Prometheus (2012)

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie, Guy Pearce

Directed by Ridley Scott

Expectations: High. Despite not liking the trailer, I’m dying to see this.

I take everything negative I ever said about Prometheus back. This is the real deal. A true science fiction film full of grand questions of existence and humanity, Prometheus is incredible. It has its flaws if you come at it with the wrong expectations, but for me, a high-concept lovin’ sci-fi fiend, it doesn’t get much better than this. This is a space exploration movie of the highest order, complete with its own symphonic theme song that’s probably the best Star Trek theme song that’s not actually a Star Trek theme song. Ridley Scott can clearly still throw down a phenomenal film, and I think my faith in his proposed Blade Runner sequel just grew exponentially (even if it does seem needless).

Prometheus is yet another movie you should go into cold, but one thing you should definitely know beforehand is that it’s not an Alien movie. It’s related, but if you expect corridor horror and rampaging xenomorphs you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s definitely in the franchise, so fans of the series will recognize many things that shed some light on Alien, but the events here are never directly connected to anything that happens in that film. Herein lies some of the problems with Prometheus, though, as Alien is a film that works perfectly as is, with its secrets firmly kept in the dark.

But—and this is a big but—if you are able to divorce yourself from the idea of this as an Alien prequel and just take it as is, it’s a stunning science fiction work. Seriously, if there was never an Alien franchise this film would have been much more well-received, regardless of the misleading, action-focused trailers. There’s one scene in particular that I groaned and yelled at, but all the while I was thoroughly entertained and enjoying the scene that killed one of my favorite bits of Alien‘s mystery. Why? Because I never treated the film as anything other than a parallel sidestory to Alien, and the differing aesthetic between the two films helps this line of thought greatly.

Prometheus is densely packed with impressive sci-fi visuals and concepts, and they are the focus and the draw. Visually, I doubt there will be a more impressive sci-fi movie for years. It’s nuts how good it all looks. I’m a sucker for gorgeous sets and futuristic, usable design and Prometheus brings the two together non-stop for two hours. The ship’s interiors feel reminiscent just enough of Alien‘s Nostromo and the film’s color palette is a literal key to my heart, combining blues and yellows and grays in such heavenly ways that I was in near rapture throughout the film. If this shit doesn’t win some Oscars, someone’s rigging it.

With all this focus on the visuals and the sci-fi concepts, the characters are shallow. I won’t even try to argue that they aren’t. But these people are merely there to take us through the journey of discovery; we aren’t specifically meant to connect to them like you would in a normal movie. That being said, the characters are as dumb as a bag of rocks, or sticks, or bricks… pick your favorite inanimate object. They’re dumb. Like so incredibly dumb that you’d think you were watching an ’80s sorority house slasher. As their idiocy directly results in horrible things happening that move the plot along, you wouldn’t be wrong to yell things at the screen like, “Oh yeah! That’s a good idea, dumbass!” or “This movie is so stupid!” But where others might see bad writing, I saw a good time. Where’s the fun in a sci-fi “shit goes wrong” movie where the characters are smart and nothing goes wrong? Maybe it’s my love of dumb horror movie characters, but I had no problem with this aspect of the film, in fact, it made me love it more. I was shocked at how brazenly dumb they were, but it never once bothered me.

This brings me to David. Played by Michael Fassbender, David is this film’s android, and he’s one of the most intriguing characters in the entire film. Leave it to the robot to be the compelling character. Certain story elements seem to point towards this being done by design, but I’ll have to see it again to really be sure. Hopefully the sequel will delve a little deeper into that aspect, but I won’t hold my breath. Anyway, there’s only one thing that didn’t make sense about David: his ability to do certain things around the alien world. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this could easily be a big point of contention for naysayers. I enjoyed it in spite of it not making a lot of sense, as it hints at a much broader backstory for the expedition than what we’re given. And besides, if the Alien franchise taught us anything, it’s that the Weyland-Yutani corporation are quite the resourceful bastards.

Despite issues that could be glaring depending on your expectations, I loved Prometheus unconditionally. Even in its silliest moments, I was too overwhelmed by all the pretty pictures and inventive sci-fi concepts to care. Prometheus is a true science fiction film from an industry known for only making horrible “action sci-fi” films. If I wanted to, I could be uptight about what this film does to the mystery and mythology of Alien, but Prometheus is a feast, and I can do nothing but gorge myself on its offerings. And for not being a horror movie, there’s one sequence towards the end of the second act that is fucking gnarly, and one of the most foot-stompin’-est scenes I’ve seen in a long time. This is some serious body horror, and because it’s not in a horror movie I don’t think I was fully prepared for it. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I can’t imagine anyone watching it and not squirming around like a frightened four-year-old kid.

If you dig sci-fi that asks broad, existential questions, then you must see Prometheus. I’m torn by what it does to the mythology of Alien, but it’s such an otherwise magnificent film that I love it regardless. Big Alien fans will get a lot more out of this than a noob, although I’d argue that it’s better to just watch it without any sort of Alien-style expectations. It’s a completely different type of film, and a fantastic entry into the “every film is a completely different type of film” Alien franchise. I look forward to Scott continuing the story in the recently announced sequel.

Prometheus is available to buy now from Tesco.

15 comments to Prometheus (2012)

  • Good review Will. It’s definitely beautiful and well-made, but feels way too much like Alien and just didn’t really keep me as involved as I would have liked. Still, it’s an alright prequel from Scott and that’s all I needed.

    • Thanks! Now that I’ve seen it, I’m not surprised that it divided audiences. I don’t think it’s all that similar to Alien, but I know what you mean. Are you excited for the sequel or do you not care? I can’t wait!

  • You yelled at the dude touching the “snake”, didn’t you, Will….?

    • No actually that wasn’t the part I yelled at. I can understand why you would think that, because that was crazy dumb on his part, but I was more cheering them on during that scene. I wanted to see what would happen, and I didn’t care about those dudes.

      I yelled at one of the big reveals about halfway through, when they examined the head. To me that was a huge mistake in regards to the mythology of Alien, but it worked really well for Prometheus. For some reason I was able to compartmentalize this and continue enjoying the movie.

  • Great review, Will. I know what it’s like to be the guy that just unconditionally loves a film that others are ragging on; I was that guy for John Carter (hey, I love pulp fiction, what can I say?) I haven’t seen Prometheus yet (I only just saw Alien a couple weeks ago, and Scott’s marketing campaign left me confused on whether I needed to see that first), but when I watch it, I’ll be trying to keep an open mind.

    • Thanks! When it comes to mainstream film, I usually run against the current on many things. I don’t try to, it’s just the way it is. Your mention that John Carter is pulp fiction makes me a lot more interested in watching it, as I’ve also been known to enjoy such things.

      I think seeing Alien is a definite plus for watching and really getting the most out of this one. It’s not an Alien film, though, just one that related indirectly to many of the small details throughout the series. Hope you enjoy it when you see it!

  • Phil

    I rewatched Prometheus for the first time since its initial release last week and I enjoyed it a lot more. Perhaps I was in a better viewing mood for this type of genre this go around.

    That said there are still plot holes but most of them are covered in the deleted scenes on the blu ray. Too bad they didn’t do a ‘directors cut’ and add them into the film.

    Enjoyable film, being associated with Alien franchise probably hurt the film critically. I think it would of been received well unanimously if it wasnt in the Alien world. That said, they wouldn’t of gotten the box office/hype had they not. Catch 22.

    • I don’t remember specific plot holes, but I was so in love with the movie right from the first minute that I must have completely disregarded them. The Alien connection definitely sunk it for many people expecting an Alien film, even though Ridley Scott did his best in his interviews to try and distance it as much as he could from that franchise. It needed the Alien connection to get made, but those connections to Alien were my least favorite aspect of the film. I had to detach from them almost completely to continue enjoying the movie because I just don’t think what they set up connects all that well with what came after, even just considering the original film.

  • I just watched this one finally. It was on cable TV, so it was filled with commercials and probably had a bunch of scenes cut, but thems the breaks I guess.

    I’d heard so much negativity about it that I went in expecting stupidity on a vast scale, but it actually wasn’t anywhere near as dumb as I thought it would be. It was a weird feeling to be constantly expecting shit, and then not getting it. I’d heard the guy touching the snake was supposed to be one of the stupidest decisions ever, but it sort of implied that he was hypnotized and not acting entirely under his own volition, so it wasn’t really as dumb as I’d been led to believe.

    I know it certainly wasn’t perfect in the logic department, but most of the problems I just ignored. Honestly, the thing that bugged me the most was that their main weapons were flamethrowers. It just seems like a really dumb weapon to bring into a situation where you don’t even know what the atmosphere is going to be like. The potential for a catastrophic side-effect would be too high.

    I know it was there just because they always use flamethrowers in Alien movies, but that just made it worse. I agree with you that the Alien references were the worst part and the film would have been better had it just been its own thing. It was trying to do something different from what the Alien franchise does, so it definitely felt awkward to tie it into Alien.

    But, the film actually did a surprisingly good job of keeping me interested in the situation. Like you said, it actually tackles the big questions that sci-fi is meant to tackle. I’m not sure it did a particularly great job of it, but at the very least it actually tried, which is better than most sci-fi films out there. And yeah, the robot was the most interesting character in the film.

    So I mostly had fun with it, although there were some things in it that were pretty dumb.

    • Yeah people overreact because it’s connected to Alien. I haven’t seen it since writing the review, so I can’t comment on specifics, but I remember really loving the whole thing (minus the Alien connections I just sort of ignored). It does seem really dumb to have flamethrowers now that you point that out! Anyway, glad you enjoyed it. It definitely gets a bad rap that it doesn’t deserve.

      They’re making a sequel to this now, but last I heard they decided to not call it Prometheus but Alien: some subtitle. Boo. I don’t expect much.

      • I pretty much ignored the Alien connections too. They’re just sort of unnecessary distractions in Prometheus and didn’t really hurt Alien for me at all, so I can write them off and forget about them.

        That does worry me that the sequel is going to be more heavily tied to Alien, though. I want fewer distractions from the point of the story, not more

        I also like the idea of her running around with a severed robot head that tells her stuff. I think they could have quite an interesting character dynamic going on there. If nothing else I hope they keep going with that.

        • I think this “To connect to Alien or not” conundrum is part of why this film has such a split reaction. A film that connects more with Alien, and features the classic xenomorph and other known designs, will probably do better in the general consensus because of the familiarity. Like the new Star Wars. Where Prometheus was mostly new ideas and just a few relatively vague Alien connections and people weren’t open to accepting it. They basically wanted Alien 5. I think you and I want a similar 2nd film, one that forges ahead from where they ended this one, but if what I’ve heard is correct, Noomi Rapace isn’t coming back… So I think it’s going to be a very different movie than is suggested by the ending.

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