Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie and Patrick Wilson
WARNING: READ WITH CAUTION! ASSUME EVERYTHING IN THIS REVIEW IS A SPOILER!!
Starting with a magnificent opening sequence of a seemingly alien world, Ridley Scott transports the audience on a strange, thrilling and engaging odyssey that surrounds the big questions about the origins of humanity. “Prometheus,” an ostensible prequel to Ridley Scott’s genre defining 1979 film “Alien,” is a captivating piece of summer blockbuster cinema. A film completely full of imagination while absorbing the audience in its dazzling 3D photography, “Prometheus” has a bite to it and isn’t afraid to not play it safe.
From the early goings of the film, it introduces the central questions that will involve almost every scene in the film, “where do we come from?” and “why are we here?” This philosophical approach gives an added texture to a typical summer blockbuster without it being overly character based like “The Dark Knight.” By keeping the film grounded with a strong narrative and wonderful performances, Ridley Scott elevates the screenplay, which is the film’s weakest attribute, to a sturdy and complex movie going experience. After all, a film is more than its screenplay.
The film follows a scientific team led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), as they excavate ancient sites around to world and discovers similarities in their cultures. They follow these similarities to a far away solar system on a long space journey funded by the ominous Weyland Industries to search for mankind’s origins. It isn’t clear what motives or hidden agendas Weyland Industries have but for what the film is consistently striving for, it seems rather minor in scope. “Prometheus” doesn’t waste time with getting into the thrust and importance of the journey, while at the same time letting the narrative breathe by informing the audience to the different personalities of the scientific team and the ship’s captain and crew. By giving a glimpse to their motivations and character (emphasis on the word “glimpse”), the film presses on without it feeling piecemeal, but at the same time, the film is not cohesive but that’s why “Prometheus” is so compelling and interesting.
Its messiness and inability to answer its mysteries is why it will be a lasting movie going experience for years to come. In many regards, it feels more like Ridley Scott’s 1982 film “Blade Runner” than its origin, “Alien.” Ridley Scott realizes the failing of screenwriter Damon Lindelof’s past project, TV’s “Lost.” By developing a mystery, keeping that mystery going after the film or series comes to an end and giving the audience a satisfying payoff; by keeping the narrative in its storytelling and not its characters or mystery. “Prometheus” takes the “Lost” model and accomplishes something more lasting by involving it in a bigger world with a bigger question rather than making the events and mystery trivial.
Nothing in “Prometheus” ever seems like a wasted opportunity. Scenes build well after each other and continue on to bigger set pieces and moments. It never feels bogged down or overly long but rather keeps the audience questioning how these scenes or ideas relate. In this way, it’s clear that Ridley Scott is making an attempt to emulate Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” From the opening of the film, it’s obvious Ridley Scott wants to make contact. The way the ship’s interior looks and is designed and structure of the film itself, Ridley Scott is paying homage to the master filmmaker. Even asking the same questions but giving a different outcome and somewhat a different answer, by taking his previous work in “Alien” and informing his work and the audience with the aesthetic of Stanley Kubrick’s breakthrough film.
On a visual level, “Prometheus” is something to watch in 3D with eye-popping art direction, set design and an overall impactful look and tone. Ridley Scott understands the limitations of 3D but completely lives within those boundaries. By giving the film its horror genre tone, “Prometheus” is just as bloody and horrific as any Eli Roth film and will surely burn gruesome images into your memory you will never forget. The space design feels like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story with a texture of an alien planet.
“Prometheus” is one of the better sci-fi films of the last 15 years. It’s not adventure based but rather ideas based. It does what good science fiction should do; ask bigger questions about where we came from and where we are going as a people. By not taking the space adventure route, “Prometheus” will surely disappoint those looking for cheap summer thrills but will engage with an audience looking for a smart movie. The fact that it isn’t a clean film informs the audience of the deeper mysteries of life, existence and overall the question “why?” And why should we shy away from these ideas?