292. Prometheus (US/GB 2012)

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Sean Harris, Logan Marshall-Green

Bit Part: Dominic Wong, Harry Fowler (in Lawrence of Arabia)

Music: Marc Streitenfeld

Cinematography: Darius Wolski

Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof

Fact: Ridley Scott based the smoking nightscapes of Blade Runner

Lie: He based the dismal, distant planet of
Prometheus on Sunderland.

Time: 124 minutes

 In one line: a group of scientists travel to a distant plant to find the origins of life


In the distant past a humanoid alien arrives on Earth, drinks a strange potion, disintegrates and populates the world with his DNA. On 2089, a group of scientists discover an ancient star map on the Isle of Skye. Four years later, they set off for the dstant planet LV-223 - the apparent source of a series of star maps/invitations found in many cultures over the centuries. Archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) have been financed by ageing industrialist Peter Weyland (Pierce) and are overseen  by the sinister Meredith Vickers (Thereon) and the apparently benign android David (Fassbender). Space ship Prometheus lands on the miserable landscape of LV-223 and find signs of  a technically advanced race, but also signs of violence and infestation. Destruction, betrayal and death await the crew - foreshadowing the fate of Nostromo, many years in the future....


Prometheus seems to have disappointed a lot of critics who were expecting a film that would have the same impact as Alien. Times of changed and sci-fi and sci-fi horror are so much a part off the mainstream these days that only something wholly original would come anywhere near to the sheer visceral impact of Scott's 1979 original. It was never going to happen with Prometheus.

I wasn't disappointed. It's a tremendous film in its own right and a brilliant cinematic spectacle. I doubt if I'll be thinking about every day in some form or other in the way that I probably do with Alien, but as a piece of intelligently written, well-acted and brilliantly-realised science-fiction, I doubt if it will be bettered this year.

The film looks beautiful at times. The art direction, costume and sets are exceptional. The CGI is astonishing and its use of 3D is far superior to the poverty row use of the medium in this year's other 'sci-fi' blockbuster Avengers Assemble.

Acting honours go to Fassbender as the android 'David' (and sporting a hybrid Lawrence of Arabia /Man Who Fell to Earth barnet) and there's decent support from Rapace and Elba. There's also another great (but all too brief) performance from crazed British actor Sean Harris. There's lots of foreshadowing of the narrative of the first and third films (or ripping off the plots of - depending on how you look at it) and there's a sense that there was a much longer film that got left on the cutting floor. This can be seen particularly in the jump from the discovery of the star map to the near completion of the the journey to the 'Engineer' planet of LV-233 (there's a Luncheon Vouchers joke here that is so anachronistic that I'm too embarrassed to run it past you). 

"Will you have a look at it, love? I swear it's a tumour...."  Noomi Rapace resurrects Peter Kay's 'the difference between men and women' routine many years into the future...

The film has its faults. There are a number of inconsistencies and implausible decisions made by the crew; some of the dialogue can be clichéd and risible at times and there's a complete dearth of humour, but there's much to admire. The creation and realisation of the alien planet are superb, and as a seasoned and ageing film and sci-fi fan, it reminded me of how as a boy I would marvel at the glossy graphic art covers of science fiction novels, hoping that one day, films would look like Prometheus. It's easy to forget how far the sci-fi of today has progressed in terms of creating new worlds and plausible new technologies.

I know that's not enough. A great film must always have a great story to tell, and (perhaps) this is where Prometheus falls down - despite its epic reach. There are two great scenes. The first shows one of the original 'Engineer' aliens (looking remarkably like a waxy Woody Harrelson) populating the world through its DNA dissolving into the waters of a gigantic waterfall. The second involves the removal of an alien through an automatic surgery device which is nerve jangling to say the least.

An 'Engineer': a waxy Roy Munson in a 'hoodie'

As I often say: see this film at the cinema. The film's cinematic spectacle lies in the hugeness of its effects and spaceships and lonely planet vistas.

The tiny details - a parasitic worm/baby alien  floating in a bloodshot eye - look fantastic on a giant screen as well.