Well the blockbuster season in full throttle and the release date of the highly anticipated Alien prequel, Prometheus, is upon us and like a lot of other films being released this year, there was a lot of hype revolved around. After the unsatisfying conclusion of Alien 3 and the disaster of Alien: Resurrection, and the universally hated Alien V.S. Predator films, the franchise was effectively dead. But then a few years ago, Ridley Scott, director of the first Alien film decided to revive it with a then untitled prequel. And now, three years later we have the fruit of idea; Prometheus. So has this film lived up to the hype and will it revive the franchise or is it just another crappy installment in a franchise that should have ended in 1986 with Aliens? Let’s find out.
The film takes place in 2093 when an archaeologist couple discovers a series of star maps among several unconnected ancient cultures and believes it to be an invitation to an alien world and home to creatures that may have created mankind. With the backing of Wayland Industries, the two set out with a crew on the ship Prometheus to find this planet and meet their possible creators. However, upon arriving on the planet, the humans quickly discover that this place was not what they thought and the journey proves much more deadly they any of them anticipated.
Now, as you all may or may not know, certain things have been a bit…shall we say controversial among critics and audiences alike but we’ll get to that in a minute. Now, starting with what they got right, they knocked it out of the park. From the technical side of things, the film is fantastic. The visual effects were fantastic and with one or two exceptions, I believed just about everything on screen was or could be real. As with the first Alien film, the art direction is fantastic. The Prometheus had a great design to it and used technology that I can believe will exist in the time period the film takes place in. The same goes for the Engineers’ complex. While I do question why an advance alien race would put their complex underground, (I know, overanalyzing. We all do it sometimes), I love the look of the place and how the technology within works. The original designs by H.R. Giger are still used and look better than ever, combining old special effect/art direction techniques with new ones and it makes the complex look amazing.
The acting in this film is also top notch, with all the actors giving their all in their performances and they help make the characters likeable even if they aren’t exactly three dimensional. The most notable of these is Idris Elba who takes the very stock role of the ship’s captain and makes something out of it. Charlize Theron likewise gives a great performance as Wayland Industries corporate liaison and unlike many of the other characters she actually seems like a fleshed out character. The guy who stole the show, however, and the one everyone talks about is Michael Fassbender as David the Android. And I’m not going to lie. People have not exaggerated his performance in the least bit. He is all at once pleasant and threatening and you’re never really sure what he’s up to but you know he has his own agenda that is separate from everyone else’s and this really keeps you on edge.
Now, the next part of this post is probably going to be a bit more…shall we say….controversial, mainly because a lot of people seem to have mixed thoughts on this subject, (in fact I think I may be among the few who likes this). This subject is the plot and I’m not going to lie. I really, really liked it. To me, this film seemed like a really good combination of the exploration elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the plot elements of At the Mountains of Madness. In fact, in many ways it actually feels more like an adaptation of that story that just happens to take place in the Alien Universe more than an Alien prequel. And I really like this and felt that if that is what the writers were going for, they succeeded. Between this and the musical score, (very reminiscent of Blade Runner’s), it feels more like a tale of space exploration where the characters just run in to terrible situations rather than a sci-fi/horror film which made for an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
The thing that has been pissing off a lot of people however is the fact that by the end of the film, you’re left with more questions than answers and if you can’t take that then this isn’t your kind of film. I, on the other hand, actually love it when films, games, shows and novels do this. It keeps the mystery alive and people guessing and just makes me want to go back to that universe over and over again. And that’s what I ultimately took away from this film. I want to see this universe again and learn more things about it and discover the solutions to the unanswered questions. But again I may be in the minority on this one and a lot of people, be they critics or everyday people have complained against this film for it so make your own judgment call on this one.
There were, however, a few glaring problems with this film and I would be lying if I said that they didn’t bother me. For starters, for as much as I loved the plot of this film, there were two major problems I had with it. The first was this one so called twist concerning the expedition and David’s motivations when he seems to go rouge. In a nutshell, a saw it coming a mile away and anyone with half a brain probably will as well once they see one particular scene with David. After that you’ll probably be able to guess about a sixth of the film or so. The other major fault with the story, (other than the more questions than answers issue), is a subplot they put into the film which clearly had no purpose other than to get higher body count, (and something else that I can’t disclose for spoiler reasons), and I found myself asking “Why would the characters do that? What could they possibly gain from this?” It’s something that I know a lot of people will bring up and I know exactly where they’re coming from.
The themes of the film kind of seemed shoved down our throat as if the film was dumbing it down for less intelligent audience, (although considering what usually grosses billions I can’t say that I blame them). Right alongside this is some very obvious foreshadowing with a good deal of SSBS in the first act of the film, which again seems to play down to a less intelligent audience. While the characters are likeable and very well acted they aren’t as fleshed out as they should be and often come off as very two dimensional. In fact, many of the characters were obviously put in just so the film could have a higher body count. And as I mentioned before the film feels more like an exploration film then it does sci-fi/horror and as a result, the film isn’t scary. There are many moments where I was on the edge of me seat in suspense but it still wasn’t scary. Some of the special effects also looked a little off at times, particularly towards the end and I found myself scratching my head at it.
The last thing that I have to mention is that this is the film that probably killed 3D for me. While it didn’t dilute the experience for me it didn’t really do anything to add to it either, (other than give me a headache) and this will probably be the last film I see in this format.
All around I have to say that I really enjoyed this film and thus far, it’s probably my favorite film of 2012 so far. But I have to approach this is a critic and not a sci-fi fanboy. There are a lot of great things to be had in this film and all the good things make it more than worth the price of admission. I highly recommend that you see it, as it is a good film. It has great visuals, great acting, great special effects and great concepts and a fantastic exploration theme and I wanted to give this film a really high score. But there are some glaring problems that I can’t ignore. There are people out there who will hate the way it ends. That’s just a fact. The other flaws have to do with the characterization and the two bad plot points in the film and these things do take it down a few pegs. But all around, I really enjoyed this film. I truly believe that the good in this film outweighs the bad in it and I highly encourage you to go see it and at least give it a try before people start trying to tell you what to think.