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Noomi Rapace
Michael Fassbender
Idris Elba
Guy Pearce
Logan Marshall-Green.
Ridley Scott.
Jon Spaihts
Damon Lindelof.
Running Time
124 minutes

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It’s Alien, Jim, but not as we know it

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Following a star-chart discovered on ancient tablets, the crew of the ship Prometheus land upon LV-223, optimistic they are about to meet their makers. Unfortunately they will, and get a first-hand demonstration of their handiwork.

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Okay, first things first. Is it or is it not an Alien prequel? Yes, it is contained within the same universe and occurs prior (2093) to Scott’s transcendent B-movie and subsequent chest-aches. Yet it tells another story. You could deem it a reboot. The backstory of the Space Jockey — sorry, Engineer — H.R. Giger’s resplendent first victim discovered in Alien’s tomb-like Derelict with a notable hole in his plentiful ribs. There is more to him than meets the eye.

Scott must smirk at the irony of this being 20th Century Fox’s big summer hope. So many years ago, as they pinched at Alien’s purse-strings, the studio demanded he cut that ossified stranger from the budget. After all, he bore no great plot function: why not just put a big hole in the floor? Scott fought nail and tooth to keep him — the creature suggesting so much, this evocative layer of mysticism — and now Fox are hoping to launch an entire franchise about him. In short, beneath the elephantine faceplate is a master bio-engineer (famous for toothy xenomorphs and humankind) and we’ve come to pay our respects. Sounds a bit like Blade Runner when you put it that way.

Scott’s eagerly awaited return to science fiction does indeed boast many of the arch-stylist's robust qualities: the ethereal look, the visceral ickiness, an attempt to underpin the fantasy with a serviceable science. It is still Alien’s universe, but it is our universe too.

No director immerses you in an environment quite like Scott, and with money (and tools) he could never have dreamed of with Alien, he has let his imagination take flight. Gratifyingly, the film is an extension and diversification of Giger’s biomechanical otherness. There is less dank occlusion, that interminable, terrifying mist. You might be surprised to learn we are not on storm-beat LV-426 at all, but the pivotal temple/mound/lab (with its hints of Dan O’Bannon’s abandoned ‘pyramid concept’) carries forth the space-Goth template of Alien’s texture — there’s even an original Giger on the wall.

Yet Prometheus feels totally different. It is grittier, dirtier, earthier. It is airy and open; even the interiors have an epic scale. There are no constricting corners, few corridors down which we will plunge. Setting out its size-matters agenda, we commence by floating over staggering silver-grey vistas (of which planet is open to speculation) — genuine exteriors. Famously, none of the Alien movies (discounting one beach scene in the Alien3 workprint) ventured from a soundstage.

A disciple of Kubrick, Scott had an itch to try his hand at 2001’s grand scope even before he made Alien. And now, joining forces with Lost-alumus Damon Lindelof and digging out his dog-eared copy of Erich von Däniken's Chariots Of The Gods, he has mostly deviated from the anticipated monster-movie template for a mythical man-meets-god-it-doesn’t-go-well exploration movie. You can’t fault his ambition. Matters of belief are weighed up, big questions raised, then people start to turn green, the medi-lab has a rush on, and the ghost of Christmas past (make that future) comes back to flip the genre into horror.

Only it stalls. Put it this way, if you were eagerly awaiting a reinvigoration of the Alien franchise, some 3D chestbursting, facehuggers popping out of succulent eggs, some fresh psychosexual strand of xenomorphology ready to haunt our lives — a chance for the audience to be one step ahead of the doomed crew — you’re in for a colossal let-down. Leastways, it turns out Scott wasn’t fibbing, or even hedging his bets — this most definitely isn’t an Alien movie in that sense at all.

There is no accumulation of dread, none of Alien’s haunted silences and primordial drones that slid beneath your bones. The film is too busy, too talky, too noisy by half. Awe, wonderment and terror need atmosphere to flourish. For all the CGI grandiosity, there is a flatness to the mood. Prometheus is strangely impatient, irritable, rushing its set-ups and squandering drama. Characters perish, but without any great wit or design, and in fits and starts. The film can’t fix on where it wants the action to occur, dragging the cast back and forth between the Apple-elegant fixtures of the good ship Prometheus and the grey-green bio-horror chambers of the ‘temple’. Motive is sorely lacking.

By now you will be aware that Noomi Rapace’s non-denominational scientist Elizabeth Shaw works as a spiritual ancestor to Ripley, except both actress and character fall prey to the deathly thinness. She’s English (via Stockholm), clings to the idea of God, and when the film lurches into panic mode is thrust unconvincingly into leading lady. Sigourney Weaver she is not. The rest of the 17-strong (no cat) Prometheus crew follow suit — interesting actors confined to blunt B-movie traits and rudimentary dialogue as if dredged up from O’Bannon’s original Roger Corman-bound Star Beast. You might be sick of comparisons, but the crew of the Nostromo were recognisably human. We knew them. Here they are plot devices waiting to die. And you care not a jot as they get mashed, tentacled, or infected with worm-eye.

Charlize Theron, as Weyland Industries queen-bee Meredith Vickers, is the bitch (Burke minus the smarm). Sean Harris looks likely to be our bilious below-decks mutineer (“I love money!”) but turns out to be a cowardly geologist (“I love rocks!”). Rafe Spall is a silly biologist. Idris Elba the spit-and-sawdust ship’s captain. Logan Marshall-Green the gung-ho love interest. Yadda, yadda, dead.

Thank God (or is that the Space Jockeys — sorry, Engineers?) for Michael Fassbender. His performance elevates the film: a multi-faceted reboot of the requisite android. David is a smart link in the thematic chain — a creation of our making as we are the progeny of the Space Jockeys. Sorry, Engineers. Are we therefore not gods? David’s motives are appropriately obscure, if not impenetrable, as he serves as Prometheus’ witty and worrying gentleman butler/scientist/double-agent retrofitting Jeeves, David Bowie, and Peter O’Toole’s waggish Lawrence of Arabia, a film the unhuman factotum obsessively watches while the crew sleeps. Scott used to wonder what Ash got up to on the Nostromo as Ripley and co. slumbered, and in a delightful early montage we catch the bored android wandering the ship like a listless child. The camera roves after him through the decks still bearing Ron Cobb’s Egyptian motifs and functional aesthetic, although this is a millionaire’s yacht compared to the Nostromo’s battered tug.

In its entirety, though, the film struggles to find a central strand which to hang on to. The horrific magnificence of both Alien and Aliens is their directness — they are primal thrillers, questions of life in the universe tend to go on the backburner when you’ve got a xenomorph chewing on your face. What’s worse, the endoskeleton is on view. Here are the unmistakable bones of its previous incarnation as a nailed-on Alien prequel — there are elements of the unfolding squelchiness that feel like feeble rewrites of Alien attributes: an egg-sized ampule, a vagina-mawed tentacle playing facehugger, a whole strand of creature nastiness that has our old xenomorphic favourite written all over it. Scott didn’t want the cliché, but you sure miss him.

And the stand-ins are no great shakes — somewhere in Switzerland Giger is snorting into his schnapps. Early on we glimpse beneath the exoskeleton — sorry, spacesuit — and the Space Jockey — sorry, Engineer — turns out to be a overly-pumped bald bloke with dead-eyes who has no dialogue and punches people across the room. So basically they’ve spent two years in cryo to discover that God is Jason Statham.

By the shifting sands of the last act, the film has descended into B-movie mayhem, as Alien became so much more. Yes, there is much to wonder at, a laudable ambition to open up unforeseen corners of a faltering franchise, but the chestburster might just have been thrown out with the bath water. There is no getting away from it, you’ll leave with an empty feeling inside.

Buffeted by a lack of suspense, threadbare characters, and a very poor script, the stunning visuals, gloopy madness, and sterling Fassbenderiness can’t prevent Prometheus feeling like Alien’s poor relation.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Prometheus
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L: Private Hudson What a hard crowd. Just like the old Glasgow Empire. Aw Christ - there's two ae 'em!" ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 16:27, 13 May 2014 | Report This Post

Hello, miss Vickers

I absolutely love this movie, it's very unique compared to what comes out today. Overall a great film with a lot of appeal. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 17:11, 28 September 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

L: rich L: sanchia I gather manners are not Will Frey's thing by the look of the title he put up? t's actually been repeated by replying to the original on page one, but I have changed it back for sake of removing said childish title pologies to Will Frey ... More

Posted by sanchia at 08:05, 06 July 2013 | Report This Post


L: sanchia I gather manners are not Will Frey's thing by the look of the title he put up? t's actually been repeated by replying to the original on page one, but I have changed it back for sake of removing said childish title ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rich at 00:29, 06 July 2013 | Report This Post


What a hard crowd. Just like the old Glasgow Empire. ... More

Posted by Private Hudson at 00:21, 06 July 2013 | Report This Post


I gather manners are not Will Frey's thing by the look of the title he put up? ... More

Posted by sanchia at 20:48, 05 July 2013 | Report This Post


I thought it was a decent add-on to the Alien universe, worthy of what it was given by critics and fans. The cast overall was good, however I didn't really care for Rapace, surprisingly. I couldn't stop seeing Lisbeth Salander. Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, even Rafe Spall all knocked it out of the park to some degree. If you haven't seen it, rent it, it's pretty sweet. 8.7 out of 10 W.Frey ... More

Posted by Will Frey at 20:21, 05 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

Caught this on the tele and truly my reaction was 'meh'. I was bored throughout (like most of the cast it seems) and, like Empire stated in their review, Fassbender is the only plus in this utterly pointless film. 2/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ref at 00:44, 12 May 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

Watched this again on DVD the other day. Still shit. ... More

Posted by moviebuff73 at 10:25, 06 May 2013 | Report This Post

Alien Vs Predator Mk. II

Archaeology, E.T. 'gods', real movie footage viewed, crew (of a vessel beginning with 'P') unaware of its mission until arrival, CEO with ulterior motives, heroine dwells on her deceased father, chestburst ending (Ian Whyte the host!)... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Litshttam at 19:07, 26 April 2013 | Report This Post

It may have contained some truly awful factors, but it does have some satisfying moments that don't make up for it's atrociousness but still provide some good entertainment. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by samzucca at 16:52, 15 April 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

thought it was shit when i first saw it. still do, can't bring myself too give it a second watch. ... More

Posted by moviebuff73 at 22:25, 25 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

as was the rest of the movie. One of the best looking 2D and 3D presentations on Blu Ray from 2012 IMO ... More

Posted by DONOVAN KURTWOOD at 13:28, 12 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

Well the opening sequence was pretty, wasn't it? ... More

Posted by V.E.N.O.M at 21:36, 11 February 2013 | Report This Post


Strip away Ridley Scott and all you have is a generic and often predictable horror film (and even more, an alright copycat of it's "cousin" film). But Scott knows how to keep things lively, with spot-on performances from all of its cast to match the symbolic and ambiguous tone of the story. Add in some dazzling visuals, and some horrific/suspenseful moments, then you have yourself a blast, if not an "Alien Blast". ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 18:58, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


Anyone else pick up on the cheeky unnernce buried in the "Peter Weyland Files" on the disc? And is it canon...? ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 18:38, 05 January 2013 | Report This Post

The main problem with this film is that they have one of the writers/creators of Lost writing it. When first I spied his name at the beginning of the film I knew then that there would be no answers. This comes from someone who watched the last episode of Lost at five in the morning expecting there to be some answers, but sadly, I just felt like my mind had been raped for the last six years. This man needs to stop writing. So do I. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stephenhickman2 at 15:40, 10 December 2012 | Report This Post

Three stars? Out of how many, 100?

I enjoy reading "Empire" magazine. It is a very professional, engaging read every month. And in Richmond, VA there are only one or two bookstores who bother to stock it, which verifies in my mind just how special it is, considering the quality of the other junk mags stuffed in the racks. However, I may have to re-consider just how intelligent it's reviews sections are, if someone watched "Prometheus" and believed it was worthy of three stars. Once again, a review that mentions it's "s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Wes4Les at 06:31, 22 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: The Master returns

How does one alien become two? Or am I missing something... ... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 19:45, 16 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: The Master returns

Glad to see others thought this film was a bit of a let down too, Im not sure whether it was supposed to be constantly referencing previous films or just ripping off scenes from them all the time. felt a little bit like this movie was just a sort of weird mosaic of all the other movies combined. And was the female lead just cast because she looks like Ripley? I can imagine watching it the second time would be much better after your expectations have been significantly lo... More

Posted by dghwood at 07:50, 02 November 2012 | Report This Post

The Master returns

Yes - visually stunning, atmospheric, esoteric - in other words everything you would expect from Sir Ridley Scott's return to sci-fi. I can't call it a masterpiece yet. Its the sort of film which requires repeated viewings ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by atom_band at 15:24, 30 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

From the article referred to above: heus in Greek mythology was the Titan that was given the job by Zeus to create Man. He gave mankind a number of gifts including fire. Prometheus also tricked Zeus into giving Man the best parts of animals that were sacrificed for the gods. This annoyed Zeus who sentenced Prometheus to be chained to a rock and have his liver eaten by an eagle. Apart from the tenuous link about creating man, what else does anything in the film have to do with Prometheus? N... More

Posted by jobloffski at 02:19, 25 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus

L: makins L: kurtangleuk I have to say this film was a major disappointment. Heres a great article that makes the case perfectly. I really hope he stays away from Blade Runner!! -ruined-the-film.php god what an absolutely shite article. these films are full of scientific inaccuracies its sci fi for christs sake not sci fact. you want scientific implausible in an alien film try holding your breath for the sam... More

Posted by Iron Manc at 00:00, 25 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus (2012)

L: Private Hudson What was in the alternate beginnings and endings? he alternate opening is a group of Engineers and an elder Engineer on the waterfall edge with the sacrifice one. Also a bit more CG disintegration of the Engineer. The ending has more dialogue between David and Shaw prior to her going back into the Juggernaut and also inside the Juggernaut. David elaborates on what the Engineer's were saying about their home world (saying the closest translation in English is '... More

Posted by DONOVAN KURTWOOD at 23:06, 24 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Prometheus (2012)

I really wanted to like this so much! After hearing loads of (mostly negative) reviews, I thought "Nah, surely it can't be this bad - I reckon I'll see something in it that everyone else has missed and when I explain it to them it'll be like a eureka type moment for them!" Sorry all, but I had no such luck! It looked very pretty, had good performances and I even quite liked the humanoid form of the Engineers. What I didn't like is the fact that it explained absolutely fuckall!! Isn't the point ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bad Ash at 09:45, 24 October 2012 | Report This Post

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