Review: Prometheus 7 years ago

Review: Prometheus

It's one of the year's most eagerly anticipated blockbusters yet can Ridley Scott's Prometheus live up to the deafening hype? Find out in our spoiler-free review.

excellent

Despite what the mass of online buzz might lead you to believe, Prometheus is actually an extremely rare gamble from Hollywood.

For 20th Century Fox, they’ve decided to bypass a potentially higher box office gross by opting for a 15A certificate to present Ridley Scott’s uncompromised vision, while the director was already two for two when it came to sci-fi classics in Alien and Blade Runner. Evidently he wasn't put off by George Lucas' antics when it comes to revisiting classic franchises decades later, either.

Prometheus is no classic though it is comfortably superior to 90 per cent of blockbusters from the intervening years, though that may not be enough to sate the appetite of rabid fans hoping to walk out in a sense of awe.

You’ll certainly have plenty to discuss afterwards though, as evidenced by the throng of post-screening debaters at my screening. Wary of spoilers, I’ll attempt to describe the film’s storyline in broad strokes, divulging little not already revealed by the film’s pre-release material

Prometheus’ plot kicks into gear in the late 21st century when a team of archaeologists – led by lovers Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a series of markings in a cave on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

Years later, they awaken from cryostasis aboard the Prometheus vessel and as they explain to their dubious crew, the markings have existed within ancient civilisations – seperated by centuries and geographical borders. More importantly, a series of planets that correspond to the markings have been discovered.

One of the planets on which the markings have been found is capable of sustaining life and that’s exactly where the Prometheus ship is heading. The markings are an invitation but as crewmember Fifield (Sean Harris) ominously points out, “From who?”

That question is answered in Prometheus but what comes before is an expertly paced, gripping example of a master storyteller at work. Discoveries made are quickly regretted and the tension is ratcheted up with each scene, as Scott gradually begins to unravel some of the secrets – though crucially, never enough – of exactly what danger Prometheus has got itself into.

Throughout it all the most captivating presence is Michael Fassbender – who else? – as on-board android David. An unnerving creation, the character is introduced to audiences monitoring the dreams of archaeologist Shaw during her cryostasis, taking in a screening of Laurence of Arabia before mimicking the speech pattern of the actors and even showcasing some impressive basketball skills.

Does he long to be human? Can he be trusted? More importantly, why is he seemingly so reckless in his actions once the crew begins to explore the ruins of their destination? To his credit, Fassbender juggles the mysterious nature of his role perfectly, none better than when certain human-like traits surface, such as his palpable yet muted dislike at being referred to as “Boy” by a drunken and disrespectful Holloway.

With crewmates who can seemingly not be trusted, unrevealed agendas and a slow, ominous march of dread, Prometheus is nothing less than spectacular for at least two-thirds of its runtime, with the second act concluded by a scene so intense you will literally grip your cinema seat’s armrest. Thank heavens for that 15A cert, you’ll think to yourself, lest the power of the scene would have been diminished considerably.

Yet the film is not without its flaws, which become especially pronounced during its climax. Though it follows the Alien template of storytelling to the letter (admirably paying mere lip service rather than relying on the iconic staples of the franchise), the tightly observed unravelling of the plot falls apart in the final half-hour, leaving far too many loose strands and unanswered questions.

Unlike Alien or Aliens, this is not a singular release and is clearly intended to set up a franchise of its own, which unfortunately shows us that Lost scribe Damon Lindelof hasn’t learned to refrain from indulging his worst screenwriting habit – showing but hardly telling.

Far too many crucial aspects of what is on display are left unexplained at the film’s conclusion, while the final moments forgo explanation or contemplation in favour of hokey monster flick action that betrays what has came before.

Ultimately, Prometheus is intelligent, imaginative and thrilling sci-fi, but it won’t be all things to everyone – a shame, but an unavoidable consequence of revisiting such revered territory.

While fans hoping for another sci-fi classic to burst out of Ridley Scott’s chest will be disappointed, there is still much to recommend from this flawed yet frequently breathless spectacle.