My guess is that Ridley Scott had an idea of the beginning and the end that he wanted for Prometheus, but the middle hour of the film is perhaps a little saturated with too many ideas, concepts and characters to flow smoothly.
Prometheus is a very adult sci-fi flick, with fewer overt horror elements than the obvious touchstone Alien the unease and dread builds with anticipation. It is a credit to the film that it doesn’t spell out anything to the audience, and even greater achievement is crafting such a film and have it never less than compelling edge of your seat stuff.
There have been rumours for some time that this film was a prequel to the Alien films, and while I won’t stop to spoiler mode there are some obvious clues that suggest that both films are in the same universe.
One of the more obvious is the presence of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), former boss of Weyland Corporation, and the man who has funded the expedition that the ship Prometheus and its crew find themselves on.
I say ‘former’ because it is announced early that Weyland has passed away some year before, appearing only as a pre-recorded hologram to inform the crew of their mission.
The ship is heading to a distant galaxy to investigate a theory proposed by two young scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who have discovered ancient wall paintings that they believe will provide clues to life on Earth. They feel the paintings are an invitation, and they want to meet the hosts.
Also aboard are a motley group of geologists, scientists and engineers, played by a top notch cast including Idris Elba as the ship’s pilot, Charlize Theron as the straightlaced Captain Vickers – who treats all like her underlings and personal subjects – and David (Michael Fassbender) a ‘synthetic human’ who has busily prepped and diligently maintained the ship while the rest of the crew were in cryogenic sleep. Like a humanoid Wall-E.
Upon awakening the rest of the crew set to prepping for a mission that they haven’t even had outlined. Vickers kicks off the two years of sleep with a few wet pushups, and the rest wonder what they are in for.
I won’t go too far into the mission or indeed the plot developments in the film, suffice to say that the new planet does immediately show signs of former habitation, namely in the form of a large installation that is apparently now barren of all life.
With no obvious alien life form popping up – or bursting from chests – the unease is created through subtle means. An oozing liquid that seemingly directs itself, minute growths appearing on long since emptied vessels. That’s not to say that you will be subjected to two hours of oozing, there are a couple of scenes in Prometheus that stand head and shoulders above most other films released this year, the one I can tell you about is the escape from an oncoming dust storm, the other you will have to witness for yourself.
Uncertainty creates friction between team members who really don’t know each other, therefore don’t mind giving each other the shits, this misdirection also confuses the viewer. Ridley Scott cleverly builds momentum through these early stages, so by the time the last act of Prometheus kicks in the film is suddenly moving at great speed, even though we the viewer didn’t realise it. The actual message of the film is still not clear to me, perhaps that was the intent. I only know that for two hours I was mesmerised by the spectacular visuals, note perfect score and terrific cast, I only feel a little let down by the plot.
My problem there is that I still can’t pinpoint what the films lacks, just… something. If I was to give a note to Ridley it might say ‘Needs more…?’
My only possibility is heart, for while Prometheus is technically magnificent, it lacks a little human energy to set it apart. I very much liked Prometheus, but I feel I will never love it.