There’s been a certain whiff of Phantom Menace hanging around Prometheus for a few weeks now.

With all the secrecy, followed by spoilerific trailers and TV spots, avoiding any information about the film has been a difficult, frustrating and trying task. It’s everywhere.

And with that amount of hype riding on a film, it would be a rare thing for it to please everyone.

For those of you that have been hiding under a rock in the deepest, darkest parts of the Sahara, Prometheus is the much anticipated prequel to Ridley Scotts seminal 1979 sci-fi horror film, Alien.

Much anticipated because a) it’s been years since audiences were treated to a decent Alien flick and b) it’s the first sci-fi flick from Ridley Scott since 1982’s Blade Runner.

It tells the story of the crew of the space shuttle Prometheus, who are on a mission to investigate a part of the universe that appears on several ancient markings scattered across planet Earth. Some of the crew think its a map, while the main character Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw believes its an invitation from engineers, the creators of life.

Arriving at planet LV 233, they find massive hollow structures that may harbour mankind’s engineers and duly the crew go in to investigate.

While I admire the amount of work that has gone into it and the talent involved in creating the sets, the costumes and the special effects, Prometheus falls short on its script and ultimately, it buckles under the weight of its own ambitions.

When a film opens with a scene that starts with the dawn of all life on Earth, it had better have something pretty special and unique up its sleeve to follow up on the questions it then starts to ask.

What follows after a promising first half, is a bog standard monster movie. That’s no bad thing normally – as far as I’m concerned Alien excelled at this, but Alien wasn’t bogged down with big questions such as “where did life come from?” and “who created us and why?”

And on these aspects, Prometheus just doesn’t deliver and in true Damon Lindelof style, Prometheus presents even more questions about this than Alien ever did.

There is also a surprising lack of tension in Prometheus. This is possibly because Ridley Scott and the production wanted to go for something more wondrous and other worldly than all out scares.

The sets are impressive and still clearly still inspired by HR Giger’s work in the Necromonicon, as everything is dark, weird and slightly perverse.

Aside from Michael Fassbender, the script doesn’t really give any of the characters a chance to shine and I can’t help but feel an extended cut will be hitting the DVD shelves later next year.

There’s a by the books turn from the ever reliable Noomi Rapace as the christian scientist Elisabeth Shaw, and Charlize Theron and Idris Elba give impressive performances with what moments they have, but ultimately the script is wasted on them and merely brushes the surface of these potentially interesting characters.

The rest of the crew are simply dead men walking that you can spot a mile off and as a result you feel very little empathy for them and when they finally cop it, it is almost a relief as the waiting game is over.

In Alien and to a certain extent Aliens, the characters would talk about everyday problems – being overworked and underpaid. In Prometheus, it’s all chat about life, it’s origins and finding our creators.

With a more restrained pair of hands, these elements of the script may have been better handled. But here it just all feels a little pretentious, forced and results with a lack of actual character development and generally feels a bit clunky.

Charlize Theron and Idris Elba

Charlize Theron and Idris Elba

It’s not all bad – the scenes featuring Michael Fassbender’s David are easily the highlight of the film and Fassbender, Scott and Lindelof are to be commended for creating a character that yearns to understand so much of humanity yet comes across as so alien.

There’s also some interesting developments with Noomi Rapace’s Elisbeth Shaw, but sadly as soon as these details are revealed, they are quickly swept under the carpet for more standard b-movie shocks.

My main gripe with Prometheus is the fact that it is not just a direct prequel to Alien, it’s clearly a set up for a new series based in the same universe. And here in lies the problem – gone are the days of when a film like this could stand on its own two feet and stand alone as a single entity – and Prometheus suffers from this in a big, big way as the ending screams “SEQUEL!” louder than any instalment in the Alien franchise so far.

Much like Damon Lindelof’s work on the seminal TV series Lost, the lack of pay off means the film just fizzles out and leaves you wanting to know more.  That may work well in a 45 minute episode, but after 2 hours I like to see certain plot developments tied up.

Some may argue that this open conclusion is a good thing, but if “big things have small beginnings” they can at least have a proper ending too.

While big in design and big in ambition, it’s small in substance. Much like the structures that our heroes find on the planet LV223, Prometheus is epic and huge but ultimately hollow inside.

Verdict: 6.5 out of 10

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.

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  • There was just too many unanswered questions, something that Red Letter Media picked up on and rightly lampooned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x1YuvUQFJ0

  • Rambler

    Have to agree with much of what you said Colin. I saw the film only this week and while I enjoyed the spectacle, I couldn’t help but leave feeling a little numb. On review, so much is left unanswered and so many potentially great characters ignored that you can’t help but feel it was sent out incomplete. Why didn’t Rafe Spall’s character make a post-mortem resurgence a la Harris’ Fifield, or at least have something squelchy burst out of his tummy? What was charlie going to transform into? And does the ‘Engineer’ in the first scene create life pusposefully or accidentally – i.e. was it suicide or sacrifice? Also, how come the ‘Engineer’ could run outside without his suit on (when he’s coming to get Shaw in the downed pod) when the implication was that even these creatures couldn’t survive naked outside of the structures. As for whether these loose ends will be tied in a sequel, I personally would be amazed if they follow it up directly. Seriously doubt they could get Fassbender and Rapace down for another and I do wonder whether creating the planet that hosts man’s creators could realistically be achieved by humbly mortal hands. Nontheless it was a great film and my mouth was aghast right up until people started getting slimy creatures down theirs. Ridley creates believable fantasy universes like no-one else! Plus the man made Blade Runner, so it’s a free ride from here on out.