The one word answer is: no. The slightly longer answer is: abso-fucking-lutely not - what the hell was he thinking with this gibberish? The film, Prometheus, was always going to be something of a high-wire act - a long-established film series with a legion of fans and a mountain of expectation - but it's still pretty staggering just how misplaced Scott's return is. In constructing this folly, he's certainly brought his full director-as-god weight down on branding the franchise as his - for good or ill - and I think that he's possibly even managed to poison it for good.
To be fair, the film does have a smattering of good points. Much to its credit, it at least tries to something different. The film series has steadily become swamped in its own history and in particular themes and tropes, and while Prometheus apes some of these, it certainly charts some new (if wholly misconstrued) directions. Given that we live in an era of weapons of mass destruction (most likely phantom ones), I did actually quite like its presentation of the Alien as a biotechnological WMD. For just a moment there it felt like something interesting was being said. Just a moment though. The film even manages to steer surprisingly wide of the actual Alien part of the franchise. Of course, it can't resist a closing nod to the fanboys, but it doesn't rely on the familiar figure of the Alien for almost its whole length. And, finally, the film almost does something interesting and novel with its (requisite) android character. David is quite different from the corporate traitor Ash, the ambiguous-but-good Bishop and the conflicted Call. His kill-your-maker sentiments are much more interesting than the film gives them credit for, and it ultimately leaves exploration of them at skin deep level - Scott showing his hand as a hack who simply can't spot good subplots.
Documenting the bad points of Prometheus is hampered from the get-go: where to start? There are just so many missteps, unfinished thoughts and broken promises. Leaving aside the plot stupidities and holes - which I will touch on shortly - top of the heap is that the film makes the exact same mistake concerning its characters that the franchise's lesser sequels - Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection - make. Namely, a suite of two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs given about two lines apiece to establish themselves before characterisation is firmly transferred to the back-burner. And where character in the film is actually suggested by more than a thin stereotype - basically David and (Ripley stand-in) Elizabeth Shaw - Scott still manages to sabotage things. David's hinted plot arc is largely aborted, while Shaw is an unbelievable and unsympathetic scientist that Scott tries to bludgeon into human shape by giving her a dead dad and an inability to have children (until ... well, until the film needs an unconvincing jolt of body-horror). Given that Scott's original film managed to convey (as much as a science fiction film can) a suite of intellectually and emotionally different characters, one is left with the feeling that this must have all been in the script then, since there's nothing on show here to suggest that he understood what he was doing back in 1979.
Regarding specific stupid points, the most ridiculous - and telling - for me was how the film dispatches Vickers. A large narrow object is collapsing towards you - do you run along the direction of collapse, or turn 90 degrees and run away from it? Is this seriously the best that the writers could do? Actually, that's pretty rhetorical - it seems an entirely fitting response from the writers of this film. Another awful misstep was an Alien birth (by caesarian!) that's a shameless gorefest (and from which the character recovers remarkably quickly). It makes even less sense, both dramatically and scientifically, than that in Alien Resurrection - at least that served the theme of motherhood pretty well, and nicely brought the franchise around full circle. And while making things superficially interesting, Prometheus' alterations to the Alien lifecycle (a "crime" for which Alien 3 was attacked at the time) arguably make it completely incoherent. Gone are the classic anthropomorphic horrors, now replaced by more plastic - but much less iconic - rejects from The Thing. At times, it's almost as if Scott wants to reinvent the whole series again from scratch, dashing even his own contribution from 33 years ago as he goes.
There are also gaping credibility issues like the space jockeys having a "perfect match" with human DNA but looking more like marble gods (Titans, perhaps?) than humans - plus the convenient failure by the writers to remember that humans have a whole slew of inconveniently closely related animal cousins back on Earth. The film also offers only the scantiest of scant hints about what the space jockeys were up to, including what turns out to be a pretty inexplicable opening sequence that seems portentous but winds up pointless. Given that we have a living, breathing space jockey at one point, and given that the film isn't in the least reluctant to spoon-feed the audience exposition from the lips of its characters, this could have been easily rectified. The film makers might well claim that leaving viewers confused preserves some mystery, but I suspect that it instead preserves the illusion that the writers had the first clue what they were doing - this is all straight Chariots of the Gods stuff.
Finally, I can't let pass Prometheus' shameless teeing up of a sequel at the end. Its precursor films always ended fairly definitively, usually accompanied by a sigh of relief from the surviving characters. Sequels weren't precluded (except by Alien 3 - and look how that worked out), but a roadmap to them wasn't sketched out before the credits roll. Here, the film ends with characters heading off with a definite purpose (albeit a misguided one), patently angling for a future cash-injection. Scott has come a long way since the cold and bleak ending of Alien.
Overall, Prometheus further cements my long-standing opinion of Scott as a hack who got lucky. Good scripts occasionally drift over his desk, and he has done a good job in the past of turning some of these into perfectly creditable films (although, as I've noted before, sometimes only with the first cut). This film also cements my annoyance with the equating of the success of a film as a piece of art (high-brow or otherwise) with the director rather than with the writer. To wit, Prometheus - it's got Ridley Scott at the helm, who cares about the writer - what could possibly go wrong? Again and again, all credit for a successful film is delivered with great fanfare at the door of its director, with nary a scrap left for the creator that first breathed life into it. Yes, it's still the case that a good director is needed to turn a great script into a great film, but character and plot are gifts from the writer that a director gives form and shape to. Given this film, as well as some of his earlier efforts, Scott would appear not to know a good script if it jumped out of someone's chest and bit him.
I might be being too harsh here. I might soften in my views as time passes and focus on the places where the film slightly lives up to expectations. But I hope not. It's a wretched film really - largely because of its conception rather than execution. Unfortunately, it will make money, most likely a lot of money, so I fear for another return - but it will be difficult to clear up the mess left by this film regardless of how good the script is. Much as the space jockeys were hoping to do in the film's mythology, perhaps Scott has finally "salted the Earth" on the franchise?
A few curious points also occurred to me about the film.
- The aged Weyland bears more than a passing resemblance, physically and ethically, to Rupert Murdoch. Coincidence?
- While Ripley knows to do the right thing in Alien (don't let Kane back onboard the Nostromo) and survives, Vickers does the same but dies.
- In Alien the space jockey ship carried a warning about its contents, but here it's strongly implied (though we don't know for sure because they never get to tell us) that the space jockeys were up to no good. Which is it Ridley?
- Much as with other science fiction prequels, the technology on display in this film seems much more advanced (touchscreens, 3D holograms) than that in the earlier films (CRTs, big buttons) that purport to be occurring later. Haven't the continuity supervisors spotted this yet?