Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller, 124 minutes
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green and Charlize Theron
I've had the pleasure of seeing Prometheus twice. The first occasion was my first exposure to IMAX/3D and it was easily the best presentation I have ever seen in a theater. That prompted me to share the experience with two UK friends who were in town for my 50th birthday. Yes, I'm old.
The most difficult thing to overcome when reviewing Prometheus is separating the incredible presentation from the story. Should I review the experience, or just the movie itself? I have chosen to comment on both elements.
The opening shots immediately draw you in and establish that you are about to witness something special in terms of presentation. As the camera pans over the surface of a moon, you are part of the experience. As with Avatar, you are transported to a different world. The first shot of the ship is also effective, with the roar of the engines. Kubrick would probably turn over in his grave at the technical error of portraying sound in space, but it does add something for the viewer.
Prometheus is quite ambitious. It does a good job of explaining some of the events that led up to the mission in Alien. We are shown some of the discoveries which prompted the Weyland-Yutani Corporation to explore deep space. A crew is sent to search for an incredible secret, which I won't reveal here. Unlike other films in the Alien franchise, the presence of an android is explained from the beginning. David (Fassbender) is accepted for what he is without anything being hidden. The one thing that does remain consistent is that the android knows more than he admits. Where did he get that information?
There is more than one alien species present in Prometheus, plus the humans. The story explains the origin of the type of ship discovered in Alien and we experience a small thrill of recognition. Ridley Scott balances new information with previous events in an effective way. I came away feeling like I knew a lot more about this universe, but I didn't feel that the original film had been betrayed in any way.
It took me several viewings over a number of years to raise my rating for Alien to 4.5/5. Perhaps because I know that film so well, Prometheus had more of an immediate impact. However, there is one thing preventing me from rating the film as highly. The character of Fifield (Sean Harris) is a blatant flaw in the film. He's a British geologist with the personality of an idiotic criminal. He's clearly intended to provide comic relief, and I admit that the audience did laugh at his comments during both viewings, but his inclusion felt so out of place. Up until that point, the film had me fully engaged. The story seemed plausible and interesting. Fifield would never have passed any serious attempt at psychological screening by the Weyland Corporation and would never have become part of the crew in any realistic scenario. His inclusion pulled me right out of the movie as soon as he spoke his opening dialogue. His scenes with Millburn (Rafe Spall) were all ludicrous and I'm forced to deduct half a point just because of their presence.
Everything else worked.
I'm not against the idea of humor in a serious movie. Vickers (Theron) and Janek (Idris Elba) did have an amusing exchange which was handled in a far more intelligent manner. Theron played her part well and her icy personality was believable.
The highlight of the film for me was the unexpectedly wonderful performance from Noomi Rapace. I liked her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the original Dragon Tattoo trilogy and was pleasantly surprised to see her tackling a role in English. Like Alien, the movie ends with a fight for survival, and Shaw (Rapace) is the equivalent of Ripley. There's one sequence which made me laugh because it was so outlandish, but Rapace played it totally straight and still had me on the edge of my seat and rooting for her. This will upset some people, but I think she was a more effective character than Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. I like both tremendously, so I guess it doesn't matter.
Prometheus delivers in terms of story, action, and special effects, and most of the acting is good. The conclusion left the possibility of a sequel and I wouldn't be sorry to see that happen. It's always tricky when a franchise is continued after a long absence, but Scott really pulled it off. See it in IMAX/3D while you can and buy the Blu-ray when it is eventually released.
Overall score 4/5
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