What's it about?
Ridley Scott directs this sort-of-prequel to his legendary 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece Alien, which sees a group of late-21st-century scientists working for the Weyland Corporation seeking the answer to the biggest question facing mankind - where did we come from? Following a series of star maps, the most recent found as a 35,000 year-old cave painting in Scotland, the crew of Prometheus (the white collars, compared to the blue collars of Alien) set down on LV-223 (not LV-426 as you might have originally expected from the teaserific trailers) and begin to discover who these giant human-like "engineers" were, and why they were stationed on this far flung planet. Naturally, things don't go all that smoothly for all involved...
Who would I recognise in it?
Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Rafe Spall, Guy Pearce.
Having inspired an onslaught of fanboy theories and discussion, the teaser trailers managed to re-arrange numerous elements of the film, only seen in snippets, to appear differently to how they actually come-to-pass in the film itself. It kept the mystery alive, but it could also lead to a few scratched heads with some viewers exiting the cinema a bit disappointed, or wrong-footed, by what they were expecting.
Speaking of expectations, try to ignore them. The idea of the 'DNA of Alien' being present in the film is indeed here - we are in the same universe after all - but the references don't come as thick, or fast, as some reviews curiously suggested, and indeed the plot is far more interested in exploring fresh territory. Big questions - the biggest of all - are asked routinely, and are mixed with deep moral and ethical outlooks. As David (the ship's android, played brilliantly by Fassbender) says to star-gazing scientist Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green), how far are you willing to go? Such are the intricate and morally ambiguous discussions, and disparate intentions, of the main pro/antagonists.
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The cast is perhaps a bit overstocked - several members of the crew have little to do but fill in the background (such as co-pilots Chance and Ravel) - but this does allow time to better develop the key characters, namely those played by Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw, the believer), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway, eager-to-discover), Michael Fassbender (David, calmly robotic), and Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers, cold and calculating), whose characterisation is on-par with Alien and Aliens, but prepare to feel a little bit underwhelmed by some of the side characters who are afforded scant screen time or more generic personalities (gruff Fifeld, cheeky Millburn). What is interesting though, as Mark Kermode proferred in his own review, is that frequently Prometheus feels more like David's movie than that of Elizabeth Shaw - however, the two of them make a fascinating parallel pairing that allows the filmmakers to play with notions of spirituality, belief, humankind, and artificial intelligence.
Something that never fails to inspire awe, however, is the production design. Suffice to say, being that this is a Ridley Scott film, the avoidance of the oh-so-common 'room of blue' before the CGI boys paint in the sets in post-production, affords Scott's return to the sci-fi genre with a sense of immersion that many similarly themed flicks can never grasp, for their sheer reliance on pixels over practical craftsmanship. The sets are truly well designed, from the clean lines and holographic displays of Prometheus (benefiting from the still gimmicky 3D tech), to the Giger-born ribbed walls of the tunnel-and-cave-like structures of alien arenas.
Some have bemoaned the sense that this film is forever leading towards another film - indeed it is, of course it is - but Scott's film is all about beginnings. Perhaps some might struggle with the generally gentle pacing (beyond a handful of genuinely tense and creep-inducing set pieces), but going hand-in-hand with the notion of beginnings, is the wonder of discovery. The questions asked (outnumbering the answers received) should provide copious food for thought and discussion long after the credits have rolled, and the Weyland logo faded out, mercifully returning this universe to a place of intelligence, rather than the dimwitted franchise destruction of either AvP movie. The whiners should remember though that Alien wasn't the speediest flick either, favouring slow-burn tension rather than the balls-out action of James Cameron's superb follow-up Aliens. Indeed, Scott's last sojourn into this universe also roamed the thematic territory of discovery, and even rebirth.
While Ridley Scott's film is by no means perfect, his blend of mystery with a few familiar 'strands of DNA' from the Alien universe, as well as asking the big questions best-suited to true science-fiction filmmaking, ultimately make this a strong performance. Expectations will more-than-likely leave the viewer somewhat wrong-footed, after a decidedly memorable advertising campaign, but it will be interesting to see how Prometheus stands once viewed again on its own merits, and not by audience expectations which were fed by tantalising secrecy and curiosity. Somewhere on the boundary of Good and Great.