If all you want out of Prometheus is a great looking sci-fi adventure that asks big questions about the history of life on Earth (without the slightest interest in answering them), has a couple of disturbing Alien sequences the series is known for, and shows us where Aliens come from, well this movie was made just for you. If you wanted something more than the bare minimum, like an engaging story that doesn’t feel the need to talk down to its audience every step of the way, well, then this probably isn’t the summer flick you’ve been hoping for. But, hey, at least it’s better than Alien 3.
Prometheus looks terrific, and I’ll be the first to admit it delivers a pair of gruesome Alien attacks that, although not really scary, are definitely memorable (even if the one involving the special medical pod is remarkably stupid). It does, however, lack a central character to build the film around (there’s certainly no Ripley in this group) or give us anything more than a simple B-movie storyline as a spaceship full of monster food proceeds to do everything possible to get themselves killed on an alien world for two-hours.
The film’s biggest problem is how amazingly hamfisted it is, needlessly over-explaining situations through a series of clunky dialogue. It’s so bad that at some point I began expecting characters to start narrating their exiting the frame and describe in detail what they would be doing while off-camera.
The first, but far from final, instances of this storytelling for morons is how we’re introduced to the android David (Michael Fassbender). Things start out fine as the film suggests the character isn’t human through a series of montages. Okay, fine. Then we get direct references to the characters differences. Yeah, I got it he’s a robot. Then we get a video introduction of the man who creating him. Um, okay I got it like five minutes ago, but fine. And then the holographic inventor starts discussing how the animatron lacks a soul. God, somebody stuff an alien in my chest to make this stop!
Although Fassbender’s character is the most interesting of the bunch, his actions make absolutely no sense (unless where to believe robots were created for the sole purpose of fucking with humanity). Even given what we can glean from his directives later his choices don’t make sense, especially given how they increasingly endanger everyone on-board and don’t serve the purpose he’s been given.
Charlize Theron is fine as the tough-as-nails mission commander, and Noomi Rapace is adequate as the scientist with unshakable faith, but neither character is immune from the script’s inability to deftly tell a story, or over-explain the relationships of their characters to other members of the crew. The sequence between Rapace and her character’s lover (Logan Marshall-Green) discussing her inability to have children that is so amazingly groan-worthy (not to mention once again condescendingly, and unnecessarily, leading to audience) that it’s obvious screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof think very little of their film’s target audience.
I could describe the other members of the crew, include the geologist (Sean Harris) responsible for mapping out the alien building they explore with some impressive little robots (yet still, somehow, manages to get lost when the entire map is at his fingertips), but the rest of the characters are rather pointless (as are their deaths).
Despite the script’s need to hold the audience’s hand throughout, the film has a couple of major plot holes, the most egregious of these is Idris Elba‘s character coming to an understanding (off-screen, with no evidence at all mind you) of the true purpose of the planet they have landed on. Infuriating doesn’t even begin to describe it.
As a dumb sci-fi horror flick Prometheus delivers the basics, but nothing more. Fans of the series waiting years for another movie may enjoy themselves at times, but given what the film had going for it (including the return of director Ridley Scott) the film has to be considered something of a disappointment. It turns out in space they can hear you scream; we’re just not given a reason to care this time around.