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Prometheus

Prometheus

Released 1 June 2012
Director Ridley Scott
Starring




Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshell-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall
Writer(s) Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Producer(s)

David Giler, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott
Origin United States
Running Time 124 minutes
Genre Action, horror, sci-fi
Rating 15A
69

In Hollywood no one can hear you scream.

I was very excited about Prometheus. Ridley Scott returning to the genre of sci-fi/horror with a pseudo-prequel to Alien? I expected to love this film. But, to my great surprise, I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, for the first hour Prometheus is one of the best films of the year. The atmosphere of underlying horror is beautifully established. Scott knows better than to rely on cheap jump-out shocks, and instead favours a more subtle approach. If they ever make a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness it should be like this. At their most basic the stories are similar: A team of scientists in the furthest place imaginable from the world they know slowly begin to uncover evidence of some horrific ancient secret. They have disturbed something they shouldn’t have. A sense of lingering unease slowly develops into disaster. And when Prometheus is still establishing the characters and building the psychological tension it is undoubtedly fantastic.

Likewise the cast is excellent. Michael Fassbender is nothing short of wonderful as the android David, being equal parts charming and creepy, with such total immersion into his role that I wondered if maybe he really has been a robot all along.

The problems only set in later. The scariest scene occurs about halfway through. I won’t spoil it, because it is a truly wonderful and gut-wrenching piece of horror, and it even does the almost impossible task of making the chest-buster scene from the original Alien look tame. The only problem is that the rest of Prometheus also looks tame in comparison. Everything that happens afterwards doesn’t quite sit right, and all the various plot threads which are set up so well in the first act start to get jumbled.

There is simply too much going on in Prometheus. It struggles to tell a unique, standalone story and yet still remain a part of the Alien mythology. These two conflicting points constantly clash, in particular in the final act, as the plot struggles to remain coherent with the events of Alien. Everything else suffers as a result, and I can’t help feeling that it was a massive mistake for Scott to attempt a prequel at all.

A simple rule of screenwriting is: “show, don’t tell”. It is always scarier to hold something back for the audience’s imagination. Any prequel to Alien is simply too much information – the H.R. Giger designed spaceship and “space-jockey” were all the more nightmarish because we never found out where they came from. As good a film as Prometheus actually is, it is inescapably crippled by this fact. I don’t want to ruin anything, but the ending really sums this up. It is a deliberate nod to the greater story that has already been told rather than a genuine conclusion.

And so I ended up disappointed. Not because Prometheus is a bad film –it really isn’t– but because it couldn’t break free of the legacy of its predecessors. If it had, it could have been the amazing, terrifying and mind blowing journey into the unknown that I expected it to be.

It’s not an absolute disaster by any means, but I do hope that Ridley Scott was joking when he said he wanted to make a sequel to Blade Runner next.

- Bernard O’Rourke