A lot of buzz and hype have been surrounding Prometheus, Ridley Scott's first sci-fi extravaganza in more than thirty years. Not to mention the rumors that it is an Alien prequel. Well, it turns that it is, and it isn't.
The story opens with a spaceship hovering ancient Earth, and a humanoid ingests something which results in his agonizing death as he disintegrates into a rushing waterfall. Now in 2086, archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discovers ancient cave drawings, dated 35000 years ago, that depicts alien beings and their star constellation. Shaw and Holloway believe these aliens may answer an age-old question: Who created mankind?
Seven years later, an expedition is being funding by wealthy businessman Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). After a two-year voyage, spacecraft Prometheus arrives at the moon of a distant planet. Led by Weyland executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and captain Janek (Idris Elba), and assisted by an android named David (Michael Fassbender), the team discovers a few pyramids on the uninhabitable moon. More impressively, they discover breathable air within one of the structures, as well as bodies of giant humanoids.
The mystery deepens as Shaw and the team realize something horrific happened to these humanoids. Despite Vickers' objection, Shaw takes the head of one of the giant humanoids to the ship to examine it. Meanwhile, David secretly returns with a mysterious urn, which contains a strange dark organic matter. As Janek theorizes the nature of the structures and who these humanoids were, Shaw discovers something far more sinister what completely changes her life and threatens everybody on the ship. And on Earth.
Noomi Rapace (Sherlock Holmes 2) has large shoes to fill as audiences no doubt will compare her to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in the original Alien series. While Shaw is a completely different character, Rapace holds her own by creating a strong, resilient and resourceful woman. Charlize Theron (Snow White and the Huntsman) is the perfect ice queen, and fill her predictable role as "the suit" with an interesting twist.
The rest of the cast, however, is a motley crew of familiar characters played skillfully by good actors. Idris Elba (Thor) is charismatic and tough as Janek, making the character's decisions believable. Guy Pearce (Lockout) is barely recognizable as the elderly Weyland, and he is in good form even though the role is surprisingly minor. Logan Marshall-Green (Devil) seems somewhat out of place -- his frat boy looks and demeanors do not convince us that he is a serious scientist. Same goes with Sean Harris (Brighton Rock) and Rafe Spall (Anonymous), who play a geologist and biologist respectively. Emun Elliot (Black Death) and Benedict Wong (The Lady) fare better as copilots.
The standout, though, has to be Michael Fassbender (Shame). As a walking and dancing HAL, Fassbender has created, both physically and psychologically, so many layers to the character, which is intelligent, arrogant, but also childlike, and as Meredith Vickers describes him: without a soul. Fassbender's character serves as a reference point of the entire story and themes, and he has done an incredible job.
Originally written by John Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) and then reworked by Damon Lindelof (LOST), the screenplay is surprisingly more philosophical than visceral. In the veins of the original Alien, which was a sci-fi / horror epic, Prometheus actually shares more similarities with Bladerunner and 2001: Space Odyssey. It is contemplative and at times even introspective, daring to ask some deep existential questions: Where did we come from? Who created us? And why?
These are grand themes that, unfortunately, deserve better treatments. Prometheus doesn't shy from asking these questions, but it falls short of answering any of them. The problem I have with the writing is that the plot goes into familiar territory and seems forced. Despite some terrific setups and intrigues, the plot falls apart when it tries to pay tribute to Alien. Most absurdly, the characters' motivations are never clear or explained. The writers seem to want the audience to think and come to their own conclusions, but the result is that we are simply confused. Not to mention other than Shaw, David and perhaps even Vickers, all the characters are rather cliched or flat.
While the writing falls short, the production under the direction of Ridley Scott (Robin Hood) is masterful. The visuals are astounding. The production value is amazing. Through and the through it looks and feels like an epic. The pacing also is excellent. There really isn't anything bad about Scott's direction or the production -- everything is top-notch. The flaws completely lie in the writing.
Prometheus is intelligent and thought-provoking, and the movie is amazing to look at. But as a horror film, it falls short of being horrific. As an action film, it delivers quite beautifully despite cliched moments and plot elements. As science fiction, however, it leaves too much unanswered. By trying hard not to be an Alien prequel and yet still connected with the original series, Prometheus falls short in connecting with the audience.
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie, Patrick Wilson
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: John Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: R for sci-fi violence, intense images, language
Running Time: 124 minutes
Script - 6
Performance - 8
Direction - 8
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 8
Production - 10
Total - 7.6 out of 10.0