Undeniably one of this year’s most anticipated blockbusters, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012) sees the British director return to the genre which brought us two of the greatest science fiction films ever made – Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982). Boasting an all-star cast which includes Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce and Noomi Rapace, expectations couldn’t have been higher for this rumoured Alien prequel.
Fashioned very much from the same genetic code as Scott’s famous xenomorph space horror, Prometheus charts the progress of a group of scientists aiming to determine the origins of life on Earth. After a two-year trip in stasis, the crew of the good ship ‘Prometheus’ finally arrive at their classified destination – and, like the ship’s mythological namesake, aim to once again co-exist with the gods. However, this search for the ‘engineers’ of the human race quickly reveals itself to be a far more perilous mission than first envisioned.
After a mind-boggling and overly-elaborate exposition, Scott quickly transfers us to a recognisable intergalactic backdrop. What plays out are a series of fascinating and comfortingly familiar events, which initially promise yet another intelligent psychological horror played out within this incredibly speculative medium. Sadly, in an attempt to explain and expand upon the universe he created over 30 years ago, Scott has unwittingly created an incoherent and profoundly confusing film, which may have a far more detrimental effect on his original masterpiece than the numerous misguided offshoots of the franchise.
Whilst the presence of such stellar acting talent as Fassbender, Theron and Rapace manages to engage the audience as Prometheus slips into the absurd, their roles are hindered by an abhorrent script filled to the brim with clichéd one liners and lacklustre sentiment. Rapace delivers a gutsy performance as protagonist Elizabeth Shaw, which thankfully gives us an intriguing and likeable protagonist to relate to, whilst Fassbender is a phenomenal choice as the film’s obligatory android David. Yet their performances are regrettably one of the film’s few redeeming features.
There is still some enjoyment to be harvested from yet another of Scott’s visually alluring exercises in creating a believable futurist world, steeped in the franchise’s identifiable H.R Giger set designs. However, visual spectacle can only engage audiences for so long, and once the film’s veil of heightened dramatic tension fades away, we’re left with relatively little. An explosive third act sadly limps towards a slow, unremarkable death, with Prometheus lacking the oppressive purity of atmosphere which Scott so successfully created for both Alien and Blade Runner.
Fans of Scott’s previous sci-fi efforts will be desperately disappointed to discover a film which promises an innumerable degree of far more enticing themes and ideas than it can ultimately deliver. Prometheus is far from a thrilling and engaging psychological horror, but rather a misguided monster movie with precious little of that Alien ‘DNA’ we were duly promised. Just remember – in space, no one can hear you sigh.