Review: Prometheus (2012)

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender

It’s no secret that casual viewers and cinephiles alike have collectively anticipated Mr. Ridley Scott’s return to the “genre he helped define.” With only two, yet remarkably inventive efforts under his belt prior to an agreeably hit-or-miss bulk of his career, his adroitness in crafting Alien and Blade Runner have established him as someone to bestow faith upon time and time again. Seeing as how the repetitiveness of modern technology could have possibly taken a toll on how game-changing Prometheus turned out visually, it instead succumbs to the opposite by not properly exuding a sheer level of engagement, forgoing the intelligence, cohesion and genre-bending thrills its predecessors were known for by instead sporting a wholly unique, eye-popping chunk of visual pageantry.

Right off the bat, I can definitively say that Prometheus generally isn’t as middling as many are making it out to be. Sure, what some may consider to be boring or pretentious is merely a matter of their own personal opinions, yet there’s some truth residing within the use of both of these adjectives, if to varying degrees. Focusing on the exploratory space vessel Prometheus as its maiden voyage sets out to, if you haven’t learned by now, meet mankind’s maker, the crew’s predictably astonished to realize that they are in fact not alone in the universe. As superbly executed standard and viral marketing campaigns have led us to believe, things don’t nearly go as planned as the film’s tagline creeps steadily into the minds of both us and the film’s cast of disappointingly one-dimensional characters.

As was mentioned by my colleague Josh in his write-up of Scott’s latest, it’s peculiar to witness how much time’s been devoted to Michael Fassbender’s multifaceted android David, leaving the other characters to simply exist for the sake of fulfilling their respective on and off-board duties. What Prometheus does have going for it though are the imaginative, moreover breathtaking visuals and tangible artistic sensibilities that helped garner the original Alien its rock-solid notoriety. This aside, the script tends to overtly cater to those familiar with the series’ origins while simultaneously throwing newcomers for a loop with a somewhat singular storyline that manages to engage more than bore; even if its attempt at creating a mash-up of the first two films in the franchise falls a bit flat and feels self-indulgent as such.

For all the bells and whistles Prometheus‘ set pieces sport, what takes place throughout is a genre-bending thrill ride of midly epic proportions, sporting a forgivable penchant for general narrative sloppiness and gratuitous gore when necessary whilst shedding light on the legendary aliens’ not-so-humble beginnings. Once the groundwork’s been laid for us, the central story arc is rendered negligible as Prometheus’ tampering with their ancient discovery, for lack of better phrasing, unleashes the beast in the fullest sense. Foreseeable discoveries are made corresponding with how the shit’s very clearly hit the fan, and characters die in mostly creative ways as the otherworldly species has its way with them, leaving us to embrace the more horror-driven side of things as they all steadfastly (and foolishly) continue to pursue their goal.

As unfavorable as the film may sound upon reading this, it’s undeniably involving from both a visceral and purely suspense-driven standpoint. Once things get going, tension rarely falters as things go from bad to worse, even if Prometheus remains glaringly thin from both a humanistic and narrative standpoint. It’s, unfortunately, just sheer escapism for the sole purpose of entertaining those looking for something above average in this vein, however it’s easy to discern that Scott’s much-anticipated return to his roots falls flat where it counts the most: in the realm of cohesive, intelligent contemporary science-fiction. It’s equal parts spine-tingling and, like I mentioned, frequently tense beyond words, but all Prometheus really has going for it is its atmosphere, an appealingly bleak (and often stunning) visual aesthetic and an unsurprisingly stellar performance from Mr. Fassbender himself. See it just to squash the hype if you must, but Prometheus is assuredly an average to good effort that just so happens to fall in with this year’s more worthwhile cinematic forays, despite how off-putting its shortcomings may appear to be.

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