With Prometheus, director Ridley Scott returns to his sci-fi roots after 30 long years, delivering what is clearly an ambitious, epic-sized prequel to Alien, but one that’s sadly missing the very clarity and urgency of that film.
In 2093, after discovering an ancient cave painting that confirms the existence of an extra-terrestrial race, committed archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) set off on a voyage to the alien home planet on board the starship Prometheus. The ship’s crew includes icy corporate commander Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), amiable operations android David (Michael Fassbender), cigar-chomping Captain Janek (Idris Elba), and an assortment of medics, techies, and geologists. Their mission, funded by mysterious ageing billionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), involves nothing less than tracing the origins of mankind – who created us, and why?
Having landed on a distant moon, the ship’s crew begins exploring an enormous croissant-shaped hollow structure buried in the ground, and discovers pretty soon that they are woefully unprepared for what awaits them.
Prometheus is mounted on a much grander scale than its predecessor, and as it turns out the film’s clunky screenplay tries to pack in too many things at once, failing to do justice to both the Science v/s Faith debate, and the thriller aspect of the story. The film’s central act in particular feels bloated and confusing, and although Scott raises profound questions about creation and mortality, he leaves as many queries unanswered.
Yet, there’s much that works here, especially the film’s slick cinematography and gorgeous design; Scott gives us some striking imagery (in glorious, well-employed 3D) that is hard to get out of your head even hours after you’ve left the cinema. In the thrills department, Prometheus may not ooze the suspense that coursed through virtually every frame of Alien, but a spectacularly chilling sequence involving a self-supervised Caesarean is likely to have you digging your nails into your armrest. There are also some gruesome creature scenes evocative of the earlier film, but none that catches you quite by surprise in the way that chest-bursting scene in Alien did.
Look out also for Michael Fassbender’s deliciously creepy turn as the android butler who goes about the film with a suspicious agenda – it’s easily the best performance in Prometheus.
In the end, this prequel pales in comparison to Alien, but is eminently watchable despite its shortcomings. You’re unlikely to be bored during its roughly 2 hours 20 minutes running time, although you’ll wish the film was smarter.
I’m going with three out of five for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. It’s no classic, but it’s unquestionably entertaining, and gives you much to talk about. Worth a watch.