Two scientists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) are leading an expedition to a far off planet after getting the basic inspiration from several cave paintings they’ve discovered in Scotland. Followed by a boatload of crewmembers, the two of them find mysterious artifacts and controls left behind by an alien race that could potentially hold the keys to finding out the sordid and fascinating history of the origins of human life itself. However, as they get closer, things start to become more dangerous, as hostility begins to brew amongst members of the crew and the artifacts start to host a potential threat.
Prometheus has been anticipated for several years now as it marks the return of celebrated director Ridley Scott to the genre that made him famous with classics like Alien and Blade Runner - science fiction. The major strength of Scott’s work in sci-fi has always been his ability to establish the very detailed scope and scale of the world his characters inhabit with his detailed camera work and Prometheus is no exception. The way he manages to build up the environment these explorers walk into is engaging from the start, giving the elaborate designs an appropriate aura of wonder that fits the themes of exploration perfectly. Speaking of which, that theme of exploration is what really drives the motivation of the story and it’s an impactful theme throughout. The way certain actors simply react to the world around them feels like it is filled with genuine curiosity. Even when the more horrific elements start to kick in, the film starts to reveal aspects of the alien race in a fashion that highlights them as both a legitimate threat and a fascinating subject to watch. Screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts manage to develop the life cycle and abilities of these alien creatures in a way that both ratchets up the tension and gives the audience a bit of that curiosity factor in terms of finding out what they’re motives are, even if it means seeing more bloodshed. Plus, all of these themes are well supported by the seamless visual effects and the score by Marc Steitenfeld.
That all being said, this huge focus on the development of the alien race does take away from the essential development of the film: the characters. Now, with a big cast like this, I’m not expecting everyone to be a fully fleshed out character. Hell, the original Alien doesn’t have a detailed backstory for everyone on the ship. However, the way they short change certain characters here sort of becomes grating, especially when it is done in service of lazy story telling. For example, there are many moments where director Scott shoots a visual, dialogue-free scene that explains everything so well… yet someone has to come in and explain things that just happened, which shows that Ridley is unable to trust his audience. Other times, characters will come in and spout exposition out of the blue that 1) explains something that could have been shown easily in a visual form and 2) shouldn’t be explained by the character in question due to where they are in the story. This isn’t as bothersome as the poorly developed side characters that are supposed to have these big emotional moments that are presented like they are earned but don’t feel earned at all, particularly for Idris Elba and Logan Marshall-Green’s characters. We really don’t get much time to be invested in them and whatever time is devoted to them is just poorly mishandled through stilted writing. Other actors are also given really limited and flimsy back stories or reveals, yet work around this by giving genuine weight to the characters through their performers, with Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce being fine examples of this. The only two people in the film that perform well and are given developed characters to match that performance are Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender, with Noomi’s character managing to take full grasp of her situation even under the worst circumstances in a believable fashion and Fassbender embodying the distant cold android characteristic with occasional and appropriate tinges of emotion.
Overall, Prometheus really doesn’t live up to hype that has been put before it, but I never really expected it to. Ridley Scott has far too many disappointments under his belt that he has hits, with every good movie like American Gangster being followed by a Robin Hood. Still, Promtheus does get more right than it does wrong, with the atmosphere and actors heightening up a severely flawed script. Plus, compared to all the most of the other films in the Alien series, it fares well… or does it just, “have the DNA of the Alien franchise,” as Scott says? Honestly, I can’t even tell anymore.