Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s long awaited return to science fiction and the much speculated ‘is it’ or ‘isn’t it’ a prequel to Alien, is finally here. With much anticipation from fans (myself included), it’s a tough act to follow when hopes are riding so high for a film to deliver, and deliver big.
Scott, who directed classics including Alien, Blade Runner, Legend, and Gladiator, has unleashed upon audiences a slick high concept sci-fi thriller, and with no if’s and’s or but’s is firmly grounded in the same Alien universe that he introduced us to in 1979. As for the burning question of how the hell does it connect to the Alien series? Well, ”big things have small beginnings,” says Michael Fassbender as the android David. But more on that and him later.
Following a breathtaking 3D pre-‘Dawn Of Man’ prologue of a doomed alien humanoid bestowing Earth with the gift of DNA (whether its an intentional gift of life or not is the first of many questions), we jump thousands of years into the future and are are introduced to Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). The pair are archeologists who discover similar ancient cave paintings all over the world which point them to the stars on a quest to the possible home planet of our ‘creators.’
On the Prometheus, a trillion dollar space vessel funded and owned by Weyland Industries (remember “The Company” in Aliens?), Shaw and Holloway travel to LV-223 (not to be confused with LV-426, the barren planet seen in Alien & Aliens) along with bitch-in-space corporate suit Merideth Vickers (Charlize Theron), android David (Fassbender), gruff ship pilot Janek (Idris Elba), and a bunch of nameless other crew members along for the ride who will make many qualified piss poor decisions throughout the journey.
Once there, they discover a strange alien temple of sorts, things are quickly deemed as not quite what they hoped for, and all hell breaks loose the closer they get to uncovering the true nature of man’s origins. Deadly creatures. Check. Dark creepy corridors. Check. Squirm worthy horror moments. Check. Intriguing sci-fi concepts. Without question.
As a stand alone concept, Prometheus moves along swimmingly for the first hour while waving a tense and constant “what happens next?” flag. But as grand as the concept of discovering “God” is (Shaw wears a cross to remind us of the Heavenly higher beings), and finding the answers to questions like “Why are we here?”, can there ever be a satisfying answer to these mysteries?
Prometheus will offer a different experience for those expecting and seeking that Alien tie-in and those for whom all the references and familiar bio-mechanical H.R. Giger xenomorph imagery just fly right over their heads. But among the many high brow concepts of creation and how mankind fits into the grand scheme of things in the universe, the film starts to lose focus when its limited by the plot points it needs to hit by warming up the seat for Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo.
Michael Fassbender plays the calculating android David in a standout performance. The presence of a robotic character is of no surprise here. Ian Holm, Lance Henriksen, and Winona Ryder are all illustrious android alumni from the Alien films. The unique cold, creepy charisma Fassbender brings to David’s childlike sense of wonder and quest for absolute knowledge at any cost would put the logical Mr. Spock and evil HAL 9000 both to shame. Early scenes that set up his lonely existence watching Peter O’ Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia add more depth to him than most of the other human characters will see in the entire film. He pulls off an amazing turn as the film’s ultimate anti-hero.
Charlize Theron does well here in both her space age power suits and form fitting cat suits as she twists here evil corporate mustache as the no-nonsense Weyland heavy. Noomi Rapace impresses as the God-fearing archeologist whose faith is tested when confronted with the possibility of meeting her extraterrestrial creators, dubbed the ‘Engineers.’ She’s given a lot to do and follows a fine line of strong female leads for Ridley Scott.
Scott conceived and shot the film in 3D, and the results are not only pleasing (especially for the gorgeous exotic landscape shots), but at times amazing. Sir Ridley proves that in right hands, the now-tired 3D bandwagon can still be a force to be reckoned with in the big screen experience. The added dimension is subtle and never intrusive to the senses, and sucks you in as a natural part of the visuals. There was a conscious effort to not deliver another film that pops out at you every time something suddenly jerks which tends to add nauseating motion blur. Also for a movie with so much set in places with minimal light, the film looked great and showed little sign of the darker picture associated with 3D projection.
Overall, Prometheus boasts a brilliant set-up and never drags along in pacing with its ideas. The concept in theory is the stuff the best sci-fi is made of. But even with a solid cast and mesmerizing visuals (and that impressive unobtrusive 3D), ultimately it buckles under the weight of balancing both its own ambition and the legacy it ends up trying too hard to live up to. Substantial satisfying resolution is not one of the film’s finer points.
Needless to say, there is plenty of room left for a sequel. Hell there’s enough room for several more installments that could run completely parallel to the established Alien films, and I would welcome the chance to see them all. But by the end credits there were too many open doors left swinging wide open in the wind, and I felt left hanging by many pressing “But what about this?” “And what about that?” issues regarding the whole ‘quest for God’ journey. And sadly, I hate to say the film’s final image manages to destroy any sense of subtlety set up in the preceding two hours, as if we didn’t get it already.
Prometheus opens Friday, June 8th in 3D and IMAX 3D.
REVIEW RATING: ★★★★★
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce, Patrick Wilson
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 123 minutes