“It must feel like your God abandoned you”
I recently caught ‘Prometheus’ on television whilst holidaying at Llandudno (don’t judge me!). It was fortuitous, considering ‘Alien Covenant’ was due out at the cinema. My experience watching it at the cinema was not a pleasant one. More than anything, the film was dull. Yes, it may have been inexplicable, unsuccessfully fusing horror with pseudo-philosophical questions about the beginning of human life. It may have been riddled with stupid characters making stupid decisions (but isn’t that the core of most horror films?). It may not have answered any questions it posed. But, most of all, I found myself bored throughout the entire film. Would a re-viewing change my mind about it?
Unfortunately, it didn’t. Having commercial breaks didn’t help matters, but they only enabled me to reflect on the previous chunk of film with greater precision. One of the only positives of ‘Prometheus’ is that it looks gorgeous. Even on the smaller screen, the care and love put into every design (both small and larger) was obvious. There’s beauty in the greatest of horror, and ‘Prometheus’ is beautiful. From the inside of the ship to the sprawling landscapes, there’s more than enough eye candy on show.
“I guess it’s good you can’t be disappointed”
However, the grand designs come at a cost. ‘Prometheus’ is supposed to be a prequel to ‘Alien.’ So why does it look like a sequel to ‘Alien?’ It’s ‘The Phantom Menace’ syndrome. In the Star Wars prequels, everything looked more advanced than it did in the original trilogy. In the film universe, there seemed to exist technologies that didn’t exist in the original films. Take a look at ‘Rogue One,’ for instance. With a few exceptions, it looks like it takes place before ‘A New Hope.’ It’s tangibly of a similar time. There’s about thirty years (in the Alien universe) between Prometheus and Alien. Look at the video game ‘Alien: Isolation.’ That’s very faithful to the look of ‘Alien.’ ‘Prometheus’ should look slightly primitive compared to ‘Alien.’
But that’s a major niggle. The first major niggle is the unnecessarily complicated storyline. First, we open with Jason Statham opening up a box of glue, being dissolved by it and falling into a river. Is this scene on Earth? Is this how life began on Earth? That prologue is never referred to again. Yes, we see the so-called Engineers (Statham lookalikes) again, but they barely answer any of the questions posed by the prologue. In fact, most of the questions posed by the film aren’t answered by the end of it. I understand it was supposed to be the first of a trilogy, at once explaining the origins of the xenomorphs and humans, but surely a film should finish off its own narrative? A film isn’t a TV series, whatever Damien Lindelof may think (who wrote the script for ‘Prometheus’). I don’t mind some questions being left dangling in a trilogy of films, but surely you should answer some of them?
But, it’s hard to care about the questions as there are no sympathetic characters who are invested in the questions themselves. The closest sympathetic character is Elizabeth Shaw, a believer in God who’s found evidence of an alien species responsible for the creation of humanity. She’s the ‘Ripley’ of the film, the woman destined to turn into a hardened survivor in the face of unimaginable horror. However, Ripley was down to earth and relatable. Shaw is just another dull character among a sea of dull characters. There’s Charlize Theron as Vickers, who is supposed to be the evil corporate stereotype (with extra daddy issues). A late twist adds another character who overcomplicate things. The other characters make stupid decisions, in keeping with the horror genre (which disposable horror character doesn’t make stupid decisions?), but they are only there to die horrifically. Oh, I forgot about David, the erstwhile android with ulterior motives that are never explained.
Much like most of the movie. It’s pretentious (take the title, for example!), overcomplicated and patience-sapping. It may contains some impressive scenes, but they are almost only impressive visually (the self-Caeserian sticks in the mind). Nothing hangs together as a cohesive narrative thread. The story loses itself just like the directionless navigators in the film. One of the most shocking things about the film is finding out the hallowed “space jockey” is the body armour of a Jason Statham lookalike. That one point almost made me walk out of the film. Just like finding out Darth Vader was a moody teenager, finding out the “space jockey” was a big white bald alien was very disappointing. ‘Prometheus’ doesn’t care whether you’re invested in the film or not. It just wants to add a pointless backstory to a sci fi horror classic.
VERDICT: 3/10. ‘Prometheus’ may look gorgeous (even in scenes of horror), but the beauty’s only skin deep. It’s yet another example of a prequel that adds nothing to the original films. Poorly plotted, plodding and boring, ‘Prometheus’ should be ignored as fan fiction.
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Click here to read my review of James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’