Prometheus – when is a prequel not a prequel?

Prometheus has had a lot of mixed reviews. Some people have found it sacrilege to revisit an already brilliant set of films (although more the first two films than the last two), even if the first films original director is the one doing the revisiting. But then others have been interested to see exactly where Ridley Scott (and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof) have taken the story. Personally, after finally seeing the film, I can’t see why people have been complaining about it.

Two scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace – this film’s version of Ripley) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), find what they believe is an ancient map pointing to a planet that holds answers to the origin of human existence. They embark on a mission to the planet onboard the ship Prometheus, along with the rest of the crew; notably the director in charge of the mission (Charlize Theron), the ship’s captain (Idris Elba), no-nonsense geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), annoyingly chatty biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall), and their onboard robot David (Michael Fassbender). Once they reach the planet they think they’ve found what they’re looking for. But have they discovered something more dangerous too?…

First of all, a lot of people expecting a prequel that directly links to the events in Alien are going to be in for a surprise (which might be why so many people have dissed it). Prometheus doesn’t actually feel like a prequel at all. Instead it leaves you with more questions than answers. Ridley Scott, Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have truly thrown us a curveball of a film – they have instead created a prequel that is so different, it feels like a standalone film. It’s as if Scott is reinventing the whole franchise. At the same time though, they still revisit old ground with the horror in space idea, the fear of the unknown and the fear of death and mortality. But I think that making something familiar yet almost strangely different is the best thing they could have done. Isn’t that so much more interesting than simply revealing everything in a straight-up prequel cash-in that copies everything from the first films? If Scott had given us all the answers, wouldn’t people be up in arms about that instead? About giving too much away and selling out? This is one of the reasons I really enjoyed Prometheus.

The design in Prometheus also feels a lot different to that in the other Alien films. Whereas the others feel dark, sinister, and claustrophobic from the off, this feels glossy and new, and we almost feel hopeful for the crew, making it all the more shocking when things start to go wrong. It is also one of the first films I’ve seen in IMAX 3D that truly benefits from the medium. The scenes in which the ship is in space are particularly beautiful, almost mesmerisingly so.

The performances are another aspect that really keeps the film together. Noomi Rapace makes an excellent heroine, not too stoic or even too girly, but making her someone you root for. The supporting characters are all great, especially Charlize Theron as the bitter and selfish Meredith Vickers who is overseeing the operation, in another role (after the Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman) in which she shows us she really can do scary. Also great is Idris Elba as Janek, the ships wise-cracking, accordion playing captain, as well as Sean Harris and Rafe Spall as two bickering crew mates (who also add most of the comic relief to the film). A lot of the other crew members feel very underused though. They don’t really seem to add much to the proceedings, and there are a few who I think we literally hear talk once. You can inevitably tell what’s going to happen to those guys (sorry if that’s spoilerific but COME ON – they may as well have targets painted on them).

The main standout of the film after Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron is definitely Michael Fassbender as the robot David. His straight-laced, unemotional performance is astounding. In fact I was questioning if they really had gone one step further and just made a Fassbender robot. Called the ‘Fassy-bot’. Don’t deny you want one coz I know you do…

You really don’t need to have seen the original Alien films to understand and appreciate Prometheus. It works well on its own as an exciting sci-fi that makes you think. And although the film is long (over 2 hours) I found it intense and absorbing throughout. Some people may begrudge having a film that has more questions than answers and having a film with tricky messages behind it, but if you really think about it, having everything handed to us on a plate would have been boring and pointless. Prometheus was never intended by Ridley Scott to be a direct prequel to Alien. It is rumoured that James Cameron will be a making a sequel to Prometheus in the style of Aliens (*whispers* which is actually my favourite film in the original quadrilogy). Colour me excited if that’s true. But in the meantime I think it is a huge achievement of director Ridley Scott and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof to have given us something different and original, and for that I applaud them.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on July 10, 2012.

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