How far would you go to learn more about mankind’s origins? What price would you pay? Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi epic, Prometheus, explores these questions in a film featuring grand visuals created through some technical wizardry that is simply out of this world.
The film’s special effects are responsible for both the deadly-looking alien creatures as well as the enormous space vessels, while retaining enough subtlety to make it all feel authentic.
And, in typical Ridley Scott fashion, Prometheus is enhanced by some fantastic cinematography, depicting alien landscapes.
But while there is little doubt in my mind that Prometheus will find several Oscar nods in the technical field when the time comes, I doubt it will earn any accolades for its narrative.
The adventure begins in 2089 when two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), find an ‘invitation’ from what they assume is the alien race which ‘engineered’ mankind. Soon, they convince a wealthy businessman, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), to hire a crew and fund a spaceship to discover more.
A few years later, the two are off on their space-faring trip in the scientific vessel christened ‘Prometheus’. Those travelling with our archaeologists are uncharacteristically crude for a group of educated explorers. Leading the group is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), an employee of Weyland’s company, whose character adds very little substance to the film. The most interesting person in the crew is David (brilliantly portrayed by Michael Fassbender), the ship’s android who is constantly striving to be as human as possible. Every time David is told he isn’t human, he is clearly hurt and we reflect on how our alien creators will treat us when we treat our own creations with such little compassion. As the mission progresses, our explorers learn that not everyone in the group has noble intentions, and that not all invitations are friendly.
Scott has wowed cinema goers with modern classics like Black Hawk Down (2001) and swept us away with historical epics like Gladiator (2000) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005). Two of his science-fiction films, Blade Runner (1982) and Alien (1979), became fan favourites and influenced cinema for years to come. Prometheus originally began developing as a prequel to the Aliens franchise and the irony is that it recycles so much of Alien’s narrative structure that on some level it feels like Ridley Scott is ripping off his own masterpiece. Moreover, the derivative nature of Prometheus isn’t limited to photocopying Alien’s plot development. The film is littered with a number of one-dimensional characters who display a level of dimwittedness associated with characters in a low-budget horror film. Trained scientists, who clearly have the intelligence to have been chosen for space exploration, exhibit childish recklessness, lacking rudimentary precaution in unfamiliar situations.
That being said, Prometheus contains scenes that are genuinely frightening, thanks to Scott’s skill at building suspense and topping it with the gruesome. What truly makes the alien creatures in the film click is how repulsively organic they look.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 17th, 2012.
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