The Provocative Dazzle of “Prometheus”
Of all the questions director Ridley Scott’s new science-fiction thriller provokes, prompts, examines and leaves unanswered, perhaps the most important question is easily resolved. Yes, his latest creation, both imperfectly grand and wondrously engaging, is indeed a prequel to the film that put him on the proverbial map – 1979’s now iconic horror-space thriller “Alien.”
While the two films share a director’s panache and similar storyline DNA, “Prometheus” has much more on its mind and therefore may befuddle those expecting another “Alien” or its action-packed juggernaut sequel “Aliens.” For those who aren’t opposed to a little “Why?” in their sci-fi, “Prometheus” offers a penetrating other-worldly adventure like few films in recent memory.
For starters, the film contemplates the very beginnings of mankind with the introduction of a muscular, alabaster biped. Upon swigging a mysterious potion, he disintegrates into tiny bits and falls into a gorgeous canyon waterfall in an unspecified, undeveloped world eons ago.
Millennia later in the year 2093, an exploration crew is sent out to a distant solar system on what appears to be an archaeological mission. On board are two scientists and sweethearts Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) who believe that previously discovered cave drawings spanning years and civilizations portend an invitation by humanity’s forerunners.
The journey thus involves the requisite ill-advised exploration on an unchartered planet, mysterious life forms that contain toxic, corrosive, or even hyper-gestating organisms, and a variety of alien encounters of the treacherous kind.
Along for the (not so joyful) ride are stoic, dismissive mission director Meredith (Charlize Theron in another icy performance), a jovial, old-school Captain (Idris Elba), and most intriguingly, fey android David (Michael Fassbender). With murky loyalties to go along with his adoration of “Lawrence of Arabia,” David is a crucial character. But the heart of the film belongs to Rapace’s pixie-like protagonist who blends a cool toughness even while performing a self-surgery in one of “Prometheus’ terrifyingly terrific scenes.
One could argue that Scott’s visual acumen steals the show with its bracing intergalactic scenery, mesmerizing technology (spherical, flying mapping “pups”) and penchant for scale – a massive temple-like pyramid or a tiny maggot in an eyeball are equally impressive.
But for all of its eerie, even grotesque stimuli, the occasionally deflective script nevertheless keeps the action at the forefront without insulting the intellect. Bad movies confuse and frustrate. Good movies challenge and provoke.
Even with its flaws, “Prometheus” is stellar filmmaking with something more than just alien revenge as its only purpose.
Rated “R” for sci-fi violence and some intense images and brief language.