Prometheus – Review

Prometheus (2012) - 

Director: Ridley Scott. Starring: Noomi RapaceMichael FassbenderCharlize TheronIdris ElbaGuy PearceLogan Marshall-GreenSean HarrisRafe SpallEmun Elliott.

After 33 years, Prometheus has finally landed!

For any fan out there (including me) the hype surrounding this film has been almost unbearable to cope with, as the viral marketing campaign was one of the most intriguing and well thought-out of the last decade, matching even the one for the Avengers in its intensity and capacity to tease, without giving away too much.

For months and months we’ve been spoon-fed little tiny bits of information about the mysteriously titled Prometheus. All we knew is that it was possibly a prequel (or at least it had some connections) to 1979′s masterpieces Alien and it would probably answer some of those open questions which have been left hanging ever since.

We had all reasons to be excited, especially when you think that Ridley Scott is the director who essentially single-handedly redefined this sci-fi genre (not just with Alien, but with Blade Runner as well): this is his first return sci-fi in 30 years and the first Alien film since the disappointing Alien Resurrection back in 1997 (no, I’m not even counting those AVP movies, and nor should you!).

Needless to say when the expectations are so high, the questions are so many and the fans are so eager, disappointment is inevitable. No film will ever be able to satisfy a 33 years old hunger. And it’s a shame, because Prometheus is actually not a bad film, it’s just not as ground-breaking as we all hoped and it’s a victim of its own hype. It is also best enjoyed if you know very little about it, so if you haven’t seen it, do stop reading now!

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

Its promising start, in a typically Ridley Scott ‘s fashion,is rather moody and slow it takes at least an hour for the first “shock”, but it’s also some of the best part. Scott plays with his audience creating a certain feeling of deja-vu while still trying to add new elements to the mix: it’s comfortable and intriguing at the same time. Simple and complex. Meaningful and trashy. And inevitably, we are constantly trying to figure out how does it all fit in the Alien mythology until the very last scene, which is rather gratuitous and yet incredibly satisfying for any fans of Alien (and also hinting at some possible sequels).

Unfortunately what starts out as a thoughtful take on Darwinians versus theologists will soon turn into a more conventional monster movie and that feeling of deja-vu will become its undoing.

In a way some of the beauty of the original Alien was its bare simplicity and its minimal approach. Tension was coming from those long silences and those sudden burst of violence and horror. Scott seems almost afraid of that simplicity here, and opts for a much larger canvas: everything on Prometheus is on a grander scale, from its themes and questions about the origin of mankind, to its great vistas (He even gets down to quote David Lean’ Lawrence Of Arabia in a non-very subtle way) and the epic music (which I found absolutely dreadful. Has Ridley Scott really sold out to conventional Hollywood smaltzy intrusive soundtrack during every single scene ?!). It’s all enhanced by being on 3D. This for once works very well when filming those great landscapes but it’s not as effective when trying to create tension in those crammed familiar corridors and instead of adding an extra dimension  to where danger could be coming from, it just becomes rather forgettable. It can’t even be a funny cheap gimmick (I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I would have loved a face-hugger coming towards camera, and the audience).

Everything else here is then crammed with details which instead of making the film more interesting, inevitably distance it from its original predecessor. For example where is all that technology coming from? In Alien they seemed to have very simple computers, and techno-gear in general. And yet that film was supposed to be later in the future, wasn’t it? Oh well, I’m picking needles here.

I know the constant comparison with Alien is unfair, but ultimately it is also unavoidable as it is also the film’s main hook on people.

Don’t take me wrong, there are some great things about Prometheus which I really liked, but unfortunately it just doesn’t deliver on all its promises and it ends up being rather derivative sci-fi.

I loved its ambitiousness, Noomi Rapace, David the Robot (Possibly the film’s best creation), the spotless special effects, the  cinematography and look of it and some of the idea it’s playing with, but I did missed that sense of fear and dread that Alien still gives me every time I watch it. There were very few surprises throughout  and most crucially very little tension (especially considering the film it’s trying to emulate, which is the KING of tension) and after a while it saddened me to see it switching on auto-pilot and becoming rather conventional and feeling very rushed in the last part.

There were too many undeveloped, two-dimensional, bland characters populating the film (even Charlize Theron, who I usually love, could have easily been written out and it would not have made any difference) and in the end it all contributed to make me emotionally detached from it all.

It’s almost as if Ridley Scott could not decide which film he wanted to tell: a sci-fi about the beginning to the universe, his own version of 2001, a monster movie, an Alien prequel… I guess in the end there is something for everyone (except pregnant women, who should stay WELL AWAY from this as the most gruesome and most memorable scene has an intensity which they will not be able to take). In fact there is a lot to digest in just one viewing (I wonder if there might even be an extended cut which will probably surface on Blu-ray in a year or so), but ultimately this is a handsomely film for any sci-fi lover (and an intriguing appetizer for any Alien fan) and it’s a film with ideas more than just loud bangs and explosions.

7.5/10

RECENT ADDITION from the 8th of June 2012

All the recent negative reactions to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus say more about the counter-productive effect of a marketing campaign which was just too big and eventually just imploded on itself, than it says about the actual film.

The expectations were just too high, and the hunger for it too big.

The film was supposed to answer questions which have been hanging for 33 years since the first Alien was first released. And of course Ridley Scott was the man who single-handedly redefined the sci-fi genre (not just with Alien, but with Blade Runner as well) and this was his first return to space in 3 decades.

Disappointment was inevitable and the film became a victim of its own hype.

On the first viewing very few people judged it for its own merits, while everyone else (including me) compared it to a film which had been made in a time when there was nothing like that.

Prometheus may not be the prequel fans wanted (not quite sure what that would have been anyway), it may not be as ground-breaking as some had hoped, but it’s not a bad film…

I do wonder… if Prometheus had been directed by some unknown newcomer or had it not been trumpeted by endless trailers and teasers, would we have been able to judge it differently? Interestingly, critical reaction to the first Alien was initially pretty negative too. Famously Time Out called it an “empty bag of tricks whose production values and expensive trickery cannot disguise imaginative poverty”

Should the marketing campaign have been handled differently? Probably not. The box office speaks pretty clearly and at the end of the day in Hollywood money talks louder than a few disappointed reviewers and bloggers. In fact, not one, but sequels are already in the pipeline.

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19 Responses to Prometheus – Review

  1. Lex says:

    “In Alien they seemed to have very simple computers, and techno-gear in general. And yet that film was supposed to be later in the future, wasn’t it?”

    Well that is the difference between a working tug boat (Nostromo) and a cutting edge science ship (Prometheus) so it makes sense that one ship and crew are clean, clinical, and high tech while the other is used, beaten up, and industrial despite the progress of time (think of the gorgeous old cars vs tatty modern working construction truck if that is a better analogy).

    Thanks for the review… I look forward to the day when someone makes a Sci-Fi movie worthy of the great novels which have been out there for some time.

    • MovieGeek says:

      You’re absolutely right! Very good point about the different spaceship. I’ll buy that… Well more or less. ;)

      • Paul says:

        It is well documented that the Nostromo was supposed to be a very old ship, possibly ex military, and retrofitted as a tug and not much else. The set was apparently put together after the production poeple purchased a WWII bomber and dismantled it and used just about every bit of it on the Nostromo sets..

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  3. marco says:

    just came back from the theatre, crammed with monsters. BLOUAGHHH!!
    and i partly agree with this review. especially about the fact that, towards the end, it all becomes too rushy.
    i must say i saw it in 2D, for i just can’t stand the 3D. but i imagined all those parts where the 3D must have an impact on the viewers (and they must have been quite effective, indeed). and, yes, i would have liked some trashy cheap obvious scene with a face-hugger coming atcha! Do you remember “jaws 3″? that was the first film i watched in 3D, and i still remember the shark’s mouth (and , please, don’t tell me HOW long ago it was, i’m old, i know… :P ).
    I agree with lex and paul (by the way, thanks for the trivia about how the nostromo was actually made; i adore this kind of anecdotes) : weshould also keep in mind that “Alien” was made in 1979 and scott didn’t have all the money-machine backing him up i has today. honestly, i think that he would have tried to make the same thing back in the days, that is, trying to use all the top-notch technology he could have possible had available. but can any of you remember what computers looked like in 1979? come on, folks! back then, THAT was the top-notch. of course, it didn’t look like “2001″ (older by a full decade..), but (as it has already so well pointed out in this blog, review and comments altogether) the entire purpose of the set’s look was in fact that the nostromo had to look like nothing more than an old tug. and if any of you have the chance, go to a port, any, and take a look at an old tug – you won’t find any clean apple-looking-alike technology onborad.

    there is one thing that i found simply stupid : what noomi rapace is able to do after the cesarean operation. that was simply impossible! c’mon, ridley, try to keep this film something we can belive into! no woman (nor man, for that matter) can do any such thing, like jumping and running as she does, after such an operation..

    the point i agree the most, in this review, is the fact that scott put too many disparate elements in it and too many of them (and, yes indeed, too many flat characters) might have been cut out from the final cut. it’s a pity because it could have been much better, overall.
    as true as it was for the very first one : less is more.

    another thing i found “bizarre” is that in the final scene i was feeling like watching an alternate take of the end of “the empire strikes back”. it is way too obvious that “prometheus” is the first part of a new series of films.
    and, frankly speaking, this is boring, how so many films, nowadays, are just sort of “path-openers” to sequels and more sequels..
    isn’t that strange? why don’t directors try to make one good film at a time, good in itself, i mean, without falling into the temptation of thinking too further ahead to a trilogy (or, worse, more)? the only film i regret never became a trilogy is “airplane!”.

    so, it has to be accepted as something new, not a by-product of the “alien” series. let’s wait for the new chapters coming.

    in this sense, it is an overall rather enjoyable product. but that’s what it is, for me : an enjoyable product. not a good film.
    but i might go watching it once more…

    • MovieGeek says:

      WOW……. talking about a comprehensive comment!
      Thanks for that.. And yes, I think we pretty much agree on everything. Enjoyable, all over the place, handsomely made, but in the end all a bit mindless and pointless… Pity though, because it had a lot of potential.
      take care and thanks for you comment.

  4. marco says:

    just one addition..
    there is one (very bizarre!) thing that does not work here.
    the link to the very first one! in terms of how the scenery will be find by dallas and co. in the “sequel”.

    but this is defintely a BIG SPOILER, if you haven’t watched it, yet.

    in “prometheus”, the only survivor of the ancient race leaves his position, from the command sit in the spaceship, where he is supposed to be found by the nostromo crew.
    i am sure, all of you folks remember what they find in “alien” : a tall fossilised creature, sitting in the vessel commandant’s sit, with its chest bursted from the inside. and we all recognised that set – because it is too unforgettable, so well, craftly-made.
    but in prometheus that same (only) dude leaves that position and go after the humans, chasing them. and it dies in the small survival ship! how could it possibly ever be found by dallas as we saw it in 1979?!?
    the time line is broken here.
    it defintely does not work..

    • MovieGeek says:

      I can only assume that there must be another piece of the jigsaw puzzle missing between Prometheus and Alien. We are definitely missing a bit of the story: Alien is not a direct sequel from Prometheus. In fact, the spaceship which we see leaving at the end Prometheus, we’ll find crashed onto LV-426 in Alien, which makes me assume that something else will happen in between those 2 episodes.

  5. Pingback: Review: Prometheus « Nameless Horror

  6. No One says:

    Do yourself a favour,
    and,
    listen to the podcast of Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode interviewing Ridley Scott.

    Prometheus has (at least) two more films between it and Alien.

    • MovieGeek says:

      Brilliant!
      Good to know. I’m a couple of Wittertainment podcasts behind. But I’ll surely catch up with them!
      Thanks or the tip… In fact I did suspect that. Pity you didn’t sign your name though.

      (Edited)
      I’ve just listened to it.
      It’s interesting how Mark Kermode always seems to agree with most of my reviews (in fact sometimes word by word)

  7. Dan says:

    I think it is a film that will grow on audiences that don’t like it and become even more interesting for those that do. I am in the camp that liked it but my anticipation, or perhaps my expectation, levels were too high. “High” being the wrong word given that perhaps I wanted to see something more in tune with Alien. I like that you say – is this Scott’s 2001 – because it could be. It definitely, for me, has more similarities with Blade Runner than Alien.

    • MovieGeek says:

      Yes I think we are all on the same boat on that. thanks for your comment.

  8. David Murphy says:

    For a refreshing and different review of Prometheus, go to http://www.davidmurph.wordpress.com

  9. CMrok93 says:

    Just got done watching it and I can’t say I was all that impressed with what I saw. Yeah, it had its moments that were tense and a little freaky but it never fully got off the ground for me. However, it’s a beautiful film the whole way through and one that should definitely be seen in 3D no matter wherever you are. Good review.

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  11. Crackity Jones says:

    when you take the film on its own merits and don’t constantly compare it to (the vastly superior and very very different) Alien, i think Prometheus is a very enjoyably, though flawed, film. The overblown music is a little tiresome, some of the dialogue is laughably poor, but for me the good moments make up for the flaws and i found it an extremely enjoyable experience. It lacks depth, but it was the most i have enjoyed a ‘blockbuster’ in years. Fassbender steals the show. without him,i would not be so enthusiastic about it. 7.5/10 seems fair. (it’s worth mentioning that i intentionally avoided ALL of the pre-release hype/reviews and interviews. and i’m glad i did).

    • MovieGeek says:

      I couldn’t agree more with you.
      Thanks for your comment.

  12. Wow, 2 films between Prometheus and Alien? As you said on my page…I can’t wait for the sequel(s).

    a great review. I too couldn’t help but, as you say, “pick needles” when comparing the technology of Alien to Prometheus. I will say that I was glad to see the use of the flamethrowers. No doubt!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insight.

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