Many years ago I put forward a premise for the fifth Alien movie. Oh, I didn’t pass it along to anyone who knew Ridley Scott or even get a treatment created. No, no, no. All I did was bandy it around IMDb and bemoan the fact that I was not immediately whisked off to Hollywood for a big meeting with the creative bods wanting to continue the franchise.
My premise was this: Ripley and co. have accidentally brought an alien with them to Earth and the whole horrible scenario unfolds as it did on LV-426. Thankfully, this time the Space Jockeys are in the vicinity and still looking to eradicate the presence of the xenomorphs from the universe. This is a war movie, a BIG movie in every way. In the end, the battle is almost won but Ripley spots the big, bad alien queen heading to a ship to escape and so she follows. Once on board, she doesn’t find the queen and realises that the ship is heading for a black hole. She hits the alarm but realises it’s too late so then goes into hypersleep. When she wakes up she quickly finds out that the alarm beacon is still going and that she has travelled through space and time – it is her own signal that is calling the Nostromo, with Ripley on board, to its fate. It could be called Alien Revolution or Rise Of The Planet Of The Aliens or anything as long as people knew it was going to be a return to form for the franchise, for Scott and for a franchise that has soldiered on for well over 30 years now.
I’ve placed this at the start of my Prometheus review for two reasons. One, I’m damn pleased with it as a concept and still wish that someone would make the bloody thing. Two, this is what the franchise has always been about. Ripley may have been the main character but the background history of events and that huge Space Jockey were things that we always wondered about, and that Ridley Scott always expressed an interest in exploring. And now, in 2012, he finally does just that. Which is when we all realise that, actually, we only want to see a backstory developed if it has more alien action and less time spent pondering BIG ideas outwith the realm of acid-bleeding xenomorphs. This movie is quite the opposite.
Remember how people moaned when The Thing was released and it was marketed as a prequel in stead of a remake, yet all of the best bits were either reminiscent of the John Carpenter movie or more enjoyable because they led to the details that we could recognise from the John Carpenter movie? Well, I’m sorry to say it but that’s really the same situation that we have here. Ridley Scott has been at pains to tell everyone that this ISN’T an Alien prequel but he’s also teased that it lives in that universe and shares the DNA. We know that it’s going to be about something that happened before the events of the first movie, we just don’t know what. Yet, for someone striving to NOT make an Alien movie it would seem that Mr. Scott is as torn as the fans – we want something bold and new but we also want our favourite alien.
A ship, the titular Prometheus, heads far out into space on a mission but someone has a bit of an agenda. Sound familiar? When Prometheus lands on the planet it is destined for a bit of investigation starts a chain of events that turns more and more dangerous for every member of the crew. Still sounding familiar? Our main character is a female with plenty of inner strength (played by Noomi Rapace). And that’s about all I’ll say for just now, I don’t want any spoilers here for those still wanting to enjoy the whole experience.
Believe me, there IS a whole experience to enjoy. Scott once again creates a completely believable environment and the visuals are as gorgeous as you’d expect. Special effects are almost constantly superb and most of them are so well done that you can’t really “see the join”. Every frame of the movie, from beginning to end, is effortlessly interesting and beautiful and constantly reminds you that you’re in the hands of a master film-maker.
The cast aren’t as consistently brilliant as I wanted them to be, with Rapace in particular quite bland for a leading lady, but they’re almost all outshone by the brilliant Michael Fassbender being bloody brilliant, as usual. Every moment that Fassbender is onscreen as David is a moment to savour and, thankfully, he’s onscreen for a lot of the runtime. Charlize Theron and Idris Elba acquit themselves well, Sean Harris and Rafe Spall are excellent and the likes of Logan Marshall-Green, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong and Kate Dickie all do a decent job. Guy Pearce is okay in his small role but you can’t help wondering why they didn’t just cast an older actor, what with him playing someone very old and all that. He’s a capable young man but there are many capable old men who could also have done the job. Imagine how great it would have been to have a heavily made-up John Hurt in the role of Peter Weyland.
Ridley Scott is a wise man and a favourite director of mine (one of the few people I claim to be a “fanboy” of) so maybe he’s thinking of the long game and knows something that audiences don’t. Perhaps he knew that whatever he gave us just wouldn’t live up to expectations so he only went ahead with something that would please himself anyway, hoping that others would embrace it. That’s not the worst crime in the world but it does feel a bit selfish. It’s a blow, I won’t lie, and it’s a blow that would have been softened if Prometheus had just been a bit better in so many little ways. I don’t mind the fact that it’s tied to the franchise in a sorta prequel way but that it’s NOT an Alien movie but I do mind that there’s a second half full of far too much stupidity and far too many plot holes and I do mind when a film decides to explore some potentially interesting ideas and then makes them dull and almost laughable (it doesn’t help when the way that past events are revealed feels like laziness of the highest order).
Where do I go? Who do I point the finger at? What do I do with my frustration? Do I suddenly go in a big huff and turn my back on Ridley Scott? Nope. Do I blame the cast? Nope. How about writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof? Nope. Well, actually, a little bit, yes. Sadly, I probably have to shoulder most of the blame myself. No matter how much I convinced myself that I didn’t just want another Alien movie from Ridley Scott I came out of the Prometheus screening realising that I was disappointed and self-delusional. Of course I wanted another Alien movie from Ridley Scott, as does every fan of the franchise. This certainly isn’t it but you only have yourself to blame because Ridley Scott has been telling us that for a long time now.
Oh well, there’s always the chance that my story idea will be optioned. In space, no one can hear me dream.
DIRECTOR: RIDLEY SCOTT
WRITER: JON SPAIHTS, DAMON LINDELOF
STARS: NOOMI RAPACE, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, CHARLIZE THERON, IDRIS ELBA, GUY PEARCE, LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN, SEAN HARRIS, RAFE SPALL, EMUN ELLIOTT, BENEDICT WONG, PATRICK WILSON, KATE DICKIE
RUNTIME: 124MINS APPROX