Twitter Plot Summary: A group of scientists head out into the unknown on a quest to find the Engineers who created humanity.
Five Point Summary:
1. David… Bowie?
2. Evil black goo.
3. Stupid scientists.
4. Don’t run in a straight line, you fool!
5. Engineer versus giant slimy alien thing!
The Alien franchise has been in decline with every passing movie, the second Alien VS Predator proving to be a proverbial nail in the coffin due to its unrelenting ridiculousness. The starting point for Prometheus refers directly back to Ridley Scott’s opening franchise salvo in 1979 – what was the back story to the space jockey in the ship discovered by the crew of the Nostromo? Fans of the Alien series aren’t going to get any real answers, in fact you’re likely to have even more questions, but this is precisely what defines Prometheus as the brave failure it ultimately turned out to be.
The ship is populated with an array of stereotypes and characters who are given a shock of ginger hair or somewhat outlandish character flaws to make them. Blasting out into deep space, they are on a quest to discover more about the “Engineers” who seemingly created life on Earth. There’s a bit more to it than that, but there are a few twists and turns that create intrigue around the Weyland Corporation (before they unite with Yutani) and their reasons for funding the trip.
It feels that a number of plot strands have been cut to maintain a 2 hour running time, leading one to assume that Scott probably has a substantial director’s cut lying around somewhere that could correct all of these problems. The sad thing is he’s insistent that the 2 hour cut is the only cut he intended, although time will tell if that proves to be true. Either way, a few extra minutes of exposition and amendments wouldn’t have hurt at all, and would have gone some way to plugging a few gaps.
There are a multitude of problems that ultimately tarnish the final film. The scientists are prone to making ridiculous decisions despite apparently being of moderately high IQ. Guy Pierce is ultimately wasted as head honcho Weyland, appearing in what amounts to an extended cameo. Noomi Rapace is supposed to be English despite her accent wobbling on many an occasion, and there is insufficient explanations given regarding the black goo and what it represents. This has led to a number of theories over its purpose, and it does at least create a point of conversation
There are many things that Prometheus gets right, however. The many references, subtle or otherwise, to the Alien franchise go down a treat; the effects are incredibly good, as are the locations used in the opening act. Ridley Scott manages to get the effects and location budgets that most other directors can only dream of, but thankfully you see every penny on screen.
Michael Fassbender is excellent as android David. His androgynous David Bowie-esque representative of the Master Race at first has full run of the ship whilst the rest of the crew lie in stasis. He is a slightly sinister presence, devoid of any emotion beyond the odd smirk and air of superiority. Then there’s the medical pod scene, which in its own way is on par with the pivotal chest burster scene that has since come to define both the franchise and John Hurt’s career.
Finally there’s the connective DNA that links Prometheus definitively with the Alien franchise. At its core is the divide between science and faith. Not only is Noomi Rapace’s Shaw a confusing mixture of both doctrines, but there is the differences between Weyland and his daughter Vickers (Theron), and the possibility that she is as artificial as David.
So a flawed work then, but certainly one worthy of conversation as much for the things it gets right as for the moments where it sadly stumbles and almost – but not quite – face-plants into the asphalt.