In the world of film few things have been more anticipated over the last few years than the return of legendary director Ridley Scott to the sci-fi genre. Scott hasn’t made a sci-fi film since he pretty much redefined the genre with Alien and then Blade Runner, so his return has been highly anticipated to say the least.
Scott makes that return to sci-fi with Prometheus, a lofty and highly ambitious piece of work that sees the director successfully capture an atmosphere and tone he’s proven to be a master of in the past. Scripted by Damon Lindelof (one of the head writers on Lost) and Jon Spaihts, this is grown-up science fiction that dares to ask big questions and tackle big ideas while still being entertaining and compelling.
After discovering what could be clues to the origins of mankind, a team of scientists and researchers embark on a mission hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth to a distant planet to find out. What they discover leads them to a battle to save mankind.
Much was made of the fact that this isn’t supposed to be a prequel to Alien but in fact a stand-alone film with nods to that classic film here and there. It turns out that may have been marketing talk to sell the film on its own rights (shock horror!), which is fair enough, but the more than arbitrary links to Alien are apparent and ultimately it flat out establishes itself as about as close to a prequel as you can get without it meaning that you absolutely need have to have seen the original Alien to understand it. That means it can appeal to both long-time fans of the original and those who are coming to Prometheus anew.
Visually Prometheus is absolutely stunning, from the intricate set design to the bold special effects. No other director can create a world quite like Ridley Scott when it comes to sci-fi, establishing a grand and perhaps even over-the-top aesthetic in firm reality. Scott is more interested in creating a mood and sense of atmospheric dread than he is in action which might come off as boring to some but for me it was enthralling and absorbing viewing.
The film also boasts a terrific cast and great performances across the board. Stand outs are Noomi Rapace as the Ripley-like scientist desperate for answers, Charlize Theron as the controlling company rep and especially Michael Fassbender as the android David whose performance is verging on a work of genius – he’s almost like a more advanced humanoid version of HAL-9000 with his soft, menacingly calm voice. There are undoubtedly cracks in the logic of character motivation at some points but in my eyes this is made up for with the performances and distinctness of the characters.
The last act of the film maybe feels a little rushed as it hurtles towards a bombastic ending, and may not deliver many of the answers to the questions it asks, but I found its ambiguity fascinating rather than irritating. It’s more concerned with asking the question than giving the answers but isn’t that okay when the questions pertain to the meaning of life and where we came from? I think so.
The film asks these questions via a captivating slow-burner of a plot, enhanced by stellar visuals and brilliant performances. It’s obviously too early to tell whether or not Prometheus will be a new sci-fi classic but it’s a film that begs for repeat viewings because of the level of detail and ambitious ideas. Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi and as far as I’m concerned he does not disappoint.