Spotlight: Sir Ridley Scott and Prometheus

Co-written with Owen Keating

Chances are, you’ve seen at least one of Ridley Scott‘s films. The Tyneside-born director has created generation defining masterpieces that not only make us question what happens around us, but also transports us to previously unimaginable worlds.

Sir Ridley first achieved international recognition with Alien, the 1979 sci-fi film that started Sigourney Weaver on the path to science fiction stardom. His dystopian pedigree was further improved with Blade Runner, which, despite an initially poor recpetion, has become hugely influential. The film is now considered genre-defining, as well as being crediting with popularising ‘cyberpunk’.

Throughout his career, Scott has rarely taken the safe option and his films tend to polarise opinion. Lesser known works like Legend (1985) and A Good Year (2006) may have struggled at the box office, but are regarded by many as ‘cult’ films which are worth more than their net profits may suggest.

Many know him for his more recent successes; Gladiator (2000) is an astonishing reinvigoration of the ‘swords and sandals’ genre, whilst Black Hawk Down (2002) is utterly compelling in its shocking realism. He followed these up with American Gangster (2007) which, although initially hampered by administrative difficulties, enjoyed box-office success.

All in all, Sir Ridley Scott can only be considered one of the greatest directors of our time. His films are compelling, rich and stylistically very striking. His works get to the heart of the human condition, resonating with audiences across any demographic you’d care to mention.

Given Scott’s sci-fi pedigree and the extraordinary hype that surrounded the film’s release, Prometheus promised to be the surprise smothered thriller of the summer. The film follows the eponymous myth’s theme as a group of scientists, financed by a conglomerate,  voyage to the ends of the universe to discover humanity’s origins.

David (Fassbender) remains one of the only relatable characters, indicative of the disappointting writing.
David (Fassbender) remains one of the only relatable characters, indicative of the disappointing writing.

From exquisite opening vistas to gorgeously intricate cellular CGI, Scott’s cinematography is astonishing. Precise camerawork immerses you in the world of the film, moving from beautiful landscapes to blood-spattered operating theatres with ease. Add to this a haunting soundtrack and an atmosphere choked with suspense and drama, and the stage is set for the prequel the Alien series deserves.

However, much like the scientists’ mission, the film stutters and ultimately fails in its execution. The plot ambles along fuzzily, with no real explanation given for all the gore. And there’s a lot of gore. Viewing the film is a visceral, shudder-inducing experience with a disappointing payoff. The characters’ motives are left largely unexplained and when they are, it’s genuinely hard to empathise. The film’s shortcomings are aptly summarised by the fact that the most compelling character is David (Fassbender), a soulless Machiavellian android.

Given the inadequacies of the script, Idris Elba and Noomi Rapace make valiant efforts to humanise otherwise wooden characters. Elba offsets typical clichés with wit and verve, while Rapace portrays protagonist Elizabeth Shaw as courageous, convincing and wilfully idealistic.

Prometheus‘ ambition is its own undoing; the plot skims too many concepts to convincingly investigate any of them, and is only partially saved by some strong performances and an intoxicating atmosphere. Like the scientists’ initial findings, this film flatters to decieve.

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Author: Louis Doré

Freelance Journalist studying at City University, London on MA Newspaper Journalism.

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