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Prometheus

Film Two Stars
I, like so many others, had been extremely excited to hear about the sequel to Alien getting made and was clambering to get all over the information about the production from the word go. However I was trying to make sure that I didn't get any spoilers slipped my way, something that I think was very hard to do considering the trailers that were released, trailers filled with images and key moments from the film that seemed to be telling us everything.

The hype surrounding the film has been huge, and quite rightly so, after all Ridley Scott was returning to his classic film Alien and the enduring film franchise it sparked off and he could well be delivering something to rival that original film and perhaps even better it. The idea of Scott and his talent turning to science fiction once more was a mouth watering prospect, and with a script from Jon Spaihts rewritten by Damon Lindelof it seemed doubly so.

It wasn't all about the writers and director though as the cast was another big draw for the film. Naomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Emun Elliott, Logan Marshall-Green and Kate Dickie were all billed high and the line-up promised some great performances.

Finally the trailers appeared and we saw some amazing images bringing us closer to the Alien prequel and the beginning of the franchise itself. It was shaping up to be something amazing.

Yet there were concerns and for me they lay in one clear place, the Alien prequel issue. When the project began this was the selling point and soon the makers were telling us it wasn't a prequel and there was no Alien connection, something that was put in doubt when we saw the trailer footage.

Then, and even now, we're being told that there is an Alien connection for a very short period at the end of the film, something that the trailers still disputed. The direction of the film was in question.

So how did it all work out?

Well the first thing that has to be addressed is the whole Alien prequel debate. I'm sorry Mr Scott but it's clearly an Alien prequel and I'm rather annoyed that they tried to sell it as anything but. For a period of time we were being told that it was nothing to do with Alien and that they had totally changed the direction of the story with it just being set in the same universe as the franchise, however after viewing that is quite clearly rubbish.

When the marketing tide changed we were being told that it was connected to Alien, but more at the end than anything else, and again that seemed to be a bit of a marketing slant for there was more than a passing connection. As it turns out throughout the film we would be referring to creatures we see and are referenced to in Alien, to the ship, the company, the planet and perhaps even an explanation of what Alien and the franchise was all about.

Does that sound like nothing to do with Alien and far from an Alien prequel? Even at the weekend I saw Charlize Theron on BBC television saying that it's only the last eight minutes or so that are connected to Alien and that was all. Eight minutes? When I saw it there was a lot more than eight minutes.

So the outcome of all this is don't believe the hype, this is an Alien prequel and is heavily connected throughout. Why all the denials? Well I'm not sure but part of it might be that the marketing machine has decided that this is the way to sell it, or perhaps it's to reign in hype and speculation which is out-building the film itself.

Regardless of all of this I was excited, hugely excited. I don't think I've been as excited by a film for a very long time and as the curtain moved and the lights dimmed I was grinning widely.


Plot.pngPrometheus.jpgTwo scientists have discovered a number of carvings and paintings across the world and across time, paintings that are all connected showing people worshipping a creature that points to a pattern in the sky, a pattern that the scientists have discovered is a unique constellation.

With the backing and direct involvement of a large corporation called Weyland Industries they head off on a mission to the constellation and the inhabitable planet that they have discovered there. They hope to find the creatures in the paintings, a race that the scientists believe could be creatures that humanity is descended from.

When they arrive on the planet they discover that all is not as they had hoped it would be and there is more mystery and danger with far less answers and many more questions.


TheFilm.pngThe opening of the film is rather confusing although it looks amazing. The wonderfully shot vistas are stunning and the dramatic music builds to the curious opening scenes that sets the mystery and the questions for the film, and as you'd expect with a Ridley Scott film the effects are seamless with reality as the film blends into CG it sets the tone for all of the effects throughout, practical first and when CG arrives indistinguishable from the reality in the shot.

The effects throughout are amazing and build as the film travels across the universe to the planet, but the key is they never overwhelm the rest of the film and there are always just as wonderful looking practical sets and landscapes. Scott, Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, the set design and effects teams have delivered a rich, detailed and fascinating looking film.

The story opening starts as an explanation but later in the film it becomes much more of a confusing point. I found myself wondering if this scene is as it appears and that we were seeing the creation of life, I found myself questioning what was really happening. Was this a knowing sacrifice for a purpose or a mistake that needed correction later? The message of this opening became cloudier as the film progressed and by the end I was at my most uncertain, and not just about this point.

In the early stages of the film the mystery is set-up and continues to build really well. I was totally bought into the initial story and was fascinated as to how it would evolve, and this continued for most of the first half of the film building an epic core for the story.

It's an important part of the film for it needs to sell us on the idea that is taking these scientists across the galaxy, and we need to believe in their goal and be as curious as they are as to the outcome. These are the building blocks and serve in good stead for the rest of the film, and they are imagined, written, filmed and edited superbly well. At no point did they start to cast doubt on my hopes for Prometheus.

The main characters are introduced and presented well, but the clear magnet for the audience's attention is Michael Fassbender's performance as David. His character is superb, his lines are wonderfully written and together with his delivery we feel there's a lot more going on here than just his serving role. Fassbender is fantastic and manages to convey something between human and android (no, that's not a spoiler), his performance is ever so subtle and makes you believe in an artificial intelligence that is mimicking and revelling in, being ever so human. Actually not just revelling but also manipulating.

Charlize Theron has an equally interesting character in Meredith Vickers that we just don't see enough of or get enough of a story built around. Her speech to the two scientists before they as David puts it, "begin their adventure" is bitterly cold and business like, and more than that it really puts them in their place asserting her authority with a slightly discernible lack of confidence.

As the story moves on she reveals more of that self doubt and humanity, and although she might be written a little heavily handed at times and in a few moments feels a little pantomime she is a strong character and Theron plays her well with plenty of internal and external doubt. There is a question earlier on that Idris Elba's character Janek poses her that might have been in the mind of the audience to this point, one which is answered as she begins to demonstrate more of that humanity which is peppered with fear and flaws.

It's only after this question is posed that you really think about it and wonder if more had been made of it would she have had a more interesting and pivotal role? It's a thought that comes again when she has another character reveal scene later, delivered with an emotional word as she kneels before the camera, one that you know should carry a lot of weight but just seems to flow over you.

Again it feels as though it's another wasted opportunity for the character, or perhaps a mishandled one. It should have been a big surprise moment that revealed a huge motivation and background for the character but since she didn't have that big an involvement in the main story it feels a bit of a damp squib and even a distraction from the actual story, an unexplored plot thread that seems to offer an interesting addition to the side story that this moment presents.

Actually the whole thread around this moment feels as though it sticks out a little awkwardly from the rest of the story and offers little more than a foil to visit the alien control room. It's a little poorly handled in my eyes, not just for this moment with Theron's character but with the opening reveal with David in the secret room that doesn't offer any mystery at all and you almost instantly understand what is happening.

The thread, which I can't really talk too much about because it would indeed be considered a spoiler, felt as though it could have been so much more and more could have been made of Guy Pearce who is shown all too little in the film.

Let me move onto some of the other characters, and here is where there is a little bit of a difficulty because apart from the two scientists the other characters are quite light. Idris Elba has a good character who gains a few moments and a pivotal, heroic role, but next to him the other characters are there to be parts of the story that we pass by.

In fact the scientists are far from scientists, they are a bunch of idiots. Nowhere is this shown more than the geologist who is scared of the unknown and darkness, despite flying across the universe to this strange planet, and the biologist who thinks it's right to kneel in front of an unknown creature in an alien chamber filled with unknown chemicals which have leaked out everywhere and stick his finger up to its mouth going "who's a pretty girl?".

In fact every scientist seems desperate to break every single rule of investigation and quarantine protocol that science demands, even our leading scientists one of whom is really an impetuous jack the lad who likes to get drunk, not do the work and sulk a lot.

That scientist is played by Logan Marshall-Green and he has another story thread that seems to go nowhere. The moment between him, David and the champagne is cleverly written and played but it starts off a plot line that seems to have no point, especially when you see what happens to him. Did David just do this for his own spite, and if he did it as an investigation surely it proved nothing.

Of course though it does have a point, it's to lever another story thread, that of the female scientist lead Shaw and her thread that again levers another thread that leads us to the end of the film.

Yet for such a seemingly important plot thread in the film, and come the end you will see why it is, it does seem to pass totally unnoticed and is forced into the story. Let's face it, the events that happen in Meredith's chambers with the surgery suite are pretty serious and yet despite walking into the secret room where she discovers the true motives of the mission, covered in blood and David clearly knowing what has happened to her she is left alone, unquestioned. It seems bizarre when three characters, including David, have knowledge of exactly what has been happening to her.

From here it becomes a little bit of a mess and while I was irritated by some of the other disjointed stories and poor character decisions this sequence of events are the ones that had me shaking my head and wondering what was going on. I could not believe that this huge story moment was raced through so quickly, was ignored by the other characters when it was known what was happening, that so quickly afterwards she was an all out action hero, and that everyone just ignored the story to date and moved off in another direction.

Another aspect of this thread that I found confusing is what was happening to the people. Now again I don't want to go into too much detail, but I found the changes confusing when related to different creatures and different people, and the reason for the changes in the first place was never really addressed.

I know it's easy to pick out negatives rather than praise the positive; however these issues are major for me and damaged my enjoyment of the second half of the film.

I do reflect on these issues and wonder if we are actually missing something from the film. I wonder if there is a lot more footage that delves more into Meredith's story both on Earth and on the ship, the scientists stories, and the story of Elizabeth Shaw and what happens to her later in the film.

This was reinforced by the moments aboard the ship where Janek and Shaw suddenly announce what they know what is happening on the planet, why the creatures are here and what their motives are, particularly as concerns humanity. It seems rather out of the blue and it seems to me that there was a rather big story gap here.

Another really poor moment, and I mean shockingly so, is during the crashing of the spaceship - No, this isn't a spoiler, unless you count anything in the television and cinema trailers as being a spoiler - it's a moment where I snorted out loud in laughter because it was such a contrived film moment, almost farcically so.

Let me explain. The spaceship is falling forwards like a rolling wheel and two of our crew are running away from it, running perpendicular to the falling ship. Think about that for a moment, imagine you are underneath a giant tree and it starts falling on you, would you run the length of the trunk as it fell toward you?

Next one of the crew falls to the ground and decides to roll to the right, realising that just a few feet to the side you can avoid the falling ship, yet the other crew member decides to keep running perpendicular to the falling ship. Next comes the "phew I'm safe" moment followed by the "surprise it's falling the other way" moment and our crew member decides to do the same again and run perpendicular to the falling ship.

These embarrassingly terrible scenes continue with another incredibly silly and contrived moment that I won't spoil for you, suffice to say it's almost as ludicrous as the previous moments.

I'm going to stop here because I could go on, there are many more plot threads and characters that are just dropped, appear as quickly or decide to do the strangest of things and plot holes and questions abound.

The only other thing I shall mention is the ending as we leap back to an apparently dropped thread and find out what happened to the part of the story that once seemed to be of so much interest to David. It delivers us the strongest connection to the Alien film just in time to manoeuvre the story so that we're as close as possible to where we need to be for the beginning of Alien. Oh, as well as to make the whole sorry state of affairs feel a little bit pointless and raise more plot hole questions.


Overall.pngI think it's clear that when you look at the story itself it seems a bit of a haphazard mess. Storylines don't carry impact or tension and threads seem to disappear and reappear to no real end. Some of the character situations feels forced and contrived, and far from answer any questions there are just more raised. It's filled with plot holes and not just in comparison to the Alien film it follows.

It seems as though the Alien prequel film was written and then when the idea came along to make it something different they mixed the two scripts and we have Prometheus. Perhaps there are a number of Ridley Scott director's editions to come with additional footage, different story lines. One thing is clear though, this film doesn't belong in a future Alien box set.

There are some great aspects though and forgetting about the flow, or the non-flow of the story, Ridley Scott and his team deliver some amazing visuals and fantastic effects mixing practical and CG to wonderful ends.

Fassbender delivers a fantastic performance with a character that has bags of potential and almost sees that potential come through all the way to the end. Theron is another notable performance although she is let down by the lack of involvement of her character.

Prometheus promised so much, and through the openings of the film I really believed we were going to have it delivered and then some. The visuals, the concept and the characters and the building of the story really did make me believe. Unfortunately the mishandled story spoiled my enjoyment of the film and delivered the Prometheus I neither hoped for nor was promised.



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Comments

That's unfortunate. The film of course had some much promise and such high expectations. I will still see this friday and hopefully be able to take some positives away from it. Thanks.

Stupid, stupid, stupid film!

Can't get past how dim-witted the crew are. Particularly since they know fool well what the mission is and what to expect. The key to the Nostromo situation was that a bunch of space truckers were totally out of their depth.

I would't trust the Prometheus crew to open a jam jar with out smashing it repeatedly off their own faces.

Stupid characters doing stupid things on a nice set. Future classic? Yeah right.

Also - good review. Much more honest and insightful than most of the mainstream reviews. Total Film 4/5?

Who's backside are they trying to kiss?

By the way, you give my film 'The Planet' a better score than this and it cost £8000! Marky's getting angry!

Mark you're mini-review there is a good summary of what I took far too long to say!

I know what you mean there are plenty of amazing reviews out there for the film and I think it's all because of Ridley Scott and the franchise rather than the film itself.

The Planet didn't have any groan/slap forehead moments or embarassing plot holes, dialogue or character moments as far as I remember. Mind you I have to say he had slightly better effects and locations!

2 stars out of 5?? Aren't you being a little harsh Richard? This is in no way a stinker. It's visually stunning and greatly enjoyable if you can put up with a few stupid decisions from the characters and one or two plot holes in contrast with above-average performances and some interesting twists.

After seeing the movie, I really understand why Ridley Scott didn't call this a prequel to Alien. I find it very accurate to say that it shares the Alien facture visuelle, universe and mythos while still being a separate story which is pretty much what Ridley Scott has been saying.

**Spoiler Warning**

It's just not an Alien movie, if only because its devoid of Aliens(xenomorphs) for the quasi-entirety of the movie. And when you do see one, it's not even there to cause tension or anything. It's either pictured on a wall piece or it's some cameo that was planted there in the last 10 minutes of the 2 hours long movie to flesh out some mythos and show the birth of what seems to be a primitive xenomorph.

This movie, as I believe is made apparent by the ending, is clearly aiming to start a new story inside the same universe and mythos as Alien. Can you imagine this movie being called Alien: Origins? I sure can't...

This is of course only one man's opinion...

Thanks for the measured and accurate review, Richard.

I saw the film in 3D last night. It did look nice, but at no time could I point out any direction that marked it out as special - and I am a fan of Ridley's work.

The script was the lamest mash of 70's space-god rubbish and the character dialogue was worthy of Lucas. At no point did I feel these were real people, the few main characters seemed to have interchangeable reactions like the writers forgot who they were.

I did like Michael Fassbender's performance, but the talking head made me laugh very loudly in the cinema. Silly, very silly. Reminded me of Lexx.

A high point in the whole autistic mess of a script was the exposition by the captain; who knew everything the aliens had planned without going off the ship or investigating anything: that makes him so much better than Sherlock Holmes.

In all, waste of effort from all the amazing people involved. Iron Sky is an amateur crowd sourced film, that made more sense than Prometheus.

Rant end:)>

Hey David. I don't think I'm being harsh at all, and actually I think it is a bit of a stinker. Not so much if it wasn't related to the Alien universe or from Ridley Scott, but it is.

There are major plot holes that harm the story, not just fan found issues, and plot threads that disappear, reappear and lead nowhere, threads that seem key and interesting just don't go anywhere, characters make huge assumptions without any logical backing off or on screen, and they also make the dumbest of decisions.

There are many problems with the script and a whole screed of questions with no answers.

As per the prequel issue, I stand by my comments in the audiocast, it's clear this is the Alien Prequel script cut together with the non-Alien Prequel script. They should have chosen one or the other, and I'd have been happy as anything if it had been the non-Alien Prequel set in the Alien universe, but it had to be one or the other.

All in all it was not near the level of a Ridley Scott film except in the visuals.


Michael, thanks and I agree!

I realise the movie is not without flaws and I concur to most of those you've pointed but there is no way this is a 2 out of 5 stars. I respectfully disagree.

I hate to act the mind-reader but I can't help but think you might have ruined the movie for yourself in some way by over-emphasizing the "Alien connection". Its really not that big of a deal and it seems to weight a lot in your score. I watched the movie with 3 other people that never even saw an Alien and weren't put off by any of the baggage it brings to Prometheus so I can't see how it ruins the movie besides if you let it do so...

The stupid decisions of the characters is nothing new to the Alien franchise and horror/suspense movie for that matter though admitedly, it sometimes reached new heights in this movie.

I think many people need to look back at prior Ridley Scott movies with a more critical look and then watch Prometheus one more time perhaps with a bit of naivety, which is something that moviegoers seem to crucially lack in this day and age. Think about this for a second; these characters just discovered the origin of the human race (among other mind-raping things)... Its enough to make anybody go soft in the head in my honest idea.

And I'm a big fan of Ridley Scott.

Michael you do remember (and the movie made it clear many times over) that everyone's equipment was rigged head to toe with cameras, monitors, microphones and the like so I don't see how its such a plot hole that people on board i.e. the captain, are aware of what is going on and make assumptions... And now the character is making intelligent assumptions and you're still not happy? Clearly I'm missing something...

Good review Richard. I felt let down by this film. So so much expectation but the story line and fleeting characters didn't deliver for me.

I took my partner to see this film who doesn't really watch many films and doesn't know the full Alien saga. Her opinion was that as a stand alone film it didn't make sense and I have to agree. Were they trying to cram in so much? As an example the male scientist character once infected changed so quickly there wasn't the chance to develop this strand of the story. Missed opportunity in my opinion.

All the pre hype it is / it's not a prequel. Perhaps a pre-prequel?

Hey David, I can put your mind at rest, my disappointed views of the film are not because I, or the film’s marketing, over emphasised any Alien prequel connection. I think it’s clear from the film that there are two separate stories trying to co-exist, the Alien prequel and the other story and as I’ve said in the review, elsewhere on the site and in the audiocast, I wouldn’t have cared which story they chose to follow but they should have followed one and one alone. If they’d done that then the film would have been so much more for me, as it was plot threads from both came, went and were left hanging without much ease at all.

My problems with the film were the way it was such a poorly handled story with threads flopping about and poor character and plot decisions. I’m not comparing it with the other Alien films, however I am expecting a certain level of quality from Ridley Scott that clearly isn’t here apart from the visuals. I agree that might be slightly over inflated, after all Scott hasn’t kept that quality rolling in his career, but it’s there. He is a director well up there at the top.

As for stupid character decisions, I’ve not seen anything as clearly stupid as the rolling doughnut sequence, as it has now become known after the audiocast, but the biologist and geologist “scientist” moments come very close. Reaching new heights I think is an understatement as they’ve pulled some terrible clichés out of the bag for this film.

If I may answer the comment you made for Michael as well, I didn’t see how the Captain or Shaw suddenly decided that the creatures were here on an offsite factory building a weapon of mass destruction, at that point in the film it was a fair leap.

There are a lot of plot problems and I do believe if the film had been written as either a non-Alien prequel or an Alien prequel it would have been better, likewise if there was more time to allow the characters and plot time to tell their whole story it would have been miles better.


Hey Chris, thanks. I think you’re right, this is a pre-prequel, if not a pre-pre-prequel!

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Movable Type 3.34

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