Film Review: Prometheus (Spoiler Free)

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus; a sorta-kinda prequel to his groundbreaking 1979 film Alien. I saw it without the 3D or Imax, and didn’t feel the loss at all. The theater was packed.

Let me just say at the outset that this film was an outstanding success from my point of view. Speaking as an enormous fan of all the Alien films (even including Alien: Resurrection), Prometheus managed to do something I didn’t think any film would in the series would be able to; it actually created the same emotional response in me that the original Alien film did. It was completely effective in evoking the sense of dread, anticipation, and if-only-they-knew-they-might-live-through-this angst that I felt when I saw Alien in the theater on a field trip to New York City (interestingly, since we had a few hours to kill before seeing the movie we were there to see– the German version of Das Boot– a friend and I took in Alien beforehand).

One piece of advice to you who might be fans of Alien; don’t think of this as a “prequel”. It is, and it isn’t. If you go into this expecting to see face huggers and LV-426, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s… bigger than that. It doesn’t set up Alien, it sets up the entire Alien universe. Go into this looking for broad themes, not specific artifacts.

Some reviewers thought the cast too large (large enough that the majority of the crew are just sort of extras waiting to die; the fact that this movie takes a heavy toll on the cast cannot, in any way, shape, matter, or form, be thought of as a spoiler– it’s setting up Alien, fer chrissakes…), but I thought it worked very well. Michael Fassbender (Magneto from X-Men: First Class) is characteristically brilliant as David, and he’s written in such a way that the audience expectations regarding his character are well played upon.

It should go without saying that the visuals are flawless and stunning. They are all that and more. I could have done with a little less CGI and a little more mechanical effects, but I’m just old fashioned.

The music was interesting. There’s a great motif that evokes a sense of exploration and wonder. However, it gets played throughout the film, but it’s so short and is played so often that sometimes it really doesn’t fit; people are dying, and they play the “wonder theme”. On the other hand, there were some very nice nods to the musical motifs of the other films.

There were some nice dialog nods, too; not so heavy handed as, say, Star Wars, where the same line gets said three or four times across different movies, but they were definitely there (“we are LEAVING!”).

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and found it a worthy addition to the Alien canon. Leave your expectations and preconceptions behind, and fans of the original should get a real kick out of this film.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

10 thoughts on “Film Review: Prometheus (Spoiler Free)

  1. I'm hoping to see it when it comes to the 2$ theater here on base. Until then, I'm doing my best to keep my head in the sand so I don't accidentally hear any spoilers!

  2. I have to disagree. It's not that it was a bad movie, but that it was trying to be too many things at once and being none of them very well.

    Couldn't figure out if it was a shlocky horror flick, a high minded movie about meeting the Space Jockeys, a spiritual participant of the Alien universe, or what. It was just all over the place.

    What it really needed was to settle down and be about one thing rather than trying to be about many different things.

    And that feeling of dread you got? I never got it at all. It had none of the atmosphere of the first movie. It was really, to my eye, a lot like Alien: Ressurection. Good ideas, bad execution.

  3. Thanks for this review, it saves me writing one. I also thought that PROMETHEUS was flat-out excellent, especially in terms of the visuals, and the performances of Rapace and Fassbender in particular.

    The one critical gripe I quasi-agree with:

    "Some reviewers thought the cast too large (large enough that the majority of the crew are just sort of extras waiting to die . . . )"

    Is answered very well by the issue of genre: like ALIEN, this film is a sci-fi / horror hybrid, and in horror films there are always some ancillary characters who do somewhat thoughtless things and die. I loved PROMETHEUS.

  4. Also, to respond to Hamlet, I actually agree that the film is a bit too ambitious, especially in terms of some of the thematic stuff: the "what does it mean when your creator acts a certain way?" type stuff. I wish the film had taken a bit more time with some of those questions, it definitely feels like it ends a bit abruptly. But despite its flaws, I would much rather see a film that strives for greatness and falls a bit short than one that succeeds impeccably at achieving mediocrity. So I forgive PROMETHEUS some of its sins, which are sins of overreaching I think.

  5. Carter Soles: I tend to agree. It's not a bad film, it's just . . . dissapointing to me. I expected more of it. It could have been more, could have been better, but they just failed in so many ways due to sloppy writing.

    It wasn't that it took too big of a bite, in my opinion, but that, to extend the metaphor, they didn't thoroughly chew the bite they took if you get my meaning. Could have been vastly superior with better focus and tighter writing and less stupid characters.

    The geologist and biologist getting lost was particularly inexcusable, really, especially since the geologist had already demonstrated the ability to flawlessly map the facility and interact remotely with his flawless map. That's just rank idiocy on his part. And then there's "pet the hissy bitey snake thing" as if it were just a skittish puppy, not to mention where the two decided to camp for the night.

    It's a horror flick, and you fully expect some stupidity, but that level of stupidity is along the lines of "any dumber and they'd forget to breath."

  6. I am liking the movie more and more after viewing it. When I came out of the theater I was giving it a B-minus in my book. Now it's a solid B. I think the good stuff was buried under a lot of summer blockbuster junk. The biologist was a cardboard cut-out movie cliche of the dopey guy. Seriously, he's a biologist and he's trying to pet an alien life form? And yes, how do they get lost when those probes map the place relentlessly? But the more I think about it, the more I like the film after the fact. But yeah, they were trying to cram a lot in there and thus they didn't touch on some themes enough. But I still appreciate what I think they were trying to get across in the film.

  7. @Hamlet: You make lots of good points, especially the bit about the flagrantly stupid "pet the hissy bitey snake thing" and the location where the two goofy scientists decided to camp for the night. I also agree that the biggest weaknesses are at the script level.

  8. Good review. If anyone is interested, I also have a review at my film review blog –

    Yes, I'm drumming up followers, but I also agree with many of the points in this review, and some of the points made in the comments–I discuss the geologist/biologist stupidity in my review as well; they're like the Rosencrantz and Gildenstern of the Alien series, though not as culturally relevant. I enjoyed the film; I did feel it took far too big of a bite AND didn't take long enough to chew the bite it took.

    Anyway, there you have it: if anyone's interested, check out my site. Be sure to read the introduction blog (it's tagged "introduction" where I explain my purpose and conventions.

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