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June 7, 2012

Prometheus

Prometheus

In the build up to the release of Prometheus I've read a lot of people stating how much they loved Ridley Scott's previous films. In reality they mean Alien and Bladerunner.

Alien is a film where some people try and survive a killer alien on a spaceship. Yes it looked radical for the time, yes it was a big screen space film, but it's really just and effective, stock horror thriller, with one genius scene. It's not intelligent speculative fiction, it's not full of thoughtful extrapolations, it looks cool and makes you jump.

Bladerunner on the other hand looks wonderful and has some depth, but let's not forget that the depth came from the source novel by Philip K. Dick, not from the director of the film. The film and the novel differ significantly in tone and also plot but the original concept, the core of the story, was provided by the wonderful PKD.

So what should we have expected from Prometheus, the much hyped Alien prequel? May be an effective, high budget, gorgeous looking sci-fi horror thriller with a perfunctory plot? Well, that's what we got. To be fair it's a bit better than that due to some wonderful performances by Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. The scene where David is introduced on the Prometheus is brilliant, with Fassbender cold and calculated and so far into the uncanny valley it's scary. Another big plus is the fact that within five minutes there is a big spaceship on screen with text titles stating that the ship was 3.27*10^14 km from Earth. Spaceships and proper scientific units, bonus.

The film is let down by pretending to be more than the straightforward 'man trying to survive killer aliens' plot and suffers from pretensions of intelligence. Which wouldn't be so bad if the plot could stand up to those claims but it can't. The characters often make stupid decisions, there is only one moment where two of them choose to do the most sensible thing for their survival, but shortly after they seem to have forgotten any worries. The lack of awareness of Science Fiction is a major flaw. All those years in the future the characters would have read and seen Science Fiction, they would know not to act in the cliched manner that often results in death.

Ridley Scott has said that this is the first film in a trilogy and Prometheus suffers from that, leaving too many unanswered questions and too much left unsaid. It's the old problem when a mediocre trilogy could have been distilled into a brilliant single novel rather than padded into three volumes. Prometheus feels like that.

However, despite the problems, if your expectations are set correctly the film is fun. Not spectacular but it has some good moments.

I should also mention that I saw the film in 2D, none of that light-lossy, extra expense, terrible when you wear glasses, gimmick we've come to know as 3D. I don't need the "extra" depth or things jumping out at me thank you very much.