Imagine this for a sci-fi movie premise:
Human archeologists discover a single image among several ancient human civilizations separated by centuries and location all pointing toward some kind of alien involvement in the evolutionary course of humanity. They determine that the symbol is actually a star constellation and possibly the home planet of this mysterious alien species.
A scientific expedition is formed with the intention of traveling to the alien planet and seeking out an alien species that could be responsible for creating the human race. Funding this expedition is a shadowy mega-corporation that may have a sinister ulterior motive…
Then you find out this is a prequel to the 1979 sci-fi horror classic “Alien” and the excitement vanishes. Why? Because by shackling this story to a pre-existing franchise you, the viewer, should be able to piece together how this story is going to play out:
The planet they’re traveling to is going to be the planet from the original “Alien” film.
The shadowy corporation is going to have an ulterior motive, probably something evil that will involve a callous disregard for the safety of the human crew, because it’s the same shadowy corporation from the Alien franchise and that’s what they always do.
A terrible fate will befall the human crew, because if it doesn’t, then the crew from “Alien” wouldn’t have been drawn to the same planet in that film.
You know how this will end because you know the story of what happens afterwards, and for that to happen, there is only one way for this story to happen; a horrible fate for this expedition that somehow leaves no visible traces that it was ever sent, because there are no traces of it in the next film in the series, “Alien.”
It’s the biggest problem facing any prequel, but it isn’t necessarily the kiss of death for a film.
Just because a viewer knows how a movie is going to end doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching. After all, anything based on a true story or historical events already has its ending spoiled, but that doesn’t matter as long as the story is interesting and worth telling, and in that regard, “Prometheus” fails to deliver.
The quality of the acting/characters in the story is also a problem. The only notable performance comes from Michael Fassbender, who plays a bland, emotionless android that ironically has the most character of anyone in the film. None of the other actors turn in memorable performances.
This may not necessarily be the fault of the actors, however, because for the most part, almost none of the characters are given enough material to let the audience get to know them and care about them. Which brings us to the major flaw of “Prometheus”: It tries to be a prequel to “Alien,” tell its own story, and do so in a way that will allow for sequels to this film, if it proves successful. It tries to do too much, and as a result fails to do anything satisfactorily.
It has enough original content for an interesting premise, but this all quickly takes a back seat to making sure this film has enough material in it to tie it in with the original “Alien.” Because it is forced to spend so much of its screentime setting up events for and tossing nods to “Alien,” it isn’t left with enough focus to tell an interesting stand-alone story.
You are forced to ask yourself, “is this story worth telling?” The answer is, no. It adds nothing of value to the storied history of the Alien franchise that wasn’t already told more efficiently and effectively in a better movie. “Prometheus” spends two hours telling the same story that “Alien” was able to summarize wordlessly in a few scenes; a small group of humans discover the remnants of a long-dead alien civilization and the instrument likely responsible for their demise.
“Prometheus” had promise, and some of the cinematography is great. There were enjoyable moments in the film, but overall there wasn’t enough good to compensate for the bad.