So…after literally years of waiting and hoping that Sir Ridley Scott would return to the cinematic universe/genre that he helped define in 1979…I have now taken in that, which is Prometheus. Before I get into the meat of this review, I’ll say that Prometheus is a very GOOD sci-fi/horror…but unfortunately, NOT great. I’m a hardcore fan-boy of a large chunk of the Alien franchise, as much as the next geek…but despite my admiration for Scotts filmography and ‘method’, I have to be honest here. Prometheus is not without its flaws. But first, for anyone left on the planet who doesn’t have an inkling about the story: A scientific exploration ship, belonging to the powerful Weyland Corporation in the year 2093, journeys to a far-off planet in deep space to make contact with a theorized alien species of ‘Engineers’ that may or may not have had a part in the creation of the human race. Upon arrival, things rapidly go from wonderment to terror as circumstances conspire against the team; from outside and within. First off, The Positives: Prometheus is a stunningly gorgeous film. Ridley graces the audience with his (now) expected sense of cinematic grandeur, only this time in a LONG overdue science fiction setting. Some of the most simple shots are magnificent; be it a space craft silently cruising against a deep starfield or rugged vehicles dwarfed on a dark, hostile alien landscape. The interiors of the USCSS Prometheus are works of futuristic art, carrying obvious architectual similarities to the Nostromo of Alien. There are numerous small touches of brilliance in some of the details regarding the world of the humans. Such as the very cool ‘pups’, the glowing red exploration orbs seen in the trailers or the highly advanced robotic medical pod that plays a key factor in a scene of surprising intensity. The elements showing the Engineers alien technology and designs are sweet too, with HR Gigers twisted fingerprints all over the place. Technically speaking, this flick is incredibly well done. It simply looks (and sounds) beautiful. The use of huge practical sets does a lot to soldify the credibility behind this particular ‘universe’ and the epic sense of ‘scale’ aids in reflecting the large (but lacking) ideas at the stories core. Script-wise, there were also a good handful of inspired points, such as scenes detailing the detrimental effects of extended hypersleep. The Alien films portray this as *yawn*, shake it off and go. Here… nope. People are NOT happy campers on waking and effort was put into showing that additional medical care is needed for the use of such unnatural technology. I get the impression that Sir Scott always just ‘made do’ with the earlier portrayals of such scenes but here he could attempt a little more realism. The action scenes, when they occur, are gritty and brutal…but quick. Haven’t decided if that’s good or bad yet. And speaking of bad, now…The Negatives: The pacing of Prometheus is not as smooth as I would’ve expected. Some sequences, particularly in the first act, felt surprisingly rushed to me; particularly when the team touches down on LV-223. There is no great attempt made to take in the awe of what they just accomplished, which was the first human landing on this strange, forboding world. Instead, it’s ‘suit up’ time and straight to the strange (and alarmingly easy to find) structure directly ahead with no tangible sense of caution or procedure. No time for us, the audience, to look around…to be there with them to admire this planet. It did feel as though scenes were either missing or shortened, which I hope the already-rumored Extended cut will address. Other scenes later in the film suffer from this choppy pacing too…especially in the third act. Another detail that REALLY didn’t work for me was large portions of the musical score. The tone was completely wrong in some sequences, at times heavily reminding me of John Williams and his Spielbergian scores. The grand orchestral approach didn’t match the ominous and at times, sinister visuals. A little more subtlety would’ve gone a long way in Prometheus’ favor. Something closer to Jerry Goldsmiths eerie music for the original 1979 Alien would’ve greased the wheels far more appropriately. Some of the characters weren’t explored as deeply as they could’ve been either, which led to at least one scene, where an Ultimate Sacrifice is required, to ring false for me as the characters involved pretty much just inexplcably shrug off the gravity of what must happen. I just didn’t buy it. At the intro of the Prometheus ship itself, we’re shown a TITLE CARD that informs us: Crew-17. Yet we only really get to know (or see) about 6 or 7, with a couple secondary characters getting some funny lines but no depth. The rest of the crew is virtually non-existent. And I haven’t decided how I feel about the sequel-hopeful end scene. It was cool in one respect…and a little cheezy in another. Damn me for saying this but it reminded me of the end of Alien Vs Predator (2004). The use of 3D on this outing is nice, with the filmmakers embracing an Avatar-like immersiveness instead of the cheap, ‘poke you in the eye’ approach. I think that 2D would work well on the big screen also, largely due to the lack of gimmicky ‘in your face’ effects. The movie feels as though it should have a 3 hour run time, instead of its current 2 hours and 4 minutes. It needed to ‘stretch its legs’ a little more so that the audience could get more engrossed in the ‘world’ with heartfelt ‘rooting’ for the main characters. There are SO many other things to cover but I think you get the point here. All in all, Prometheus is a highly worthy entry into the Alien franchise that now has the means to go off in a new and hopefully, more intelligent direction. I can easily recommend this movie to fans of the original franchise or to viewers looking for something that can be accused of trying something different and deeper. Just don’t expect ALL the questions the film raises to be answered, be it through intelligent design or somewhat sloppy writing (haven’t decided yet). It’s just not the cinematic ‘Second Coming of Alien Christ’ that all us fan-boys (and girls) hoped it would be. But it is a damn fine attempt that pretty much demands at least one more viewing.
*The viral advertising campaign for Prometheus was exceptionally well done and intelligently thought-out. I highly recommend watching all three of the main pieces: ‘Peter Weyland TED 2023’-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUxdAWrsag8, ‘Introducing David 8’-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgJs7uluwlU and finally, ‘Quiet Eye’-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAc1FY-Usp4 as they do ultimately add to the viewing experience by ‘fleshing’ out the universe a little more. They just add to the ‘COOL’ factor.