Ridley Scott, the man behind two of the most influential science-fiction films of all time (his 1979 film Alien, and 1982 film Blade Runner), made his return to science-fiction earlier this year with Prometheus (2012). Set within the milieu of the Alien franchise that he started over thirty years ago, Prometheus is a loose prequel to the masterful science-fiction-horror film that established his reputation as a director with a vision.The elements that make Alien such an impressive film are found within the first twenty minutes: the film begins with the conflict, everyone is at odds with one another and yet there doesn't seem to be a main character, and the women are strong. Alien defies every genre expectation found within science-fiction and horror. Everything feels too real to be science "fiction" as people complain about getting paid for extra time on the job. As far as horror goes, everyone's lives are essentially in turmoil from the beginning - in comparison to the usual grace-period that horror films donate to their protagonists. Finally, Ridley Scott has been known throughout his career for featuring strong women in his films (and occasionally reinventing the "buddy film" as seen with Thelma & Louise), and this is particularly true within Alien as Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) sticks to her guns even though the men on the ship disagree with her often, she is nearly killed by a pornographic magazine as it is shoved down her throat, and at one point has to save a pussycat (you get the picture).
Sadly, all of these elements are completely absent in Prometheus.
To Ridley Scott's credit, Prometheus isn't trying to be Alien (or necessarily be a true prequel), but that can't save the film from itself. With the initial concept of Prometheus, we are – again – being presented a different take on the science-fiction film: existentialism. Prometheus was pitched as a film that was going to show the "true" origins of life and would make everyone in the film question what they've always believed. Enter Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), who is an archaeologist that has found a star map that should lead them to the planet where "The Engineers" originated. She is a Christian girl, and these discoveries concerning an alien species that may have created humans are leading her to question her faith in God. Deep stuff, but that's about as deep as the film gets.
Once she and her crew of scientific misfits and rebels land on the designated planet, the film almost instantly goes down hill. Any amount of subtlety that made Alien wonderful is completely absent in Prometheus (even with minuscule sound details, Ridley is spelling everything out to the audience IN ALL CAPS). This character can't have kids, but this is a film about the origin of life, and this character isn't even human, but he'd like to be, and this character doesn't believe in God, but blah blah blah. At the beginning of the film, characters snoop around Charlize Theron's office and find that she has a personal medical bay... guess what, it's gonna get used later in the movie. At one point in the film, a main character gets infected with a disease that rapidly begins spreading through his entire body and he is rushed back to the space ship. When they finally arrive back at the shuttle, he is greeted by Charlize Theron with a flamethrower and is torched to death. Any time that a character's thoughts are being watched, the sound of chimes is ever present to highlight visual beats to ensure that the audience doesn't miss the obvious details.
The end of the film is a complete travesty as characters act in ways that defy the audience's understanding of who they are and what they stand for (the key example being Captain Janek (Idris Elba) who hasn't cared about anything happening prior to this specific event). It also falls into stereotypical horror territory: the bad guy is still alive and is going to sneak up on the protagonist. Additionally, the final shot of the film is so unnecessary. It feels as though it's trying to say, "this is a prequel to Alien, and there might be a Prometheus sequel in the works."
It is easy to say that if the film were an hour longer that more of the characters could have been fleshed out and the concepts could have been expanded upon, but the fact of the matter is that it is not an hour longer. I usually don't write reviews with such a negative and non-chalant demeanor, but this film treats its audience like such a bunch of idiots that I can't help but get angry. Sure, the visuals are interesting, but it's nothing new: It's Alien meets the special effects of the 2000s (which is still not as stimulating as the special effects observed in 1977's Star Wars or the original Alien).
My ranking: 2/5