I find that Shakespeare usually has a good line for most situations and the one appropriate to this film, as to so many of Ridley Scott's movies, is – "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Which is a shame because it all starts so promisingly, while Michael Fassbender is sublimely wonderful.
Just so we're clear here, I am not a fan of the original Alien film back in 1979. It's a Boo Movie in space, and the second movie, James Cameron's Aliens, was a big improvement. So for the first half of Prometheus, I was beguiled by what seemed more like a sequel to 2001. After an obliquely baffling intro (which is never explained), we are off in hyperspace in 2093, with 17 human life forms on board all tucked up in hypersleep, while David (Michael Fassbender) a robot who comes in a direct line from Hal in 2001, by way of Jeeves, pootles about taking care of everything, pausing briefly to admire Peter O' Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. It is clear that he models himself on the blonde fanatic.
As they approach their final destination, the crew are woken up and we meet Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who are the scientists who discovered the symbols that have led them to this place. There's the laser-thin and uber-controlling Charlize Theron who represents the corporation who has paid for the mission. The captain (Idris Elba) is happy to go with the flow, while the usual disposable crew member are ready to take it in turns to be cannon fodder when the time comes.
So far, so good. It's calm, orderly, beautiful to look at, and the characters are either likeable or interesting. But soon the vehicle begins to leave the rails, and it never returns. I suspect that few people read Chariots of the Gods any more. It's a barmy book published in 1968 that suggests that ancient astronauts brought spiritual wisdom to Earth many millennia ago. I think I can safely say that the scriptwriters of Prometheus have either read the book, or at least the wikipedia entry. Nuff said. But even that wouldn't be enough to render the film quite so baffling, if it wasn't for the fact that almost nothing that happens in the last hour or so makes any sense whatsoever. Not just in retrospect, but at the time.
I won't go into too much detail, so as not to spoil it for you, but for example, Guy Pearce appears as a character in old latex makeup, which always looks fake. I assumed that the only point was because we would at some point see the real Guy Pearce – but we never do. Bizarre. There's a character who's been dead for a while, then turns up again going dementoid, gets killed and then the film carries on again. Zero point to the whole scene. And of course there are the aliens. Given that this is intended to be some kind of 'What happened before Alien' movie, we have to end the film with an image that connects us to that film, but the means by which it is done is so laboured, confused and irrelevant, that frankly, they needn't have bothered. It just looks so contrived and fake.
My disillusionment by the end of the film was fairly complete, and all the more disappointing because I had thought for a while that we were onto something. As I said, Fassbender is just spellbinding – my new favourite actor/film star (sorry, DDL). He has everything, charm, looks, sinister grace, underplaying, complete versatility. He deserves a better film to be in. As for Noomi Rapace, of whom I am a big fan, she is unable to fill Sigourney Weaver's boots, not least because she is so much smaller. And for most of the film she is forced to run around in a panic, unable to do more than stay alive, but not actually being the kind of powerful Amazonian warrior that Sigourney is/was.
The bottom line is that I don't think this film knows what it wants to do or to be. On the one hand, it would be like to address the meaning of life, the universe and everything, which it clearly fails to do on every level. Second it wants to trade on the popularity of the Alien films without going over the same ground. Failure again; it simply ends up with the worst of both worlds. And ultimately it is let down by the simple and uncomplicated fact that It Makes No Sense. None. Nada. Not a smidgeon. If anyone can send me an articulate and coherent explanation of what it's all about, I will give them a big fat reward. Good luck.
By Phil Raby
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