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Prometheus

June 30, 2012
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With the notable exceptions of Avengers Assemble and Dark Knight Rises, there has not been a film that i have so keenly anticipated as Prometheus. Furthermore, there has never been a film that i have looked forward to so much while knowing nothing about it.

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Prometheus is the latest work by legendary director, Ridley Scott, who made his name with Alien in 1979. That is not the only similarity between those two films. Expect many more. This isn’t surprising as they are both movies about bad things happening in space. Specifically, Prometheus is intended to be an independent/indirect prequel to Alien. After the series moved away from the claustrophobic horror of the original, and especially after the travesties of theAlien Vs. Predator film, Scott wanted to be a bit more oblique.

Prometheus opens with archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Hollaway (Logan Marsahll-Green) discovering a cave painting star map in an ancient Scottish cave. Because they’ve found the same star map in other unrelated ancient civilisations, they speculate that it must have something to do with the origins of life. There is some mild banter between the religious Shaw and the atheist Hollaway before we flash-forward four year later, to the spaceship Prometheus, deep in space.

After convincing the elderly director of the shady Weyland corporation that the star map is the home of the Engineers of humanity, they go into space to investigate. Now, the spaceship Prometheus is nearing the terrestrial moon of one of the planets within the mapped star system. once down on the moon, they find evidence of civilisation, a pyramid and inside, mysterious markings, black group and a dead body.

That’s where things start going wrong for the crew of the Prometheus. Very wrong.

The film is supported by a solid cast, including Idris Elba as the easy-going, cautious captain of the Prometheus, and Charlize Theron as the strict, icy Vickers, agent of the Weyland Corporation. Rapace is especially good as the religious archaeologist who is put through more and more torment as the film progresses. Though the producers have tried to downplay the comparison to Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Ripley, I wouldn’t be surprised if Noomi Rapace was in every sci-fi movie in 30 years time. Both characters are survivors but there is originality in Rapace’s Shaw. However, the star of the film is Michael Fassbender as the polite but detached android David. He is so far down in the uncanny valley, he can’t even see the sun rise. Fassbender plays brilliantly with neat, enunciated diction and sparse, precise movements.

The rest of the film is equally impressive, from the breath-taking opening panoramas through to the thrilling climax. The sci-fi is all impressively futuristic and the alien technology is worryingly eerie. H. R. Giger, who designed the look of Alien, would be proud. In every way, Prometheusis a big film.

However, I worry that it might be too big. Prometheus poses a lot of big questions about the origin and meaning of life. Instead of imposing one answer, it deliberately leaves them unanswered, allowing the audience to ponder and discuss them afterwards. It’s not wrong for a film to do this; it’s noble even. But a film should not leave its audience feeling unsatisfied. Unfortunately, for me at least, Prometheus does.

Furthermore, the moments of horror, though genuinely thrilling do not relate to each other in a very meaningful fashion. They are simply horrible things happening in space. A fitting allegory for life, from a nihilist or absurdist perspective but somehow, I don’t think that’s what Ridley Scott was aiming for. Coupled with the fact that most of the cast exist for little other than alien-fodder, this leaves you feeling slightly let-down.

Prometheus is an impressive film. It is a good film, a very good film. It’s just not a great film. It fails to hit that high note for me. I recommend seeing it, on as big a screen as possible, with bowel-quivering surround sound, but with an overly long running time, a disjointed plot and being left wanting at the end, it just doesn’t live up to its juicily enigmatic trailers.

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