This week we’re taking a look at the prequel to Alien, written by the creator of Lost, and the Director of the film that started it all, Ridley Scott. The question is, is he bringing his Alien/Blade Runner A-Game, or does this venture into the territory of Robin Hood.
Edit: I have now included a text review. By popular demand, I will be providing no further video content to Bureau42.com.
Cast and Crew Information
Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.
Logan Marshall-Green as Dr. Charlie Holloway
Michael Fassbender as David
Idris Elba as Capt. Janeck
Charlize Theron as Meridith Vickers
Guy Pierce as Peter Weyland
Sean Harris as Fifeld
Rafe Spall as Miliburn
Written by Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof
Directed by Ridley Scott
Archaeologists Dr. Elizabeth Shaw & Charlie Halloway discover a series of symbols at separate archaeological sites throughout the world, from civilizations that would not have made contact with each other, each showing what they believe is a specific star system, and from a race which they also believe genetically engineered humanity. They persuade Peter Weyland of the Weyland corporation to finance an expedition to the planet LV-226, to find these aliens – The Engineers.
As you probably suspected from the trailer, things go very, very, very, very, very badly.
This film has a production value worthy of being a Ridley Scott film and as a precursor to Alien – the interior of the Engineer’s outpost looks incredibly Gothic and atmospheric. It also appears that there’s some new artwork incorporated into the set designs by H. R. Giger, who continues to deliver some amazing work. Similarly, the design of the precursor technology, once we see how some of it works, logically fits in with the environment that surrounds it, while being both wondrous and creepy.
Also, I can’t say enough about Michael Fassbender’s performance as David. The “Meet David” viral video that came out before the film’s release did a decent job of demonstrating the character as, basically, a high-functioning constructive sociopath. Someone who has emotions and controls them (more control than humans do), but doesn’t understand how they work or what they’re used for. Fassbender does an excellent job at drawing performance parallels between David in this film, and Ash in Alien.
The film also effectively uses body horror with the Engineer’s technology and what they do to people (much as Alien did with the Facehuggers & Chestbursters) – which may be
The rest of the cast do a good job with the material that they’re provided, but that leads me to…
I can’t help but feel like there were a lot of good scenes of character development that were cut from this film for time. Many of these characters are ones whose names I literally could not remember after walking out of the film. I could describe what their purpose was for some of them, but not all of them – and some characters I couldn’t even give you that. However, it felt like the film was operating from the assumption that these character development scenes were already there. Like the scenes were shot, but were cut because the Studio thought the film was running long, or the film was skating dangerously close to an NC-17, or something else.
Additionally, the film does a poor job of connecting to the rest of the Alien franchise. While the film is clearly set within the Alien Universe (with the official Weyland Corporation web page – whose url is in the ending credits – having a timeline leading practically up to Alien 3). However, we don’t set up the Alien crash on LV-426, nor even give a reason why the Weyland Corporation would send anyone out to investigate the bloody thing – as the only one who gave a damn was Weyland, and he’s dead.
This film is rated R by the MPAA for a very good reason. There’s body horror, profanity, and graphic violence. In particular, if the body horror aspect is something that causes a problem for you in horror, I recommend that you avoid this film.
Originality: This is a direct predecessor to Alien, and set in the same universe. However, it also introduces critters that are completely original, and provide some new developments in the Space Jockeys/The Engineers. Further, the crew of this ship is definitely of a different type then the characters from all the other films – Scientists instead of space truckers, soldiers, or prisoners. It puts a different tone on the work. 4 out of 6.
Effects: Fantastic. Ridley Scott is known for his attention to detail. This film’s effects are no exception. 6 out of 6.
Story: As mentioned on the low point, it seems like a whole bunch of character development got left on the cutting room floor. There’s also the whole bit I spoiler tagged, which is a pretty big plot hole. Well, plot crater. However, these are things that, hopefully, could be fixed in a “Kingdom of Heaven” style director’s cut. 2 out of 6.
Acting: For all the faults of the film, the actors do an admirable job with the material they’re provided, though (with the exception of David, who’s given the prime cuts of the script) the material the majority of the cast is given isn’t very good. 4 out of 6.
Production: As mentioned under effects, Ridley Scott is known for his attention to detail, and this carries on to everyone else involved in the production design of his films. 6 out of 6.
Emotional Response: While there were some good scares in the film, unfortunately, all the missing character development hurts the emotional connection between the audience and the characters, meaning that when characters die, the audience reaction skews towards apathy (or occasionally, humor) instead of horror, or in any way being upset with the fact that these characters died. 3 out of 6.
Overall: This is a film that I came in really wanting to like. Unfortunately, this feels instead like a bigger budget version one of the Alien-wannabe films that came out around the time Alien came out (like Dark Side of the Moon). 2 out of 6.
In total, Prometheus gets 27 out of 42.
Notes: Honestly, the majority of fault with this film can probably be laid at the feet of Lindelof’s script. Ridley Scott does an excellent job of directing this film, but there’s only so much you can do with the narrative raw materials that are provided. I do hope that there are some good scenes on the cutting room floor that improve the narrative of the film and make the story seem less insipid, in the same way that Kingdom of Heaven’s director’s cut dramatically improved that film.
Oh, and if you have a problem with Body Horror – avoid this film. Even if we get a Director’s Cut.