20th Century Fox
124 min., dir by Ridley Scott, with Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Logan Marshall-Green
From the moment man crawled out of the primordial ooze, he’s searched for a meaning behind his existence. Theories can be formulated, but nothing has ever been solidified as the answer. Acting as its own story with slight prequel arcs to the Alien franchise, Prometheus is the cautionary tale that says, “Maybe it’s best not to question why.” Sprawling and disturbing, it finds new ways to shock life into the dying breed of sci-fi thrillers Alien created. Engrossing and mesmerizing, Prometheus will have you talking about it long after it’s over — but should one look for more than what is presented?
Prometheus‘s start is a little worrisome. It plays heavily on religious ideas about the soul, and comes dangerously close to repeating so many things we’ve seen from previous sci-fi searches for the origin of our species. As the world unfolds, different questions are raised, and none are fully answered. Instead of handing its audience a nice little package that claims to know where we came from, it’s a warning: don’t go looking, you won’t like what you find. Prometheus plays heavily on all aspects of the mythological Greek Titan it takes its name from, which includes a little thing called Pandora’s Box. We all know what happened when she opened that box.
Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have made the discovery of a lifetime. They believe they have evidence pointing to a single race that visited Earth 3,500 years ago and created man. The cave paintings that make up their discovery all have the image of one large man pointing to a grouping of stars and planets that can only be matched to one solar system. Funded by dying billionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the archeologists set off on Weyland Corps. ship, “Prometheus,” to find the planet mankind’s makers (dubbed by Shaw as “the engineers”) came from so they can simply ask, “Why?” What they find, however, is something horrifically different.
The vast and serene landscapes of the title sequence spell it out right away: Prometheus is a gorgeous film. The calm atmosphere is short-lived, and as the setting moves to the ship, an ominous tone of uncomfortable fear begins to wash over the picture. As the obscene nature of the story takes its stranglehold of the entire piece, that squirming feeling you felt when Ridley Scott introduced you to a little thing called “chest bursting” all comes back. In fact, Scott attempts to rival that unforgettable scene with something new, and it’s just as cringe-worthy.
The flaws of Prometheus exist in the mish-mashed carbon copy characters that butt heads for no good reason. Charlie Holloway is a piss-poor character who seemingly acts like a child and nothing becoming of an archaeologist. Their hired geologist and biologist are also a pair of mind-numbing twits who seemed to have doctored their resume to get a job right out of high school (well the biologist at least). They’re not all atrocities, though; Michael Fassbender, as the android David, brings a new layer of unwavering mystique to the role and is the gem of the cast.
If based on nothing more than being a platform for a night full of arguing and revelations over dinner after you and your friends leave the theater, Prometheus is an overwhelming success. The touches that tie into Alien will keep the conversations burning into the midnight hour. But those knots that bring the movies together are still loose. Like the overall message of the film, the more you dig into trying to solidify a theory, the quicker it may fall apart.
By nature, I am an analytical person and want to dissect a movie, piece by piece. Prometheus hands someone like me a gift that can be analyzed to no end. Like its main story warns, maybe I should just sit back and accept what’s in front of me.