Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios.
“Prometheus” Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron. Directed by Ridley Scott. 124 minutes. Rated R.
Going into “Prometheus” I warned myself against indulging expectations; I had, after all, been savoring this moment since learning “Alien” director Ridley Scott was returning to the creepy, Gigeresque universe he so famously created in 1979.
Coming out of “Prometheus” I again warned myself against expectations: The movie was probably not as disappointing as my gut reaction would have me believe.
After much reflection, I can’t help but feel “Prometheus” is so much less than it could have been. Visually, the film is gorgeous. But the script is a muddle, the score incompatible with the movie’s tone, and some of the casting decisions simply don’t work.
The plot is straightforward. A pair of archeologists (Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw and Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway) discover a kind of star map in the glyphs of ancient terrestrial civilizations separated by time and distance. A corporation builds a starship, the Prometheus, to visit the location denoted by the map, so that the company’s founder can discover the secret to life … and perhaps extend his own. Once there they find mankind’s progenitors were not as paternalistic as they expected. All manner of wriggling, predatory horrors put human beings at the bottom of the food chain as they plan a planet-wide buffet.
The film’s exteriors are lush, sweeping and grandiose, but the interiors convey nothing of the shuddery claustrophobia evoked by “Alien.” The technology seems far advanced from “Alien,” which takes place after “Prometheus.” I don’t have a problem with that: The Nostromo was a tired old factory ship with outdated technology; “Prometheus” is a brand-new ship of exploration, likely equipped with the latest gadgets and gewgaws, despite its 30-year handicap.
Michael Fassbender delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the amoral android David, and Charlize Theron is icily cool as the daughter of the Weyland Corporation’s founder. Less impressive are Sean Harris as the expedition’s geologist, and Rafe Spall as the team’s biologist. Neither display the kind of intellectual curiosity peculiar to scientists. Worse are Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, who are completely unconvincing in their roles as the expedition’s ostensible scientific leadership. Ridley Scott has a love of strong female characters, but in “Prometheus” Rapace seems lost and dependent, besotted with a perpetual starry-eyed, doll-baby affect that seems incongruent with that of a true Scott survivor type. And let’s not talk about the film’s science, or the scientific method. “Prometheus” abandons even the most cursory protocols any scientist worth his salt would follow.
But that’s partially the fault of the script, which at times tries to take “Prometheus” into the realm of “2001,” while mostly devolving to “Starship Troopers” or even “Lost.” Blame that on co-writer Damon Lindelof, an alum of “Lost,” who seems stricken by the idea coy logic flaws represent depth. A true brain tease provokes curiosity, not irritation. Gone is the stark, narrowly focused conflicts of “Alien,” “Blade Runner” or “Thelma and Louise.” In its place is a taco-pizza-cheeseburger of a story that satisfies nobody.
“Prometheus” may have strands of “Alien” in its DNA, as Scott hinted during the movie’s production, but it’s a recessive gene. You see little of the “Alien” genius and lots of what I would call “current” storytelling, which seems less satisfied with delivering a credible tale than setting up a sequel.
In space, nobody can hear you scream. But in movie theaters they can hear you crying foul, and that’s what I heard.
When I need Del to be merciless, he delivers a review that searched for a bright side to a dim movie. Del, can you hear me screaming in Fort Walton Beach, though we’re a couple of miles apart?
It was good “Prometheus” didn’t come with a money-back guarantee for the audience because the production companies that financed this unfathomable film would go broke. My review is short because I stopped paying attention to the movie about halfway through it’s all too long runtime.
“Prometheus” was billed as the prequel to “Alien,” one of the finest movies of all time, and that was a severe error. Though directed by the same man, Ridley Scott, “Prometheus” and “Alien” are worlds apart.
“Alien” is a sci-fi horror movie, pure and simple and completely engrossing. “Prometheus” is just gross, while suffering from an identity crisis. Is it sci-fi horror like “Alien” or sci-fi action like “Aliens”? In fact, it’s more like “Hostel” meets “Event Horizon” meets “The Human Centipede.”
Almost from the beginning, the movie starts to meander toward the unexplained.
There are 17 people aboard spaceship Prometheus, which is about 10 too many. Only a handful of the 17 characters are developed and all of them are, at best, mildly interesting or, at worst, unlikable.
There are metallic vases oozing black liquid, an aggressive slug breaking an arm and then swimming down the victim’s throat, and an absolutely foul scene were one of the protagonists endures a vividly portrayed Cesarean section inside a healing chamber and then fights the creature just pulled from her abdomen.
None of the scientists behaved like scientists, including the decision to reanimate in the open the head of a hominid-like being because it looked like something abnormal was growing from it when its owner died.
In “Prometheus,” events just happened that seemed unconnected or arbitrary. The story lacked cohesion. It failed to explain the reason our creators were so unflinchingly hostile to us, their children, so to speak.
“Prometheus” could have explored the questions it awkwardly raised. Is there God? Can science and religion co-exist? Is mankind a controlled experiment with Earth the incubator? Instead, we get a mish-mash of themes and banal dialogue.
There are no Oscar contenders in this movie. Not for script. Not for acting. Not for score. Hell, not even for visual effects. The movie was disappointing.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.