out of Five
Running time: 124
Ridley Scott's sort-of Alien prequel has stunning visual effects, gorgeous production design, a couple of terrific set pieces and superb performances from Rapace and Fassbender, but it also suffers from an uneven, frequently dull script, a lack of characterisation and a plot that completely falls apart under close inspection.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus is set in the same universe as the Alien franchise, though isn't exactly the prequel that die-hard Alien fans have been hoping for. The film begins in 2089, with scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discovering a series of matching cave paintings that constitute a star map; we then fast-forward a few years to find them emerging from cryo-freeze aboard the starship Prometheus, alongside android David (Michael Fassbender), no-nonsense corporate honcho Vickers (Charlize Theron), cigar-chomping ship's captain Janek (Idris Elba) and sundry other red shirt types (that's Star Trek for “expendable”).
When the Prometheus arrives at its destination, the scientists boldly go forth and quickly discover evidence of a humanoid super-race that seems to hold the clues to the origins of man. However, they also discover another, more tentacle-based life form on the planet and it isn't long before the slimy creatures are causing all sorts of problems. Meanwhile, one of the crew seems to have an agenda all their own.
As flawed and frustrating as it is, there's a lot to like about Prometheus, first and foremost of which is Fassbender's superb performance as David: one of the film's best sequences involves just following David's daily shipboard routine while he waits for the crew to wake up. Rapace is terrific too, emerging as the de facto heroine just as Ripley before (or, technically, after) her, while Theron (excellent, as always) is actually more chilling here than she was as Snow White's Wicked Queen.
On top of that, the H R Giger-inspired production design is stunningly beautiful and the effects are superlative (see it in IMAX if humanly possible), while Scott orchestrates a couple of thrilling set-pieces, the highlight of which is a nail biting sequence set inside a medi-pod.
The main problem is that the busy script tries to do too much, without ensuring that all the pieces are going to fit together properly (for example, a key character's motivations remain unexplained throughout); consequently, the increasingly frustrating plot falls apart the moment you start to analyse it (though the film will undoubtedly inspire great post-cinema pub discussion). On top of that, the dialogue is often dull and there's a frustrating lack of characterisation outside of the small handful of main characters, meaning that you never really care who lives and who dies.
Die-hard Alien fans are advised to significantly lower their expectations, though if you're not emotionally invested in the franchise per se, Prometheus is an enjoyable, if flawed sci-fi thriller that's worth seeing for Fassbot and Noomi Rapace.