I am probably one of the largest sci-fi geeks in existence. I live and breathe everything and anything science-fiction. Naturally, this means I am a huge fan of the Alien and Blade Runner films directed by Ridley Scott. When I heard that after a 30 year break he was returning to sci-fi I must have nerd-gasm’d with the power of a million flux capacitors. This, however, is the problem with fandom. If you are so eagerly anticipating something, dedicating a large amount of time and energy into that anticipation, isn’t it a given that you are setting yourself up for disappointment? I’ve learnt this lesson before and I did my best to quell the bubbling excitement inside but it proved a hard task surrounded by equally enthusiastic sci-fi geeks.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus starts on earth with a duo of scientists discovering the final in a line of ancient clues that point to a particular star-system where they believe they can find the answers to life’s biggest questions. A few years later the scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), along with a sizable crew have been awoken from stasis aboard the Prometheus space-craft. They are greeted by their android care-taker David (Michael Fassbender), the ships captain Janek (Idris Elba) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) the corporate representative among other miscellaneous crew members.
They have arrived at their destination, a moon in a solar-system with a sun not unlike ours, the very one pointed at on Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway’s cave paintings. The scientists and the crew aboard go straight to work when they find a hollow dome-like structure on the moon’s surface and soon find evidence of a doomed intelligent habitation. What secrets lie inside this structure? Is it too late to turn back or have they already unleashed the contents Pandora’s Box?
Ridley Scott once said that “…Audiences are less intrigued, honestly, by battle. They’re more intrigued by human relations…” and I would be the first person to agree with him, unless said human relations break up the action to the point of a tonal mess. One of the main problems with Prometheus is it’s inconsistency in tone and build-up. An awful amount of time is spent on exposition and by half-time there still doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of development on the main plot. When we do get down to the nitty-gritty and start exploring the horrors that lurk on this new world instead of letting the tension build to achieve genuine emotional-response it is broken up with scenes of inter-crew relationships that jars the viewer out of any sense of thrill or suspense. There is, however, that hit that suspense nail very squarely on the head. I think cinema audiences will be talking for a long time about Ms. Shaw’s emergency medical procedure.
The design of the entire movie was definitely one of its finest qualities. The gleam of a futuristic, sterile and technological world on the Prometheus contrasted greatly with the H.R. Giger influenced design of the shadowy, slime-slicked labyrinth that houses the horrors beneath the dome and creates the perfect mise-en-scene to represent the fresh and new versus the ancient and forbidden. If there’s one thing you can’t complain about in Prometheus, it’s the seamless beauty of the world they created.
Unlike the design of the film, the score was somewhat less inspirational and was often accountable for the tonal imbalance that the film battled with. The looming, impressive shrieks seen in the music of the trailer were nowhere to be seen in a very hollow and understated score that seemed to decide it didn’t want to assist with raising audience heart-beats in moments of crises or deepening emotion of more dramatic scenes. An unpleasant surprise considering composer Marc Streitenfeld’s previous credits include such esteemed scores for The Grey, Robin Hood and American Gangster.
With a project whose story is shrouded in as much mystery as Prometheus has been it’d be unfair to go into too much detail in a review. What I will say is that while it has a bunch of hiccups and should have been stream-line, it is a very grand and ambitious tale that achieves what it sets out to do. There are very strong references to the nature of war-fare that really brings these issues to the foreground. In a recent interview with Collider.com Scott states that, “…You don’t do 9/11, you just get a teaspoon of bacteria, drop it in, and eight days later the water is clean and then suddenly on the eighth day the water goes dense and cloudy, but by then it’s been sent to every home and several million people have drunk it, you’ve got bubonic. It’s that simple.”
One of Prometheus’ greatest strengths is in its cast. Mr. Scott has always been fantastic at casting his films and this is no exception. Noomi Rapace plays a strong female lead that the audience wants to cheer for; Idris Elba plays an extremely charming Captain that contrasts well against Charlize Theron’s strict and uptight Meredith Vickers. Most notably, though, is Michael Fassbender’s truly wonderful performance as the android David. He is the one character that never ceases to stop the audience guessing and Fassbender’s performance truly had me wondering whether or not a robot could feel.
While it is largely over-ambitious and lacks the tonal consistency it needed to be a truly successful film, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is still worth the trip for its spectacular visuals and inspiring performances. Sci-Fi geeks should be truly delighted, if not by the film itself, then by the hours of entertaining debates that are certain to follow.
I give this film 3 and a half cups of Dark Biological Ooze (the ingredients of which may or may not have been found in a jar on a distant moon). While it may seem like a fresh and exciting new beverage, there’s something undeniably wrong with the formula. Still pretty tasty, though.