Twenty-five years after an Alien reached deep within us and tore our chests wide open, Ridley Scott returns to the sci-fi genre with Prometheus. Even if you somehow managed to convince yourself that you have no preconceived notions about what this film will be, they’re there, lurking in your subconscious. Alien is a delicate masterpiece, a film that changed cinema and our notions of outer-space exploration forever. Prometheus is not delicate, nor is it a masterpiece. It is, however, a galactic monster of a movie that crawls under your skin, burrows into your brain, and leaves total cellular destruction in its wake.
Prometheus opens with a prologue that quickly sets the film’s tone as we witness a silent, ominous ritual that will pave the way for its incoming philosophical debates. It’s 2093, nearly 30 years before the events of Alien. Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), through their excavation of ancient caves, have discovered a common thread in Sumerian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian civilizations -- a particular star pattern that sets them on their course to an unknown moon that could support human life. While Halloway is driven by his thirst for knowledge, it becomes readily apparent that Shaw is on a quest to find God, her creators, or, as she calls them, “Engineers.”
Their quest continues on the space ship Prometheus, just one of the magnificent designs that showcase Scott’s visionary work. The vessel and its crew of seventeen make their way toward the planetary system supposedly laid out by Shaw’s Engineers. Seventeen is a few too many characters to get acquainted with as intimately as the seven crew members in Alien, but that isn’t a problem for long. The quick spiral that envelops the mission on this unknown moon means that perhaps we won’t need to. Luckily, the main players are those with the wits to stick around. Idris Elba dons a Southern accent as the ship’s playful captain, while Charlize Theron represents the mission’s financial backer, Weyland Corp, with a firm hand. As this generation’s Ripley, Noomi Rapace brings a sense of fragility -- even as she scrambles to survive.
Unsurprisingly, it’s Michael Fassbender who is the most fascinating to watch as the ship’s android, David. Some of Fassbender’s scenes are the best in the movie, quiet and calculated. Fassbender plays him with a childlike obedience, and a hidden depth that belies David’s unsettling smile. The android serves at the catalyst for the questions raised in Prometheus, a man-made being in search of answers and, often, cast aside for his emotional shortcomings. It’s no accident that Shaw’s unknown creatures are deemed Engineers; as the crew delves deeper into their origins, David’s calm curiosity reveals his own desire to understand creation.
Though Prometheus is, like Alien, a gorgeously constructed monster movie, screenwriters John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof pose lofty questions of creation and destruction, of lineage and parenthood, and, yes, of evolution. Fans of Lindelof’s Lost won’t be surprised by these themes, nor the writers’ indifference towards providing explicit answers. True, there are a handful of dodgy plot points. But if the execution of the narrative is at times a little sloppy, it has very little effect on the overall result.
After all, Scott is celebrated for his ability to create magnificent, all-encompassing worlds with a striking visual eye. From the gritty, futuristic streets of Blade Runner to ancient Rome’s Colosseum in Gladiator, no one can deny the director’s attention to detail and mastery of design. Just as Weyland built David, Scott invented the Alien mythos. Perhaps Prometheus is his way of toying with his creation. This time, his monster is bigger, badder, and not concerned with what you may expect.
Inherently, Prometheus’ flaw is in its expectations -- a flaw which can’t be helped. If you enter into this film looking for Scott’s particular brand of entertainment, you will not be disappointed. Visually stunning, suspenseful, and terribly violent, this horrifying sci-fi epic is a breathtaking spectacle that demands a second, third, and fourth watch.
For Fans Of: Alien, Blade Runner, Sunshine
Why We Like It: crazy space deaths, brilliant design, Alien prequel, one of Buzzine's most anticipated movies of 2012