Go see Prometheus for its operatic sense of grandeur. (© 2011-2012 Prometheus-movie.com)
Prometheus is an extremely frustrating reminder that a script, no matter what the size of production, is the most crucial element of the film. There are many wondrous things about Prometheus—visually and conceptually—but the film is inexorably stricken by wooden dialogue, cosmically dumb characters, and baffling human behavior, and thus it can never rise beyond the backhanded praise of deeply flawed masterpiece.
Life gets created in Prometheus. (© 2011-2012 Prometheus-movie.com)
Ostensibly part of the same family as Alien, Prometheus is much grander and stranger than the Alien series. Whereas Ridley Scott’s Alien and the grizzled, roided out James Cameron sequel (let’s not mention Alien 3 and 4) were essentially overachieving genre pictures, Prometheus is proudly rooted in the high-minded tradition of the space opera—you know, when a movie begins with some sort of prehistoric epitaph and then jumps into the future tens of thousands of years. Prometheus begins with an alabaster man (who looks suspiciously like a Creed music-video character) drinking a tincture of goo at a waterfall and then disintegrating into a mass of necrifying flesh. As the flesh rushes through the water, DNA strands begin to morph and replicate. This alabaster man is apparently an alien and this is how life is created. Flash forward to the end of 21st century, where some jack-of-all-trades scientists/archeologists who are shockingly young and hot have discovered another ancient cave painting with humans pointing towards a constellation of globes.
© 2011-2012 Prometheus-movie.com
The scientists interpret this as an invitation to find these aliens. Next we’re in a trillion dollar spaceship that is about to land on the planet that is a part of the constellation indicated in the cave-paintings. Among the crew of the spaceship are the icy, impassive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the cyborg David (brilliant Michael Fassbender), and the intrepid scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Greene). Well, I should say, “intrepid scientist.” Rapace, who played the original Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, assumes the Sigourney Weaver, ass-kicking female role here, and she’s awesome. Resourceful yet compassionate and genuinely spiritual, Rapace is the center of the film. Marshall-Green, on the other hand, nearly derails the film. A supremely irritating and confounding presence, Marshall-Greene is so ludicrous as a “scientist” that he nearly shatters the illusion of the movie.
Noomi Rapace in Prometheus. (© 2011-2012 Prometheus-movie.com).
Upon arriving on the planet, the film shifts into more familiar “Alien” territory, peppered with extensive religious and philosophical symbolism. Generally, this works quite smashingly. Ridley Scott, always a brawny and impressive director, brings an operatic sense of grandeur to the proceedings, with suspense and violence that are at times viscerally wrenching.
© 2011-2012 Prometheus-movie.com
So why am I somewhat lukewarm on Prometheus? I guess it came so close to being in the same realm as Children of Men, 12 Monkees, and Inception—brainy, exciting sci-fi movies that lead to endless conversations with friends—that it left me a little bitter. That such an expensive and near brilliant movie is stunted by a no-name actor and one of the writers from Lost (Damon Lindelof) is quite frankly infuriating. Ridley Scott is 75 and he worked his ass off on this movie. He deserves better than to have a couple hipster gnomes foul up his 2001 with an absurd reference to Steven Stills and counterintuitive human behavior.
Oh, well, still go see it. Ignore the hyperbolic hate going around—it’s only once so very often a movie this intense and weird and expensive gets made. B+