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Ridley Scott’s return to the genre he himself set incredibly high standards for, was a highly anticipated move that fans of ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) and not least ‘Alien’ (1979) were anxiously anticipating to see.
Therefore, it is frustrating to know that among the glorious panoramas, eerie catacombs and frantic breathing lies a misguided plot that neither satisfies ‘Alien’/Ridley Scott fans, nor establishes itself as an independent statement or vision.
Scott has previously stated that the script did start off as a prequel to the mysterious ‘Space Jockey’, known as the giant fossilized creature in the chair. But unlike creating an actual, original alternate universe, the writers filled in the blanks by grabbing ideas out of thin air. Very thin. Misplaced subplots, poorly written – and poorly delivered – dialogue and scenes which were logically unsound; these are the reasons why the spaceship has come down on ‘Prometheus’.
The faults center around the script and plot. Who knows if Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof were so star struck over the opportunity that their main preparation was to watch the four movies over and over again, but the original elements in this film limit themselves to vague characterizations and an unfulfilled thesis on genesis.
Here are some of the points for criticism: Supposed expert scientists are suddenly incredibly stupid, throwing a (poorly delivered) fit after discovering a decapitated being only to get lost, despite having invented a high tech, flying homing beacon (and having contact with the mother ship at all times). Also, who sticks out their hand towards an unknown snake-like creature, when they’ve just been freaked out by a pile of dead aliens?
There are also several points for criticism on Noomi Rapace’s Elisabeth Shaw. Besides her poor dialogue (the one between her and Idris Elba, who plays Captain Janek, about whether to leave the planet or not, is especially cringe-worthy) and incomprehensible character development (wanting to stay on the planet despite just having washed off the blood from her own ‘freak-robot-alien-baby-cesarian’), Shaw is a woman, brought up by a man, living with a man and searching for a man — the dire opposite of the strong female character we are dubbed into thinking she should be. Most of the time, she seems to tumble around, surviving only by the hands of incompetent opposition.
In fact, the characters are uniformly dull and one-dimensional, with so little work done on character development that it was hard to remember the on-screen names of anyone — with the exception of David, the mischievous android.
Things that worked for ‘Prometheus’
Thankfully the script did not stop the visuals of ‘Prometheus’ from being truly other-worldly. Ridley Scott put a vision in place fraught with danger and architectural grandeur that will blow your mind. His uncanny talent for making sure the expressions of the plot elements emanate from the surroundings never fails him, which is why the eerie darkness, yet beauty of the superior alien residence is in stark contrast to the calculated, bright and aesthetically delicate human spaceship.
The imagined higher beings who become the focus of the film are also extraordinary in design, power and mercilessness. Though they feature very little as active characters, their presence means everything. They also seem more real as characters than Shaw and Charlize Theron’s corporate stooge Vickers manages – combined.
David the android is also worth the money as his curiosity and wonderfully fitting malicious intent saves nearly all the plot twists from lying dead in the water. Michael Fassbender cannot seem to do anything wrong these days.
The potential drowns in misguided ambition
It may just be the other-worldly elements you desperately hold on to if you go watch ‘Prometheus.’ However, it seems duly inappropriate that a movie about man’s obsession with their own humanity features such indifferent caricatures of human life that the only sympathy we could muster was toward a robot and a species that we’ve just met.
Many original Alien fans may also find the whole thing a bit of a violation upon the concepts that Scott’s new foray into a genre he hasn’t touched for 30 years, is based.
Saying that ‘Prometheus’ shares DNA with ‘Alien’ is an understatement at best. Rather, ‘Prometheus’ took an arm and a leg from ‘Alien’, muddled in a philosophical thesis and a couple of poorly conceived replications of Ripley’s struggles only to end up at a vague anti-conclusion.
There was potential for both plot directions: It could have been the incredible story of how scientists’ first encounter with their maker coincided with that of the bony, acid-bleeding, sly creatures we know and relish from the Alien quadrilogy. The twist? The last survivor sends out the transmission to warn Weyland-Yutani, the company, which the company wrongfully interprets as an opportunity thus igniting the Ripley saga when the Nostromo passes by.
On the other hand, ‘Prometheus’ could have been a stunning re-visualization of the original thesis – what if WE found the aliens? The idea that humans with the right capabilities would explore the galaxy, looking for their maker, is not unimaginable and definitely interesting.
It seems wrong to blame Ridley Scott for the excruciating feeling of disappointment with which I left the theater. After all, ‘Prometheus’ is a visual treat by all accounts. Neither does it seem right to blame Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Logan Marchall-Green and Charlize Theron for failing to infuse any realistic personality into their characters. We can blame all of them for their poor judgement but the real culprits in this major let-down are Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Their script has to rank among the worst for such a grand, anticipated production.
We haven’t even mentioned why Guy Pearce is on the cast list because that story is just another sad plot boil on an already disastrous script.
Verdict: 2/5 – Wasting potential like this is an abomination. Was it not for the incredible Fassbender and the aesthetics of the visuals, we would have to unlike Ridley Scott on Facebook.