PROMETHEUS Review

To be fair, I may show a bit of favoritism in writing about Prometheus. This is my kind of movie and I was hooked from the beautiful opening shots of the soaring landscapes of a distant, alien planet. Also, to be fair, I should state that I may be one of the few cinema lovers who does not have Ridley Scott's Alien ingrained into my mind as a film I grew up on, I never even considered it one of my favorites. Before refreshing my mind just before screening Prometheus I had only seen the movie that made Sigourney Weaver a star once. So, while many reviews you might read about this film will contain a high level of discussion about how this new film contains DNA of the directors genre-defining sci-fi flick, mine will not. In essence though this aspect feels like nothing more than an afterthought and so the knowledge of those previous films is unnecessary only offering a bit tacked on to appease those who have waited 30 years for the director to re-visit the genre he so generously made contributions to. Prometheus is a monster all its own, with a strand of thinking that goes after what Alien only hinted at. Alien was a minimal sci-fi film, it was elegant in its execution and a slow burn in its pace. Prometheus, on the other hand, while sharing the fine eye for the pacing of its predecessor, also goes beyond the walls of the ship to explore the existential longings of two scientists who believe they may have just solved the mystery of human existence. With such a big question premise there was bound to be some disappointing aspects to the revelations but Scott has concocted a film that is nothing short of an accomplishment in visual wizardry despite fumbling the ball in the final act.

Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and Janek (Idris Elba)
watch from the ship as they discover the unthinkable.
We, as human beings, develop belief systems based on basic human needs. We do this to protect ourselves and function in the world. People strive to have happy events occur in their lives while feeling as if we are connected to the world in which we live. We create these systems though in an attempt to understand the world we live in, it provides structure and it helps us understand information so that all of this makes sense. Prometheus asks the question of what if these are all nothing more than self fulfilling prophecies? Are they nothing more than tools to interpret events in a way that fit into those belief systems? That is what I found not only the most engaging about the film, but also the most pleasing. That this large scale film that looks like a summer blockbuster has the balls to meditate on big philosophical questions. It is visually stunning and intellectually stimulating much in the vein of something like The Tree of Life while maintaining a demand that is something closer to that of a Marvel movie. Prometheus approaches these questions with the fact that there is biology somewhere else in our universe, that Earth is not the only planet able to sustain life, even if only in the smallest of organisms. The way in which it chooses to explore these themes is by pondering the questions of the origins of mankind.  The thesis is that life came from another race of extraterrestrials. It is kept strictly scientific throughout only upping the credibility of what we are witnessing. That is not to discourage beliefs in a higher power, but is instead something that quenches every single persons need to see to believe. At times, we can feel the strain of the script being unable to meet the epic expectations the dialogue reaches for. Still, for the most part this satisfies our sense of wonder and mystery with the awe-inspiring visuals that also carry a good amount of dread.

Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), Dr. Shaw (Noomi
Rapace) and android David (Michael Fassbender)
investigate ancient ruins on a distant planet.
These thoughts and musings are played out through the story of two doctors, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who have discovered markings in caves that span thousands of years but share a common characteristic. These drawings lead them to a specific set of stars and planets where they believe the secrets to the origins of mankind will be found. The two scientists are on board the ship appropriately titled Prometheus after the God who is credited with the creation of man from clay and the theft of fire for human use, an act that is said to have enabled progress and civilization in mythology. Shaw and Holloway are funded by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in tons of make-up) an aging corporate tycoon who believes in their theories. They are joined on board by Captain Janek (a scene stealing Idris Elba) as well as corporate manager for Weyland Industries Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron playing the baddie for a second week in a row). And then there is David, the android who looks, talks, and for the most part acts like a human being. There is always one robot in these kinds of movies, but Michael Fassbender makes David one for the record books. While David is neither good or bad, he clearly has his own agenda and he will stop at nothing to accomplish his personal goals. While there are plenty of scares to be expected from the slimy alien life forms to the several creative ways crew members are dispensed, nothing comes close to the frightening realization of what David is and how much he is capable of. Fassbender makes the most out of this already stand out character by creepily yearning to be a human himself yet taking full advantage of the perks that come with existing without a soul and bottomless database.

David gets to the heart of the truth the explorers hoped
to find on their expedition.
While the first hour or so of the film is completely compelling with non-stop discussion of the possibilities that lie ahead and the talk of what they already know and what they hope to discover; the conclusion does see the script slightly crumble. It is all very fascinating and is both in word and scope genuinely epic. I don't know that I have ever seen more clear, pristine visuals coated with such looming nuances of fear. Each of the actors bring a fine performance to the table and Rapace should certainly be commended for anchoring this huge film with such humility and confidence. Though her Dr. Shaw is unlikely to become as iconic a character as Weaver's Ripley, that role was of a different time and social landscape where now a woman protagonist is not as unheard of. What is most important is that Rapace proves herself up to the challenge and I am excited to see where her career in the U.S. will go from here. The only disheartening bit about the film and the only reason it ranks a four-star rather than a full five in my books is because of the questions it leaves unanswered. While this could of course be left to the explanation that Scott wants viewers to discuss and draw their own conclusions the truth feels closer to the fact that the screenwriters were unable to create an end result that matches the hype the early discussions build. The entire running time the audience is looking forward to answers to continuous questions being asked. When we finally reach the climax of the film we receive no concrete explanation (which I can live with) but we are not really given anything to draw from either. We see a set of actions take place with no justification. It's as if the writers hope the crowd will be so distracted by the loop around to the Alien connection that we will forget about the meat of why we are here. Not true, and I held such high hopes for what revelation might come. I can only hope that those unanswered questions were left open for a sequel that might offer insight rather than a discussion that will only ever consist of speculation.