I wanted to like this, I really did. With his previous forays into the world of science fiction, Ridley Scott created memorable worlds that felt unique detailed, but most of all: Human. However it is the surprising lack of humanity that makes Prometheus a disappointment almost as colossal in scale as its budget.
Taking it's title from the famous Greek myth, the Alien prequel follows a crew of explorers who are hoping to discover the origins of man by examining a distant world. This group include scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall Green), Captain Janek (Idris Elba), ice queen corporate executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and, as is par for the course, complex android David (Michael Fassbender).
With such a range of accomplished actors it is, rather ironically, the non-human character that is the most empathetic. Fassbender's David is a stunning creation, with a fixation on Lawrence of Arabia and a burning desire to be human. Indeed at points he fools himself into thinking he is human, until his crew mates quickly correct him. However, despite a performance that cements Fassbender's growing reputation as one of the best actors of his generation, David's story arc ultimately goes nowhere.
This a problem that is consistent throughout: Lack of narrative development. The characters may make important decisions but none that present any real surprise. The character most likely to sacrifice themselves is the one that does so, the character most likely to look out only for themselves, in a manner bordering on narcissism, does so. Granted this is a movie that is focused on philosophy and ideologies, however when one of the co-writers helped create Lost, a show that for all it's mysteries and secrets maintained audience loyalty through it's strong character arcs, the sense of disappointment is increased tenfold.
However Prometheus does share another striking similarity to the popular series: a frustrating explanation to the central enigma of the plot. In this case the central question is: were we created by a race of aliens labelled the Engineers, and if so why? The movie dispenses with the latter half of this issue around the 80 minute mark, despite the character's themselves constantly asking that most important of questions 'why'.
So the movie devolves into die hard territory. This is not the same as Alien, where Ripley barely escapes her ordeal, but this is full on action hero territory: Even John McClane would be impressed by the amount of times that the hero, who does not have any combat training that we know of, defies the icy hand of death.
But what about the explanation for the otherworldly origins of Homo Sapiens? This is addressed through its absence: We are what we are and the reasons are not important. This is a fair argument; however it does raise the need to use this as the basis for a story. Stories do not need to have instant resolutions, however the audience is led to believe that there will be a meaningful conversation with the engineer, who may or may not have created man, but instead the movie switches to an Independence Day style climax. To go from Kubrick to Michael Bay in one movie is a disheartening experience to say the least.
So as an original blockbuster science fiction film with philosophical aspirations, something very rare in this sequel dominated age, this is a failure. It is particularly disappointing, as this has officially killed any excitement that I had for Scott's upcoming Blade Runner sequel. However if all you wanted was a film that unlocked the mysteries of the original Alien, including witnessing the birth of the first of these creatures, then this film provides answers regardless, even if they are rushed.
This is a film that wants to have it's cake and eat it too: It wants to be an Alien prequel and it also wants to work as a stand alone film. It certainly fails as the latter, which is disappointing to those of us that neither wanted nor asked for a prequel to the pioneering sci fi horror flick. Also the movie's climax has the most obvious set up for a sequel since Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. If your curiosity for this movie is as undeniable as mine, then nothing I say will stop you watching this, just don't get invested in any of the questions it asks or the characters who ask them.