After months of anticipation, PROMETHEUS, Sir Ridley Scott’s quasi-prequel to his classic ALIEN has been unleashed. While perhaps not quite as high profile as a couple of other heavy-hitters this year, PROMETHEUS is for many the most anticipated film of the year, with Scott returning to a genre (if not specifically a story) he helped redefine in 1979, and again in 1982 with BLADE RUNNER, so can the film possibly live up to the mammoth level of hype?
Sadly, no, it can not.
PROMETHEUS is certainly not a bad film, far from it, but the faster people can get ALIEN out of their mind while watching, the better the experience is going to be. The core cast, despite some woefully forced dialogue and shoddy character development, deliver solid work, with Michael Fassbender in particular a stand-out as the android David. There are moments of the visual beauty that is Scott’s bread and butter, and his beautiful eye for framing and composition adapts well to 3D for the most part. The difficulties with the film really boil down to poor writing, and one would assume that co-writer Damon Lindelof is likely the one to blame. It’s impossible, knowing that Lindelof is involved, not to think of LOST while considering the problems with PROMETHEUS, as both suffer from overly ambitious ideas, none of which which are effectively explored or resolved, getting in the way of the central story. It’s perfectly acceptable to reach for deeper meaning in science fiction, yet asking the kind of questions that this film does still needs a solid narrative framework on which to hang its broader thematic scope. The story in PROMETHEUS just isn’t cohesive, with questionable plot-holes, unnecessary characters, and distracting fan-service all cluttering up the film.
Surprisingly, perhaps the most damaging element to the film is the bait which 20th Century Fox are clearly dangling to draw the crowds: the link to ALIEN. Some of the bigger connections work, the ‘space jockeys’ are handled reasonably well up to a point, and some sequences mirror the original film nicely, but the film would have been better served if the ALIEN connection had been downplayed. What separates the two films is 30 years of blockbuster filmmaking watering down personal vision, and where ALIEN is striking even today for it’s distinct and unique style, there’s little to distinguish PROMETHEUS from any number of other sci-fi films from the past few years. Perhaps the scale is too big, and the elements of the original that make the jump to 2012 just don’t click. The half-baked attempt to return to the ‘truckers in space’ dynamic seems like obvious, gimmicky fan fiction, and the ridiculous final scene is symptomatic of greedy Hollywood sequel-itis. It has been a while since we’ve seen Scott at his best, but the lack of authorship on display in PROMETHEUS is truly concerning, leaving one to question whether the legendary filmmaker has lost his touch. Some of the visual beauty of the film suggests he still has things to offer, so hopefully the potential future BLADE RUNNER sequel delivers, should it ever happen.