You may wonder what the Classic Horror Campaign is doing reviewing a brand new Hollywood blockbuster but every now and then a new movie comes along that taps into our zeitgeist and thus deserves our attention. Prometheus (2012) is a prequel to the terrifying seventies sci-fi/horror crossover Alien (1979) and has been brought to us by the original films director Ridley Scott. Alien was basically a haunted house movie set in space which followed the crew of the space mining ship Nostromo and their encounter with a murderous alien life-form which picks them off one by one with fans citing sci-fi horror classics such as It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) and Planet of the Vampires (1965) as obvious influences.
Prometheus takes a more full-on science-fiction approach although that’s not to say that there aren’t a few moments of gory horror and suspense. This time the crew of the exploration ship Prometheus are on a mission to a mysterious planet to discover the secret origins of mankind. Once on the planet they discover what appears to be some kind of giant alien temple and come across rather more than they bargained for….
At the end of the day Prometheus probably had way too many expectations to live up to to be entirely successful and I left the movie wondering what the point of it was apart from perhaps a cynical attempt to launch a new sci-fi movie franchise separate from the Alien series although set in the same universe. Unfortunately what we’re left with is in many ways an incoherent, somewhat aimless mess of a film with zero in the way of characterisation. The main reason I just could not buy into this in any real way whatsoever is the complete and utter lack of any appealing characters. There was no-one I could empathise with and by the end I really couldn’t care less who lived or died. They were just a procession of bland, faceless stereotypes who appeared to have been lifted directly from a lame computer game having no depth, no appeal; no lives beyond the fact that they were on a spaceship and mechanically going through the motions in order to move the story along. Their motivations made little or no sense and therefore all suspension of disbelief was destroyed.
The strongest points were the films production design and special effects which were epic in scope and execution although let down occasionally by the usual Hollywood reliance on piss poor CGI. Being a prequel to Alien, the designs of the costumes, the alien landscapes and the Prometheus itself were based firmly on the original films iconic look created by H.R. Giger. But unfortunately this only served to highlight what was wrong with this film and contemporary Hollywood film-making in general. It was all style over content; all gloss and no substance. If you don’t have a decent storyline or characters you can believe in then all the money and gorgeous special effects in the world are not going to make a film work. Of course you pays your money and you makes your choice but in this case I would choose to watch the original Alien and its direct sequels (the Alien Vs Predator debacles do not even exist in my universe) any day of the week. Now get the Hell outta my spaceship!
Review by Richard Gladman