I am going to say something at the start that everyone needs to understand. It takes a lot of work to fully appreciate Prometheus. This film is something that many people have been clamoring for and yet at the same time will be shocked to find that they don’t want at all. Expectations get toyed with and as such it is best to see this film at least twice before making your mind up on it. Watch it once without knowing what to expect and then again knowing what it is and you will find yourself judging it less harshly than a majority of the critics who are trying to drag it down. I recently went through the entire Alien franchise in anticipation of this film and now I almost wish I hadn’t because the film in my head was not the film I saw. I should have been prepared for such an eventuality, because each film in the series evolves and never follows the style of what came before. I suppose with Ridley Scott returning we would get something similar in style to the original Alien, but that is not the case. Make no mistake about it, this is the genesis of the Alien legacy. Does it sync up in a nice package? No, but we’ll get to that later.
The film begins at the birth of mankind. We witness our creation out of the sacrifice of space-faring engineers in a scene that is simultaneously wondrous and confounding. Much of the film plays this way. Either things are spelled out too directly, or they are left as questions dangling in the back of our mind. I suspect this has much to do with Damon Lindelof’s involvement with the script. I could be wrong, but if it walks like a Lost duck… We then flash forward to 2089 when future archeologists digging in Scotland discover a cave painting pre-dating anything on record featuring symbols that have been discovered at sites spread out across the earth and multiple time periods with no interconnection of the societies that created them. They all feature a star pattern that our group locates and journeys to in the hopes of finding the creatures these early civilizations worshiped as gods. The team is led by Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, who has previously failed to impress me but carries herself well here. Her staggered speech patterns that bothered me so much in Sherlock Holmes have been corrected and she feels far more at home delivering dialog as a result. She is accompanied by her colleague and lover played by Logan Marshall-Green who really doesn’t leave much of an impression whatsoever. That’s not too big of a slam because a majority of the cast are faceless ciphers who don’t really give off any defining character traits. The cast is around the same size as Aliens but it doesn’t have the same level of personalization to the cast. We got a real feel for the individual personalities of the marines in Aliens but the crewmembers of the Prometheus don’t give us much to work with. Idris Elba acquits himself nicely, and plays perhaps the most affable and relatable character in the film. Unfortunately he’s not much of a major player in what transpires. Charlize Theron does well but also has a tendency to simply exist in the framework without adding very much at all. The real star of the film is Michael Fassbender, who unsurprisingly steals the film with his portrayal of the android David. This is perhaps the first film in the series that does not hide the android’s nature and as such his mannerisms are far more robotic than Ian Holm’s Ash or Lance Henreiksen’s Bishop. His every movement is calculated and Fassbender imbues him with a sense of methodical unearthliness that truly makes him a wonder to watch.
The film’s story works well. It isn’t as tense as Alien but I do not believe it is meant to be. I also believe that there will be an eventual extended cut that allows several things to fall into place better than they seem to in the theatrical release. The only ones who will decry the narrative flow of the film are those who want it to run parallel to Alien. That isn’t what is in play here. What is in play here is a new series that has a timeline that will eventually sync up with those films. Ridley Scott has said that the ending of this film, which I will not spoil for anyone here, does not line up with Alien. He has stated that there are at least two more films worth of content before the timelines connect ant you see how everything developed from point A to point chestburster. It is best to view this story as something standalone. Something detached from Alien so that what this movie does well is better consumed by the viewer. Trying to compare it to Alien will result in a disappointment. It’s not a disappointing film unless you make it one. Judged on it’s own merit it is a spectacular film, with a few minor flaws. If nothing else it is a technological and visual marvel. The 3D screening I saw was absolutely flawless. One of the prettiest films I have seen in ages.
Essentially, the film is going to be divisive. That is the mark of a film worth viewing, in my opinion. What you take away from the film is largely dependent on what you want to take away from it before you ever set foot in the theater. Like I said, I would recommend viewing it twice. For the sake of your own enjoyment, you should be willing to examine the film from multiple angles. I’m certain I’ll be seeing it more than twice.