In the latest film, “Scott creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”
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If there’s one thing that Prometheus isn’t, it’s a film that is strictly mindless popcorn entertainment. Ridley Scott’s return to the legendary franchise he created, which follows a group of scientists who travel across the universe to meet our makers, attempts to explore some of life’s big questions by way of ideas found in numerous religions and conspiracy theories, making it a tad esoteric in comparison to its big-budgeted summer brethren and series counterparts. Scott successfully recreates the atmosphere and look of his 1979 sci-fi milestone while crafting it into a stand-alone story that has more than its fair share of “strands of DNA,” but Prometheus is no interstellar haunted house movie. Thematically, it has more in common with Blade Runner than anything.
After discovering cave drawings in Ireland, among other locales, scientist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Halloway (Logan Marshall-Green) convince wealthy businessman Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) that our creators, alien gods referred to as ‘Engineers,’ have left us a map to their doorstep, inviting mankind to visit. With the same kind of blind faith they exhibit – because they “choose to believe in it” – the trillionaire sets up an expedition across the stars for them to meet our makers and learn anything and everything about the birth of our race. The crew of the Prometheus, including David (Michael Fassbender), captain Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and pilot Janek (Idris Elba), are skeptical of what they’ll find, if anything, and are shocked to see primitive structures on the unexplored planet’s surface.
Of course, what they actually find is even more surprising.
Prometheus’ epic scope takes a lot of big ideas and distills them down into a two hour narrative. Religion, the meaning of life, what it means to be human, and mimicry of higher life forms are all dissected in Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof‘s script, but Hampton Fancher they aren’t. In trying to get all these nuances and ideas out on the table, the writers completely forget about almost half the characters, let alone give the crew time to develop comradery or have some already evident during the outset – one of the reasons why Alien worked so well. The characters are fleshed out in the sense that it’s easy to understand what makes them tick and where they come from, despite many of their presences being entirely arbitrary (especially Theron’s Vickers), but the dialogue is clunky enough to seep into their development and make them seem like flimsy, paper-thin characterizations. Most of the heavy lifting is given to Rapace and Fassbender, the latter of which steals the show as the inquisitive android with shades of Roy Batty. Shaw’s need to understand our creators is juxtaposed with David’s desire to be as human as possible despite the fact that he has no soul, and as artificial life tries its hardest to mimic natural life, humans are determined to understand gods in order to become more like them.
The mythology of the Alien franchise has a few unanswered questions and Prometheus answers some of them, but never in a straightforward manner. The audience really has to take some leaps of faith to put the pieces together; there are hints to answers throughout, but some are hazier than others – Scott promises the next film will offer answers and pose new questions, which feels like a cheap way to get people to come back. Keeping things interesting on a deeper level by not handing the audience everything is great for discussion and analysis, which the film will no doubt give way to for certain ideas, but not when it leads to the frustration of having to narrow down scene-specific motivations from a list of five possibilities. This kind of vagueness also leads to a ridiculous action scene three quarters into the film that brings the second act to a screeching halt, completely breaking the mood and tension.
Prometheus is a gorgeous looking film that fits into the Alien universe aesthetically and dips its toes into the mythos in such a way that it functions as a prequel and a stand-alone tale. Spaihts and Lindelof’s script has a lot going on in it, which sometimes leads to larger than life ideas and other times is muddled and uneven, a victim of trying to do too many things at once and collapsing under its own weight with so many non-answers. The type of various discussions it will undoubtedly spark for Alien and sci-fi fans, along with its epic scope, is something that isn’t often seen in studio films anymore, but it’s no Alien-level masterpiece.
Score: 3/5 Skulls
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