Prometheus is director Ridley Scott’s return to the world of the Alien series, which began in 1979. I don’t think I’ve seen the whole of that film, let alone any of its sequels or spin-offs, so I don’t know if this is a tarnishing of a great franchise of simply the latest in a line of lumbering, blundering films. I'm not going to mention the plot much because it doesn't really matter, though there are a couple of spoilers below.
Amongst the many things that annoyed me was the cod philosophy being churned out. “Why do you still believe?” is asked several times and answered with variations on the theme of “Because I’m a human.” Despite the grand-standing of the asking a big question, the conversations never last longer than two lines and so faith is nothing more than something to fill the time when aliens aren’t attacking. As a Christian, I do believe that faith is built into all of us and that gives us a lot more profound questions to ask, but I hope I’m less ham-fisted in my attempted explanations.
Perhaps that’s an unfair criticism to start with as it’s difficult to convey any sense of mystery or message when the film you’re making is writhing around in a mess of blood and flesh like the creatures in it, with twists that are obvious, dialogue that isn’t human, and surprises that aren’t in the least bit unexpected. For all I know (which is very little in this area), the original Alien may have pioneered some of the tropes that are now commonplace in movies like this, but that makes it all the more confusing and disappointing that Scott should repeat them so slavishly. Every moment of drama is handled with the subtlety of a WWE wrestling move, each shocking moment being announced with about five minutes’ warning by a character’s decision that conforms to at least one sci-fi/horror cliché. It couldn’t have been clearer when someone was going to die if they’d been wearing the unlucky red Star Trek uniforms. It’s impossible to care or learn from something so obvious and thoughtless.
The central character is Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, and the fact that this immediately conjures memories of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the original films shows what a pioneering and rarely-repeated idea it was to have a woman leading a movie like this. But even this admirable element is rendered a little ridiculous by just how much punishment she can take without feeling anything more than an occasional side effect, and how completely unnatural her allegedly (and unnecessarily) English accent is.
Elsewhere, Michael Fassbender gives his best suggestion of what Lawrence of Arabia would have been like if Peter O’Toole hadn’t been drunk (though maybe he wanted a drink or two after filming the scene in which he has a conversation whilst having his head put in a bag) and everyone else says exactly what you’d expect them to say in exactly the way you’d expect them to say it, except when Idris Elba persuades Charlize Theron to sleep with him by asking her if she’s a robot. Lacking soul, wit, humour, imagination and thoughts any more profound than how else an alien can kill someone, it’s tempting to ask the same question to the film makers involved here.