So after all the trailers (and synthetic human viral videos), Prometheus has finally hit Australian cinema screens. Has Ridley Scott done it again? Is it worth the hype? Danny and I have seen it, and to add fuel to the hype cauldron, we’d say it’s a pretty wicked sci-fi flick in its own right, but it's not an instant classic.
DANNY: In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan credited with the creation of man and the theft of fire for human use. He is revered by ancient Greeks as divinity. In Ridley Scott’s don’t-call-it-a-prequel to Alien, Prometheus is the name of the spaceship following an ancient star map to a distant planet.
Add in common knowledge that Scott’s story concept was also partially inspired by the “earth creating ancient astronauts” of Erich von Daniken (author of Chariots of the Gods?), and you can see the direction the film is headed in.
LUKE: With all the promotional material that was released before Prometheus hit cinemas, you could be forgiven for thinking this one might be a suckfest. Depending on how you view the film, that might actually be the case.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
LUKE: We start the film with a few establishing scenes where Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are discovering ancient finger paintings resembling star maps, before cutting into a tour around the Prometheus decks with our resident show-stealing Synthetic named David (Michael Fassbender).
We're told that there are 17 people on-board this exploratory vessel, and for me that instantly creates a problem. How are we going to adequately explore 17 characters in 124 minutes? Any chance we could have consolidated some characters and saved the disappointment when we didn't get to meet them all?
Our crowded crew lands on this distant world and they begin exploring an alien pyramid for signs of the beginning of the universe. We get our first few casualties here and I know that they annoyed Danny.
DANNY: Absolutely. Say you’re a biologist on a distant world. You see a snake-like alien that kinda looks like a hentai tentacle penis cross bred with a Venus Fly Trap. Don’t pat it like it’s cute or coo to it like a scared puppy.
One way or another, you’re about to be f**ked. In the mouth.
LUKE: And f**ked in the mouth he got. FYI, that's not the last time in the film you'll see that, either, so don't go in with a full stomach if you're squeamish.
I won't give you a blow-by-blow (I beg pun forgiveness), but we're left discovering that the engineers that supposedly created the human race were looking to destroy it before their black, sludgy super weapon seemingly backfired on them.
Incidentally, if you're wondering when the best time is to head out to the bathroom, wait until about 35 minutes in and slip out to answer the call of the wild after David doses Holloway's champagne. You're clear for about six minutes after this, and all you miss is a very PG "sex" scene.
DANNY: Feel free to flame me for this, but I’m going to call Prometheus a straight up prequel. They show direct linage. It’s set in 2089. The original Alien is 2122. Aliens, the sequel, 2179, and so on.
LUKE: You're right in that it's set in the right time and place(s) to be a prequel to Alien, but I don't thing it's as "straight-up" as you say. Prometheus feels to me more like a branch of the Alien universe.
Overall, it's a great watch, but you have to know what you're getting yourself into. Everyone who has ever directed a decent Alien film — be it Ridley Scott, James Cameron or David Fincher — brought their own style of storytelling with them. Ridley Scott's original emi>Alien was a futuristic thriller, James Cameron's Aliens was a war film set in space and David Fincher's Alien 3 was a closed-house horror. Ridley Scott brought his thriller tools back with him for Prometheus and gives us a great ride in this universe.
Thanks to that familiar style of storytelling, you'll also learn a lot about Alien lore as you watch Prometheus. You'll see lots of critters hell-bent on strangling, beating or violating you to death, you'll see the other races that share the universe with us, and you'll see a lot of Weyland Corporation's awesome tech.
DANNY: Prometheus certainly shares more "DNA" with Alien, than the sequels. But it also doesn’t quite feel like an alien movie, except for that awesome scene where Noomi Rapace gets her stomach robo-sliced. Her bloody getaway was when of the best parts of the film for me, right up until she ran back into her would-be killer proto-Bishop synthetic David and the revelation that the ancient bag-of-bones that is Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) has been alive and on board the whole time. Then it’s all like, oh, hey, awkward. WTF?
LUKE: As weird as it makes me sound, the self-surgery scene was my favourite. I hate doctors and I'm mad for DIY. I want one of those machines in my house for sure. But you're right, the gear change after the crazy surgery scene was clunky.
DANNY: There were a few moments in the movie like this for me, including the whole thing where the bro-captains do a Kamakazi Thelma and Louise-style run into the ship headed to Earth. I can’t quit youuuu!
LUKE: Yeah that was weird. Also, how are the audience meant to know that the Captain is a "shit pilot" as mentioned by a guy I'm calling "Underdeveloped Pilot Character 1"? Another example of too much going on I guess.
DANNY: For all its faults, I thought Prometheus was one of the better sci-fi movies I've seen in quite a while -– and the 3D even looked pretty great. I have a new rule: I’ll only see movies in 3D if they’re actually natively shot with 3D cameras. I did miss the use of James Cameron-style miniatures, though. The ships in this movie don’t quite have the gritty lived in feel -– but wow, it is a beautifully filmed and realised movie. It contains approximately 1300 digital effect shots led by Moving Picture Company and backed-up by a range of FX shops, including Weta Digital.
LUKE: You're right about the look. I'm put off by 3D, so much so that I'll always try and see the 2D-version of a movie while treating the 3D-version as a last resort, but Prometheus blew me away, especially in IMAX.
While on the topic of visual effects and art direction, mobile software manufacturers like Apple and Google need to tap designer talent from this movie. Much like in The Avengers, the UI designs on the Prometheus are gorgeous and something we need to see more of in the real world.
The soundtrack in Prometheus is also worth a mention. Solid homage to the original Alien film.
If you go into the theatre expecting a film that breaks as much ground as Ridley Scott's original Alien film back in 1979, you'll leave sorely disappointed. But if you watch this film as a great sci-fi romp that takes place in the alien universe, you'll have a great time.
Does it have some faults? Sure. Should you see it? Definitely.
Loved it? Hated it? Think we're full of shit? Tell us what you thought of Prometheus in the comments.