Prometheus is not one film, but two. One of these films delves into philosophical questions regarding the driving need to find our origins, whether through religion, science or both. The other is essentially an Alien film, albeit one without any of the traditional Xenomorphs (the iconic aliens from the series). Unfortunately these two films never merge to form a balanced whole, instead they grate against each other, never allowing either concept to develop properly. The resulting film is one which contains simplistic, and at times all too heavy-handed attempts at philosophy and one which also has an almost tension free horror framing device. However, Prometheus is not a bad film; its huge ambition is met, if simply on a visual level. With director Ridley Scott’s reputation (Alien, Blade Runner), it was never going to be a surprise that this film would look great, indeed there are many moments which surpassed expectation and which were genuinely breathtaking. The performances given by Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are decent and it is the high level set by the actors, the visuals, and the film’s sheer ambition which makes Prometheus such an involving and enjoyable experience despite its flaws.
When we are introduced to the assembled characters Prometheus’s greatest flaw is revealed, and that is its script. It is not up to the same level as the other film’s elements, in fact it is unbelievably below that level. We are introduced to a team of ‘experts’ who have been handpicked for a trillion dollar exploration mission, one given the green light based on an archaeologist choosing ‘to believe’ that she is correct in her anti-Darwinian beliefs, despite her only evidence being a collection of cave paintings. Small alarm bells such as this grow exponentially throughout the film until the poorly written script and cliché ridden characters so frequently reach the ridiculous, that Prometheus often resembles a parody of the genre rather than the slick, modern classic that it was rumoured to be.
Prometheus’s philosophical questioning explores similar ideas to those found within Ridley Scott’s classic film Blade Runner; what does it mean to be created as opposed to having evolved, how should we define what constitutes human and what relationship, if any, is there between creator and creation. The idea of approaching these questions from a different angle and within a different genre is very exciting to me. A true to form Alien film which delves into tricky philosophical questions successfully would be fantastic, something which to an extent Alien3 attempted. I am reminded of classic cult film Donnie Darko, which, whilst not scary enough for a direct comparison, builds tension, raises large questions and uses ambiguity correctly and the resulting film is still very controlled. Within Prometheus you can make such a film out through the mess, but it is frustratingly difficult and just not controlled enough in the end product.
If the two films, the two concepts could have been successfully pulled together, Prometheus would have been fantastic, however the reality is an entertaining film which, whilst severely flawed, makes an effort to try and engage the audience’s brain beyond what is normally seen in a big summer release. If you do intend on seeing Prometheus, then try to catch it in the cinema, even if for nothing other than the amazing visual work, which deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible. As for me, I will be holding out for the rumoured, but very far from confirmed, director’s cut release which hopefully, using unreleased footage, will tie this film together more elegantly.