Notable Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, Patrick Wilson, Sean Harris
Review: Ridley Scott: A sci-fi genius. The Alien franchise: Indefinitely hung amongst the rafters of sci-fi’s greatest. Jon Spaihts: wrote The Darkest Hour to minimal acclaim. Damon Lindelof: Most notably wrote for “Lost” along with Jon Favreu’s bland Cowboys and Aliens. Top notch director, top-notch franchise…and two honest Hollywood unprovens still waiting to make their triumphant big screen mark. Not to mention the sci-fi genre may very well bet he hardest genre to write for, wanting to both entice mainstream audiences yet hold onto the technological and exploratory nature the genre boasts. Could two young guns create an engaging back story for the Alien universe to appease hordes of Ridley Scott worshipers? Or would Spaihts and Lindelof crumble under the universal pressure such a task demands? As a lover of Alien and obsesser of Aliens, it was hard convincing myself Prometheus had anything to do with Ripley and Newt minus some set piece tidbits and a rushed end scene depicting our beloved alien creation. Prometheus itself played more as a stand alone piece of science fiction literature, setting up an inevitable sequel to in fact be the true Alien set up. Questions are stated, doors are open, minds are jump started…but Prometheus’ script leaves far too many cliffhangers to connect any dots minus the obvious “Hey, I’ve seen that giant space chair before” or “oh my god, yes, that is in fact an alien!” Besides that we’re bombarded with Albinos, tentacles, and black goo…oh my? Prometheus is flooded with brand new ideas, rich developments, and steady building blocks that should lead into something interesting. But to take 2 hours plus and only give us the tiniest taste of what’s yet to come seems somewhat of a tease, not to mention a rather ambitious script gets too muddled with complexity to even effectively build story at points. To quote Lindelof himself, Alien was more of a “haunted house” story where some bad luck saps answer the wrong beacon. Prometheus attempts to explain just why these angels of death want to infest our insides while tearing space marines apart, but not very well if I still don’t know why.
Aboard the scientific exploration vessel Prometheus resides a team of researchers focused on finding some intelligent form of life which could in fact be our creators. Led by Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green), Weyland industries has so kindly funded the team with full freedom granted by surviving Weyland associate Meredith Vickers (Theron) and robotic assistant David (Fassbender). The crew discover another system with a livable sun much like our own solar system, and land Prometheus upon its equivalent of Earth. Exploring deeper what appear to be man-made caves, the crew uncovers livable air conditions and closed off rooms, pointing towards some kind of existing species. But what’s interpreted as an invitation may be much more dangerous than expected, as the crew probes deeper into this fresh new planet’s mystery. In uncovering all the answers sometimes we may discover something better left unearthed, a lesson the Prometheus may have to find out on for itself.
“Still overpaid for this damn planetarium….”
Prometheus is undoubtably epic and looks every bit the part of super techy sci-fi blockbuster. Scott removes the franchise out of its dark and seedy space station stylings, opening up a vibrant world and shedding some light with a colorful nature introduction. Let there be light! Also gone is Alien‘s claustrophobic atmosphere, again expanding the universe to a much broader degree emphasizing the franchise’s new revival. Scott utilizes beautiful long zoomed out landscape shots, accentuating the grand nature of surroundings and keeping our insignificant humans in perspective as they wander around foreign settings. Everything Scott does in direction correlates directly to Prometheus‘ big world thematic elements which I’ll discuss momentarily. But for now, staying with cinematic victories leads to casting. Michael Fassbender always ends up portraying some sophisticated and debonair chap, which carries over to his role as the artificial David. So complex and unpredictable were David’s actions, being the proverbial wrench in Prometheus’ plans. But Fassbender does so with such cold mechanical status and emotionless purpose, making David convincingly more creation than man. And while Noomi Rapace admittedly is no Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), she stands steadfast as a strong female lead even though her job isn’t ass-kicking like Weaver’s was. Idris Elba delights, Theron is a cold-hearted bitch (or is she?), Pearce pulls a Benjamin Button, and two bumbling scientists get ravaged in a matter of minutes all leading to strong play from the cast. Prometheus certainly aligned all their stars to ensure a successful mission.
But where things get messy starts in analysis of story. Tons of big ideas are challenged by Prometheus, immensely ominous ideas possibly too complicated for one film. Meddled with are notions of a grand creator, human kind’s thirst for knowledge at any price, the greed of one man, trust in blind faith, creations turning against creators, religion vs. science…universal sized questions. Questions that take centuries of brain prodding and information scouring to even scratch some profound surface. But while intelligible and thought-provoking, perfect for a science fiction setting, I felt little connection to the Alien franchise itself. Mysterious actions shroud every character and event, but explanations sometimes trail and leave big ideas open. I’m being as vague as possible for a reason, but there are moments where Prometheus downright doesn’t add up. Just as an example (spoiler to follow, but not a big one), why doesn’t Captain Janek (Elba) roll video feed back on Millburn (Spall) and Fifield (Harris) to discover their grisly deaths while he was satiating Vickers’ lustful desires? We have the technology to map out entire cave systems with unmanned robots apparently, yet our video camera’s don’t have rewind buttons? Prometheus is brimming with tight sci-fi writing and grandiose revelations, yet weighs itself down getting lost in a mish mosh of ideas too worldly for its own good. Sure, people will argue the scientific prowess and genius writing is something to marvel, and I do respect the mentally stimulating grounds Spaihts and Lindelof traverse with the utmost clean complexity, but Prometheus could have benefitted via a more streamlined delivery and spaced out mind explosions. Prometheus borders being work to decipher.
But work is rewarding, and Ridley Scott still orchestrated and wonderful symphony out of numerous conflicting ideas. Curb expectations and gear up for the proper tone, like don’t expect the running and gunning of space marines or memorable quotes akin to “Game Over Man!” Danger still looms and a few brief moments of thrilling action peek through, but Prometheus again is more much about the discovery. Who are we? Where did we come from? Our writers thought better to tackle those questions first before leading us to blood thirsty extraterrestrials, but maybe a sequel will help strengthen Prometheus‘ brainy attitude and incorporate Alien‘s more foreboding nature. Think of it this way: If Alien and Prometheus were labeled in high school, Prometheus would be the bow tie wearing, pocket protecting, thick rimmed glasses sporting super genius while Alien would be the ‘roided out jock. Nothing wrong with either, just pick your type.
Final Rating: 7.5 space jockies out of 10
Also, is it just me, or did Prometheus’ technology seem more advance than Alien’s?