film.
I left feeling I’d just seen a movie that hadn’t been fully-realised and was ill-thought through. This won’t stop it from taking gigantic sums of money at the box office of course, but that doesn’t make it good cinema.