It has been nearly 15 years since a proper film in the Alien franchise hit theaters. Prometheus was billed as being the prequel to the classic series, as well as returning director Ridley Scott to the sci-fi genre for the first time in 30 years. About halfway through the film, the captain of the Prometheus, Janek (Idris Elba), starts singing Stephen Stills hit song, Love the One You’re With. The lyrics of that song effectively sum up my feelings on the film.
Prometheus is not the Alien film fans have been clamoring for since Alien vs. Predator effectively disemboweled the series. Yes, there are ties to the saga that brought fans Ellen Ripley, but it delivers more questions than answers and in many ways spins itself so far off the Alien path that it becomes its own thing. But the problem lies in the fact that it is not its own thing, much of the iconography in the film has direct ties to the original Alien and that could very much leave a sour taste in many fan’s mouths.
Worse still is that much of Prometheus feels like Ridley Scott rehashing his own work. Star Wars creator George Lucas, continuously tinkers with his saga claiming that the changes he is making are his true vision aided by the technology he did not have when he originally made them. I wonder if Prometheus at some point became Scott’s attempt to right his own perceived wrongs because much of Prometheus hits the same story beats as Alien, so much so that entire scenes play out as near mirror imagery.
Unlike the Nostromo in Alien, which accidentally stumbled upon its horror, the Prometheus sets out to find it. Of course the crew of the Prometheus has no idea that what they are seeking is dangerous; instead thinking they are searching for a race of aliens that created mankind on Earth. What they actually find though is much more sinister and horrific. The core concept is simple and mostly effective but writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof (Lost) bog the story down with too many characters and subplots.
The film has an enormous cast filled with big names but none of them, except for maybe Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender as the synthetic human David, are given any time to shine. Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pearce are all completely wasted with minimal time on screen and little to no character development. And that does not even touch the other 12 members of the crew.
There are so many people involved that when things start to go bad and tension should start to mount, there is very little of it. There is no attachment to these characters, sans Shaw. It is a huge departure from past Alien films that build up the characters in such a way that when they are violently ripped from us, we feel for them. There is no feeling for these characters because they are hardly characters and it makes the horror aspects of the film fall completely flat.
Still for as shoddy and overstuffed as Prometheus is, there is still a natural mystique to the Alien universe and I enjoyed it. It is great to see the iconic imagery again even if it is in something of a weird context. It is also great to finally get some of the answers that have long plagued the Alien series, while leaving even more questions in its wake. So many questions and theories spawned from the viewing that I spent an hour outside the theater discussing them with friends. Very few films deliver that experience.
Prometheus may not be the Alien film fans have long wanted, but it is better than nothing. So if you are a fan of the Alien franchise, love the one you are with and give it a go.
3 / 5