“Are you seeing this” – Prometheus a review

Movie review vehicle ‘behind the reel’
crew: three (science fiction fans)
cargo: high expectations for Ridley Scott‘s return to the genre
course: heading towards Prometheus 

Awakening from hypersleep on the opening day of Prometheus, three Alien fans had decided to go the whole hog and take the day off work in order to rewatch Alien (1979) before going to the first showing of Prometheus at the cinema. This included listening to the soundtrack on the journey there, consuming junk food and bacon sandwiches during our revisit to Alien and having numerous in-depth conversations about the life cycle of a xenomorph and the universe that Scott had created all those years ago. As you can imagine as we settled into our seats in the theatre anticipation and expectations were high.

Word of warning folks, as ever this review will contain major plot spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film yet please stop reading and come back after you have watched it.

Good you’re back, damn how long was that queue for popcorn. Just to get snacks you have to turn up a good hour before the showing!

Lights dimmed and with the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare out of the way we open with an alien “engineer” on a prehistoric earth bereft of life drinking a black liquid and disintegrating  seeding the world with the building blocks of life. What immediately hits you is the sense of scale that only a filmmaker of Scott’s stature can bring. This opening sequence is gorgeous and epic in scale albeit slightly confusing on a first viewing but this sets up the mystery that will dominate the first half of the film quite nicely.

We flash forward to 2089 Where we meet doctors Shaw and Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) who find a cave painting in Scotland which they believe to be a star map and an invitation from the engineers.

The Weyland corporation funds the mission of the scientific starship, Prometheus. We are introduced to David (Michael Fassbender) wandering the ship, whilst the crew are in hypersleep during their lengthy journey. Fassbender steals the show from his first moments on screen. His character has a childlike  quality which exudes from the actor as we watch him roam the ship but also a sinister edge. Fassbender combines these facets into a beguiling performance that is simply stunning.

Our crew are awakened as they approach the destination indicated on the star map. As soon as we hit this point I know who I am going to enjoy watching for the rest of the film, namely Charlie Theron, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Most of the other characters can be more accurately described as caricatures it feels like all the work went into our three leads and there was nothing left for anyone else barring a comedy haircut here and a gruff old ships captain with a heart of gold there. In interviews Logan Marshall-Green described his character as an “X Games type scientist” which is accurate but unfortunately that is all there is too Dr. Holloway.

I must point out that I am enjoying the film at this point. The first half is a thinking persons science fiction movie making arguments about the relationship between science and faith and concepts of creationism vs Darwinism. In these early scene there is a real sense of menace to Charlize Theron’s performance as the ice queen Meredith Vickers, she is sharp, antagonistic and plain scary. The sequence where she chews out Shaw and Holloway in her executive lifeboat complete with medbed is awesome.

The Prometheus lands near an alien structure. A team including Shaw, Holloway, and David explores the structure, while Vickers (Theron) and Captain Janek (Idris Elba) monitor their progress onboard the ship. Again some great ideas here, I love the mapping equipment and the character of David is still the standout. The brilliant idea of having the human race search for their creators with a creation of there own is very clever.

The team find an area reminiscent of the egg room from the first Alien film however this seems to be some kind of DNA library which the engineers use to seed worlds.

Most of the team return to the ship, leaving the bickering biologist and geologist behind overnight, this attempt at a comedy bromance is the films first real misstep we all know that these two are going to die and if their character traits are supposed to remind us of Parker and Brett from the 1979 film then it just doesn’t work!

In the ship, Shaw and medic Ford analyze an Engineer’s head which they found in the structure and discover that its DNA is almost identical to that of the human species. Meanwhile, David investigates an artefact from the library and discovers a dark liquid substance. He intentionally infects Holloway with the substance. Shaw and the infected Holloway have sex where it is revealed that Shaw is sterile. Again this is a brilliant character moment letting the audience find out why Dr. Shaw is so obsessed with meeting the engineers as they can create life and she cannot.

Inside the structure, Fifield and Milburn (our bromantic pair!) are attacked by snake-like creatures. Milburn is killed, and a corrosive fluid from one of the creatures melts Fifield’s helmet, exposing him to the dark liquid. I’m sorry Ridley this is just not scary at all. I don’t care for these characters one little bit and I saw this coming a mile off there is no mystery or tension here whatsoever. The crew returns to the structure and finds Milburn’s corpse. David discovers a living Engineer in stasis and a star map highlighting Earth.

Holloway’s infection is spreading and he is rushed back to the ship where Vickers ,taking a page from the Ripley rule book, refuses to let him onboard. After his fiery demise at the hand of Vickers a medical scan shows that Shaw is pregnant with some kind of creature growing inside her at a heavily accelerated rate. Desperately she attempts to rid herself of the creature using the medbed. This scene is the point where I completely checked out of this movie. The sequence where the medbed cuts open Shaw’s belly and uses a grabber (similar to what you would use at a fairground to win a cuddly toy) to remove the creature and then a staple gun to stitch her back up was, I guess, supposed to be tense and scary. It wasn’t it was silly and dumb and Ill conceived.

From this point on the film goes downhill quickly. We meet Peter Weyland who was supposed to have died on earth during the time that the Prometheus was travelling. What a waste of Guy Pearce’s talents his character is on screen for less than five minutes and all he does is make an impassioned soliloquy about the Titan Prometheus and technology. he explains to Shaw that he intends to ask the Engineers to help him avoid his impending death.
The remaining crew return to the structure and awaken the Engineer, who is occupying what is discovered to be a space ship which is the same type of ship that is found in Alien (I am reliably informed that this is known as a space croissant in certain circles!). There was a number of lines indicating that David would be able to communicate with the engineers, so this is the point in the film where maybe we would get some answers as to what’s going on from this member of a highly advanced race, right? Wrong he simply goes on a rampage decapitating David and killing Weyland and most of the rest of the crew.
Shaw escapes the alien ship as it is activated by the Engineer. The still-active David reveals it is going to Earth to unleash the black liquid on humanity. How the hell does he know this!!! Vickers orders Janek to return to Earth, but Shaw convinces him to stop the Space croissant. Janek crashes the Prometheus into the Engineer ship while Vickers uses the executive lifeboat to escape. The disabled Engineer ship crashes to the planet, killing Vickers. “Roll sideways” was the cry from my friend in the cinema which Shaw does, to escape being crushed and I mean literally one roll.

Shaw goes to the lifeboat, Inside, she finds her offspring, which has grown to gigantic size. The Engineer survives the crash and attacks Shaw, who releases the tentacled monster. It subdues the Engineer by thrusting a tentacle down its throat. Shaw recovers David’s remains from the alien ship, and together they activate another Engineer ship to travel to the Engineers’ homeworld in an attempt to understand why they created humanity and attempted to destroy it.
In the Prometheus lifeboat, an alien creature bursts out of the dying Engineer’s chest.

This film had so much promise and for it’s first half it, by and large, succeeded but by its end it was just another very big budget b movie. I left the cinema with a sense of disappointment. I wish Ridley had stuck to his guns. I could have taken a film with these ideas without it being part of the alien universe unfortunately it seems that by trying to tie all this in with what we know is to follow the filmmakers have lost track of what they were trying to achieve which was to make a mature science fiction film with lots to think about.

I cannot recommend this film simply because in the end it was one more case of too much money and too little story or characters to care about.

Belive the hype

Steve



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