Review: PROMETHEUS (2012)

Gods and Monsters in Outer Space.


Directed by: Ridley Scott

Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Charlize Theron

MPAA Rating: R




ALIEN redefined space horror when it was unleashed upon unsuspecting audiences back in 1979. It introduced a new, terrifying monster that captured everyone’s imaginations and thrust itself into popular culture. Thus, a franchise was born, with the aliens and characters extending through sequels and beyond into toys, comic books, and video games. Even with all of this, the mysteries surrounding the derelict ship and the space jockey in that first film have had fans theorizing for decades. The original director, Ridley Scott, has now decided to tackle those mysteries and return to the series that helped launch his career with the new film, PROMETHEUS.

PROMETHEUS is the name of the ship that is carrying a group of scientists, grunts, and company men across the galaxy to a distant planet that may hold the keys to the origins of life on Earth. However, things go awry when they discover the true intentions of those who may have created them, and of those who are bankrolling the expedition.

PROMETHEUS is ambitious. This cannot be denied. Some very intriguing ideas are introduced in the film. The problem is that the film doesn’t know which way to go with these ideas, never settling on anything concrete and never properly exploring any of them. The film seems to want to say important things about the origins, the nature, and the purpose of life. Yet, it doesn’t know exactly what to say, only knowing that it should be important. It’s a film that puts on pretentious airs, but without anything genuinely thought-provoking to back it up.

In terms of the actual mechanics of the story, it starts off very well. The first half of the film builds nicely. It’s the second half of the film where logic and coherence suddenly take a backseat to plot twists, random moments of violence, and cool special effects. The film throws several different types of threats at the characters and the audience in that second half, never settling for one or two strong, clear threats or villains. None of them end up making any real impression, and none of them are frightening or intimidating in any way.

The characters are handled better than the story for the most part, though I will attribute more of that to the acting than to the script. Some of the character backstories and character interactions are just plain clumsy and awkward. But, as previously noted, the acting all-around is pretty exceptional, so it can be easy to overlook those slight missteps. Special mention must go to Michael Fassbender for his utterly compelling and fascinating performance as the android, David.

The production itself is top-notch. In terms of shot composition, this is some of the best directing Ridley Scott has done for the better part of a decade, bringing to glorious life some exquisite images that cannot be shaken or forgotten. The special visual effects and make-up effects are amazing all-around. They blend seamlessly, oftentimes making it difficult to tell which is live on set or added later via CGI. The sound design is great. Costumes and set design are all convincing. I wouldn’t call the music score impressive, but it is appropriate and never feels intrusive.

That is PROMETHEUS. It’s a handsomely-made production that is beautiful to look at and has a lot of tantalizing ideas. Unfortunately, they never congeal into a solid, good film.

PROMETHEUS opens in theaters nationwide Friday, June 8th. It cannot be recommended by this critic.

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