***SPOILERS AHEAD. DON'T PEER IN THIS EGG UNLESS YOU WANT A FACE HUG***
After hearing it for months via the trailers, TV spots and whatever else the extremely effective marketing campaign provided, Prometheus has landed (finally). As some of you may know, Ive been a bit gaga about this one. Ysee, like many of you out there I was mad crazy about the Alien franchise in my teens. Alien and Aliens were repeat viewers on my VCR. The Aliens Special Editions arrival on video was an exciting time. The comic series was a much welcome expansion of the world of Alien. I snuck into Alien 3 in the cinema long before I was old enough to buy a ticket because I simply HAD to see it and even though I all but hate them, Resurrection, AVP and Requiem were all first day viewers. Of course those last three have hammered home the final nails in the franchises coffin over and over again but now in 2012, Ridley Scott has returned to the universe of Alien (whatever that means) and even though no one wants to say it, this prequel (of course its a prequel) to Alien has teased, impressed, fought and outright dazzled its way into our lives and that was just the trailers. So, in case youve been living under a rock for the last year or so, Prometheus tells the tale of research team heading to LV-223 (not LV-426 from Alien but in the same region). Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway have discovered a series of ancient artwork across the globe all depicting the same image (humans worshiping giants and the giants pointing to the stars) and through their research they have concluded that this is a star map to across the stars or as Shaw puts it an invitation. So heading off in a Peter Weyland (yes, that Weyland) funded starship called Prometheus, we head towards the X on the star map and Shaw and Co. begin their expedition of a landscape that shows signs of higher life forms than mankind. The mystery behind what Prometheus is, wants to be and whether it is a prequel to Alien has been a hot topic for months. So lets get that out of the way first. This is a prequel. There are indirect links to the Alien franchise but you could say that about Alien Resurrection and however much you want to cast that out to drift it's still part of the Alien franchise. You aren't going to see the ship crash on LV-426 or Space Jockey Zero and how he got a hole in his chest here and theres not Ripley as a child or junk like that but given this is a Weyland mission, theres hints at the alien from Alien (lets call them Xenos to avoid confusion) and of course the Space Jockey or simply Engineers were in Alien so in my book this is an Alien prequel even if its a loose term to lay at its door. Basically, if this isn't a prequel, it's still using everything it can that's worked in Alien to make this work. The score is a bit more classic feeling (and awfully Superman feeling too) but it's still very Alien and the sound effects and mood are Alien too, not to mention the visuals. To draw a line under the subject, those who want to argue its not a prequel lets leave it until the Blu-ray arrives and Prometheus is in a double pack with Alien shall we? Then we'll see how tightly 20th Century Fox want to stick to "has the same DNA" as its go to line about this prequel. Anyway, to the review. Prometheus is essentially two films and unfortunately they are noticeably different and there is a distinct moment where the split occurs. Beginning with the first half we open (and here come the SPOILERS folks) with a landscape. One of geysers, and waterfalls and early signs of organic foliage coming through. A shadow begins to cover the beautiful view and we see a cloaked figure walking towards the edge of a waterfall looking up at a large saucer floating in the air. The saucer leaves and the figure is revealed as an Engineer. Muscles, near naked and bug eyes. He looks up at the ship. Opens a container than the air seems to bring to life and upon downing the lot begins to decay (the black stuff in the veins shot from the trailer as if you hadnt guessed already). We even get a very CGI heavy close up of his DNA collapsing as he falls into the waterfall and as he hits the water below disintegrates into particles than form with the water. This scene is large feeling but its over quick. Just as it sinks in the title Prometheus arrives on screen and the much touted opening sequence is over and were into trailer territory.
Okay, up front there isnt a great deal you havent seen in this film one way or another. The stuff people have cobbled together isnt far off of the final product and while this rather predictable plot has its surprises the stepping stones were laid out in trailers for all to see. With that said, Ridleys bold pacing that skips through character development and plot sets ups are a mixture of being most welcome and sometimes quite odd. This world feels lived in and this is a large reason why Ridley Scott gets away with the pace he sets out with. Early in the film we meet David. Fassbenders depiction of the robot is immediately adorable. Hes awake on the two year journey while his flight mates are asleep and he can scan their dreams (honestly this small sequence with Patrick Wilson as Shaws father is odd to say the least) and studies Lawrence of Arabia to capture a likeness to Peter OToole. The stuff with David is pure science fiction and its wonderful. Then come the crew. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are likable leads. I initially loved Charlize Theron as the 'is she/ isnt she a robot' head of the mission Vickers and Janek (Idris Elba) and his crew, who dont seem to have ever worked together before for the most part feel in tune with the Nostromo crew from Alien, even if the cliché science guy, mean guy and mean guys buddy clichés come thick and fast. We meet Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in old man make up) via a rather impressive hologram recording hes recorded for the crew and then were off to meet the gods in series of structures laid out on LV-223 that no one considers checking out before suiting up and pretty much running in (note to self: never go into a mountain that has a skull carved into the top of it). All of this is acceptable this early in the film. Shaw and Holloway are excited, the crew are in awe and hell, I wont lie I was excited too! David works out ancient electro relics to open locked doors and sets off holograms diary projections that bring about the first mystery about the Engineers, why are they running away, what are they running away from and were they infected by something? This scares off two of the crew members, Science Guy and Mean Beardy Guy because they are just into geology and dont want to meet aliens and the rest of the first outing group hit the room with the big head (man, the impact of the big head room worked, despite the numerous trailers). Honestly by this point I was feeling Prometheus in a big bad way. The talk of no link to Alien was gone from my mind and I started to form ideas as to what the Engineers were doing. The pods of DNA source are perfectly kept in harmony with their atmosphere and there is a mural on the wall to show that harmony is only to be tarnished when stinky humans balls up the controlled environment and make off with an Engineer's decapitated head. I was in, totally in at this point and this all felt very right for the most part. The scenes that followed also carried well. The stuff with the re-animated head of a dead Engineer and a reveal that the elephant looking face was a helmet was creepy and weird and the twist that Science Guy and Mean Beardy Guy were still within the Engineers' Pyramid worked even though they go from scared guys who are desperate to get out to come here cutie to a very penis looking cobra worm thing thats impact was 50% ruined by the recent TV spots and what not. In amongst all that theres a hint that Janek has his own agenda, in that he seems to claim the pair's video signal is dubious yet there he is seeing a pile of dead Engineers on perfect HD screens and not telling anyone about. None of this is really acknowledged later on, so I think I need a second viewing to see if I read into that one too much. Okay, so David infects Holloway with his finger full of Engineers special recipe DNA at the instruction of an off screen character that is easy to guess given the casting of a certain Neighbour and when the crew realise this on short lived mission number two to the Pyramid and Holloway starts going all Engineer-y in appearance the crew fall to pieces over it. David is also off and playing with star charts that hes found in the classic Space Jockey room akin to Alien, where technology is brought to life with magic flutes (a very Lindelof feeling element that will no doubt split the audience) and a very much alive Engineer begins to wake up. Its here we meet the end of the good, I might even say Alien-esq and well handled first half of the movie and enter the second. Which is not that at all.
The moment Shaw wakes up in the med-lab Prometheus goes from pretty slick and interesting slice of sci-fi to a sloppy jumbled mess. Honestly for the whole youre pregnant with a 3 month sized baby alien reveal with now full on evil David and WTF is going on Shaw, Prometheus feels like the nightmare sequence in Aliens where Ripley has a belly issue (except we dont wake up). After David put her to sleep and we jump what can only be a couple of days at most, if that, Shaw is out of the room, into the conveniently placed medical pod that does surgical removals and a squidy xeno shaped beastie is torn out of her and shes stapled back together. The pacing of this flick literally goes from a steady 7 to a solid 11 in the blink of an eye. The mystery guest is revealed and the true intentions of the Prometheus mission is laid out on the table. This could be quite an interesting angle given the themes of living forever or avoiding death but man it flies by. Theres a scene with Janek and Shaw before Shaw heads back to the ship with David and his Father that is so heavy on plot discussion its embarrassing. It literally plays with Janek concluding the Engineers are war mongers who make weapons of mass destruction off planet with nothing really to back that theory up and Shaw slips in that Janek must stop the Engineer ship if it ever came to it. Which even if we didnt know it would, is a real clanger of a line.
Everything just starts to slip. Its all entertaining but the slow-ish steady hand from Ridley Scott in the first half becomes a series of broad strokes that I think are meant to create a chaotic mood but somehow just make everything feel unimportant. The stuff with the secret passenger and Engineer is so bloody rushed and for what is one of the core elements of the movie is a huge let down. What follows with Prometheus taking out the Derelict/ Juggernaut Engineer ship as it heads off for Earth (as seemingly the Engineers hate humans, who share their DNA and they probably created) was great but wed pretty much seen it shot for shot in the trailer. Well other than Charlize being taken out in what has to be one of the lamest removals of a red herring in a sci-fi movie ever. On top of that Shaw is running and jumping about after having a baby alien torn out of her stomach and I dont care what year you're from it takes more to convince me she could pull all of this off beyond holding her mid section and saying ow to remind me shes hurt. Every element just seems to trip over the others at the end. David warning the Engineer is coming for her is ridiculous because how did he know that for sure and having him warn her then undermines when he communicates with her later on when shes all but given up on life, which is played like we didnt know David was alive. The pissed off Engineer, who we find out has other ships, comes after Shaw even though he could have gone to another ship to carry out this mission hes been sitting on for like 2000 years potentially and when giant face hugger (Shaws now grown baby who has conveniently been jettisoned from the doomed Prometheus) is Shaws only savoir against her attacker, takes out the Engineer, who is now no more than a Space Maniac (the worse kind of space baddies) this all feels like a mad cap space horror with no connection to its beginnings. Phew. Okay, I sound a little angry at Prometheus. I promise, Im not. Not really. Prometheus was a fun slice of science fiction from a film maker and a couple of writers who, through trying to reinvent the wheel and create a new franchise, (and lets face it given that ending, theres a second or possibly even third movie coming sometime soon) have generated a history to the Alien universe that is perfectly acceptable. The final scene with the birth of the Xeno we know and love, though in an early form with only reminiscent features isnt the sequel they are hinting at I dont think and of course Shaw and Davids head is where Ridley will no doubt want to jettison to in Prometheus 2 (or maybe Vickers survived and her and baby Xeno team up or something). Either way Im finding it hard to really care at this point. Sure there are mysteries here but I think Ive taken what I want from it. Engineers dabble with lifes code, theyve made a series of species, man seemed to be pretty good but via man they make beast and beast ruins everything. They seem to worship the beast like devil worshipers or something and thats sort of interesting and yeah, I will no doubt be filtering through forums and theories for a good few weeks trying to listen to ideas to form a better understanding of what might be going on but something isnt what I wanted it to be here somewhere.
Rdiley Scott has shown he can still do sci-fi. He can delve into deeper ideas and make then entertaining but hold this up to Alien, Aliens or Alien 3 (and lets face it everyone will be) and Prometheus isnt that interesting once the steam runs out. The characters are thin, hollow replicas of much better characters in the world of sci-fi and even if you take the Alien franchise out of the equation like Ridley wants us to, this is still a movie that promises great, thought provoking things and just doesnt deliver on it in the second half. Im sure the Blu-ray will offer extra scenes, slicker edits (lets hope so some were awful) and I am very keen on seeing this one again but something pushed me away mid movie here. Ridley Scott has gone back to the Alien sandbox, with all of the Alien toys but hes left the Xeno at home and decided to just make do without them. Its not the disaster Chronicles of Riddick was when it followed Pitch Black and left out all the interesting parts (that is, the aliens) but the fact thats my first comparison when describing a franchise Ive loved for a long time is quite showing I think. Prometheus is fun. Its gory, its interesting and then it forgets all that and runs after surgery. Rating: