It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a sci-fi film. I was curious about the “odds being ever in my favor,” and “assembling” with my favorite superheroes, but “Prometheus” is on its own level of importance. Sure, Ridley Scott, Fox Pictures and the other powers that be attempted to keep the details under wraps, but many a person with common sense clearly knew this was a prequel to “Alien” –– that magnificent masterpiece that reminded us just how little a scream can accomplish in space.
I hate to say it, but this one very well could’ve been a flop, but I tell you all with great joy, this kinda-sorta “Alien” prequel is not a disappointment, but something intellectually enriching and theologically compelling. Just don’t expect “Prometheus” to redefine horror; it has a much loftier goal: exploring the origin of humanity.
Remember that ominous spaceship in “Alien”? You know, the one Ripley and her crew found — it had a bunch of egg pods full of creatures with a yearning for human faces. On the ship there was the remains of a rather tall extraterrestrial “navigator” with a gaping hole in its chest. There it is. Well, in this prequel/beginning to a whole new storyline, we get the back story (to an uncertain degree), though you might want to keep your expectations for answers in check. We do learn about where those pesky, acid-for-blood, mouth-within-a-mouth xenomorphs originated, but it’s not really about them, but their creators, who are affectionately referred to as the engineers.
After several years of archeological findings pointing to the stars, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead a deep-space expedition to a planet that might hold the answers to humanity’s existence –– or its end, as the tagline goes. For those of you familiar with this franchise, you’ll know that project financier, Wayland Corporation, is not a philanthropic organization willing to merely give money for the sake of galactic expansion. As the embodiment of pure, indiscriminate capitalism, it’s often unclear what this often-bodiless entity is after. Reminding us about big business’ unknown motivations is the company’s mysterious android, David (Michael Fassbender), who always seems to know what to do next, much to the concern of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who is charged with monitoring the project for the corporation.
Scott draws on many familiar concepts from the “Alien” series. The crew awakens from a long slumber in the middle of space, unreachable by any other potential saviors. Tension develops as crewmembers keep information from each other. Somebody does something stupid, and (you guessed it) gets both people killed and leads the way to more havoc for the rest of the crew. Wayland has a hidden agenda. And, of course, there’s a robot with another hidden agenda.
Say what you will about the story’s finer points, but it’s a digital force incomparable to its sci-fi kin. To his credit, Scott appropriates the visual stylings of his original installment, and James Cameron’s follow up, “Aliens”. From the familiar design of the spaceship to the moon space on which the crew walks to alien ships, and (you know) the aliens, the film rarely falls prey to CGI’s inadequacies.
Believe me when I say the monstrous creature that’s graced six prior films (three of which were rather abysmal) is but a side note here. Sure, we finally learn how it all began for Ripley and Wayland Corporation’s later exploits, but you’ll have to do quite a bit of thinking to properly tie it all together. As for the franchise’s token scares, Scott’s second directorial addition won’t leave you squirming. The film’s riddled with quite a few thrills and a suspenseful third act, but there isn’t a slimy creature around every corner.
“Prometheus” replaces horror with historical intrigue –– and it works oh so well. The film’s strength is its detailed mythology. The beautiful shots of nature at the film’s introduction and Marc Streitenfeld’s grand composition lead the way for a tale of exploration.
I suggest a viewing experience with a talkative group of friends willing to engage the film with the intellectual discourse it greatly deserves. Without a splendid subtlety, Scott poses wondrous questions about the nature of humanity, yet he doesn’t bother to condescendingly provide any concrete answers. For “Prometheus”, there’s a beauty in chaos and uncertainty, and it’s hard not to love the journey.