It’s obvious from the very start that Prometheus is not your standard horror fare.
It asks the ultimate question: Who created us and where are they now? And although Prometheus might not give us the mind-blowing
answers it hints at, it does provide an incredibly atmospheric, visually masterful and enthralling experience.
Directed by Ridley Scott (Returning to the science fiction genre for the first time since Blade Runner), Prometheus is something of a
spinoff/prequel to his own 1979 horror classic, Alien.
Many of the pieces of that film are hinted at here. We see Peter Weyland of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, the true identity of the
mysterious Space Jockeys and perhaps even the evolutionary starting point of a certain xenomorph killing machine.
But don’t worry if you don’t understand any of that. To Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lidelof’s credit, this film is its own
unique story and only serves as a hint of the events that may have transpired leading to the Nostromo and Ellen Ripley’s fateful voyage.
It’s possible that viewers without an intimate knowledge of the franchise would have no clue of the connections here. Aside from its
somewhat unnecessary final scene, that is. That one may have been better suited as an after-the-credits Easter Egg.
Regardless, Prometheus succeeds as both an Alien precursor and as a standalone horror film.
No small part of this success is due to the film’s incredible visual grandeur.
Ridley Scott is a noted ‘visualist’ director, but he outdoes even himself here. This is an incredible-looking film from beginning to end.
The alien landscapes, ancient architecture and disturbing creature design are all wondrous to behold.
The art direction most definitely owes a lot to the original Alien film, but also lives up to it.
Seen on a big screen with Dariusz Wolski’s astounding 3D cinematography; it is absolutely stunning. And this is one of the few films you
must experience in 3D.
Like James Cameron (Avatar) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Scott makes incredible use of the format both technically and artistically. There
is not a single instance of gimmick. The sense of depth only serves to draw us into to this haunting and meticulously-crafted world.
Prometheus’ setup is also very effective. Its concept of space-traveling creators has a great appeal in terms of its grand questioning of the
human existence as well as its inherent mystery and the epic journey of the ship Prometheus to find them.
Noomi Rapace is very likeable as the archaeologist whose discoveries lead to the destination of the first people. She makes for a decent
protagonist, but is only developed to a minimum acceptable level.
The most interesting character is actually the least human.
Michael Fassbender is brilliant as the android David. From his bizarre replication of Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia to his questionable
judgment, David is a fascinating character and a great detached performance from Fassbender.
It is a flaw of the film that, beyond David, the characters feel very much secondary to the extraordinary visuals.
Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce are good, but feel underutilized and underdeveloped here.
It’s certainly not the first time a Scott film has favored atmosphere over characters. Prometheus almost feels avant-garde at times.
But the sense of dread and wonder are both so palpable that I really can’t hold it against the film too harshly that its characters are only
This is a rare type of filmmaking and I was absolutely engrossed by the artistic and technical merits of it all.
It’s also enhanced by its outrageously aggressive sound design and Marc Streitenfeld and Harry Gregson-Williams’ ominous score.
Recalling the old school of horror filmmaking, Prometheus employs the slow-burn method. The first two acts are methodical in building a
sense of mystery and dread, before exploding into full-blown chaotic terror.
And although the film’s supporting characters, along with the overall questions posed in the setup, are not resolved in the most satisfying
of ways, these sequences leading to the climax are utterly intense and disturbing.
There is some extraordinary violence and a sequence involving a frantic surgery that is absolutely horrifying.
Although it may not succeed in every endeavor it sets out on, Prometheus is always admirable. It is so ambitious in its storytelling and its
scope that it’s easy to look past some of its flaws. This is filmmaking on a grand scale in terms of concept and production design; and it
succeeds more than well enough.
As I did in my review of Avatar, I will include this disclaimer. My score represents the film in its ideal presentation: big screen, floor-shaking
sound and 3D visuals. This is a film that is ‘experienced’ as much as it is ‘watched.’
If these conditions are not satisfied, subtract half a star.
Either way, Prometheus is a hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric horror picture that is far more intelligent than most and a great throwback
to the film that remains the gold-standard of science fiction terror 33 years on.
* * * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize
Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green
Music by: Marc Streitenfeld
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolski
Released: June 8, 2012; 124 Minutes