Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron.
|Is that Apocalypse Now-era Marlon Brando in the background?|
The crew of the spaceship Prometheus investigate signs of life on a faraway planet.
Prometheus was the name of the titan who stole fire from the Gods. Prometheus is the name of the film; Prometheus is the name of the ship.
Not Alien 5: Prometheus, nor AVP3 (Aliens Vs Prometheus 3). Just Prometheus. It’s a prequel that doesn’t flaunt the fact, which is odd because it has great reason to. The big guy is back, Ridley Scott, his first directing credit in the Alien franchise since the original in 1979. Michael Fassbender is there too, and Charlize Theron and Idris Elba. Oh, and Rafe Spall. I like Rafe Spall.
A graphic appears onscreen shortly after the film’s two prologues (one pre-title and non-verbal, the other post-title and archeology-y) declaring “Crew: 17”. The only films that actively give their cast number are those most likely to kill members of it off. Not a spoiler; a cinematic fact.
It’s rather redundant talking about Prometheus’ plot, because it’s pretty similar to the first two Alien films. Spaceship investigates potentially extra-terrestrial readings under orders from evil, faceless corporation. Only this time the corporation does have a face – Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the mission’s sole funder and founder of Weyland Industries.
The ‘Mother as giver of life’ subtext still bubbles beneath, and the male fear of being penetrated is exploited in a few, visceral death scenes, but this is all layered over by a more religious theme. The essence of Prometheus, and what separates it from the other Alien films, is its desire to meet its maker. Strangely, in Ridley Scott as director, the franchise is doing just that.
The Prometheus has set out to a faraway planet in hope of discovering the alien race that might have sparked life on our own world, who are given the wonderfully matter-of-fact name The Engineers. Each character has their own reason for wanting to meet The Engineers: some for profit, some to be immortal, some to simply ask ‘why?’ But the most touching is the one left unsaid.
David (Michael Fassbender) is the ship’s android (though he is repeatedly, and incorrectly, called a ‘robot’). Ash (Ian Holm) was a naughty android in Alien, but Bishop (Lance Henriksen) played a hero in the sequel. Fassbender plays it perfectly, his face a tabula rasa on which to project your own emotions. But every now and then, you’ll see a twitch in his cheek, or a scowl teasing the corner of his mouth, betraying what appears to be emotion. Is he good? Is he bad? Is he good? Is he bad? But alas, he is only a
robot android, a tool of his Creator.
The film’s central themes are echoed in David’s existence: the creation of life (albeit artificial) and meeting one’s Maker (the humans that surround him). His interactions with the crew are the film’s most engrossing moments; politely tense banter with the scientist Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), or consoling Holloway’s scientist lover, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). He seems to envy human’s of their emotion, yet he is unable of envy. So when he gazes upon the alien ruins of this faraway planet, with transcendence in the eyes that are incapable of transcendence, you ponder if David has his own, Tin Man reason for coming along.
The rest of the crew are well rounded enough, though a little formulaic. Shaw, our protagonist, being barren is a nice touch, playing upon her Mother / Ripley dynamic within the story. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is so icy she could be a robot herself, and Janek (Idris Elba), the ship’s captain, is your atypical loveable rogue. Unforunately, though, they’ve lumbered both him and Spall’s Millburn with Texan accents for no evident reason, a shame considering both actors’ patterns of speech are often what makes their performances so unique.
But as good as Prometheus is – and it is very good – the original’s spectre sits hunched in the corner of every frame. The Alien mythology is one that has spawned many sequels and spin-offs, so a little more tampering shouldn’t matter. In fact, what the film does contribute to the franchise’s backstory is both smart and intriguing. The gallows humour is where it needs to be, it looks stunning (but although the 3D isn’t treated as a gimmick here, it still sucks) and tension is expertly maintained. One scene, of a manually performed medical procedure, is so intense that it rivals the most iconic of the series.
Yet there is a slightly bitter aftertaste to what is essentially a very good blockbuster. You find yourself asking the Creator the same question Shaw wishes to. Why?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★