If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This has me slightly anxious in writing this. Not only because it is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, but also because there is a massive expectation from the fanbase. So, even as I write this, I have not yet decided my rating, but I will try to form a conclusive review, and also one that will give a synopsis, but not spoilers. That will allow the U.S. fans to read this without learning too much before they see it. See, I do look out for the readers.
Anyway, the time has come, so let's have a look at the story. We follow the crew of the ship Prometheus in the year 2093, after a long period in suspended sleep. They have been set a task to discover the roots of the human race, which has apparently been indicated by several historical images throughout civilisation which showed a man pointing to a set of stars. All images had the same stars, but no other information beyond that. The team is composed of scientists, of many areas, and an android by the name of David (Michael Fassbender). The archaeologists who found the most recent image are also on board - Elizabeth Shaw and Charles Holloway (Naomi Rapance and Logan Green).
They land on the moon which is the only part of the star formation which can sustain life, and thus has the best chance of sustaining a life-form that may link to us. This life-form has been given the name "Engineers" and the primary goal is to seek for anything relating to their existence, and any possible proof that can be analysed. Upon the landing, they quickly see a structure rising from the barren wasteland. A team sets out to investigate the ruins while maintaining contact with the ship, and logging all details. They stumble across many signs of a long-past civilisation, including a preserved corpse. Many mysterious objects are found as well, which appear to hold a dark translucent liquid. The head of the corpse is taken to be analysed, but David also steals one of the objects before an immense ionic storm sweeps over the ruins. Most of the team makes it back in time, but the remainder is stuck in the structure until the storm subsides.
The sample from the head confirms that the DNA is an identical match to that of a human, which appears to prove the theory relating to the images on Earth. However, it is the events after this that turns everything upside down, and threatens the entire mission. The ruins are not derelict as initially thought, and danger makes its way onto the ship. The Engineers that were thought to be long gone might not be so, and their relation to Earth could be far more sinister than anyone could have imagined...
It is a rather difficult movie to break down into a synopsis, partially because of the story itself, but mostly because it would be very easy to spill the beans on what is actually happening. But I did promise not to delve into that, so the meat of this review will go to the analysis of the movie itself. You will expect this from Ridley Scott, and from the trailers, but the movie is visually stunning. The technology of the ship right down to the smallest readout screen is beautifully detailed. The DNA of the Alien series runs thick here, so rather than being a distraction, it pulls you into the feel of the whole universe. The first third of the movie focuses on meeting the crew, observing the ship, and their first expedition into the ruins. It has a real sense of mystery and wonder to it; you're excited about what will be found and where it will lead. The visuals play their part in drawing you in; every scene is dripping with detail and looks gorgeous.
The ruins feel like a mix between a desolate chamber, and a labyrinth, very dark and foreboding. Each corner raises the tension, and it is shot in many points from a first-perspective as the helmet-cams relay the information back to the Prometheus. The effects used in this are impressive, as are how their search is laid out. The mapping droids are a good touch, and other technologies are used to actually develop the story. Their escape from the incoming storm amps up the tension, with its force and impact illustrated excellently. Everything up to here had me constantly guessing and invested in the story.
Sadly though, it is after this that things begin to slide downward, and even more unfortunately, at an increasing rate as the film progresses. Up to this point we had been fed information little by little, but once things begin to get explained, it snaps loose the mystery and replaces it with... well, disappointment really. First off, the side-stories are each given major focus and heavy screen time, to the point where you're not sure what the end goal is. Elizabeth's role especially becomes a bit all over the place, and includes a scene that is almost certainly going to separate the audience in a big way. David's role remains interesting for quite a while more, but then once the big reveal is given, it was totally implausible. It comes completely out of nowhere and gives you very little time to take this major plot element on board. I was just left confused and amazed that it was even allowed into the script.
If you're waiting to hear how the action scenes are, there's not that many of them. The jump-scares work in what they intend to do, and there are points of pretty violent injury and death that were really impressive. But they become less so as things go on, and the ending feels very under-whelming. And after watching the original Alien the day after seeing this, I can tell that the fans may not appreciate the conclusion given. For me, it was pretty ludicrous after everything we had seen, and to some may even be laughable.
Charlize Theron, who for all intensive purposes is leader of the mission, is a character I liked. She is stern, resilient, and dedicated to the core objectives of the mission. I think she clicks into the film rather well, though the best performance is given by (no surprise) Michael Fassbender as David. He evokes the flat, mysterious, and unemotional android extremely well, and for most of the film has by far the most interesting story. But again, his ending is either going to please or infuriate the fans, the final third goes in a direction that I see as being detrimental to the film, a road that should not have been walked down or even referenced as heavily as it is. I won't say any more beyond that, but I expect many debates on how it wrapped up things....
And so, I am still debating the rating to give. On the plus side, the opening hour or so is very impressive and great to watch. Its visuals are top-notch as you would expect, and the characters are great to follow too. The combination of the mystery along with the steady trickle of information had me leaning forward in my seat, anticipant on where it would go. The actors give good performances on the whole, the production quality is outstanding, and the camerawork is almost inspired at times. Sadly though, the film totally loses its sense of direction after this, testing your belief in the storyline and making some very strange choices to move things along. Now, I fully understand that it is at this point where everyone is splitting on the film. Some will enjoy the hell out of it, and I have no problem with that at all. But for me, it lost my interest and severed my ties to the story with a pair of rusty scissors. The last 40 minutes felt very out of place, and ends in a manner that felt like an uninspired sell-out.
Which is a shame, because there is a lot to like here in Prometheus. It just... wasn't bold enough to follow through on what it was promising all the time. I'm going to give this a Matinee (7/10), I think it still holds enough merit to see, at least for the elements that are really good, and it is worth seeing in the cinema. I know that some of you will scathe me for the rating, but I think it is as fair a one to give with everything considered. The good just about outweighs the bad, but it is a very mixed brew indeed.
Thanks for reading! ^__^