The word prequel to me at the moment is as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. Fitting then that the next prequel to trundle along for our viewing displeasure is a prequel to the best spacesuit movie out there: Alien.
*Mild spoilers below*
I have tried my very best to avoid all the promotion and have ignored all the many, many trailers and featurettes. The media machine for this film has been ridiculous. I have never seen anything like it. In fact it was so in your face that it began to ring alarm bells (as does the same technique currently being employed for promoting The Amazing Spider-Man). Why do they want us to see so much of a film that really should be seen with a clear mind?
In a way however, the marketing techniques reflect the film itself. Less should be more and certainly in the case of the idea behind Prometheus, it is not a story that needed to be told. Ridley Scott wanted to explore the Space Jockey. He was always intrigued about where it came from, how it got there and what it’s deal was. Speaking personally however, I enjoyed the mystique behind it all. In much the same way that the recent prequel to The Thing attempted to clear up what happened to the Norwegian camp, I was very happy with the mystery surrounding it all and the wild dances my brain would do when confronted with these scenes of chaos and mystery.
Prometheus is a mess. The film itself looks pretty at times, but lacks the visual flair that seems to have totally deserted the once great Sir Ridley Scott. Where as in his previous films(Legend, Alien, Blade Runner et al) there is a undeniable visionary signature, on Prometheus there is the very real sense that it has been directed by a bloke sat at a computer.
There is a plot centers around the “Chariots of the Gods” story that has been used many times in many films. This was the first sigh for me (of many). If Ridley has really been thinking about the Space Jockey for 33 years and that is the best explanation he can come up with, then it is truly not a story worth telling. I would have much rather seen a story about an alien race that have a mysterious intent. That seem truly alien to us. This brings me to my second big sigh of the film. Upon exploring an alien pyramid, the crew of the Prometheus come across a dead Jockey that has been decapitated by a door. The head is unmistakably a Space Jockey. Upon bringing it back to the ship they discover that it is wearing a mask and they then remove it to reveal that the Space Jockey is a giant man with the same DNA as a human. This is when I knew the story was not worth telling.
The very real sense of dread and mystery that surrounds Alien (and Aliens) is immediately lost. The scene in Alien where the crew of the Nostromo examine the Jockey ship is eerie and unnerving. Everything seems so very alien and unfamiliar – nothing is what it seems and thanks to H.R. Giger, the design is like nothing we have ever seen. To then be told that the Jockey’s are our creators and wear elephant masks is just insulting.
The plus points are few, but Michael Fassbender is brilliant in this film. He is unnervingly robotic and distrustful and carries everything off with aplomb. Charlize Theron is great as the malicious Vickers, but in the grand scheme of things is given little to do. Everyone else, aside from our heroine, feels disposable and unmemorable. The crew itself almost fooled me into thinking I was watching a sequel to Event Horizon. While comparing Prometheus to Alien is probably at the end of the day unfair as they are totally different films, you can’t help but yearn for the superb camaraderie of the Nostromo and the wonderful relationships that you build up with the crew over a very limited time. You really cared when Dallas and Lambert died. There is nothing like that here. It all feels like cannon fodder.
There are a few references to Alien here and there – which is another thing that really annoys me about prequels. A scene that is basically lifted from Alien (to do with quarantine) only serves to irritate further as it is done with none of the subtlety or patience. Things that should be allowed to breathe are rushed and vice versa.
Ridley Scott spent a long time raging against the dreadful AVP films. This is fine as his entry to the “franchise” started it all and defined how science fiction films would look for the next 20 years. However, Prometheus is not something to be proud of. It is neither interesting nor scary. It raises more questions than answers and has an ending that doesn’t know what it wants to do. Does it want to leave you with the vague feeling that there is more to come, or throw an Alien looking thing at you and leave you with no doubt as to what will follow?
The future is unclear.