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Matt's Prometheus Review

Updated on June 21, 2012

Returning to a bench mark that he helped establish, Ripley Scott takes on another science fiction film. Like any good filmmaker who knows how to do science fiction, Ridley Scott set out to create a visual spectacular, that while containing many familiar elements such as spaceships, androids, aliens, and holograms, presents them in a way that feels fresh. In that he succeeded. Where he faltered was in the plot and characterization part of the process.

Observations

- Potential viewers will want to make sure they are not walking into Prometheus with unrealistic expectations. Prometheus is not masterpiece filmmaking, it’s a science fiction film and a monster movie. Do not mistake me, I really liked Prometheus, but at the same time, I’d rather not turn this or any other film into something it isn’t. So, Prometheus is science fiction, but it’s very good and entertaining science fiction.

- Prometheus is an Alien movie. For purposes of rebooting and rejuvenating the old franchise, I certainly understand why they would go out of their way to distance themselves from the old films. For the record, I also did not see any of the classic “Xenomorphs” in Prometheus. However, all that does not change the fact that Prometheus is an offset of the Alien franchise if not a direct prequel. It is the best film in the franchise since Aliens, but is not superior to either of the first two films.

- The trouble that I have with this film is the ideas are far, far too big. Looking for the origins of humanity is good in theory, and the idea of opening Pandora’s Box and finding something horrific has been done many times, but this film is so bogged down with plot that much of the characterization turned out to be lacking. The plot needed to be streamlined. One of the things that worked with the first two Alien movies was their simplicity. Prometheus is too densely plotted, with too many characters biting the dust too quickly. In the cast of about a dozen or more characters in the film, there were four I sympathized with. The performances of those four work with the visuals to make this film as compelling as it is.

- I’m not surprised that Prometheus left a chunk of its audience rather confused. What they find on the planet manifests itself in a number of different ways, and the film does not stop to explain the things that happen. Answers are not offered on a silver platter, and whether that’s a positive or negative quality will depend on who the viewer is. I personally have zero problems with films that require you to think.

- Atmosphere and mood are both very palpable in this production, and for a sci-fi film, those two elements are extremely important.

(My final bullet will contain SPOILERS about the ending of Prometheus, so I recommend those who have not seen this film yet skip down to the performances section.)

- Many critics and audience members have labeled the ending of Prometheus as an “unsatisfying cliffhanger”. My reaction when the credits rolled on this film was “wow, that was awesome”. The ending of Prometheus, while certainly teasing at a sequel, finished Elizabeth Shaw’s character arc in the best and most interesting way imaginable. She is put through the mill both emotionally and physically over the course of this film, yet at the end stands determined to continue searching for answers to her questions. This makes Elizabeth Shaw markedly different from so many other characters in the sci-fi genre whose sole wish is to return home. The ending of Prometheus was not only original but subversive.

Performances

- Having first seen Noomi Rapace in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there was no question in my mind that she would be awesome in Prometheus, and she did not disappoint. She is such a presence onscreen that she’ll win you over in seconds. The way she handles Elizabeth Shaw’s devastation as everything she has worked for and believed in for her whole life is challenged, is heartbreaking. Elizabeth Shaw is a character that is torn down repeatedly in a number of ways throughout the film, and forced to get back up and keep going, only an actress of Rapace’s skill could have handled an arc like that.

- Michael Fassbender once again blew me away with the magnitude of his presence onscreen. He does not even have to say anything, and as he plays David, an android, there are many scenes where he has no dialogue at all. Yet everything he says and does sells the fact that this character is not human. Fassbender’s career is on the fast-track now, and I’m glad of that, we need more leading men with his level of talent.

- I’m a fan of Idris Elba going back to his days as Stringer Bell on The Wire. His career is progressing nicely, and I’m extremely happy about that. He plays the captain of the ship, and to great effect, he appeared in many of my favorite scenes in the film. Elba’s character adds a very welcome touch of common sense to the proceedings, which goes a long way film like this – if its slimy, gooey, oozing or slithering, for God’s sake, DON’T TOUCH IT!

- There’s always someone in the mix that is only interested in looking after themselves, in Prometheus, Charlize Theron fulfills that role. I came to sympathize with her character once I understood why she was on the mission. She makes for a fairly icy presence for most of the film, but it’s hard to label her “villainous” by the end. It’s an interesting character and Theron plays it very well, with all the subtlety and nuance I would expect from an actress of her caliber.

Music, Cinematography and Special Effects

- The score to Prometheus is extremely interesting. It stands well on its own, but is not likely to blow many classical music lovers away with its beauty the way a John Williams score might. It’s much more about the mood the cues create. If that sounds good to you, then by all means jump on iTunes and give it a listen.

- The cinematography in this film is spectacular. Lots of landscapes, particularly the opening sequence which was shot in Iceland, is really not to be missed. It should come as no surprise though, Ridley Scott has always had gorgeous cinematography in his films.

- The special effects are also fantastic, several sequences made my jaw drop. I was truly spellbound.

The Bottom Line

Although I enjoyed this film, it is not the slam-dunk that I’d hoped it would be. Maybe a director’s cut would iron out some of the issues and raise the rating. There are lots of cool ideas here, the film looked amazing, and I’m wildly enthusiastic about this type of science fiction. However, the storytelling raises too many questions, without answering any, and the character development was not at the level I expected it to be. Those are not small problems, those are big problems. I only wish I could rate Prometheus higher. 7/10

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