If you could ask our creator one question, what would it be? Why do bad things happen to good people? What’s the meaning of it all? Why does Adam Sandler continue to get his movies green-lighted?
This thought exercise makes one big assumption: there will be answers.
In Prometheus, director Ridley Scott (Robin Hood) takes on the question of our origins —at least our origins in the Alien mythos.
Archeologists Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace: Sherlock 2) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green: Devil) discover similar cave drawings in ancient cultures around the world. The images always depict an alien-like species pointing to a planet formation. Since these ancient terrestrial worlds never co-mingled, the doctors deduce that aliens visited Earth and engineered humanity. Then they took off, leaving us a map of their home universe in case we ever got smart enough to track them down.
By AD 2093, we’re able to pay our creators a visit. Technologies corporation Weyland Industries funds an exhibition to far-away planet LV-223 aboard the ship Prometheus. Included on the journey are a music-loving pilot (Idris Elba: Ghost Rider), corporate bigwig Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron: Snow White and the Huntsman) and android David (Michael Fassbender: Haywire).
Anyone familiar with the Alien franchise can tell you that LV-223 isn’t the planet later graced by Ripley, so don’t expect any direct tie-ins. Alien fans will also know that we should be wary of androids, who, while helpful and really good at knife tricks, are often programmed to do nefarious things for the Weyland Corporation.
The ship arrives, and the archeologists discover an ancient temple. Instead of Prometheus, the ship should have been named Pandora, since once the temple is opened, the horrors begin.
People die. Face huggers are born. As their numbers dwindle, the Prometheus crew must find a way to stop their creators from returning to Earth and wiping out humanity.
Why can’t aliens in these movies ever be as nice as ET? Do they think we’ve run out of Reese’s Pieces?
One of the best parts of Prometheus is its refusal to offer easy answers. What’s the purpose of it all? Figure it out yourself, says the film. It offers clues and some depressing insights into our origins without belaboring the metaphor.
The film is also a welcome return to form from director Scott, who creates a visually stunning world, utilizing the striking designs of H.R. Giger and some fantastic performances to create an expansive universe that becomes claustrophobic and terrifying.
Though the lead of Prometheus is ostensibly Rapace, the star is Fassbender. An android who bleaches his roots, obsessively watches Lawrence of Arabia, curiously observes human emotions and is bound to a secret Weyland agenda is far more interesting than humans. Fassbender brilliantly uses passive expressions and quick mechanical head tilts to erase David’s humanity without making him seem overly robotic. He’s so close to being human … but something is lacking. It’s an unnerving performance.
Rapace is solid in her first English leading role as a delicate scientist who discovers she’s got excellent survival skills. The heir apparent to the Ripley role, Rapace has the physicality and grit to make her a formidable match for malevolent extra terrestrials.
The low points in an otherwise excellent sci-fi thriller are minor. Marshall-Green’s aggressive monosyllabic performance makes him a poor choice for an archeologist, since his scientific method involves drinking, breaking things and howling like a deranged frat boy. It’s also curious that this film, set before the original Alien, features technology that blows away anything aboard the Nostromo. Maybe there was a technological regression into the future. Maybe DOS computers were standard on cheap salvage space ships.
Overall, Prometheus is an excellent expansion of the Alien universe with some challenging themes. It’s also got face huggers, which at my screening terrified the audience.