I must give you fair warning. A careless Facebook commenter ruined a major plot twist of this film for me before I saw the film. I was very upset by that, and it did indeed affect my experience with the film. This is why I write spoiler-free reviews of newly released movies. Regardless of that, while I did find Iron Man 3 entertaining and mostly enjoyable, I have some strong stinging points to raise against it. I do not feel it is the best of them all. In all actuality, I still prefer both of the previous films over this one. That is sad because this had the potential to be really great, but it has at least one major failing, among others, that I will avoid spoiling for you.
Brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) goes against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
Let’s start out with what I liked about the movie. It does a lot of fresh, inventive things with the suits. Tony being able to call upon the Mark 42 at will with some injected sensors was excellent, and many of the suiting up sequences stemming from that were fantastic. There’s even one action scene where Tony is fighting to escape captivity, and he only has one gauntlet and one leg of the suit to work with. He has to be more clever and dynamic with just these two parts to combat his enemies. I really liked that, and there’s even more awesomeness in the climax, which I’ll get to later. For most of the film, he’s stuck with this not entirely functional prototype that continually gets beaten up, requiring Tony to cobble together various resources to survive and battle his foes.
Of course, Downey still does a great job with the character. He’s lost nothing after his previous three outings, including The Avengers. There’s very good material here for him to work with that shades Tony’s story a little darker than before. He has some demons to resolve, and Downey does a fine job working with that. However, as good as Downey is, the script has its shortcomings with that material. There is the fact that Tony is struggling with these anxiety attacks, this sort of post-traumatic stress, but as the same as my gripe with Skyfall, we never see the character actually resolve this problem. It’s there and then it’s not there. This paralyzing fear that keeps striking Tony simply evaporates from his being with no resolution at all. In Iron Man 2, Tony went through an arc where he dealt with his issues, made a mends, and rediscovered his purpose and ambition. None of that effort exists within this movie. Downey handles Shane Black’s comedic writing greatly, but this is a film that could have benefitted greatly from less humor and a lot more dramatic turmoil and peril.
It is pleasing that we get a little more Don Cheadle here as Colonel Rhodes, but I still feel the character should be a lot more fleshed out by this point. Granted, this film puts him more into the thick of the action, both in and out of the suit, but I want to feel like Rhodey is more than just a supporting character. You’ve got an excellent actor here, and I don’t think he’s been used to a tenth of his potential, yet. The one thing I do like is how Tony kind of speaks for the audience in that rebranding War Machine into Iron Patriot doesn’t sound like a good idea. War Machine is who Rhodey has been in the comics, not Iron Patriot, and besides that, War Machine sounds like a guy you just do not want to mess with at all. That’s a bad ass name. Iron Patriot, not so much.
Now, Ty Simpkins portrays a young boy named Harley that Tony crosses paths with while trying to untangle the mystery of the Mandarin and the bombings he’s been behind. Simpkins does a stellar job trading sharp, witty dialogue beautifully with Downey. The two work wonderfully together, and I really did like and enjoy Harley. He was a great companion for Tony to have for a while that helped him along the way, and remained endearing and smart. He also gets a great pay-off at the end that was charming.
I am a big believer in the talent of Guy Pearce. I think he is an immensely talented actor that should have broken into the big time a good decade ago. His Aldrich Killian is the controller of this Extremis technology which creates nearly indestructible human weapons allowing them to regenerate body parts and repair fatal injuries almost instantly. Yet, the tech is not entirely stable resulting in some volatile reactions. Pearce makes Killian rather compelling with his charisma, air of sophistication and culture, and definitely with his underlying merciless villainy. I did find him to be an effective villain, but not a great one. Pearce certainly sells every bit of the character’s ruthless savvy and sociopathic relentlessness with just the right degree of arrogance and intelligence. In the climax, he definitely becomes a wicked bad ass that is not easy to take down. So while he’s not a villain that jumped out and stuck in my mind greatly, Killian is still a damn good one in the hands of Guy Pearce.
Now, the first thing I didn’t really care for was the Tony Stark narration at the beginning. Some months ago, I tried to watch Shane Black’s other directorial effort with Robert Downey, Jr. – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It was the incessant narration that turned me off to that film as well. It made the film too self-aware in a bad way, and I just couldn’t even get twenty minutes into it. The narration is not incessant here, but it just didn’t establish an inviting tone for me. It just felt like Tony was breaking the fourth wall on me, and I didn’t like that feeling. Ultimately, it really only ties into the comedic post-end credits scene, which was funny but really frivolous. That was yet another thing that was spoiled to me going into it. This is sort of a movie experience that makes me realize there’s just too much information, preview clips, trailers, and TV spots spoiling important aspects of movies today. That’s why I’m glad for the marketing of Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel – they have given us fantastic glimpses of the films while spoiling nothing crucial. I’m excited for both films while still going into them knowing very little about the plot and layout of the films. Iron Man 3 just spewed out every little piece of footage and information people could get their hands on, and it terribly impacted my experience seeing this film. I’d expect a big, marketing savvy studio like Disney or Marvel to be more strategic in what they release, but apparently, that was a false perception on my part. It felt like I had watched this movie in sections on television, and was only now watching it in full for the first time. Of course, careless commenters on Facebook are beyond their control.
Now, while Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian is an excellent character and villain here, showcasing much of Pearce’s wonderful talent and charisma, the issue I have is hotly focused on the handling of the Mandarin. Again, I will spoil nothing about the plot twist that goes into either of these characters, but simply said, the Mandarin is horribly, insultingly wasted. In the comics, he is Iron Man’s archenemy, and this film had such a powerful, masterful setup for this revamp of this villain. Instead, they chose to piss all over that potential and flush it down the toilet. If I didn’t have this essentially spoiled for me in advance, I think I would have been pissed sitting in that theatre. Almost as pissed off as I was at the end of The Dark Knight Rises because it is just stupidity at its finest handled in the most asinine way. I have no passionate connection to the Iron Man mythos, but I do know a bad idea on screen when I see it. You have this amazing actor in Ben Kingsley portraying this menacing, threatening, foreboding, and brutal character, and you make a complete and utter insulting waste of his talent with this horrendous plot twist. Frankly, the Mandarin could have elevated this film to an astonishing height with his reign of terror, but instead, it came crashing down because of what Shane Black did with him. In the comics, the Mandarin is a genius scientist and martial artist utilizing ten power rings adapted from alien technology as his primary source of power. Shifting that to a more grounded straight up terrorist with advanced technological bio-weaponry was working immensely well in the film until it was all dashed. The fact that Tony Stark was abducted by the Ten Rings in the first film created a closed loop of storytelling here that could have worked beautifully, but we are denied any ingenuity or brilliance here. The Mandarin is reduced to a punchline that I found no humor in at all. It is the biggest black mark on this film because it presented to us with amazing, potentially stunning potential, and turned it into a bad joke.
The other thing I really didn’t like was how much this film forced itself into feeling like the final act of a trilogy. I am so sick and tired of everyone’s obsession with trilogies these days. What happened to just telling a solid, independent story? Why MUST everything be conceived as a trilogy? Shane Black drops in so much stuff, especially at the end, making it feel like Marvel is closing the book on Iron Man. That’s surely not the case, but does this film ever feel like the final act of a movie trilogy. I really don’t get what the problem is with just making another sequel that allows for an ongoing series. There’s no reason this film had to be written as if it’s some final chapter for Tony Stark when Marvel is likely, in no way, considering that. I almost guarantee you we will see Tony Stark as Iron Man in The Avengers 2, but the way this film ends, you’d think otherwise. It’s such a blatant message that really annoys the crap out of me. The Mandarin issue is indeed worse, but this further burned me as the film came to an end.
And lastly, I felt the film indulged in too much humor. I really miss the sharp, punchy comedic timing that came with Jon Favreau’s direction. He rarely ever lingered on a joke or gag. He kept it tight and to the point. Shane Black drags too many bits out for too long. The joke plays itself out, but the film keeps running with it. There’s also frivolous gags like how Happy Hogan is dressed up like Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction in the flashback to 1999 (five years after that movie came out). There’s no reason for that. It’s just there as a gag that no one in my theatre even picked up on to laugh at. Probably because you could barely tell it was supposed to be Jon Favreau in that ridiculous getup. Most importantly, I feel the humor outweighs the drama of the story. There’s an over abundance of it with the dramatic turmoil going on is brushed aside. Almost no scene goes by without some kind of witty, funny banter between characters, and that really weakens the dramatic weight that Black attempted to inject into this film. The previous two Iron Man films knew when you shift tones and focus on the emotional or dramatic poignancy of the story. This film barely does that at all.
There is also the inevitable thought that’s going to come into the minds of a lot of people. With this terrorist threat imposing itself upon America, where are the other heroes? I mean, you’d at least expect Captain America to be called upon to combat an enemy to the American people. Even Iron Patriot doesn’t get called in until almost the last minute. At least with Thor, he’s off traveling to different worlds and realms, and the Hulk is too potentially unstable to call in on a whim. Yet, Stark shouldn’t have much hesitation in doing so considering the Hulk saved his life, and he and Banner are now close buddies. Still, even S.H.I.E.L.D. is apparently not even involved. At least in the comics, you have dozens of storylines running concurrently with all of these books being published showing what’s occupying these heroes at all times. You don’t have that luxury here. Marvel Studios is going to have to craft these films extremely carefully to explain away these issues. You can’t have a shared universe with stories that take place in a vacuum.
Now, Iron Man 3 does contain the best climax of the series, so far. The all-out assault on Killian and his Extremis soldiers was killer! The entire army of Iron Man suits greatly ties into Tony having had too much time on his hands from all his sleepless nights. Him jumping in and out of various suits throughout this sequence to escape various scenarios was an exciting, brilliant idea. It has a lot of peril and awesome action that blends together in masterful fashion. It all taking place at this shipyard with cranes and scaffolding really allowed for great dynamics to have the Jarvis-automated suits flying around attacking and being attacked. How Tony tries to jump into certain suits, only to have them blown away, or only get part of a suit added to the unpredictability and danger of it all. The battle between Tony and Killian was fantastic and bad ass. I really loved it all the way through. And while I loved the quirkiness of what Tony does after the fight with the suits, the connotation it left me with was not to my liking. Again, it’s part of that forced trilogy style close-endedness which seemed ridiculous and stupidly unnecessary.
The main problem here is that Shane Black seemed intent on making this an entertaining, humorous film with a backdrop of drama and consequence, but ultimately, did not give most of those dramatic aspects their just due. The only time he does allow any dramatic resolution is in trying to tie off all character threads at the end like it was a conclusion to a trilogy. Black also sacrifices coherent, intelligent, and solid storytelling for a few extended gags. I mean, if you’re not going to do the Mandarin justice, don’t bother putting him in the film at all. Also, don’t bother having that PTSD aspect part of Tony’s character if you’re not actually going to have him go through the process of dealing with and overcoming it. While Iron Man 2 was an over-bloated film with too many plot threads and a story that veered off track, I can still enjoy it because it at least did nothing to raise my ire. It’s a lightly enjoyable mess. This film has enough abrasive stinging points for me to say I don’t really like it. There are things in it I do like and found a lot of enjoyment from, but as a whole, those miscues and bad ideas sour me to it. After I found The Avengers to be a largely entertaining, yet hollow movie with a paper thin plot and stock villains, I had hopes that the individual sequels would be better developed and more substantive, like what had come before. While Iron Man 3 has substance, this was not at all the right script to sign off on. I’ve loved a lot of Shane Black’s work from Lethal Weapon to The Monster Squad to The Last Boy Scout, but this is clearly where Marvel Studios should have exercised more creative control, in my opinion. Maybe you won’t find these issues so objectionable upon your viewing of the film, but for me, they really drive me away from wanting to see it again. There is a lot of entertainment value to be had, but this film, for me, features more than just a few stumbling blocks. It has some rocky pot holes in its road.
For those not in the know, Prometheus was developed as a prequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 science ficition / horror classic Alien. While it still is that, Scott admitted a long time ago that it evolved into something more than that. After seeing the film, I certainly see the broader canvas that this story is told upon, and how it can branch out beyond that far more narrow storyline of Alien. I can’t say I was expecting anything specific with this film, just that I anticipated something amazing. It’s hard to say if I exactly got that, overall, but let’s break it down a little at a time.
In the late twenty-first century, a team of scientists lead by Drs. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discover clues to the origins of mankind on Earth. With the aid of the Weyland Corporation, headed by the elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), they launch a journey into deep space aboard the spaceship Prometheus. Cave paintings from various ancient civilizations that had no contact with one another point to a distant star system where these scientists believe the answer to our origins lie. Among the ship’s crew and other specialists in various scientific fields, the voyage is aided by the advanced Weyland Corporation android David (Michael Fassbender) who is caretaker of the craft who has been learning countless languages in order to potentially communicate with these alien “engineers,” if and when they find them. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is a liaison for the Weyland Corporation itself, and is overseeing the mission to make sure its interests are maintained. As they explore this alien planet, dubbed LV-223, they face discoveries both amazing and frightening. Eventually, what they seek becomes not what they hoped for, and they must battle a horrifying reality in order to save the future of the human race.
Before the review starts, which is in the next paragraph, two things about my theatre experience to note are that, one, there were no trailers screened ahead of this. It went right into the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, and that was it. No time was given to let the audience settle in and get ready for the movie once the lights went down. It was exceptionally strange, and it took several minutes beyond the opening credits to sink myself into the movie. Why the theatre did this, I have no idea. I’m very interested to know if this was an isolated incident or more wide spread. Someone even had to run out of the theatre to grab a theatre employee because the curtains were drawn for a 1.85:1 aspect ratio when this was the wider 2.40:1 format. So, for part of the opening credits, the partially drawn curtains were distracting. The second thing is that I like sitting all the way in the back of the theatre. Last row, top of the stadium seating. When I saw The Avengers, the sound was a little low even sitting further down into the theatre. This time, the surround sound speaker right next to me was very loud, and at times, the film’s score was louder than the dialogue. And with all the reverb rich environments in the film, it made for a strange audio experience at times. This certainly got better as the film went on, but early on, it was difficult to understand all of the dialogue sitting where I was. Because of this, it took a long time to actually catch all of the main character’s names. Thankfully, for this review, I have website resources to inform me better. So, now, on with the review of Prometheus.
This is a film with a deliberate, methodical pace. It certainly takes a while for the film to really get into the meat of the story. It will certainly require your patience. I surely do not mind a slow build, but the first act of a story is designed for you to get to know the characters and connect with them. However, learning their names or not, I really didn’t start feeling much of a connection or distinction with anyone until the final act. I think this is partly because there are so many characters populating the early half of the film that no one really stands out, aside from David, and so, it’s hard for the film to spend a lot of time with any particular character for long. For at least the first hour of the film, no one is an obvious protagonist. In Alien, it felt more like an ensemble piece, and you generally latched onto and cared about all of these characters. Here, it’s not at all handled that way. The film feels like it’s waiting for the heard to thin out before giving anyone a moment of prominence, and that contributes to a lack of character driven focus.
Something that contributes to this issue is that no one is explored in any real depth until the panic starts driving the story. For instance, Dr. Shaw states what she believes this mission is all about, but at no time does she tells us why she believes this. We’re just supposed to take it for granted that she does, and not ask those questions, yet the entire purpose of the movie is to ask questions. It’s a scientific exploration, and science is all about being inquisitive. She wears a holy cross necklace, and I’m not sure if that’s meant to imply that her scientific beliefs should have no more definite explanation than religious faith. Scientists should be able to explain what they believe, especially when you’re dragging a good dozen or more people on a two year voyage into deep space. It would add so much more depth and purpose to the character if she actually explained why she believes that the human race was birthed from an alien species to justify this large expedition.
On the stronger side, Michael Fassbender’s android character of David is remarkable. His performance is the real highlight here. In him, you see wonder, awe, foreboding, sinister intent, and child-like innocence. He maintains a nice through line with the performances of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen as the other droids of the Alien series, but makes David all his own. He is clearly not human with a unique off-center performance. No authentic emotion comes from him, but he can still appear personable, thoughtful, and courteous. He is designed to be indistinguishable from humans, but over time, he clearly becomes well aware of his superior brilliance, making him truly feel superior to them in every way. He has fascination with everything he observes and consumes. He is, partially, a character we can see things through, experience them through his sense of amazement. However, as the film goes on, you see ulterior motives surface in him, and that kept me highly intrigued as I did not know where they were coming from. Were they his own personal twisted perversions, or part of someone else’s agenda? The answer was quite satisfying to me, and cohesively tied in with the overall storyline. Fassbender is truly the standout talent in this film, and David is an impressive creative achievement.
Now, I was rather put off by the fact that Guy Pearce appears here as only an elderly Peter Weyland. He is only ever seen under heavy make-up and prosthetics to make him appear to be of advanced age. It seems like an odd choice, but putting that aside, Pearce is excellent. He has remained a captivating talent through the years, and really brings some poignant gravitas to the role. Weyland’s motives behind supporting this expedition are entirely relatable, and Pearce’s grounded strength keeps it from being anything obsessive or off-kilter. When he enters the story, he gives it an injection of weight and dread as his agenda motives everything forward from then on.
Again, later in the film, I really came to enjoy and connect with Idris Elba’s Captain Janek. The actor himself described the characters as, “a longshoreman and a sailor, with a military background,” and that sums it up nicely. He has that laid back style of confidence while also only minding the business of the ship and its crew, but clearly has the experience to make decisions like a military man. As he forms a friendship with Dr. Shaw, you get to see some of his heart and soul, and that’s what clicked for me with him.
Noomi Rapace is the lead of the film as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. I don’t want to say she’s a Ripley allegory. She’s definitely her own character with her own strengths and vulnerabilities, but I’m sure there will be those that try to make that comparison. Again, it would have drawn me into the character earlier on if I had gained an understanding of her scientific beliefs, and why she is so committed to this expedition. Just get more into her heart and mind a little. However, when things start to become unhinged and chaotic, that is when Shaw becomes truly sympathetic and a powerful standout. She comes to understand the truth of what they have discovered, but few others care about that except Janek. She’s put through some hell when she has to cut an alien organism out of her own body in an intensely frightening and unsettling scene. I love what that organism evolves into later on, and you certainly cannot put the pieces together until that later point. Rapace brings a very compassionate, likeable quality to Elizabeth Shaw. She’s fascinated by this discovery, at first, and continues to show enthusiasm and curiosity until things go awry. Rapace is solid in this role showing heartfelt moments with Charlie, and carrying the more intense sections of the film with great skill and composure. She fights through the maddening fear and physical strain, not giving up at any point. She’s going to see everything through to the end, and that is the real gravitas Rapace brings to the film. A very solid lead that does take a while to move into the forefront of the film, but when she does, she easily becomes someone to invest yourself into.
What didn’t grip me much was Logan Marshall-Green’s Dr. Charlie Holloway. He seems either a little one dimensional or too concerned with himself to allow an audience to get into his character. It’s partly how the character is written, but still, the actor doesn’t do much to show a real dimensional performance that could make him accessible. We never come to know much about him, and all we know is what he hopes to find, not why he’s fascinated or compelled by the prospect of it. We get the evidence that sparks the intrigue, but not why it means so much to him personally. There’s no context given to Dr. Holloway to make him anything to think much of, and that’s definitely a big negative considering all that happens to him later on in the movie and how it affects Elizabeth. Much of the supporting cast is the same. Maybe a little quirk added to them here or there, but ultimately, they are nothing more than what the script needs them to be for the benefit of the story. Again, there are so many characters in the first half of the film that it would be impossible to dig deeply into all of them, but sometimes, it doesn’t take too much. Just the right hint of an endearing character trait, and the right actor to convey those elements of humanity. However, I’m not going to mark this as a negative critical element. Just a thought that could be used to enhance them further, but considering this is a horror film where much of the supporting cast is going to not survive, anyway, I can give it that concession.
Moving on, the production design maintains aesthetic touchstones with the Alien films, but upgrades them. Considering we’ve never truly seen a state of the art vessel meant for scientific exploration, this makes sense. The Nostromo was a freighter, requiring nothing more than the bare minimum technology to do its job. The Sulaco was a military transport ship which didn’t need anything special to complete its missions. However, the Prometheus is a science vessel needing the most sophisticated technology available to thoroughly accomplish its mission. That is a welcomed way for the filmmakers to take advantage of modern day technological advances, and apply them to what a vessel of this sort would be like in eighty years without betraying what was established in the other films (which chronologically take place after this film). The ship’s interiors as very reminiscent of the Nostromo, but with a little better living conditions and a generally more inviting appearance. All of the alien technology and architecture is definitely in line with the franchise as H.R. Giger was brought back to expand upon some of his ideas and world. That absolutely helped to create a wider and richer culture for this species, and yes, the Space Jockeys are extremely integral and vital to the story here. That had always been one of the big things Ridley Scott had wanted to explore about this mythos, and I’m glad that is the major focus of Prometheus.
The visual effects are truly awe-inspiring. Nothing low grade here. They can be very enveloping, and key sequences are likely stunning in a 3D presentation. As usual, I stick with the standard 2D theatrical experience. Ridley Scott really allowed the visual effects to live up to his more than three decade long standards. The more intense effects are immensely effective. The various life forms they encounter are startling, frightening, and impressive. They share some design elements with the franchise’s facehuggers and Xenomorphs themselves, but they keep it subtle. This is clearly a different ship with a different engineering of these creatures. So, that gave the filmmakers freedom to do more with their ideas, and present something more varied, yet still related to what is familiar. The more environmental effects of space and the planet LV-223 greatly add to the film’s atmosphere setting the tone for the entire film. Ridley’s not afraid to make the visuals dark and very shadowy lighted really only with flashlights, and that only enhances the creepy, unsettling nature of the alien structure’s interior.
The cinematography of Dariusz Wolski is very much in line with Ridley Scott’s visual sensibilities. It’s even more surprising since he’s never worked with Ridley before, but has done some notable work. He was cinematographer on The Crow, Dark City, Crimson Tide, and all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The lighting and camera is very solid, atmospheric, and effective. Light and shadow mixed with some of Ridley’s signature smoky environments make for an incredible visual tone. They create the sense of danger and mystery that these characters are engulfed, but it doesn’t stop with just the visual aspects.
The musical score by Marc Streitenfeld was amazing and enveloping, much like some of the visual effects. The theme he composed for Prometheus is heard quite often, and it is haunting, enchanting, mysterious, and wondrous. It sets a perfect tone for the film, and the remainder of the score is equally as rich and effective. I would highly recommend purchasing the soundtrack which contains nearly an hour of the film’s amazing music. This really feels like a musical masterpiece as it complements the complex tone of the film so well.
Now, the big question is if this really is a good prequel to Alien. I believe it is an excellent pseudo-prequel, and I use that terminology because Prometheus is so much more than just a prequel to Alien. As you’ve probably figured out by now, Prometheus does have more than its fair share of graphic horror and scares. While Ridley Scott has made a film that has a far larger scope than Alien, he entirely keeps it within the same tone as that film while adding to and expanding upon it. It’s even more frightening of a film at times because it’s not just alien organisms using human bodies for gestation, we’re dealing with genetic engineering. Things that can infect your body and transform you into something inhuman. The film does explore the origins of humanity as a species created by a far more advanced race of beings, and the desire for answers as to why. This opens the film up to some philosophical discussions amongst its characters that are decently explored, but don’t weigh down the film. Prometheus is a film that can stand on its own aside from the franchise. It has its own strength, its own direction, and its own motivations to follow through on that are bigger than the franchise has ever explored. This could easily branch out into a whole other franchise leaving the facehuggers, chestbursters, aliens, and so forth to their own machinations.
The other question is, well, does this answer the questions one would have walking into this film knowing it is an Alien prequel. Partially. It answers a few questions, but leaves many hanging in suspense, capturing, at least, my compelling interest. Let it be known that this film does not have a definitive ending. It is truly setup for another dangerous and fascinating adventure with the surviving characters which is far more likely to explore the ideas and questions raised in this film, and hopefully, bring us many of those answers. I knew this walking in, and that took the edge off an ending which could’ve been a little sour and cheated in my mind. It’s not an abrupt end as it does segue way nicely into a conclusion, but getting there does feel a little rushed. In a film that took a gradual pace with establishing everything, the setup for the sequel segue ending is run through with a much faster pace than expected. It works well mixed in with some frightening action, and maintains character motivation and determination. The pace was just a little throwing. This might’ve been because I kept expecting a hanging conclusion to the film, and feared for an abrupt cutaway to credits every so often. Thankfully, that did not happen. The ending does have me enraptured to know where this storyline can go, and how a further fleshed out exploration of these ideas and characters can be enhanced through another film. I surely think a second viewing, more evenly positioned in the theatre, will feel smoother for me. I have no doubt that a sequel would answer these questions, and not leave the Alien prequel connection unsatisfied.
The only truly spoiler section of this review will be this paragraph, and so, skip over it if you wish to remain free of them. The film reveals that the human race was created and descended from the Space Jockeys, who have a very pale and human appearance beneath the “exoskeleton” style space suits we saw in Alien. It is eventually learned that they decided to eradicate humanity with ships full of organisms designed for that very purpose. It is not answered why they decided on this course of action, which was halted two millennia ago when these organisms broke loose and killed the crew. However, the thought that ran through my head was echoing Ash’s statement in Scott’s original film – “perfect organism.” Perhaps, the Space Jockeys finally achieved perfection in genetic engineering, and decided that all inferior life forms they engineered should be wiped out to make way for their ultimate creation. Still, there does seem to be more rage, more visceral determination with this motive from just how the one still living Jockey acts. He’s violent, murderous at the sight of human beings, and immediately begins to kill them all. He appears dead-set determined to complete this mission at all costs, and leave no human living anywhere. So, while my speculation might have some validity, there certainly appears to be a more personal, primal motivation to their agenda. And while we don’t get to see the classic title character of the Alien franchise, the Space Jockey does give birth to a similar being. I would likely call it a prototype Alien. There are similarities in the design, but it’s much less developed and more angular. This is the image that closes out the movie, and gives a little fan service that is nicely placed. Like much of the film, it leaves you hungering for more. It would have been amazing to see the original creature appear on screen, but if Ridley Scott wants to save that for a sequel to give that film the big pay-off, I can subscribe to that idea.
I think the best compliment I can give Prometheus is that, even sixteen hours after seeing it, my mind is still alive thinking about it. Synapses are still sparking, and I think I need to see this again. There is so much to absorb and process that additional viewings are certainly needed to let it all settle into my mind. Even as long as this review is, I don’t think it thoroughly covers every thought I should have about it. However, for allowing a reader to determine whether it’s worth their while, I’m sure I’ve said plenty. While there are aspects that could have been done better in terms of making the characters stand out more and allow the audience to get to know them better sooner, overall, I think this is an exceptionally successful film. It is a very intelligent work of science fiction and horror that screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof and producer / director Ridley Scott should be commended for. It’s been too long since we’ve gotten a science fiction film of this caliber with some sophistication, artistry, imagination, and intellect. I’m sure there will be many mixed reactions out there, and again, I’m still uncertain of my final perception on it, but I am definitely hooked into what Prometheus has to offer. It’s only unfortunate that it appears to be only one half of a whole, and with Ridley Scott already having two other film productions upcoming, including the sequel to Blade Runner, it’s going to be a good couple of years before we get a continuation for Prometheus. Thankfully, Ridley seems to churn out films pretty quickly. There’s rarely more than a two year gap between his films, sometimes all of a single year, but by no means, do I desire for him to rush anything along. Prometheus was a film a long time coming, and I think it was a generally worthwhile wait. We’ll just have to see if that second half of the whole makes good on the potential shown here.