When Ridley Scott announced he would return to the world of his 1979 classic with this summer’s PROMETHEUS, anticipations could not have been higher. Many were quick to hail it as a potential game-changer and a strong contender for the film of the summer. Maybe even the year. Now, after being slowly unveiled teasers, trailers and featurettes galore, Scott’s film has finally landed.
The story begins on Earth with two scientists; Elizabeth Shaw played by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace and creationist Charlie Holloway performed by Logan Marshall-Green. Together, they discover a series of cave paintings that are thousands of years old, ones that have appeared all over the globe and contain a map to an undiscovered planet.
Two and a half years later, the scientists, now aboard space voyager Prometheus, land on the aforementioned planet alongside a crew of leader Idris Elba, cold-heated company woman Charlize Theron and synthetic android Michael Fassbender hoping the uncover the mysteries of our existence.
PROMETHEUS’ story, penned by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, is certainly not one void of ambition. In a fashion reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s aforementioned Blade Runner, his script tackles an age-old question that has haunted humanity since the dawn of our existence: Where do we come from? He’s not afraid to use that foundation to confront equally mind-boggling subjects either, namely what we would ask our makers if or when we met them.
However, PROMETHEUS quickly buckles under the weight of its many ideas. There’s a lack in focus and coherence here as if Scott aimed so high that he never stopped to observe some of the simple, fundamental problems with Lindelof’s screenplay. Consequently, he’s unable to maintain control of Prometheus’ wild ambitions and they soon rapidly collapse into a disorderly heap of confusion and craziness.
As its narrative becomes increasingly muddled as it stumbles around trying to answer the questions that it poses, PROMETHEUS gradually falls back on tired and somewhat familiar conventions in an attempt to drive the plot. Thus, it loses all tension.
There are a handful of creepy moments early in the film, but as we plod towards the third act Scott decides to favour loud, chaotic set-pieces over the oppressive atmosphere he executed with aplomb in his previous sci-fi work. They’re a visual delight, absolutely, with eye-watering production design, cinematography that will leave your jaw on the floor and some grizzly deaths towards the finale that give a loving nod to Alien’s iconic chest-busting scene. Yet, ultimately, there’s nothing fresh gluing them together to make PROMETHEUS stand out in the way that it desires to.
Equally underwhelming are a number of the performances. The chilling Charlize Theron and amiable Idris Elba give remarkable turns in the ensemble and a dazzlingly nuanced Michael Fassbender steals every scene he’s in. Nonetheless, the likes of Rafe Spall and Sean Harris simply attempt to pull off an equivalent of the double-act performed by Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto 30 years ago with far too much eccentricity to enjoy spending time with them.
PROMETHEUS is without a doubt a cut above most of the sci-fi blockbusters you will find this summer, but in spite of its large ambitions Scott’s film falters on many basic levels such as coherency, logic and tension. It remains enjoyable for its stunning visuals, Scott’s mesmerising ability to bring a world to life and intermittent blips of excellence, but ultimately cannot live up to the colossal hype that surrounded it. It promises far more than it can deliver.