The Master of Science Fiction has returned with thunder. After a long absence from the genre; Ridley Scott returns to the genre he redefined with ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’. Is ‘Prometheus’ well worth the wait? I’ll let you know what I think in just a moment.
Overall, how you like ‘Prometheus’ will vary on what you’re expecting. If you going into the film expecting a Gothic horror story; I think you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting xenomorphs to come in and wreck up the place, you’ll be disappointed. The best advice I can give is not to read or watch anything about the film; go in with an uncontaminated mind. Leave whatever preconceived notions you had at the door; what you’ll get is something more than you can imagine.
I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, though I highly recommend that you stop reading this right now. Drop the notion that you’re seeing a simple lead up to ‘Alien’; ‘Prometheus’ is a beast all to itself.
Close to the turn of the century of 2100; a group of scientists travel to a far distant planet, hoping to discover the origin of our species. What they find there however, if unchecked, will lead to the extinction of all mankind.
Penned by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof (Lost); the largest hurtle the pair had to overcome was creating a dynamic story set prior to the events from a film over thirty years old. The simplest approach would have been another crew stumbling upon the Derelict and unleashing Xenos upon the hapless crew. Thankfully, they went a different route.
This is a very classic science fiction story, there’s no rush towards the first set-piece; there’s no action scene every ten minutes. If you’re a fan of sci-fi from the 1960s, 70s, and ‘80s; this is your kind of film.
Science fiction has always had the ability to convey grand ideas and heavy subject matter in a relatable; yet detached way. It’s ‘safe’ to discuss ideas of religion and the origin of mankind in the genre without feeling preachy or condescending. There is also a greater freedom to explore by not being bound by the natural order of the world.
Religion plays a heavy part in the story, the question of beliefs, faith, what makes us human versus harsh reality are played against each other here. The team sets out to find the origin of the human race, which if they discover what they are hoping to find will not only reverse thousands of years of religious belief but also many centuries of scientific study.
From an ‘origin’ story perspective to the ‘Alien’ series; the film starts from the very beginning. There is a healthy bit of ambiguity that does answer some questions that were made in the first film; but at the same time raises more questions and demands it to have a second viewing.
There are some holes that area either never explained in relation to ‘Alien’ or are altered ever so slightly. I won’t go into them here; but while there are several, they’re quite small in the grand scheme of things and do not override the strength of the film. The holes simply can be attributed to making a film that can stand on it’s own with prequel elements to a film over thirty years old. When the first film was made, no one could have ever imagined that they would be making a prequel.
It has been near thirty nears since Scott’s last science fiction entry ‘Blade Runner’ was released. With ‘Prometheus’; it’s like he never left. Scott is at the top of his game, the pacing is smooth and deliberate, there is a great sense of scope in his direction and he builds the mystery surrounding what’s going on the planet expertly.
Like I said before, this is a film that takes it’s film; if you don’t have the patience for it then it’s your loss. There isn’t a sign that Scott is any rush to hasten down to the planet or unleash the death residing in it’s depths; time is taken to develop the story and slowly draw the audience inside. While one might be reading this as ‘slow’; the film (running just about two hours) is a quick sit.
While ‘Alien’ has been called one of the most terrifying films of all time; ‘Prometheus’ is a step away from horror. While ‘Alien’ can be dubbed a Gothic horror film with sci-fi trappings; ‘Prometheus’ tilts more to the science fiction side of the blend and it’s better for it. While I know some may be walking into the film expecting a terrifying film that will rival ‘Alien’; I think that it would have been a mistake on Scott’s part to try that.
Instead of building set pieces built around going for a scare, Scott builds them around revelations and reveals. There is a great mystery that’s been examined, the origin of the species, and that stays at the forefront of the film. Clues and small details are found that build up, not over the course of a few seconds, but over minutes and scenes before they’re paid off. This is a detail oriented film, demanding that the audience keep track, think and piece together the events as the characters do.
While ‘Prometheus’ is more science fiction than horror; that doesn’t mean that Scott doesn’t get a chance to dabble it in it for a few scenes. And while the shock of the chestbuster will never be rivaled; Scott does give us a few scenes that will make the audience jump, squirm, and lean forwards in their chairs in anticipation of what they’re going to see.
And seeing is believing as the old saying goes; look of the film is a phenomenal modernized of Scott’s visual style from his early films. Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski, who lensed ‘Dark City’ and the first three ‘Pirates’ films, honestly should be nominated for best cinematography this year at the Oscars. Shot on the Red Epic camera system, the detail and light shown is unparallel. This is a gorgeous movie. Colors and light play off each other and the texture of the ship and planet. Space is deep and the camera work is smooth even the handheld material doesn’t feel overly shaky.
Chalk up another mark for native 3D being better than conversion. The 3D, marking Wolski’s first, is stunning. For those of you who’re in the camp of ‘3D is a gimmick’ need to see ‘Prometheus’ in 3D; watching it in 2D I can only say will rob the immersive nature of the film. While there are a few minor gags of stuff coming out of the screen, the vast majority of the 3D is all about depth and the relations between the characters in their environments.
Much like ‘Hugo’ is a very immersive 3D experience; even in quiet dialogue scenes there isn’t a lot of flatness in the images. While I did dub ‘Piranha 3DD’ one of the best looking genre 3D films; I’ll stay unequivocally that ‘Prometheus’ is one of the best looking 3D films period.
I can also say, you have to watch it in IMAX 3D if there is a screen near you. Don’t settle for regular 3D under any circumstance here; go big and watch it on the best screen and best sound system in the world. You will also feel more immersed in the film than if you watch it on a normal 3D screen,; have nothing in your eyeballs but movie.
The world of the film is as much a character as the characters themselves; production designer Arthur Max’s eighth collaboration with Scott is stunning. Replicating and expanding upon Michael Seymour’s work on ‘Alien’; there isn’t a break in design changes between the elements recognized from the old film and the added sets.
The interior of the Prometheus itself is a far cry from the Nostromo. Sleek, elegant, and state of the art; the Prometheus is worlds apart from the grungy, sweat dripped halls of the freighter. Once again, another good contrast to the first film in not trying to replicate the original.
While I would love to talk about the creature work, I’m afraid I don’t want to as I rather not give any spoilers. All I can say is that the vast majority appears to be entirely practical blended with CG enhancements.
And yes there is blood; while there was a big scuffle over R vs PG-13, to be honest outside of one sequence there really wasn’t anything I would think overly R. If one sequence had a few shots trimmed, the film probably could have edged just under the line for R. But; I’m very glad that the sequence wasn’t trimmed as it would have lessened the impact.
There is a large amount of CGI work in the film, back in the late 1970s the work of the ships would have been done with models and miniatures; but the computer has taken over. The computer work though is fantastic and I would defiantly peg this as a serious contender for Best Visual Effects.
Ridley Scott has always been known for stellar casting and here is no exception. The cast is populate with A listers and known character actors and there isn’t a weak link in the chain.
Noomi Rapace makes her headline American debut and carries the film with the same ease as she carried the original Millennium films. Fans of her interpretation of Lisbeth Salander will enjoy her more emotional and tender side here; though like Weaver before her, Rapace has to rise to the occasion.
Michael Fassbender as the android David delivers another knockout performance. He balances a curiosity about humanity; desire to learn his own existence, as well as having an agenda. Charlize Theron has a small role as the Company representative on the trip; she plays it with icy cool and unlike Burke in ‘Aliens’; there’s no doubt her only interest is the company. Idris Elba plays the captain of the ‘Prometheus’ and in some scenes he’s representative of the audience and their reactions to what is going on. He also has a few moments of comedy to lighten the mood.
‘Prometheus’ is Scott’s thundering return to science fiction and is a breath of fresh air in the deluge of action-oriented sci-fi. At its core it’s bold piece of science fiction, it’s classic in it’s play and truly feels like how science fiction should be. ‘Prometheus’ is the best science fiction film in years as no other film classifying as science fiction has tried to do so much.
Ridley Scott has crafted a masterpiece, that while it does have a minor bump or two, the power of the overall film isn’t even affected. Not only this a step towards reviving the science fiction old; but in my own opinion:
‘Prometheus’ is the final word in the ‘Alien’ Saga.
This is theGoldenSimatar signing off saying; there’s a tiny thing just before the end of the credits.