"A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable"
It’s 2089 and two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover the same star map amongst paintings and artefacts from various different ancient civilisations which had no interaction with each other. Convinced that this map is somehow connected to our origins the two enlist the help of Weyland Industries and visit the moon LV-223 aboard the ship Prometheus. Four years later they and the crew, totalling seventeen are woken from Stasis by robot David (Michael Fassbender) and with specific instructions from Weyland representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) not to interact with any species they might encounter, set off into an unidentified structure on the Moon’s surface.
Firstly I’ll get the Alien stuff out of the way. It definitely helps if you have seen the Alien franchise but is in no way a necessity. The film can be viewed as both a stand alone movie and as a prequel. I’ve only recently watched the series for the first time so it is still fresh in my mind. As such on a few occasions I thought to myself “ooh I recognise that” and “aahhh, so that means…” but the film also made me want to watch the original Alien again as I was a little confused at times. I think that my confusion was due to two reasons. Firstly the plot is fairly complex and you have to pay close attention. Secondly, there are far too many plot holes. I won’t go into them here in order to avoid spoilers but if you’re interested then fellow blogger Life vs Film has compiled an extensive list here.
For me the film’s biggest strength was its atmosphere. The film isn’t as tense as I’d expected it to be but is rather more like a mystery. Unlike say Alien you aren’t waiting for something to jump out and scare you but rather it unfolds very slowly, creating more questions as it progresses. Many of the questions are subsequently answered but some are left open which I liked but left me feeling slightly frustrated. The tone was much less about horror and more about what, why, where and how and tone wise it is closer to Scott's Blade Runner than Alien. I loved how slowly the plot unfolded but wonder if the Transformers generation will have the patience to stick with it?
The design is absolutely fantastic. The Prometheus is a beautiful looking ship which is very much grounded in reality but futuristic enough to feel a century or so away. Outside it is a mostly white with odd streaks of yellow and strangely reminded me a little of the Batmobile from Chris Nolan’s Batman films. Inside it is obvious that this is a top of the line craft and looks sleek and minimalist in some areas but well lived in, in others. The technology looks superb from the see through tablet computers to ship’s bridge it is equal in its beauty to anything the Marvel films can muster. The ship’s crew are furnished with wonderful space suits which feature tight blue bodies and great helmets offering a 360 degree view. What alien technology we see was very reminiscent of that from the film Alien but updated and wonderfully dark. The non human creatures we meet all look excellent too and share the original Alien’s Freudian undertones.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve pretty much given up with 3D but my girlfriend said she thought the 3D trailer looked good so I did see it in 3D. To be perfectly honest it didn’t add much to the proceedings but unlike most other films I’ve seen with the extra D it didn’t constantly annoy me. My two main gripes with the technology are that it is too dark and too fuzzy. I had no problem with the light loss and only occasionally was the background fuzzy. The 3D isn’t forced on you and is more subtle than is often the case for which I was thankful. The best scene for 3D was a crash scene towards the end. I’d like to see it again in 2D to decide which the better viewing experience is.
The assembled cast are generally good but I felt that some characters were underwritten. Charlize Theron for instance felt very one dimensional but I liked that she had some ambiguity as to her origins and motives. Idris Elba’s Captain Janek was straight out of Alien and he delivered a convincing performance. Many of the side characters suffer from the same problems as in many films with a large cast and are either cannon fodder or background decoration. Two characters and actors stand out for me and they are Michael Fassbender’s David and Noomi Rapace’s Shaw. Shaw has been compared to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character which I don’t think is entirely accurate. This is perhaps because there are so few strong female characters around and also because the two share the same cinematic Universe. Shaw is a conflicted character; she has a scientific mind but is devoutly religious. These two factors are what draw her to the search for our creation and there is conflict inside her about what she will and does discover. It is true that she is strong willed and this is most evident in a scene in which she requires an operation. The role is not an easy one and Rapace pulls it off expertly, not that we should be surprised as she was equally excellent in The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo in which she played an likewise complex character. If anything Michael Fassbender is even better than Noomi Rapace. You never know what his true motives or thoughts are and he keeps you guessing right to the end. He manages to be both very cold but also cordial at the same time and it’s quite unsettling. Like Rapace he has pulled off something similar in the past in the film Shame but here you add the fact that he is a highly intelligent and sophisticated robot into the mix and his performance is deeply unnerving. You kind of get the feeling that he is playing with you and the other characters and wonder if he is working for himself, Weyland or someone else. It’s a great performance. Another great performance is Guy Pearce’s. He was almost unrecognisable and it wasn’t until I got home that I realised who he was.
As I mentioned in an earlier paragraph the film is not without its faults. A lot of things don’t make sense for silly reasons and there are simple things that could have been solved with a bit more attention to the script. In one scene for instance, something important happens on video monitors when no one is viewing them but when a problem is spotted no one thinks to rewind the video. If we can do that now then surely it will be possible in eighty years. In a later scene someone dies when they could have easily avoided death by turning 90 degrees either left or right and taking a couple of steps. Instead they run straight forwards like an idiot. When Prometheus first lands on LV-223 they just happen to land within a few hundred yards of what they need to find and this to me felt a bit easy. Unfortunately the plot is full of this sort of thing and it’s a shame because overall the film is excellent. Without these holes it would be amongst my favourite films of recent years.
This is a film of big ideas and bigger questions and while not everything is successful it is still a fantastic cinematic experience. It looks sumptuous and has a great cast, mostly firing on all cylinders. It leaves more than enough open to warrant a sequel but answers just enough to be satisfying. It isn’t afraid to take its time and is worth the wait, both the 33 year wait and the two hour wait.
Additional - There is no post credits scene in the UK version of Prometheus but fans of the Alien franchise may be interested to stay.