In a slight break with form, Picturenose is proud to present its first ‘alternative take’ on a movie we have already reviewed, namely Sir Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus (2012), which was released last year to adulation in certain quarters, villification in others. Your faithful correspondent hoped that his original review was firm but fair, but there is always room for different views here at Picturenose Towers. So, without further ado, allow me to hand you over to Grant Holdsworth, who joins the team with his thoughts on Scott’s controversial return to the director’s chair and (kind of) the same universe that gave us Alien (1979).
Like a black monolith floating through space, Sir Ridley Scott’s eagerly anticipated Prometheus arrived on our screens. Yet it is more Matt Le Blanc disoriented in Lost in Space (1998) than Keir Dullea entering another world and coming out the other side in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
On IMAX 3D, the only striking visual element was the appearance of the IMAX logo which would strike anyone with a sense of fear of being smacked in the face. It quickly descends. The 3D is as evident as a feasible plot with believability. A Boeing 747 could be flown between its gaping holes. I resort to cliche like the screenplay. Barely drawn characters lacking common sense and making ludicrous decisions putting themselves in peril. Terrible dialogue (“oh look, this creature likes me”). Overuse of mini ‘race against time’ elements to add thrill to a thrillless experience. An abortion scene that nobody acknowledges despite the heavy gore on display.
The attempted sense of wonder is provided by Lost writers John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Lost dissenters will find the aimless direction distracting. Existential themes of themes of religion, God, where do we come from and what it means to be human have been done better before by Scott himself and many others. For those who vigorously defend and believe in the ideas, the themes and symbolism of the movie, without any kind of real structure, it is akin to reading a great philosopher’s work being distorted beyond recognition.
The music, while unobtrusive, had a tendency to dissipate any real sense of creepy atmosphere which is usually a strength of this director. The visuals, although stunning, lacked the grimness to convey the desolate nature of the planet and the impending doom to follow.
Michael Fassbender’s star grows with his portrayal of the franchise’s customary android, although he comes across a little too delicate at times to be truly malevolent, a character trait which is never fully investigated. A lack of soul is an explanation offered early in the proceedings. Noomi Rapace gained credibility for her challenging role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and Hollywood success with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). Yet here she is as annoying a screen heroine as you will see – Ellen Ripley’s seat on the alien throne is safe. Ultimately, her stupidity, naivety and abysmal decision-making grates. Nor is she aided by her on-screen partner, Charlie Holloway, who is equally tedious.
Many minor characters are indistinguishable from each other thus creating a sense of confusion. They make major decisions without question for reasons which are not really explained. Charlize Theron and Idris Elba do their best with thankless roles, but to no real avail and quite why Guy Pearce was cast as an old man is never explained. The presence of Robert Duvall in John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009) surely proves it is better to cast an aged actor as an old man, rather than mask a younger version in heavy prosthetics.
Collectively, the chemistry and banter between the ensemble cast is far weaker in comparison to Ridley Scott’s Alien, his genre-defining zenith. In the latter, everything seemed completely plausible, despite the fact the film was about humans visiting another planet and being attacked by an alien, two current implausibilities. Here, the group comes across as a Big Brother-style ‘lets put in as many unbelievable characters as we can muster, hope they gel and hope we get away with it’.
It is difficult to put aside comparisons. The spectre of the original Alien stands tall over Prometheus like a gigantic beast. As a stand-alone film, Prometheus hops on one leg. All that being said, it is not completely terrible. Two hours passed amiably enough as opposed to three hours of James Cameron’s seat-squirming Avator. Maybe Cameron should be brought on board for a more action-packed sequel, as with Aliens (1986)? The opening sequence is a great spectacle and should have set up a more intriguing story. All in all, it is a barely acceptable disappointment.
The reaction from some critics and cinemagoers has been severe – so much so, I heard it dubbed ‘Poometheus’. Upon a second viewing, the same criticism seems valid.