Ridley Scott first came to prominence in 1979 with the sci-fi horror spectacle that was Alien, so rightly the prospect of him returning to the material over 30 years later, with his prequel project Prometheus (2012) (out now on DVD and Blu-ray) met with a great deal of anticipation. How wrong that sense of optimism was. In the late 21st century, a team of intergalactic explorers discover signs on Earth of an ancient race known as the Engineers. After discovering an intergalactic map, and with the backing of the Weyland Corporation, the team travel to a moon in the far recesses of the galaxy in pursuit of the answer to the fundamental question asked by humanity – where do we come from?
In the pursuit to meet their makers they discover that they are not about to find the answer that they were looking for, and have instead unearthed something which could lead to humanity’s downfall. Whilst visually spectacular, the grand design and lavish set pieces fail to make up for the clumsy plot holes and weak characterisation. Most irritating of all is the trite, quasi-philosophical approach to the central story of mankind’s origins.
Noomi Rapace – who plays our re-invented Ripley, Elizabeth Shaw – is given lazy dialogue explaining her theological position. When asked why she believes in god, she retorts “Because I choose to” – not even a GCSE R.E. student would provide such a witless response. Charlize Theron, always an enjoyable screen presence, is given an equally weak hand with a redundant character who provides little or nothing to the overall tale. Fortunately, Michael Fassbender’s Peter O’Toole-esque performance as android David makes for impressive viewing, capturing the morally ambiguous character perfectly.
It is already well known that Prometheus met with mixed critical reaction, leaning towards the negative, but with the release of the DVD many were hoping for an edit that would improve and solve some of the film’s most problematic plot issues. After all, Scott has given audiences six different cuts of Blade Runner (1986), so many thought that something similar might happen with Prometheus. Again, we were wrong. Although the DVD does come with the added bonus of both an alternate beginning and ending, it fails to improve the overall quality of the piece.
Ultimately, Prometheus was hoisted by its own petard after months of rumours and over-hyped anticipation. Remove all that, look only at the film itself, and it is still found wanting. Lacking in a coherent structure or believable well-rounded characters and dogged by its style-over-substance content, Prometheus continues to disappoint with every watch. Oh Ridley, how the mighty have fallen – it was not the Engineers that were our downfall, it was you.