After years of misfired sequels and cross-overs, this prequel to Alien is the most interesting take on the universe in years. The return of original director Ridley Scott may have accidentally highlighted some of the film’s shortcomings, though.
After starting with a truly intriguing opening, the film settles into a very familiar groove. It feels like the original Alien. You’d think would be good - indeed, it’s one of the reasons you’d want Ridley Scott back. But it’s more than just the look and feel. Plot beats from Alien get reused: a small crew, alone on alien planet, start getting picked off one by one. Fortunately, the film last third veers to do something different than Alien - but even some of those elements feel like they came from Scott’s other SF opus, Blade Runner.
Prometheus doesn’t repeat Alien or Blade Runner - but it does rhyme.
There are a few other weak points in the script. Certain character actions seem unmotivated, and exist purely to advance the plot (though none are as bad as going back for the ship’s cat). Compounding the familiarity issue, the archaeological elements are reminiscent of Alien vs. Predator. And don’t get me started on scientific plausibility.
While I was hoping for more originality, this film is has much to offer. There are truly intense and scary scenes. The performances are strong. Noomi Rapace is a solid lead. Michael Fassbender makes a suitable robot, pitching his performance right into uncanney valley. My favourite, though, was Charlize Theron’s surprising turn as the striking Ms. Vickers.
And this film looks fabulous in 3-D. The scenes consistently have real depth throughout. I think it’s one of the better looking live action 3-D films in a while.
Ultimately, Prometheus ends on just the right note. After a fairly grim set of events, the resolution feels like something that bears allegiance more to classic, optimistic science fiction than horror. Just like the myth it takes its name from, the finale is about yearning for more.