The internet has allowed filmgoers to become obsessed with the destination of a movie rather than its journey, and no film has illustrated that point as aggressively as Prometheus, which has seen entitled audiences pelting personal insults at screenwriter Damon Lindelof on Twitter in this age of uber-access for morons.
It’s silly bullshit, really. While Prometheus’ finale has the oh-so-cynical feeling that resolution has been annoyingly overlooked in favour of sequel setup, this overall pessimism ignores the fact that Prometheus has flashes of Ridley Scott’s best filmmaking in years, even if it may not entirely satisfy those who only wanted an outright Alien prequel.
Mankind’s origins are rewritten in the first act of the movie, as it’s posited that human life on this planet came from the other side of the universe. Determined to discover the truth behind our existence, Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is a God-loving do-gooder who just wants to learn. Of course, on the other side of the galaxy, things aren’t quite as pleasant, and the crew of the ship Prometheus soon come unstuck in the face of unknown terrors.
Prometheus’ effects and art direction are basically perfect, presenting the film’s alien world of LV-223 with bleak beauty and the titular spaceship with absolute fidelity. It just looks amazing, to the point where it’s half the fun – a great use of visual storytelling that the written narrative just about lives up to. Well-paced and genuinely funny at times, Prometheus’ Alien-style structure is bolstered by an enviably talented cast.
The characterisation in the picture is mostly magnificent, headed up by Michael Fassbender’s audience-favourite android chap David, echoing Peter O’Toole with a touch of nasty C-3PO and quite easily dominating the film. Equally strong is Rapace’s Shaw, even if her constant faith is a bit grating in the face of space terrors, while a steely performance from Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers and the likeably cheeky pilot Captain Janek (Idris Elba). Guy Pearce’s ancient Peter Weyland cameo is an oddity, given his elderly prosthetics (which only make sense when you consider that his scenes as a younger Weyland were cut from the picture), but he nevertheless has a fun turn as the Alien universe figurehead.
The only weak links are the ‘badass’ geologist (Sean Harris) who manages to get lost in a tunnel (why would you take an abrasive dickhead on a massively important intergalactic expedition?) and his geeky, bespectacled mate Millburn (Rafe Spall), both of whom are victims in waiting. Even less convincing is Logan Marshall-Green’s budget Tom Hardy, who is unremittingly irritating as Shaw’s space-beau. You will cheer for his character’s demise. Over such a large ensemble cast, however, there are still more hits than misses here, with most of the screen time afforded to the cast members who you don’t want to see bumped off.
It’s unfortunate that Prometheus has turned into the film that people loved to hate in Summer 2012, yet it’s the combination of ambitious storyline and empty finale that has created this kind of mixed response. But who cares? Enjoy the journey, if just because Prometheus takes you to places philosophically that no other big-budget sci-fi film does, while also remaining palpably tense throughout. It’s imperfect, true, but Ridley Scott’s return to this universe has still yielded one of the better sci-fi movies of the past decade.