Overbearing hype? Protracted fanfare? Viral marketing campaign? Self-defeating build-up? Adverts for adverts? What a waste of money. They had me at “Prometheus.” Prometheus! It’s only Ridley Scott’s bloody prequel to Alien! 20th Century Fox (a News Corporation company) could have saved millions of dollars and just chucked it out without even bothering to design a poster. Surely cinema traffic would have been identical.
I was almost literally first in the queue for the first showing at 12.40 yesterday. The 3D glasses seemed new, which is a bonus, as they’re so often smeared with popcorn grease which cannot be removed, even with the wiping skills of Lady Macbeth. I hate 3D. Have I mentioned this? Because Prometheus is an “event picture”, and I was genuinely excited about seeing it, I convinced myself that seeing it in 3D would add to the “event.”
It sort of did, at the very beginning. But as soon as we were looking at people talking to other people, which happens a lot in films, even blockbusters, the 3D became an irritant. I don’t wear glasses, so even having them on feels awkward. And the only 3D films I’ve seen that work are computer animations. Live action in 3D is pointless. My guess is that the amazing visuals in Prometheus – the planet scenes, the CGI alien spaceship, the Alien-echoing egg-type chambers etc. – would be amazing in 2D. I look forward to finding out on DVD.
If Prometheus had been as magnificent as I was willing it to be, I would have gone back to see it next week, in 2D somewhere. But I’m afraid it was a disappointment. I’d say three stars, which is not a disaster, but three stars is not enough for a film subject to that much hype and expectation. I won’t go into too much detail, as the less you know the better it will be (I turned over when the much-fanfared second, longer trailer was “premiered” in the middle of Homeland, for fear of finding out too much), but Michael Fassbender steals the show as android David. Imperious, subtle, clever, fluid, he’s by far the best character. The rest of the crew, cryogenically awoken at the beginning, Alien style, a bit crumpled and Anglo-American, Alien style, were really nicely cast – Rafe Spall, Benedict Wong, Sean Harris, Idris Elba (playing an American just about) – but as with any supporting character in this type of story, they are mere pawns in a game of “Who gets killed next?”
There are moments, and entire sequences, in Prometheus, that feel like they are in the prequel to Alien, which should be a lovely big gift to fans of the franchise. (One with Noomi Rapace that I will not even hint at, is a tour de force on every single level.) But, like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, which was Alien inspired, it starts much better than it ends. That’s why I can’t go into any more detail.
It’s a good sci-fi horror thriller. It rewards a working knowledge of Alien. It sticks to what Alien does best. And, of course, Ridley Scott can direct. He invented many of the moves in Alien, which have been copied and copied and copied ever since, so when he has another bash at them, he is Prometheus! It’s also possible that the bloody 3D spoiled my experience, but I’m confident enough in my critical juices to know that the promise at the outset is not paid off in the death. I wanted more. Not more action, not more gore, not more panoramic spectacle, but more … words. More story. More depth.
I’d be really interested to know what others think, so let me know. (I only switched over by accident but they seemed to be in the process of giving it a right kicking on Newsnight Review last night – I think Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian came closest, from the reviews I’ve read.)
On a lighter note, the man after me in the queue at the cinema asked to buy a ticket for Promiscuous. I wonder if that was in 3D?