Well the time has come for the much anticipated film from Ridley Scott, Prometheus. The question I keep asking myself is, “Is it a worthy addition to my beloved Alien canon?” The answer is a cautious yes. I really liked this film, but I didn’t love it. I also respect its ambition. Prometheus puts forth a question that humanity has been attempting to answer for as long as we’ve been able to ask it. Where do we come from? That’s not the kind of question that can be answered in a two hour film (if at all), no matter how good the film is.
There are some really good parts to the film. The art direction is spot on. It is very much in line with the universe we have come to know and love in the Alien franchise. The style is pretty seamless. Rapace is great as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and her performance pays homage to the strength of Ellen Ripley. Fassbender is a brilliant android and Theron, well I could watch her in anything. And the story overall is quite brilliant. I’m not going to give anything away in that respect, but I have to say that despite the great idea I do have some problems with how it was executed.
When I get right down to it, my problem with the film really is that not enough attention is paid to certain characters. The captain of the ship is a good example. He has a scene with Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) in which there is some funny banter and you kind of see his personality but it does not serve the story at all. And later he makes a hugely important decision without the audience understanding why he specifically would make that decision. It was never shown in his character that it was something he would choose to do so the decision felt forced or even false. In addition there were many crew members we learned almost nothing about. And I really really wanted to know more about them because they seemed like interesting characters!
There was a scene that was very obviously a parallel to the briefing scene in Aliens where we learn a great deal about the crew (Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, et al). But in Prometheus that scene was almost completely wasted from a character standpoint. We learn about Vickers, Shaw and Holloway and very briefly about two other scientists, who had the potential to be great supporting characters but never really got the chance after that. It was those two who had the most fleshed out personality of all of the crew. In addition I feel like Logan Marshall-Green was miscast as Dr. Holloway. For me he didn’t really fit next to Rapace’s Shaw. I’m not really sure why but somehow he felt too young, not in age but in experience. He was almost too flippant about everything he was saying. And next to the depth Rapace brought to her character, I just wasn’t buying it.
All of this probably would have gone unnoticed (or at least been forgivable) if it had not been for the glossing over of how certain information comes to light. There is never once a scene where the characters come together to discuss what is happening or make any kind of plan (and these scenes are always good for revealing character information that, for me, was sorely lacking in Prometheus). So all of a sudden characters seem to “know” things.
The captain at one point makes a statement about what is going on and I was like, “Wait a minute, how does he know that? And why is it HIM that knows it?” It was weird but nothing is ever said about it, the audience is just supposed to accept that this is what is happening without any reason to. Sure, MAYBE that is what is happening but it’s a huge assumption considering he didn’t even really talk to anyone about what they saw. And speaking about what they saw I’d like to know the significance of the giant stone human head in this place they find… to me it feels like it should have some significance that is mentioned but it pretty much gets ignored after the big reveal scene. And that scene is so powerful I just feel like they should have paid more attention to it.
I know that seems like a lot problems, and it is. So part of me wonders if I like the film only because it’s part of the Alien universe. Possibly. I’ll have to see it again, which I will. Personally I would have been fine with an additional fifteen or even twenty minutes on the run time if some of these holes had been filled. In a discussion after the film we wondered if this was just the first in a series of Alien prequels. I hope so and after the way they ended it it certainly seems so. There are too many unanswered questions and the state of things was not left in the way things were found in Alien. So in my opinion they need to go much further down the rabbit hole on this. I almost feel like Ridley Scott himself was too scared to go beyond a certain point, maybe because it would alienate some viewers, or maybe because it would offend his own sensibilities. I can only guess since I obviously don’t know the guy.
So I’m giving this movie serious points for style and ambition but taking a few away for execution. All in all I give it 3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. If I could I’d give it 3.75 with the potential to be more if there is a follow up movie that exploits some of the set up. I guess it just goes to show that Alien and Aliens pretty much can never be outdone. Not ever.