Prometheus should never have been the prequel to Alien. In fact, Alien didn’t actually need a prequel. Ridley Scott has said in numerous interviews in preparation for this film that he always thought there was a story to tell behind the original spaceship where the crew in the original Alien found the eggs and what has now been called the “Space Jockey.” He was probably the only one… I never really remember watching the original and ever really caring what the story behind the “Space Jockey” was and why the spaceship had crashed. I was more intrigued by the eggs and what they were. I’m pretty certain I even forgot about the “Space Jockey” the moment I saw the original facehugger and its effects.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t embrace the idea of a prequel to Alien. I posted a review for Ridley Scott’s original Science-Fiction horror and it got a perfect score. I relished the idea of another look at the origins of this creature. Prometheus isn’t that though. Prometheus is the story, or a link to the story, of the “Space Jockey.” I was still hugely excited though.
For the first third of the film I was massively impressed. Literally sat in my seat thinking “this is as good as Alien.” The crew landing on the planet and their first expedition onto the planet and into a huge structure they discover is brilliant. Its tense, atmospheric and as scary as anything in Alien. In fact it echoes the infamous scene with John Hurt and the eggs and that is no negative thing. The set is fantastic and the world created is so immersive and epic that you can’t help but be sucked in and impressed and with every door that opens and new discovery made, your wonder and fear increases too.
That is until we discover the “threat.” It’s a film in the same ilk as Alien so there had to be a threat and this is where my first issue with Prometheus occurs because it’s almost like the didn’t know what the threat should be. It presents itself in so many different forms, in so many random ways, that we end up with a bit of a muddled middle section that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film. It was almost as if they were so worried about this being linked to Alien in some way that they had to create “danger” that echoed the original movie and it doesn’t work.
We end up with inexplicable moments of terror and action that feel a bit bolted-on and unexplained. It feels like rather than trust the brilliant story that they began telling, they had to take a small diversion into some “bolted-on” Sci-Fi horror and it didn’t sit right with me. It means characters make silly choices or strange moments are left unexplained and everyone just moves on with little, lasting reaction.
When the film focuses on the story its trying to tell, explorers travelling to discover what they believe is the origins of life on Earth and our creators, the film is superb. The story its trying to tell is an engaging one but it feels like its being forced into an attachment to Ridley Scott’s original Alien franchise. This film should have been a single story, not linked with any other movie, so it could be free to tell the story without having to think about how to link with a film made in 1979.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the links to the original film. Finding out what the “Space Jockey” actually is and the origins of the Alien did put huge smiles on my face but they aren’t the actual intention of the film. The actual story the film was trying to tell could have been told without any links to Alien at all and had no detriment because of it, in fact it would have been a better film. We wouldn’t have ended up with a crazy middle section, an extended end that also seemed bolted-on and a final scene I could have predicted a million miles away! (It’s how I would have ended an Alien prequel to be fair.)
This review is being far too negative though because the beginning of the film and the end of the film, the parts telling the story of our “creators,” is fantastic and on their own would have easily made this a perfect score (like Alien.) It’s just that aspects feel a bit muddled and forced. These parts aren’t awful, just don’t fit in with the brilliant groundwork that had been laid before it. Its a shame because underneath the forced moments, this is a Science-Fiction classic, without a doubt.
Overall, a great film that should have been the best of the year (yes, probably better than Avengers.) If Ridley Scott had made this film in the same vein as Alien rather than trying to revisit the “universe” or story of the first film, this film could have started a whole new franchise or sat on its own a Science-Fiction masterpiece. Instead we get a film that feels like it’s trying to tell two stories, one that’s done brilliantly and another that just feels bolted-on or forced.
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)