Sadly, like a sorority girl just finished with her first semester of Psychology 101, it’s all lip-gloss and profound-sounding pronouncements with no real substance.
It will catch your eye and entertain for a while, but it’s nothing you want to take home to mother.
Despite months of denials that Prometheus was a prequel to the events in Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror hit Alien, that’s exactly what it is.
Charmed by nearly-identical cave paintings scattered around Earth, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) travels through deep space, following the clues she believes were left by alien life forms. More than that, she suspects the aliens were the engineers of humanity, seeding our planet with DNA to become life.
She’s not alone.
On the ship, I mean.
She’s joined by a human-like droid named David (Michael Fassbender), her boyfriend Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green), and the new CEO of the company that funded the expedition, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). There’s also motley crew of assorted fodder for whatever horrors you just know they’re going to find: The usual mix of mercenaries and minor scientists who, if this were an episode of Star Trek, would be wearing red uniforms.
Arrived at the planet of destination, they begin exploring ruins of an ancient civilization.
They’re not alone.
In the ruins, I mean.
Triggering a holographic sort of Blu-Ray player, they see footage that only proves Very Nasty Things happened there a long time ago.
Hmm. Maybe they are alone after all.
Or maybe not.
A great part of the movie is spent in tense anticipation of the reveal that They Are Not Alone that the viewer is just sure is coming. We discover we’re still riding on the adrenaline of aliens suddenly popping out of corridors and peoples’ chests back in 1979, 1986, and, to a lesser extent, 1992 and 1997.
There’s plenty of action, fighting, and an occasional something under, in, or through a person’s skin. We’re not always sure what they’re fighting, but they do fight. Rapace, especially, shows the tough, gritty determination made great in Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, even resorting to self-surgery in a scene that makes it impossible to look away.
Between jumping out of their skins, literally and figuratively, the characters stop to ruminate on What it All Means. Dr. Shaw wears a crucifix around her neck, a piece of jewelry that becomes a symbol for Faith (With a capital F. This movie has a lot of Capitalized Ideas.) Although she is a scientist, she is also a believer of some Christian sort. Her hope is that they can find the engineers that created humanity and get a step closer to knowing the mystery of the existence of God.
The rest of the crew, both human and droid, think she’s nuts.
David, the droid, has been created by humans but is self-aware, at least enough to know he doesn’t feel what they feel or understand freedom. The humans are his god, in the sense that they have some ‘splainin’ to do on why they made him the way he is.
So we have this chain of beings, creators and those created, all asking each other “Why?”
Add in the fact that, apparently, the aliens that created humanity later decided to destroy it, which is where the prequel portion of the movie comes in. Then there are two questions: Why create? And Why destroy?
It’s a lot to ponder as various people fight various dangers while protecting their hidden agendas.
The technical aspects of the movie are fantastic. Ridley Scott’s direction soars through gorgeous space, made all the more impressive by 3D technology. Acting is top notch, especially by Rapace and Fassbender.
The characters, however, don’t all come to life. We don’t have the instantly-relatable, excellent crew that we had on the previous adventures. Idris Elba, as the ship’s captain, shows some life, but the rest don’t pop.
Finally, the story will disappoint hard core fans and confuse casual fans. While it does hearken back to the previous movies, and include some fun Easter Eggs as it does, the film doesn’t answer all our questions about the origins of the aliens. In fact, some of the plot lines will have you pondering later why this or that happened. They just don’t make sense.
All those Big Questions that make up the core of the movie? They stay just that: Big Questions.
Just like the sorority girl who asks “Do you think there’s life out there?” while twirling her hair and drinking her beer at an outdoor party, it thinks it’s deeper than it is.
It might be an enjoyable way to spend an evening, but you wouldn’t want a second date.
Prometheus is rated R, almost entirely for bloody, gory violence. There is some mild language and a scene of purely implied sexuality.