Director Ridley Scott seemed to be running away from his science fiction past for the last thirty years or so. He has given us ‘Blade Runner’ and the original ‘Alien,’ but has avoided such material since then. Imagine the surprise of everyone when it was announced that he was working on an ‘Alien’ prequel of sorts. This project is called ‘Prometheus.’
The year is 2089 and scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charles Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover an ancient cave drawing in Scotland which is a star map beckoning humans to explore space. Two years later, this expedition is underway in an attempt to find the creators of human known as ‘engineers.’
Shaw and Holloway are joined by a group of scientists hired by Peter Weyland, the deceased CEO of Weyland Corporation which funds the building of a massive ship known as Prometheus. Mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) oversees everything. David (Michael Fassbender) is the ship’s resident android, there to awaken the crew at the necessary time and to facilitate the entire process. The group has been in a stasis for the last two years, awoken only when the ship arrives at a distant moon which promises to be the home of the engineers.
Of course they explore the moon. Of course they find something and of course it initiates a good amount of action. Does this answer the crews’ questions and will there be a crew left to interpret this? Watch!
Visually, the film is impressive. Everything this Scott touches looks gorgeous, so why should this be any different? There is also some theological territory addressed here as they very origins of mankind are explored. This is more ambitious than the average story.
It all doesn’t quite unfurl as you would expect. There is some action and science fiction violence, but not exactly like the other ‘Alien’ movies. Sure, there are some references and familiar elements, but many of these are fleeting. There is a bit of creativity in what happens and there are certainly some creepy moments. Expect a few almost-unforgettable images/moments.
Now to the problems. The script and story itself is simply awful. Brace yourself for plot holes the size of Texas. At times, characters do things that defy logic. It makes the plot go forward and advances the action, but at what cost? Some simple decisions would have bypassed a few sticky situations and maybe would have spared a few lives. For a movie set in the future, the technology has some strange limitations. There are other serious inconsistencies that you can read about online or watch and be mystified for yourself.
Also, the suspense isn’t exactly sustained. Something major happens a little over halfway through the story and is almost completely forgotten until the end. The nature of the planet and the dangers upon it are varied which can be admirable, but it also means that the focus is diluted. Rather than have one large alien or even swarm of aliens attacking the crew, there a few different factors at play.
What is with science fiction stories completely falling apart by the end? ‘Sunshine’ and even ‘Signs,’were also guilty of this, but at least the former had enough good in the story to almost excuse this. Is it a matter of a storyteller being clever enough to create an outstanding concept but not knowing how to properly end it? Is it a case of painting oneself into a corner with such a high concept and actually believing that the simplest solution is always the best one?
When we first see Theron’s character, she gives the impression of being a formidable character. It turns out, she does next to nothing throughout the course of the movie. We get a few big reveals toward the end of the film, but they really add nada to the story. There is also an instance of some criminally bad age-advancing make up.
Rapace makes a fine center to the story as her Dr. Shaw is like a less-resourceful version of Ellen Ripley. Much of the crew is almost anonymous with only Idris Elba as Janek being allowed to have much personality. The real star of the show is Fassbender. So what if the emotion-less android has become a sort of requirement for these types of films? He gives a dynamic performance and is very watchable.
Special features include: a few deleted and alternate scenes. Nothing too special.
‘Prometheus’ has a lot of good ideas but consistently comes up short when it comes time to deliver on this promise. The technical abilities of Scott and the cinematography/special effects/overall production are topnotch which elevate a two star movie to three.
Science fiction nuts should feel free to rent this, but be prepared to file this in the ‘didn’t need to be made’ pile. It only raises questions that didn’t need to be asked in the first place, and answers maddeningly few of them.
Rated R 124 minutes 2012