Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)

What's it about? The Prometheus is a scientific exploration spaceship headed for an undisclosed location in deep space to investigate the beginnings of Mankind. On board are idealistic scientist Shaw (Noomi Rapace), icy corporate representative Vickers (Charlize Theron), gruff ship captain Janek (Idris Elba), super-intelligent android David (Michael Fassbender) and several indistinguishable crew members who have various roles as alien-fodder ship operatives.


Is it any good? Regular readers will know I'm not the biggest fan of Ridley Scott. But now that Prometheus has finally arrived after an astonishing amount of hype, will it be the film to change my mind? Well, no. Indeed, it might be the strongest evidence yet in favour of my argument that Scott can take pretty pictures, but cannot tell a story well. This starts off okay, to be fair. There's a grand sense of scale and it sets out to tackle some of the Big Questions which have intrigued the minds of men for aeons. Where did we come from? Who created us? What does Charlize Theron look like in her pants? This is commendably ambitious stuff and the first half-hour sets up the premise and the futuristic world well. Sadly (especially in the case of Theron's pants), these questions are not explored in enough detail and the film fails to develop the plot or characters in interesting or exciting ways. The one exception is David, the android treated as a second-class citizen despite being smarter than all the humans, whose slightly creepy behaviour suggests he has ulterior motives. It's not the most original concept, but he is played immaculately by Fassbender, with the Lawrence of Arabia fixation a nice touch. In fact, David and his motives are so much more interesting than the humans that it actually shifts attention away from the nominal central character of Shaw, meaning the film starts fumbling around wondering which story to focus on.

But even David gets sidelined as the movie decides it can't really answer those Big Questions it started off with and decides to distract people by getting very silly indeed. So, in no particular order, we are treated to (a) some superfluous, ho-hum action (b) several examples of supposedly smart people doing very stupid things and (c) some eye-rollingly daft plot developments. Not just a bit daft, really daft. Then, apparently bored with that, it all ends up with a fairly uninspired action climax, during which I didn't really care who lived or died. Finally, almost as an afterthought, it remembers it must evolve into the Alien franchise and so it tries to splice its DNA into the storyline of Alien a bit better, which only raises more questions than answers and which serves to remind us how poorly constructed it all is compared to Alien and Aliens.

Perhaps the biggest criticism, though, is that it lacks any sort of clear identity. Scott's previous sci-fi offerings, Alien and Blade Runner, aren't perfect, but they are iconic, clearly defined genre movies which deliver thrills, memorable imagery and great characters. By contrast, Prometheus doesn't know if it wants to be a horror, a space opera, a monster movie, an existential sci-fi, an alien movie or an Alien movie, and ends up being none of those. It just feels like the writers have taken the crayons out of their noses and copied bits of other sources, with elements of Chariots of the Gods and Carl Sagan's Contact, Star Trek, AI: Artificial Intelligence, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even rubbish like Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Mission to Mars, all crudely patched together. Stop window-licking and think for yourselves, guys! Ultimately, as a striking-looking but rather messy affair, Prometheus is a Modern Frankenstein of a film. (Award yourself 100 space-credits if you get that joke.) Anyway, we can chat again in a couple of years when Scott releases his Director's Cut, the version he decides to make when he realises this one wasn't much good.

I don't trust you. What do others think? The hype generated by the viral marketing campaign in particular meant it was always likely to suffer a backlash, but in fact, the response has been muted rather than apoplectic. Most critics and audiences have admitted it's not that great or terrible, it's just sort of there. Unlike Alien, which opened to negative reviews in 1979 but built up a cult following over the next 30 years, Prometheus is not likely to be even remembered that well in 30 days. Naturally, there are some rabidly blinkered Scott fans who defend it as an instant classic, ranting at everyone else for just not understanding the beauty of his vision, but these people still haven't kissed a girl and also think Blade Runner makes sense.

What does the Fonz think? Everything I expected from Ridley Scott, and less.

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