Newest Review: ... by the half way point I was regretting watching it and had a sinking feeling that this was not going to get any better. The film suf... more
In space no one can hear you scratch your head
Member Name: calypte
Date: 24/06/12, updated on 24/06/12 (69 review reads)
Advantages: Looks amazing, great android character, and some good set up
Disadvantages: Plot, characterisation, and failure to answer ANY of the questions it raises
I wanted so very badly to like this film. I adore all of the Alien films - yes, even the last two that everyone else panned. I'm a massive fan of director Ridley Scott, particularly the phenomenal Blade Runner. How could a movie set before Alien, exploring the identity of the mysterious 'Space Jockey' (an ancient, huge corpse with a telling hole in its chest...!) not be a sure-fire winner?! Answer: this. This movie is, for me, exactly how you take all those amazing ingredients and mix them all up into muddled brown sludge. And that, I'm afraid, is the only answer you're going to get out of this sprawling, messy movie.
Which is a damn shame, it really is. There is so much promise here, and indeed a fair amount to like. Lots and lots of people seem to have been able to focus just on those bits, but for me I've only been able to appreciate (some of) them in hindsight - the viewing experience was a bitter taste and a lot of "What on (or off of!) earth is going on!?". I think it's fair to say that a lot of the movies I watch require a large suspension of disbelief, but somehow - several of them, in fact! - I just couldn't manage that here.
Biggest irk - and without giving anything away - was that I found it very difficult to find an internal logic to the plot. In retrospect, and with a lot of reading around various fan opinions, I admit that part of this was my own fault in not 'getting' some of the set up - but there also seems to be a great deal of guess work required, too. That doesn't speak highly of the story-telling, as far as I'm concerned. I strongly suspect that I would have enjoyed this movie more without the 'Alien' link: being told this isn't a direct prequel (it's set in the same universe, but there's a discontinuity between the plots allowing for a lot of wiggle-room without matching up the 'seams', so to speak) didn't stop my brain from trying to see how *this* evolves into *that*, or how this reaction foreshadows future events on the Nostromo (which, incidentally, is what 'Alien' would have been called if following the same pattern as this movie). Alas, the gulf is just too wide, and I struggled with that jarring inability to see how we get from here to there.
Prometheus seems to try to emulate at least some of the atmosphere of the first Alien, where the very slow build of tension starts to play on your nerves until that big shock slams you halfway out of your seat! However, from the very first scene here (which I still don't really understand) I was so busy feeling confused and then frustrated and altogether NOT caught up in the whole thing, that I found this movie completely not scary, even when it was meant to be. Admittedly, not everyone in the audience seemed to have that same issue - some people were clearly quite scared indeed! - but that just left me feeling more disappointed.
It really didn't help that I really didn't like much of the cast of characters. Main woman Shaw was too obviously a Ripley-wannabe, but too wide-eyed then too frenetically manic to let me even start to want to care about her; thus I didn't invest as much in the story as the film really required. Her love interest seemed utterly bored with the proceedings, and the rest of the crew swayed between puzzlingly irrational, obviously disposable, and totally underused. Interestingly, the exceptions were the purposefully least likable characters: Charlize Theron is marvellously cool and cruel as the company woman, Vickers, and Michael Fassbender has rightly been well-lauded for his portrayal of android, David. David is easily the standout - well, everything, actually! - of the movie. His semi-humanised, still-outsider performance, from obsession with Lawrence of Arabia to the totally amoral reactions to events, was utterly intriguing for me.
Which leads me back to why the rest of the film didn't work for me: David's behaviour is never explained; it simply raises questions and leaves them with you. I was fine with that - in fact, I like it when movies don't shove everything down your throat (if knowing fans will pardon the Alien reference ;)). However, it strikes me that Prometheus does nothing *but* raise questions upon questions, until they stop offering an intriguing sense of mystery and simply become irritating. In my view, you simply cannot expect an audience to stay with you when you provide - not just 'not all' - but absolutely 'not one' of the answers to the conundrums you set up.
Overall, I can't help but feel that this movie was just over ambitious beyond its ability to make all the various elements work enough to keep it all together, at least in a satisfying or even semi-satisfying, manner.
Clearly a movie like this is going to have a hard fight to live up to the hype, which in this case was only exaggerated by a massive pre-release campaign. To my chagrin, I spent a lot of effort avoiding all the rather clever viral marketing (faux-TED talks from the Weyland Corporation, advertising for the David-model android) in an effort not to spoil the movie experience for myself. Alas, I fear these were the best bits of the whole package...
So is it worth viewing? Actually - and given my comments above, probably shockingly - yes. I can't raise my own rating beyond 2 stars, such was my disappointment with the movie, but I'm actually glad that so many others have obviously found the enjoyment that I wanted. The ideas and the scope of this movie are fantastic, at least to begin with, but then alas it fails on the follow-through on any level for me - unresolved plot, script (some absolutely dreadful lines in there!), characters, acting... And I'm still recommending it, albeit guardedly. Go in with much lower expectations, blocking out all memory of Alien, and enjoy the cool CGI, the 'space jockeys', and the creepily non-humanly human android, David. Most of all, hope for a sequel that answers some of those many, MANY unanswered questions!!
Running time: 124 minutes, and still a lot of untold story
Rating: a fear-filled 18
Theatrical release: 1st June 2012
DVD release: tbc
Full cast and crew details can be found on imdb.
Summary: Alien pre-prequel asking more questions than it even tries to answer