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Prometheus – A Retrospective Review

 
Prometheus - A Retrospective Review Image
Prometheus - A Retrospective Review Image
Prometheus - A Retrospective Review Image

 
At A Glance...
 

Genre:
 
Director:
 
Age Rating: ,
 
Actor: , , , ,
 
Length: 124 minutes
 
Release Date: 1st June 2012
 
Studio: Scott Free Productions Brandywine Productions
 
Story Line: A team of scientists travel on a voyage to investigate the possible source of human life. In seeking their answers, the crew stumble upon the true nature of their creators and the fate that could befall mankind if they're not stopped.
 
Producer: Ridley Scott David Giler Walter Hill
 
Composer: Marc Streitenfeld
 
Final Score
 
 
 
 
 
4.5/ 5


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We liked?


Beautiful Cinematography and visual effects
Faithful and respectful to the Alien original
Does more right than it does wrong

Not so much?


Bad pacing in places
Some questionable characterisation


Final Fiendish Findings?

With Scott’s deeper understanding and respect of the Alien mythology being put to work in Prometheus, this film represents an artistic coup of the franchise from the toilet bowl of retarded comic book fodder such as Alien Resurrection and the AvP titles. It treats the original classic Alien film as hallowed ground and expands significantly on so many elements without ruining or interfering with it.

0
Posted October 7, 2012 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings?
 
 

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

In time for the home media release of Prometheus – Games Fiends takes a retrospective review of Ridley Scott’s return to both the science fiction genre and the Alien Mythology. This review contains spoilers!

As a small child I used to trawl through my Dad’s VHS collection and one series of films always stood out in stark contrast from the rest of his collection. The covers featured one of the most terrifying yet strangely entrancing monsters ever created. I used to hound my Dad from a very early age to let me watch those films. Finally one day when I was twelve he acquiesced and I was allowed to watch Alien and Aliens… although I was made to look away from the screen at certain points.

It kick-started a love affair not only with the Alien Trilogy (I’ll reserve judgement on Resurrection) but also with the works of H.R Giger. My favourite artist of all time. I’d spend the preceding years constantly re-watching the Alien films, re-investing in them as the DVD and Blu-Ray generations came to pass. Spin-off graphic novels and comic books became my staple literary diet throughout my teenage years.

Fast forward to 2012… seventeen years on from that first viewing at my Dad’s house, and the release of Ridley Scott’s enigmatic return to both the sci-fi genre and the Alien universe was hands down the most anticipated moment in my cinematic history. As a die-hard fan I knew my expectation levels were set way too high.

So it’s fair to say that there has been a hefty amount of scathing criticism along with the reviews. When you cut through the core of Prometheus, and ignore some of the slightly more obvious and valid complaints against the film then you can begin to appreciate just how brilliantly it was executed overall. It has its flaws but these are overwhelming outnumbered by what the film does right.

Starting with my favourite part of the film, the cinematography is simply magnificent. From the lavishly shot David Attenborough inspired opening sequence which contrasts beauty alongside expansive emptiness and chaos. Through to the claustrophobic labyrinths of both the ship and the Engineer’s laboratories, the film is sumptuous to look at and filled with the level of detail that you always hoped Ridley would echo from his earlier works with Alien and Blade Runner.

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

The characters are deeply flawed, that much is true. Great attention has been paid to the machinations and actions of both Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the android David (Michael Fassbender). But the rest of the cast feel somewhat incidental to proceedings. Captain Janek (Idris Elba) in particular appears to have been poorly written and strikes me as being one of the worst examples of a captain ever to grace the screen. Seemingly not bothered with any of the actions of his crew, he merely spectates as the horrors unfold and then we’re expected to believe him to be a hugely noble and sacrificial character towards the end of the film?

That all said the acting itself is fantastic throughout, and Janek’s obvious flaws as a character are made up by the addition of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who plays a superbly enigmatic role that really engages you to think what she really wants out of all of this.

There is also the issue of the seemingly endless supply of crew members on board the Prometheus (the two pilots alongside the Captain seem a little unnecessary). But I think you can excuse Scott from this. He has already made a horror film with seven individuals, it’s off his tick list so having a larger number of characters at his disposal avoids a feeling of repetition. Although you easily lose track of them all towards the end of the film.

The Engineer elements are, for a Giger fan, an excellent expansion on his biomechanical masterpiece from 1979. The film even borrows from some of his unused work to faithfully carry on his influential and iconic work.

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

But all of this is window dressing for the actual story. Much had been made as to whether this was a straight up prequel or a completely separate film prior to its release. When you consider that Alien is one of the greatest films of all time… not just limited to either the sci-fi or horror genre but cinema as a whole. Where Prometheus excels significantly is in the masterful way that it adds to the Alien universe without ruining the core mystery of the Alien species itself.

There had always been speculation and discussion on what the original ship found on LV-426 was actually doing. What was the cargo intended for? Was the Space Jockey conducting research? Biological warfare? Pest extermination? What was the Alien species? Was it a natural predator? A genetically engineered construction by the Space Jockey?

Ultimately Prometheus spoils very little of this mystery and adds further to it in several key ways. Firstly is the shrine that is found during the crew’s first expedition into the Engineer’s base.

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

At the beginning of the film, it is firmly established that the Engineers are responsible for life on Earth, or at least humanity. We understand from this that they are populate and worlds with their genetic code, or flavours of it. So why this strange mural of the Alien? What exactly is that green orb?

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

Do they worship it? Is it their vision of god? Does this creature hold the same reverence to the Engineers that Cows do to Indians or Cats to the ancient Egyptians? Could it be that the mural represents their idea of the perfect organism? Could it be the blueprint for their ultimate weapon or the zenith of their biotechnology?

Another really key detail is with the Engineers themselves. At the beginning on Earth we see a plain Engineer with a plain humanlike body. However the only surviving Engineer found by David features a Gigeresque external bone structure. It could be a form of suit that is grafted onto the body, but perhaps it represents a stage of self improvement to what they were naturally born with.

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review imagePrometheus - A Retrospective Review image

As bioengineering research and development advances it is anticipated that in the near future, tattoos and piercings that have been the mainstay of body modification for centuries could easily be replaced by silicon and circuits that allow us to better connect with the increasingly computerised world around us. If you’re happy injecting ink into your skin or planting metal through it, then why not have a form of smart phone implanted into your arm?

Maybe that is the same reason for the Engineer’s change in outward body structure, could those designs have been lifted and inspired by the Alien creature itself? An attempt to re-design themselves to be closer with their god or idea of the perfect being.

Throughout the film, we experience differing examples of the Alien/Facehugger blueprint. Starting with the snake like creature with acid blood and a penchant for mouth raping the unfortunate Millburn (Sean Harris), through to the queasy insemination and caesarean of the squid like being which goes on to french kiss and impregnate its God at the end of the film.

This time lapse of evolution lends the theory that the Engineers were trying to build the Alien from the mural, but the question of why is left unanswered. Adding further to the mystery is the death of the Engineers and what exactly caused them all to die.

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

Ultimately, Prometheus’ biggest strength and achievement is expanding on the Alien universe without ruining the core mystery or canon. At the end of the film, the only impact and change it has made to Alien is that you now have a better idea of what the Space Jockey actually is… not what it was doing or why.

That is an astounding feat when you consider the delicate balance Prometheus has in not only keeping intact the legacy of Alien, but also not interfering in the later works of Cameron and Fincher.

The relationship between Shaw and her Gods is another stand out feature of this film.  Her transformation from a bright eyed faithful star-gazer, to a harrowed, unloved orphan screaming angrily at her maker is remarkably executed and is a hallmark moment where the Alien saga grabbed back its IQ. Which for years has been steadily whittled away thanks to the whoring of the franchise and general mis-management by 20th Century Fox.

David too, is one of the most enigmatic and intelligently written characters ever to grace the screen. There’s no clumsy exposition with his character, no defining monologue that explains his true actions. His childlike curiosity is the only hint as to why he does what he does and his reasons for doing so.

But yes, there are issues with the film. Janek makes the captain of the Costa Concordia look competent in comparison. Both Meredith Vickers and Elizabeth Shaw shouldn’t have continued to run in the same path as the falling Engineer ship etc. From the somewhat haphazard pacing of the film and jumping around of scenes you can only assume that there is a fair amount of footage left on the cutting room floor which demands to be re-inserted into a director’s cut of the film.

Prometheus - A Retrospective Review image

Annoyingly for this initial home media drop, Ridley and 20th Century Fox have decided that we’ll have to wait for that. There are deleted and alternate scenes mixed in with the usual directors commentary and making of features. But hopefully in time Ridley will do what he did with both Alien and Blade Runner, create a defining version of his masterpiece that enhances and improves upon the original theatrical release.

To complain that this film isn’t as good as Alien is a slightly irrelevant criticism. It is an accusation that you could level at nearly 95% of all films ever made. It’s quite clear that this film steps out of the shadow of both Ridley’s original and the following sequels into something that is significantly bolder and broader in scope. From those cramped dark confines on board the Nostromo, Ridley takes his universe out into the expansive cold and haunting depths of something more unfathomable. Life and its evolution, death and its terror, knowledge and its danger, curiosity and its ramifications.

In summary. With Scott’s deeper understanding and respect of the Alien mythology being put to work in Prometheus, this film represents an artistic coup of the franchise from the toilet bowl of retarded comic book fodder such as Alien Resurrection and the AvP titles. It treats the original classic Alien film as hallowed ground and expands significantly on so many elements without ruining or interfering with it.

If they make a direct sequel to Prometheus then I’ll be very excited, but somehow I hope Ridley both executes one, but doesn’t fall into the temptation of trying to answer too many questions. There is something wonderfully beautiful with the ending that adds a fairytale like note to the end of the film; A young woman and her android roam the stars alone, in search of gods and their homes. I almost don’t want to know what happens next.

Maybe twelve years from now, I’ll have my own kid badgering me to let him watch those scary looking films with the Aliens on the front. And if that ever happens, Prometheus will definitely be part of that experience.


Adam

 
Playing games since I'd developed enough motor functions to hold a joystick. From Commodore 64 all the way through to the latest gen. Favourite games to play are FPS games and anything with a deep and compelling story and a world that draws you in. I also enjoy writing, film making and playing bass in whatever band will have me :)