Prometheus: the second viewing

PrometheusRidley Scott’s sci-fi blockbuster (which it now most certainly is) seems to have really divided audiences. There are those who are willing to look past its faults and enjoy it, and those who aren’t and don’t (as far as I’m aware, it has yet to be hailed as flawless). I’ve already reviewed Prometheus at length (over at The Digital Fix), but I’ve now seen it a second time, so for what they’re worth here’s a few additional thoughts which occur to me.

Firstly, I stand by my original view that this is a beautifully crafted and entirely gripping slice of science-fiction. There’s no need to restate the obvious by praising its visuals – Scott is an artist above all else, and even the film’s detractors concede it looks the business. Its willingness to think big and not pander to the lowest common denominator makes Prometheus the most cinematically rewarding sci-fi vision this century has produced thus far.

The two-hour running time for me simply flew by. Indeed, if anything the film is too short. There were several moments where I wished Scott had lingered a little longer, especially in the run-up to the landing on the planet/moon. Remember how unwelcoming that original planet was in Alien? How that ominous mood was gradually built up? This is a film that needs to breathe a little more slowly and a little more deeply, to let the atmosphere really envelop you. I suspect it would be all the more satisfying for it.

Equally some of the characters could have benefited from being fleshed out more. It’s the one area the film genuinely falls down on, which is a shame because Alien is a text-book example of how to sketch memorable characters in a genre film. I liked Idris Elba’s Captain Janek, for example, but without adequate screen time he remained little more than ‘the guy with the accordion’. A script polish could have made all the difference – where’s Dan O’Bannon when you need him?

As for those alleged plot-holes, I didn’t have any significant problems with the narrative. On a second viewing I think the film flows more smoothly, and nagging details about character motivations became less bothersome (although they don’t recede entirely). As for things like ‘Why didn’t Vickers run away to the side of the crashing ship?’ (SPOILER), it seemed to me that she WAS running away to the side, albeit at an angle; the sheer size of the Engineers’ ship doesn’t make it clear how futile her actions were.

This is all just idle fan nit-picking, of course. I suspect Scott is an astute businessman and recognised the need for a tight theatrical cut that came in as close as possible to two hours. But I also suspect a longer version of the film is done and dusted and waiting to be shipped on dvd and blu-ray. I can’t wait to see it, and I’m willing to bet that it will come to be seen as the definitive version of the film, just as the special edition of James Cameron’s Aliens is now viewed as the superior cut of that movie.

Incidentally, you’d be forgiven for thinking early on that Prometheus is actually a remake of Paul W.S. Anderson’s unloved 2004 spin-off Alien vs Predator, which similarly posited the notion that the Xenomorphs had connections with Earth’s long distant past, and that a man called Weyland had known of their existence long before his eponymous company sent Ripley and her crew to investigate planet LV-426. In fact, the AvP films are not only ignored by Prometheus but are cut loose from the franchise altogether (which one suspects won’t be the cause of too many shed tears).

Oh, and if/when the sequel is eventually announced, what are the odds it’s going to be called Prometheus Unbound? You can have that one for free, Sir Ridders.

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Review: Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott’s return to the massively popular Alien franchise he helped launch in 1979 shoulders an enormous burden in audience expectations – this is his first science fiction film since Blade Runner, after all – and it’s little short of a miracle that he succeeds in delivering a worthy follow-up. It may not be the equal of its classic progenitor or his landmark 1982 future noir, but Scott proves he still has it in him to deliver a beautifully crafted, mature slice of sci-fi while keeping audiences on the edge of their seats. Raising as many questions as it does answers, the director and Twentieth Century Fox have successfully resuscitated one of the studio’s key properties by delving in to its origins (much as they did with last year’s X-Men and Planet of the Apes reboots) instead of churning out a redundant remake, managing the difficult act of keeping long time fans onboard without (ahem) alienating newcomers.

Full review: Prometheus | Cinema Review | Film @ The Digital Fix

Waiting for Prometheus

Prometheus poster
TOO. MUCH. INFORMATION.

So, Prometheus then. I know I’m not the only person eagerly anticipating Sir Ridley Scott’s latest project. As we all know by now, it’s set within the Alien universe before the events of his classic sci-fi horror, though to what extent it serves as a direct prequel remains to be seen. It’s in 3D (which saddens me a little). It stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. Fassbender’s character is an android. And it has something to do with the origins of the mysterious ‘Space Jockey’ corpse briefly seen in the first film.

That’s about as much as I know, and I’m desperately trying to keep it that way. Occasionally a film comes along that you really, REALLY don’t want spoiled for you. That you want to unfold afresh before your eyes, letting the story take you to its conclusion with no knowledge of the journey to come. To allow the surprises to catch you unawares. In short: to really, truly, honestly experience it.

It’s a tricky thing in the age of the internet though. Scripts are reviewed online before they are even greenlit. Spoilers abound everywhere. Images are sneaked and spread through social media. Trailers are available across hundreds, if not thousands of websites. Even the trailers themselves now have trailers.

To ignore all of this about a film you are desperate to see requires a significant amount of willpower. In fact, it requires you to embark on some sort of hermit mission by inhabiting a kind of digital cave, only occasionally venturing out to see what’s new in the weird and wonderful land of civilization. Needless to say, I haven’t been completely successful. New images from the film crop up on sites like Facebook unbidden and I am forced to click hastily away, mentally renewing my sworn oath of spoiler chastity.

Mercifully, the release date for Prometheus is slowly ticking round and within a matter of weeks I will be privy at last to its mythical contents. Until then, please don’t tell me anything about the film, otherwise I might be forced to kill you, and then eat you. Just in case, you understand.