Review: 'Prometheus'

By: Heather Seebach

**The following review is spoiler-free. For a more detailed explanation of events in the films, check out my article Ten Common Prometheus Questions Explained.**

 There are two types of people in this world - those who need answers, and those who are content just to ask questions. Ridley Scott's Prometheus is a film that is going to be equally loved and hated because those two types of people exist. Ironically, the film explores this very idea in the context of science vs. faith. It portrays human beings driven by a need for answers, and others who see the futility in such a quest. Prometheus is a science fiction film with big ideas and bigger questions. It is not without its share of flaws but they are significantly outweighed by visual grandeur, solid performances, and sheer ambition.

In this loose prequel to Scott's 1979 classic Alien, Dr's Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) believe they have located our alien ancestors. The Weyland Corporation hires them to pursue that thesis in a distant corner of space, where they uncover the terrifying series of events that turned the moon LV-223 into an extra-terrestrial graveyard. Charlize Theron portrays a corporate liason who oversees the operation, while Michael Fassbender is David, the ship's resident android.

Prometheus was written by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof (Cowboys and Aliens) who respectively wrote two of 2011's worst sci-fi flops. Not a good start, right? Fortunately, this screenplay more closely resembles Lindelof's writing on ABC's Lost. Now here are two other types of people - those who perk up at the mention of that television series, and those who groan. Anyone who enjoyed Lost (including the ending) is probably going to love Prometheus. On the other hand, if the finale made you throw up your arms in disgust, then you will almost certainly hate Prometheus

Those two Lindelof-penned works share in the notion that answers are not everything. Both also present us with heavy religious and mythological allegories that require some personal interpretation. All the pieces you need to understand the movie are there, but each viewer will put them together differently. Art, including cinema, is supposed to inspire interpretation and be a very personal experience. If you are the type who needs everything explained to you, then you will be disappointed. 

Prometheus is perhaps too ambitious in its attempts to cover so much ground. The themes become a bit convoluted, as do the numerous characters and sub-plots. The screenplay certainly could have been improved by more focused characterization on the leads and dropping some forced pieces of dialogue, but the film has been subject to some ridiculously petty and unfair nit-picking (read my rebuttal to those complaints here). The movie seems to be on some unreachable pedestal, as the Internet is abuzz with claims that the characters act so illogically that it ruins the film. Meanwhile, other summer fare such as The Avengers is not subject to the same microscopic dissections. That was a film with quite a few inherent flaws itself, but what people took away from it was how fun and interesting it was. So why isn't Prometheus afforded this same grading curve? 

Presumably the expectations are so high since this is Scott's much-anticipated return to sci-fi after 30 years.  But shouldn't he be provided some leeway for exactly that reason? Alien and Blade Runner are the very pinnacle of science fiction cinema, and few movies have even come close to them these last three decades. Is it realistic to expect Scott to deliver another slice of perfection now? Even Blade Runner upon its release was largely panned as being too strong on visuals and not enough story. What Scott has given us now is another stunning contribution to the genre that is more than just the sum of its flaws. 

There are a few things in Prometheus that even the most fervent critics would unanimously agree are stellar:

1) The art direction: the landscapes are gorgeous and feel 100% real. The combination of sets and digital backgrounds eliminate that artificial green-screen look of Avatar or The Phantom Menace.

2) Michael Fassbender: his eerie portrayal of android David is absolutely perfect. He fits right alongside Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen in the franchise. His mimicry of Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia is so spot-on it is frightening. David also happens to be the most developed and fascinating character in the film.

3) The practical FX: While one piece of old-age make-up may not impress everybody, one has to marvel at the extent of practical FX used in this movie. From puppets to elaborate body-suits, the make-up and special FX departments ensure that every aspect of this film just feels real

4) The horror aspect:  the creature FX are fantastic, the gore is infrequent but intense, and one horrific scene in particular will stay burned into your brain long after you watch it.

It does not matter if your personal beliefs are aligned with Creationism or Darwinism, Prometheus combines elements of both in this ambitious attempt to explain the origins of mankind by way of the Alien series. It is a wild concept that will not work for everybody (especially anyone expecting a direct Alien prequel) but those seeking beautiful, quality science fiction need look no further. At one point in the movie, David says to Dr. Shaw: "The answers are irrelevant." If you subscribe to that same belief, then you will enjoy this movie even more.


out of 5

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