Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Producer: David Giler, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall
Searching for the alien race that created mankind leads a scientific research team to a remote moon harboring a terrifying secret.
Where do we come from? What is our purpose? What happens when we die? Such questions motivate most religions, many musings, and the mission of the scientific exploratory vessel Prometheus.
After uncovering a collection of cave paintings apparently pointing toward the progenitors of mankind, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway convince the Weyland Corporation, six years before merging with Yutani, to finance a two-year trip to a remote moon where our creators may have come from. Figuratively coldhearted corporate sycophant Vickers oversees the expedition while literally coldhearted android David manages maintenance operations. The usual assortment of captain, pilots, biologist, geologist, medic, and red shirt mercenaries composes the remaining crew.
Of course, seeking validation for a complicated conundrum reveals new unknowns. The oversized humanoids dubbed ‘Engineers’ for their role in architecting humanity are unexpectedly extinct, or so it seems when the survey team explores a terraformed pyramid where the ancient race once dwelled. Among their corpses are remnants of alien technology along with a black substance whose purpose is possibly sinister. Whatever the Engineers were up to, it led to their destruction. Digging into the details may yield a similar fate for everyone aboard the ship, if not from the secrets inside the structure, then from the clandestine conspiracy involving the Prometheus’ true purpose.
Both the ship’s crew and the movie they occupy are filled with ponderous philosophies regarding our identities as well as those of the hands that possibly created us. Being that there are no easy answers, or answers at all, for the heady “what ifs” wondered here, maybe it shouldn’t shock anyone that Ridley Scott’s thesis in filmed entertainment form has the exterior scaffolding of introspective intellectualism without a substantial supposition constituting its interior.
It could be that this is the dividing line separating those who champion the film as a Kubrickian head-trip of speculative science-fiction from others who’d prefer “Prometheus” pick a perspective and support it. Barring that, action-intensive audiences anxious for the vague “Alien” prequel promised by the premise may simply wish for more manic madness and outright frights instead of metaphor and mood.
It isn’t accurate to say “Prometheus” bites off more than can be chewed since sometimes its teeth are designed to not bite. John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof’s script joins the director in shrugging shoulders by setting up chin-stroking pins the story sidesteps knocking down. Whether the intention is to echo our own inability to comprehend creationism, or simply to set up a sequel(s), how much one wishes to engage his/her imagination determines whether often ambiguous fiction will frustrate or fascinate.
As far as effective execution goes, extraordinary visual conceptualizations, as if anything less than pristine production design should be expected of a Ridley Scott film, cause no concern for debate. Scott continues filling all other futurist filmmakers with envy over how masterfully he manufactures a fully functional mythology replete with technology, terminology, and immersive spectacle for escapist fantasy. “Prometheus” is a cool-hued marvel of stunning imagery and ideas, even though some of the latter are no more substantive than that.
Meeting the moviemaking master with equally deep devotion is a cast whose commitment morphs slender characterizations into actualized embodiment. Underwritten roles undercut how far certain actors are allowed to carry individual themes. Charlize Theron’s Vickers, for instance, clearly means to be more of a reptilian witch than opportunity affords. Vickers ends up more inconvenient nuisance than nefarious antagonist. Pure force of professional personality is the only reason she, as well as Idris Elba’s captain for that matter, shines at all.
Michael Fassbender doesn’t have to mount the same fight for material to massage into meaning. As the deceptive android David, Fassbender puts one of the most mesmerizing artificial intelligences onscreen since Brent Spiner’s Data, condensing that character’s seven TV seasons and several feature films of developmental complexities into a two-hour span of nuanced id versus ego conflict.
The film’s flaws involve sailing its raft of high concept questions and dubiously developed characters along a river of less important techspeak, machinery navigation, and CGI vistas overstaying their welcome after functionally establishing awesome atmosphere. The eyes and the mind enjoy soaking in all “Prometheus” has on hand, though this vanity pulls pacing from providing snappier suspense.
Lean lines to the look romanticize sleek style to where artistry elevates above self-imposed limitations. Contemplative aspects miss marks, yet the cinematic realization of Scott, Spaihts, and Lindelof’s collective vision singes “Prometheus” with scorching flair. In that regard, the film approaches irresistibility as scintillating fabulism. Were its context operating on an identical wavelength, “Prometheus” could erase all argument over its disputed status as another Ridley Scott classic.
Review Score: 70