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.
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.
Two 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.
The 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.
I 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.