Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaiths and Damon Lindelof
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, and Charlize Theron
Rated R for sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language
Running Time of 124 Minutes
Throughout the course of its production, director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Damon Lindelof have been cryptic about Prometheus’ identity and, in particular, its relation to the Alien universe. None of that matters. Prometheus is a big film about ideas, overwhelming with ambition, and it deserves to be viewed without any preconceived notions and without images of 1979′s Alien floating in your head. The film is bold science fiction that is gorgeously realized, and also maddeningly undercooked. It is a film that in many ways is at war with itself and tries to do many things, and it becomes an unwieldy mess in the process.
There is no doubt that Ridley Scott is at the top of his filmmaking craft. Prometheus is as visually stunning and thoughtfully composed of a film as you are likely to see this year. Working alongside director of photography Dariusz Wolski and production designer Arthur Max (with some designs from original images by artist H.R. Giger), Scott has created a science fiction vision that feels vital and legitimate. The imagery is overwhelming, almost beautiful in its darkness, and supported by photo real special effects. Though not my initial intention, I viewed the film in 3D and although I do not think it enhanced the film in any way, the images remained crisp and clear and the brightness was well maintained. Though I am not an advocate of 3D in filmmaking, if it has to be done it should all be as well executed as it is here. From a visual standpoint there is always something to look at in Prometheus. The frames are stuffed with nuggets of creative touches and breathtaking settings, notably in the film’s prologue and in certain holographic sequences.
As we begin to pull back the surface layer of visual prowess and see what’s underneath, the film begins to unravel. At its core, Prometheus is a film about our inherent humanity. There are discussions that occur between the android David (portrayed with an equal mix of charm and calculated mischievousness by the great Michael Fassbender) and the various human crew members of the ship that pose thoughtful notions that demand discourse and are bursting at the seams with intelligence and philosophical queries. Michael Fassbender is so brilliant as David and easily the film’s most fully realized and dynamic character that at times I felt as if the film was actually delivering on its lofty ambitions. In an effort to answer some of these big picture questions in a way that is both thoughtful and mysterious, the film opens itself up to an entire series of new questions that lack legitimate answers and, more importantly, logic. Ambiguity in storytelling, particularly science fiction, is often one of the best tools. Science fiction is, after all, the genre that best allows us to explore notions and ask questions of philosophy and morality. There is a difference, however, between ambiguity and what Prometheus presents.
As written by Damon Lindelof (and Jon Spaihts, who became less involved as production went on) Prometheus begins to take these questions and discussions and tie them back into the film’s narrative. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, filled with intensity but not much else) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are a romantic couple and scientists that set out on a space mission, comprised of 17 crew members (at least half of whom have as much personality and traits as a mannequin and act in contradictory fashions, alongside Idris Elba and Charlize Theron, quality actors without much to do), to a planet on which scientific exploration will occur. Although I mentioned in my first paragraph that it is best to set your mind away from 1979′s Alien when viewing this film, it becomes increasingly difficult as certain imagery and moments mirror elements of that landmark film. Prometheus’ structure, as well, shares similarities with Alien, and an ever increasing sense of suspense and horror begins to overwhelm the film. The problem, though, is that said horror lacks logic and conviction. Without going into too much detail, the film’s threat seems to act in whatever way is best served for a given moment without any barring on how it affects the film’s thematic material or common sense. Even further, the characters mostly lack motivation or depth. I find it amusing that the film’s most likable character is the only one that is not human. Perhaps this is the point that the film was attempting to make, but if so it never follows through on this line of thought and is just another element in the film that seems undone. There are events that occur and questions that are raised that have no answers not for the sake of ambiguity but rather because it seems as if the filmmakers didn’t take the time to fully think things through. Prometheus is an unfortunately sloppy film.
There are individual moments, though, in which Prometheus is quite strong. There are sequences of body horror that are incredibly well executed and horrific, and one in particular that will likely be remembered for a long time thanks to its audacity and intensity. I had never seen anything like it before, and my mouth was agape. But this film attempts to be many things, and in the process it loses itself. It is a science fiction film that brings up the big philosophical questions, but these are questions that have been pondered and presented in storytelling for thousands of years. Frankly, the way Prometheus unfolds and the way it discusses our humanity came off as just a little bit silly. All science fiction is outlandish when you boil it down to its core elements, but Prometheus lacks the conviction and the logic to make its elements work. The film does not feel like a cohesive whole but rather a random smattering of disparate elements that perhaps work in isolation, but do not add up to what I am sure Ridley Scott and his team intended.