Yes the rumblings you’re heard about Prometheus are true. It is a disappointment.
Of course it’s an understatement to say that Ridley Scott’s sci-fi film is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, let alone the summer. And from the first opening minutes it’s obvious that it wants to be a Serious sci-fi film, with a capital S.
It’s filled with big ideas and thought provoking metaphysical concepts, despite the fact that most of them have been recycled from numerous other sci-fi films from the last 50 years, giving the film a “been there done that” feeling of déjà-vu.
It’s undoubtedly ambitious and being a Ridley Scott film, it is, naturally, impeccably mounted, gleamingly photographed with jaw dropping art direction. Also Scott’s use of the 3D photographic format is constantly inventive and assured. The film never “flattens” out as most 3D films, like The Avengers, tend to do. Scott’s superb visual sense of framing and composition is constantly challenging the viewer’s eye.
The main problem though is that the film never fully fleshes out any of its grand concepts and grandiose ideas. Either they’re not fully developed or left not fully realized. Instead they’re left just dangling, waiting for some sort of completion or resolution that never comes.
Add to that the film’s basically underdeveloped, one dimensional characters, including Idris Elba, and what one is left with is a gorgeous looking curate’s egg. Something which is not all good or bad, but frustratingly stuck in the middle. Yet it’s no doubt very pretty to look at.
In the film, a team of scientists and geologists travel to a distant planet to explore whether a race of extinct human-like inhabitants at one time visited earth thousands of years earlier. This is as the result of evidence found in ancient artifacts and cave drawings by primitive civilizations discovered in various places around the world by geologists and archeologists, like Shaw played by Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander).
Also on board are an android (Michael Fassbender doing C3PO by way of David Bowie), the ship’s captain (Elba, with the least convincing Texas drawl you’ll ever hear), and Charlize Theron as the cold, ruthless head of the space mission, representing the company who owns the ship, among other nondescript members of the team.
Once they arrive and explore the planets, they find the ruins, and evidence of that advanced, human-like civilization. However, of course things quickly begin to go awry as secrets and obvious hidden agendas are revealed to the crew, with naturally death and destruction following in its wake.
Unfortunately, the film can’t hold the various concepts and ideas together in a satisfying, structurally sound storyline, resulting in it getting very muddled and haphazard, by the second half of the film. Gruesome deaths (including a bizarrely gory and fascinating surgery sequence), chases and monsters pop up everywhere, making for a confusing, unsatisfying mess.
What is left is basically an unofficial remake of the first Alien film, also directed by Scott, but without its iconic monster who doesn’t figure into the film at all except an awkward, last minute desperate cameo appearance, aimed more to satisfy the Alien fans.
Even worse, as the heroine of the film, Rapace is woefully underwhelming. Instead of having a compelling and unique character such as Lisbeth Salander to work with, her character Shaw, is a more ordinary and unimpressive character who, for a large part of the film, tends to fade into the background.
However illogically, without any previous evidence in the film, she unexpectedly turns during the last 20 minutes of the film into another Ripley (memorably played in the Alien films by Signouney Weaver). Unfortunately Rapace’s tiny frame and her lackluster presence pales significantly against Weaver’s tall, almost Amazonian, more aggressive Ripley.
And as for those wondering how Elba fares in the film, he does O.K. considering he’s not given much at all to work with. Just another faceless cog in the machine. It’s fair to say that I think we all can guess what happens to him in the movie, but I won’t tell you how or when, except to say that something does occur halfway through the film that almost certainly seals his doom. What this is, I won’t say, except that you’ll know what I mean when you see it.
What one is left with in Prometheus is a good looking film of missed opportunities, which will no doubt disappoint and frustrate a lot of people (it’ll surely have its defenders though, explaining how we missed all the really important messages in the film that don’t exist).
Though it’s not even remotely as bad as the disaster some might claim it is, and has some good moments in it, it could have been a whole lot better.