"Let's not get big headed about our discovery."
2012 | 15 | 118 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)/£24.99 (Blu-ray)/£29.99 (Blu-ray 3D)
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba
So much was expected from Ridley Scott this time around. The knowledge that the mastermind who defined our genre with the likes of Blade Runner and Alien was returning to science fiction – was indeed working on a story set in the Alien universe – had even those usually frosty to summer blockbusters speculating about what fresh magnum opus he would deliver. We temporarily and unwisely forgot that Scott was also the perpetrator of such muddles as Kingdom Of Heaven and Robin Hood.
Nevertheless, Prometheus is by no means a terrible movie. It’s not the prequel we wanted, but it is a glorious spectacle packed with thumping space opera tropes. Put ticks in your I Spy Book Of Classic Sci-Fi against inscrutable android, gross monsters, alien ghosts and cool spaceships. The visual effects will doubtless see it nominated for an award or two; its vision is grand and unlike anything Hollywood’s served up for yonks. Satisfyingly earnest performances from the likes of Michael Fassbender plus an unrepentant sensawunda make it impossible to be bored during the almost-too-concise running time. A frantic sequence where female lead Dr Shaw (Noomi Rapace) performs a caesarean section on herself to remove a parasite is freakin’ intense and one of the year’s most visceral scenes. But the implausible way she then sprints back to her adventures with only the merest suggestion of discomfort is symptomatic of the film’s logic-proof shields.
Much of the plot’s momentum, for instance, is created only by the crew’s stupidity. Set in the later years of the 21st century it relates how the Weyland Corporation funds a research mission to distant moon LV-223, following a star map uncovered by archaeologists. No expense is spared as the vessel Prometheus carts its crew of boffins and diggers to the ancient rock, where they uncover horseshoe-shaped silos built by the lost Engineer race – apparently the creators of life on Earth and a nod to the Space Jockey seen in 1979’s Alien. The Space Jockey’s elephantine “face” is actually a helmet, peeling away to reveal handsome, if oversized, humanoid features. Wow. But then… oh dear. Our crack team of mismatched geniuses trundle off exploring the rock just as night falls, instead of waiting for dawn. They take their gear off at the first opportunity, without considering pathogens. They naively finger-poke a freshly discovered snake creature. Do they not have horror movies 70 years from now… or even wildlife documentaries? Even the crew’s final, noble suicide run against the evil they’ve disturbed seems sudden and unlikely.
Not content with confounding fans of common sense, Scott also appears determined to (ahem) alienate devotees of his earlier masterpiece. There are clues about the purpose and lifecycle of the mighty Xenomorph but they are unsatisfying and incomplete, the Engineers’ motives never truly examined. It’s possible the filmmakers set out to be deliberately ambiguous, and fans have filled entire forums looking for interpretations. It would be in keeping with screenwriter Damon Lindelof’s time on Lost to answer questions only with more vagueness. But Prometheus ultimately fails to satisfy an audience who’ve waited several decades for straight answers about where Ripley’s nemesis came from.
On the plus side, the new chronology rewrites the history of Weyland Industries in a way that surely contradicts the timeline of Alien Vs Predator. So for rendering that non-canon, Ridley Scott should receive a hearty welcome back to the genre at least.
David Bradley twitter.com/SFXDaveB
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