Both of Sir Ridley Scott’s previous science fiction films, Alien and Blade Runner, are hallmarks of the genre. These movies are aesthetically innovative and rich in thematic issues, ranging from the primal kill or be killed mentality to the coldness of mechanized urban reality. Needless to say, Scott’s new movie Prometheus comes with great expectations.
The problem is that Prometheus is good but not great. And “good expectations” is not the name of the game.
Nearly any other filmmaker could pat him or herself on the back for Prometheus, but a director of Scott’s caliber and reputation (not to mention noble rank) could have given us more. Much, much more.
Visually, the film is a masterpiece. The special effects are spectacular and the worlds are beautifully portrayed, weaving the high-tech with the ancient tribal. In this regard, Prometheus will no doubt be one of the top action movies of the summer. But what it masters in aesthetics it lacks in plot and character development--it is still a film above average action movie intelligence, but the deeply complex and probing narratives that we became accustomed to in Alien and Blade Runner are not there.
The film begins with archaeologists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discovering 35,000 year old cave paintings that are the last piece of their puzzle that is a map to who they believe to be the extraterrestrial creators they call “The Engineers.” We are then immediately taken aboard the ship Prometheus, which is carrying the crew, in stasis, to what is believed to be the planet of the Engineers. The mission has been commissioned by Weyland Industries. The crew is being cared for and eventually woken by the android, David (Michael Fassbender in a performance that is easily the highlight of the film), and they get ready to land and investigate. Charlize Theron plays the cold, calculating corporate mission manager, Meredith Vickers, and Idris Elba makes an appearance as the ship’s cowboyish captain.
The crew explores ruins on the planet which look like carbon copies of those found in Central American civilizations and they soon discover lots of dead aliens and thousands of vases filled with slime. Then things start to go south. Way south. After many twists and turns that seem either out of place or forced, Prometheus ends with a clear set-up for a prequel and at least one gruesome surgery scene that could go down in the annals of horror history.
The problem with Prometheus is that, unlike in Alien, the characters are poorly developed and the plot seems to be trying too hard to both be clever and incorporate enough parallels from the 1979 film to make it a viable prequel. much of the dialoged seems forced and much of the plot is difficult to follow--there are many information gaps and not the good kind--we can only hope this is because they are critical to a potential Prometheus Part II.
Criticisms aside, Prometheus is still a fun movie that will satisfy your sci-fi horror need for thrill and gore. It may not have the same long-term effect on filmmaking as Scott’s earlier films, but it is by no means a movie that you should wait to see until it comes to a DVD player near you.