Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie
(out of 4)
Looks like somebody stumbled into Tony Stark’s lab.
Prometheus seems to have divided audiences. Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film since Blade Runner has been criticized for its large amount of plot holes, bizarre character motivations, and unanswered questions. I cannot lie: all of this is true – look close enough, and Prometheus can be picked apart rather easily. But it is so packed with visual information, cool sci-fi hardware, and menacing alien creatures that I was hardly bothered about it. Prometheus is mostly science fiction with horror elements thrown in, but it never approaches the believability of a 2001 or even Scott’s own Alien. I’m not sure it matters; this is more like a glossy B-movie that uses a high-concept (our DNA was seeded from alien humanoids long ago) to pose an interesting question: just because we want to meet our creators, does that guarantee that they want to meet us?
It seems that numerous cave paintings have been discovered which suggest some sort of map to the stars (ancient alien astronauts and all that). Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the founder and CEO of a massive multi-national (I’m sure you Alien fans are familiar with it) drops a trillion dollars on the spaceship Prometheus, which heads for the moon designated as LV-223. The crew consists of the cross-wearing archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), her boyfriend and professional colleague Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green), Captain Janek (Idris Elba), mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and android (synthetic person) David (Michael Fassbender), who likes to watch Lawrence of Arabia in his downtime when he’s not learning ancient languages and tending to ship operations.
Hint: it’s not a wine cellar.
A giant dome is discovered with a vast network of corridors inside it. There are remains of alien humanoids (“engineers”, “space jockeys”) along with a large alter of urns secreting some kind of black substance. Operating under a secret agenda (as synthetics seem all too eager to do), David smuggles a sample on board and does something quite unethical, which through a series of events leads to an eye-opening grossout where poor Elizabeth has an (automated) emergency C-section performed to remove a fast-growing organism from her belly. (It’s a disturbing scene but I chuckled in amusement anyway because it reminded me of one of those claw machines that you try to get stuffed animals out of). In the meantime, two idiots with no business being on a space mission get attacked by a snake/worm/eel thing leading to one of them going through some unwanted genetic alterations. In fact, more than a few people will be killed/altered by weird genetic mutations, monsters, or a re-animated engineer – one very large, intimidating, and pissed off alien astronaut/God/forefather/what-have-you.
Prometheus has its share of action-horror and humor, some of it being intentional and some of it not. The script certainly needed some work, as is evidenced by mohawk-and-tattoo sporting Fifield (Sean Harris), a supposed geologist who is clearly unbalanced as soon as we meet him. He’s funny, yes, but what’s a guy like that doing on a trillion dollar mission to begin with? Why fool around with a threatening alien eel creature like it’s some sort of lost puppy? Why leave the bridge unattended when there are two stranded crewmembers about (well ok, to have sex with Charlize Theron, I suppose that’s warranted). But you get the idea – characters do stupid things in this picture. I still didn’t mind it all too much – Prometheus is so visually striking and filled with all sorts of interesting information to process that the sci-fi geek in me forgave it many sins.
Awww… he’s just playing.
Basically, Prometheus is the first half-hour of Alien stretched to almost-feature-length. It’s a constant string of discoveries – the moon, the alien ship, the cargo room, the alien bridge with holographic technology, the decapitated engineer head… it’s all candy to me. I like sci-fi that’s all about discovering new worlds and life forms, which I suppose is why I dig Trek so much and why I prefer the beginning of Alien to its stalking-monster second half. Philosophically, it’s nothing too complicated. “Does God exist?” isn’t answered, but one interesting point the movie brings up is that even if the space jockey/engineers did in fact engineer mankind, discrediting Darwinism in the process, it doesn’t mean that religion is discredited (as somebody asks, who invented the engineers?) Prometheus also jumps on the bandwagon operated by other recent pics like Skyline and Battleship – we sent messages out into space looking for other intelligent life but is that a particularly good idea? What if they’re not friendly? Or worse, what if they discover that their little science experiment millions of years ago was a failure and needs to be shut down? And, as the first scene might suggest, what if the experiment wasn’t authorized to begin with? (The parallels with the Titan Prometheus – who created man from clay and stole fire from the gods to give to him – now come into focus).
The very last scene of Prometheus is interpreted by some as the origins of the Alien xenomorph but I personally think it’s just a bit of an in-joke for fans. This is certainly a prequel to Alien in the sense that events happen earlier in the same universe. (If you’re wondering, Alien and Aliens are superior films, but we’re mostly dealing with apples and oranges here anyway.) The ending also sets up a sequel that I’m sure I’ll show up for, being a sucker for more Giger imagery and Bava-inspired alien humanoids. Prometheus is filled with inexplicable, illogical, and silly things, but like Michael Mann’s The Keep, there are equally wonderful moments that make it worth the trip.
– Bill Gordon
Their gyms and exercise regimens were extremely advanced.