We’re not going to pretend that Prometheus wasn’t a sizable disappointment – it was. However in the wake of Mr. Scott’s latest trip into space with The Martian, will posterity begin to look more kindly on 2012’s most anticipated film? Here are some thoughts for the defence.
Yes, admittedly this is cheating somewhat, but there is little denying that the marketing machine behind Prometheus was oiled to perfection. Our appetites were whetted not only by a series of intriguing and spine-tingling trailers, but also by the release of three short videos focusing on key characters in the upcoming film. Therein lies part of the problem with Prometheus – it was almost too hotly anticipated and so punters were bound to feel a sense of deflation. However, take a minute or so to revel in the glory of one of the finest trailers ever put together.
Prometheus is littered with supporting characters who act as little more than fodder for the mysterious inhabitants of LV-223, a moon situated far away in the distant nether region of space. The likes of poor Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris and Rafe Spall really never stood a chance, although the latter didn’t really do himself any favours when he unwisely chose to play ‘Hide the Snake’ with a creepy space reptile.
However baffling or short-lived the lives of those on-board Prometheus, two people who didn’t let the side down were Avy Kaufman and Nina Gold, the casting directors. Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce et al are all eminently watchable screen talents. In particular, Fassbender’s portrayal of the cerebral android David, who spends the early part of the film watching Lawrence of Arabia and attempting (fairly successfully) to mimic Peter O’Toole, is a delight. Sadly not even the best efforts of Fassbender and co. can quite distract from the frequently bizarre nature of the decisions taken by some of the supporting cast. We’re looking at you Meredith Vickers. Just run to the SIDE of the falling spaceship for goodness sake woman!
Granted, praising Ridley Scott for directing a pretty film is a bit like applauding a peacock for its plumage, however you can’t deny that Prometheus is a brilliant achievement in set-design and visual realisation. Even with an entire arsenal of visual effects at its disposal, the world of Prometheus feels tangible and real. You really have to take you hat off to the film’s director of photography, Dariusz Wolski, who helped craft one of the most visually striking films of recent memory. The otherworldliness of the film is lent a helping hand by the Icelandic surroundings – which have become the go-to place for strange looking landscapes, as found in films such as Noah and Interstellar. Prometheus received numerous accolades from the artistic fraternity, including a Best Art Direction award from the LA Film Critics Association.
Although the film originally began life as a prequel to Alien, the soundtrack for Prometheus is lightyears away from Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the 1979 classic. Whereas Goldsmith used minimalist sounds to heighten the sense of isolation and fear amongst the crewmembers of the Nostromo, Marc Streitenfeld goes for something far more romantic. His score opens expansively, utilising haunting horns and strings, supplemented by soaring choral tones to convey a sense of exploration and adventure. Later on Streitenfeld introduces more throbbing electronic sounds to build tension. Both soundtracks share an unsettling quality, which Streitenfeld achieved by getting the orchestra to play parts of the score backwards, only then to reverse it digitally later on.
One thing Prometheus cannot be accused of, is treating its audience’s intelligence with contempt. Whilst it is by no means an unqualified triumph in the art of progressive storytelling, the film does not shy away from complex subject matter. Though Scott would deal more explicitly with the concept in Exodus: Gods and Kings, Prometheus is a film about humanity’s relationship with its creators. More specifically, the film encourages its audience to consider what the consequences might be for humanity’s incessant pursuit of the answers to life, the universe and everything. Herein lies another criticism often levelled at the film, but which might serve as its silver lining. Prometheus poses grand questions, but makes no real attempt to posit an answer. The audience is left to attempt to assemble the pieces of the puzzle themselves.
Prometheus is by no means a perfect film. But it has been unfairly treated. Much of the flak it took at the time of release can reasonably be correlated with the unprecedented level of anticipation surrounding its arrival in cinemas. With Ridley Scott returning to the director’s chair for Prometheus 2, due for release in May 2017, and with a third instalment on the horizon after that, audiences are due a second and third date with destiny in the coming years. Who knows, by the time the trilogy is concluded Prometheus may come to be viewed as unheralded gem of the science fiction cinema and all of its myriad sins forgiven. Well, almost all. Damn you Meredith Vickers.