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June 1, 2012

So I went to see Prometheus at a midnight showing, and swipe me, I even felt that little frisson of excitement that I used to get when I went to the flicks a great deal. Sadly, as good as it looks (and it looks great), and as fabulous as Michael Fassbender is (and he’s wonderful), it is as missed an opportunity as you will see at the movies. I have very little faith in modern blockbuster movies, and I really want to dislodge that, but this hasn’t moved me from that view

We’re back with Ridley (Sir Ridley) Scott, of course, revisiting LV-426 (or, LV-233 as it is here) the windblown planetoid that brought so much calamity to the crew of the Nostromo in Alien. In that earlier movie you’ll remember that when the team set down on the surface to investigate a beacon, they found an abandoned…structure, possibly a craft…inside which were the xenomorph eggs. And yes, you know the rest. On the way to that discovery, they also stumble upon the extraordinary ‘space jockey’, the seated behemoth, fossilised, fused I think they whisper, almost growing out of a chair-like structure. From that creature’s chest, the bones are pushed outward as if something has escaped…

Prometheus attempts to answer the questions thrown up by this peculiar figure. Where did it come from, what purpose did it have, and how is it connected to the nasties that would later create such an entertaining franchise. And does it do this? Yes, and no. Mostly no.

Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) – not, sadly, the Liz Shaw from Doctor Who‘s UNIT days – has been studying ancient symbols on Earth for years, symbols that seem to indicate we were visited by creatures from outerspace who left a star map, and finally helps bring a team together to go and investigate. With Idris Elba and Charlize Theron and the usual quota of Brit thesps (Rafe Spall doing the blink and you’ll miss it thing) they leap across space to check things out. On the way they are tended by android David (Michael Fassbender) who has not only the best lines, and gives the best performance, but who has the best scene, right at the start, as you see how he (and Ash, and Bishop, presumably?) spends his time in a spacecraft when the humans are fast asleep.

I thought we were on for something special.

Unfortunately, the whole enterprise starts to creak and buckle after the crew wake up. There is a daft appearance by Guy Pearce as a hologram which serves only to make you think, “oh, look, it’s Mike from Neighbours in lots of obvious prosthetics” and then a great deal of airy fairy von Däniken-esque guff about visitors from space colonising planets, which shifts a little clunkily into “before they created they had to destroy”, and I think we know where that’s headed.

Very quickly after landing on the planet things start to go wrong and, as Burke said so casually in Aliens, there are a few…deaths.

And it really doesn’t make a massive amount of sense. Biologically it’s hardly what you’d call robust and the conclusions are rather ropey and uncertain. A standout scene involving a main protagonist is rather suddenly arrived at and baffling; its bad taste gross-out slant could be excused if we’d got there by another route, but it is purely expeditious. And as things escalate the absurdities pile on faster and faster such that the actual central point of the damn thing, the this-is-how-we-got-to-the-Alien-ness of it all is undermined.

There are masses of inconsistencies between how this ends and what we discover at the start of that earlier movie. Not just practically, but philosophically, too. Alien was – if you wanted it to be – a stripped down survival horror, Prometheus wants to be a lot of things, and yet for all it’s overworked fluff and bluster it doesn’t simply take the time to earn the right to lay its thesis out for you.

Rapace and Fassbender work tirelessly, although Sigourney didn’t need a chap on hand, she did it all herself and grew a pair when needed. Dr Shaw’s OK, but she’s no Ellen Ripley.

And, God I hate this, but there is a mammoth continuity error that is fatal to it. Not in the film’s running time as such, but in the gap between its end and Alien‘s start. I thought I must be wrong, but others confirmed it. But, you know what, go, do go, see what all the fuss is about and enjoy a couple of terrific turns by two really talented stars…don’t expect to be transported to another world, though.

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