Prometheus – first thoughts after initial viewing – and no plot spoilers

The formula trailer for Prometheus dampened my enthusiasm to the point where I almost didn’t go to watch it, but then I saw the ‘David 8’ trailer, which is both a Prometheus trailer and a short film in its own right, after which I regained my appetite. It was clear from David 8 that Prometheus wasn’t going to be an attempted rehash of either of the first two Alien films, but that the film makers were going to take the story into new territory. And that’s what they’ve done.

Glancing at other reviews this morning, while trying to also avoid plot spoilers, I was pleased to read that there “wasn’t much action” (so not a commercial blitz like the last few forgettable installments in the franchise – with the exception of Aliens of course) and that it was “thought provoking” and “open ended”.

Having just watched it this afternoon on the good old trusty 2D screen of my local cinema I have to say that, with the exception of two or three scenes, the film thoroughly held my attention from start to finish. It’s multi-themed. It’s not predictable. It’s visually impressive, but not distractingly so. And, to my surprise, it did have a couple of really good scares that were right up there with the most visceral moments of the first two films. One scene had me literally cringing with tension in a way that topped the classic John Hurt “chestburster” scene. The acting is generally good with not too much Hollywood posing and only the occasional “smart-ass” one liner. Fassbender, as widely reported, stands out as the android, David, whose behaviour includes a variety of thematic cross overs with Ash from the original film.

The plot of Prometheus is fairly complex in terms of character motivations. Multiple crew members have hidden and conflicting agendas that come together in interesting ways as the history of the space jockey creature from the first film is slowly, albeit not completely, revealed. That’s all good stuff, but what is surprising is how the film manages to branch into so much new territory without betraying the themes and plot details of the original film. At no point did I feel like I was watching a story written as an after thought, especially since a lot of unused designs and ideas from the production of the first film are brought into the mix.

Thematic elements of Bladerunner (Ridley Scott’s other sci-fi beast) also make their way into Prometheus, as if Bladerunner and Alien somehow take place in the same universe. That’s a nice surprise and gives Prometheus an artistic or auter framing that confirms Scott has genuinely returned to his intelligent sci-fi platform, which many would argue is still his strongest territory.

The only thing I felt created a perhaps unnecessary visual separation from the first two films was that the skies of the LV426 planet are much brighter (correction 8th June 2012 – it was actually a different moon LV223, which also explains several plot discrepancies with the derelict in the first film). The score is fairly standard, but then how many composers today could compete with the legendary Jerry Goldmith? If I had to offer a real gripe it would be that a couple of the supporting cast felt unnecessary and stereotypical, but not to the point of severe annoyance.

Alien certainly is the better film in terms of believable characters, but I always felt that the first half of Alien outdid it’s “creature kills the crew one by one” second half. Prometheus kept me engaged all the way.

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