Review: Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus has landed. We review Ridley Scott's journey into space...

With gargantuan expectation, the science fiction epic Prometheus bull-dozes across our screens. Reclaiming the director’s chair of a franchise which he nurtured with the monstrous Alien – a rightfully acclaimed genre defining masterpiece – Ridley Scott has stirred the mythology with a mesmerising popcorn blockbuster.

A broad plot commences with archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Raplace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who unearth primeval hieroglyphics that purport an intergalactic message. It’s the late 21st Century and a disparate brigade of individuals are cobbled together by the Weyland Corporation to embark on a scientific expedition toward a constellation of stars featured in the drawings. The crew, along with Shaw and Holloway, include the virile captain Janek (Idris Elba), the cold and practical Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and, most pertinently, the eerily mechanical David (Michael Fassbender). Aboard the spacecraft Prometheus they awake from an imposed slumber after reaching their destination. Their quest is enlightenment; to realise the origins of mankind. What they discover is a whole heap of sci-fi twisted trouble.

Not strictly a prequel but existing in the same universe, Scott said that Prometheus shares ‘strands of Alien’s DNA.’ The film, a cyclone of special effects, does stand alone but discussion and comparison with its antecedents is unavoidable. Like the abdominal-bursting creature that a writhing John Hurt gave birth to, this film is a mammoth organism – a blockbuster with a tirade of action sequences. Its tone is far removed from the B-movie sensibility of Alien where silences amplified tension and suspense was expertly maintained as if it was a Hitchcockian thriller. While the first film succeeded in quietly implementing realism in the wholly strange realm of the sci-fi movie, Prometheus is, after an opening third that steadily establishes the story, all mightily loud. What does remain is the aspect of body horror. Slime and blood fill the screen. Fans of the franchise will be happy to know that one splendid scene of gore and carnage involves a caesarean section with ‘not a traditional foetus.’ It is a gloriously queasy moment.

Like all the best sci-fi films Prometheus has its own allegorical qualities to dwell over and there is a lot to decipher. The creationism versus evolution debate hangs over the film as the idealist Shaw pits her beliefs against the soulless David – Michael Fassbender with the look of a composed maniac is flawless as a robot giving a foreboding performance. Discovering the heritage of mankind is a vastly ambitious topic to mould around a two hour film and it becomes even more convoluted in a storm of CGI. Nonetheless, the special effects are wondrous and the action is at times breath-taking. Along with entangled tentacles and decapitated limbs references to the earlier films are sewn through-out. Although the film is stylistically different, Prometheus sits within the Alien catalogue both as a sort of prologue and homage. On its own it is a gratifying whirlwind.

A film with magnitude – Prometheus has the clout of a summer blockbuster, weighed down by the responsibility of gross expectation. If Ridley Scott’s two primary sci-fi classics Alien and Blade Runner sit highlighted within the pages of film history, this is an interesting but spectacular footnote.

Best performance: Michael Fassbender. Steals every scene he’s in.
Best scene: The final scene is pretty special. No spoilers here.

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