When I first watched Alien in 2006, I was dumbstruck by its characters, story and the special effects – as I am quite squeamish, there was a niggling worry that it was not worth the two or so hours running time. How wrong I was. Now, over 30 years after the original film, we’re getting a prequel…sort of.
Prometheus sees Charlie Holloway and Elizabeth Shaw (Logan Marshall-Green and Noomi Rapace) discover an ‘invitation’ shared amongst a number of archeological sites around the world. They find that it is linked to a planet, LV-223, and they soon embark on a scientific expedition funded by Weyland Corporation to discover the mystery behind the invitation. Upon exploring the site, the mission takes a disastrous turn as the crew find more than just the odd artefact.
It is fair to say that interest in the Alien series dwindled shortly after the release of the lacklustre Alien: Resurrection. The legendary xenomorphs have only since appeared in the Alien vs Predator series, and even then, fans have stuck by the original Alien film and its sequel, Aliens, directed by James Cameron, as their series’ favourites.
When Scott announced his intention to make a prequel, general reaction seemed to be that of excitement and anticipation. There has been so much hype surrounding this film that there were no obvious doubts in Ridley Scott’s efforts to revisit the Alien story. Unfortunately, this hype seems to have backfired. The film itself is drawn out too much to cover the somewhat unnecessary 124 minutes running time and the thing that made Alien such a classic – the successful and effective splicing of science-fiction and horror – is absent to a degree. There is a lack of tension as you can see the deaths of certain characters from a mile away, and with the large roster of crew members to cover, some of them are rendered surplus to needs. The film is dominated by CGI, overpowering any substance the story had and it lacks the wow factor that Alien had.
However, it needs to be remembered that Prometheus is not a direct prequel to the Alien franchise. It takes place on another planet and it seems that its past, shown through holographic images, is only mildly connected. Filmgoers not familiar with the struggles of Ellen Ripley shouldn’t have to worry too much; the story speaks for itself – its similarities with the original film are subtle (e.g. the invitation to the planet, the inclusion of an android as a crew member, the quest for survival) but serve as franchise references.
The cast – impressive as it may be – is dwarfed by Rapace’s determined yet emotionally troubled Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s compliant android David. Rapace is more of a reluctant heroine – she has brains but doesn’t seem to put them to good use and as she is more attuned to her emotional connections, such as her deceased father and her lover Holloway, she is seen as a weaker female character to her supervisor Meredith Vickers (the underused Charlize Theron) until a plot twist thrusts her into action.
Fassbender’s emotionless and cold demeanour is sinister to say the least, but his performance makes a lasting impression and the character’s involvement with the Company and his off-the-record exploring saves the film from its some-sci-fi, mainly-action premise, as well as makes Prometheus a fraction more watchable.
The film boasts an impressive set design and the script is lacking in places – the stereotypes of the lackey and the money-obsessed employee were unnecessary – but the missing feeling of tension (mainly due to lack of isolation) and the film’s promising plot devices towards the end only serves the rushed (and easily foreseen) ending.
Overall, Prometheus is enjoyable as a summer blockbuster but it does not offer enough to compliment the Alien franchise.