The bottom line is: watching Prometheus is an excellent way to pass two hours, even if not quite as inspiring as Alien. I tried not to make constant comparisons, but the truth is there are a lot of similarities. So many, in fact, it’s all but impossible not to think of the Alien movies for at least the first half-hour. From the way the title appears onscreen as a series of singular lines to the opening sequence wherein we see panoramic views of the spaceship Prometheus and all of its sleeping crew, all but the android David, that is, the similarities are uncanny. A few days before the premiere, the internet teemed with articles in which Ridley Scott tried damn hard to downplay the fact that this is a prequel to Alien. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It certainly does have an intricate, detailed plot of its own, but it all leads to the origin of those fantastic creatures we watched Sigourney Weaver flush out into space a couple of decades ago.
Prometheus is an ambitious film and while very entertaining, not every idea it introduces is fully realized. Some remain open-ended questions and some just flitter off into the air like steam. We’re introduced to the lead character, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), an anthropologist who together with fellow anthropologist and the man she loves, Charlie Holloway (the terribly attractive Logan Marshall-Green), finds a number of similar drawings made by ancient civilizations separated by centuries as well as hundreds, if not thousands of miles. They convince billionaire tycoon Peter Weyland that the drawings are an invitation by the alien race who created humankind to seek them on their home plant. Weyland is elderly and facing his own mortality so the idea of meeting his maker before he kicks the bucket appeals to him enough to fund this expedition. We’re told along with the crew that Weyland died shortly before the expedition began, however, but not before leaving specific directives to the only “son” he had, robot David, expertly played by the inhumanly talented Michael Fassbender.
The flaws begin to surface as soon as Prometheus arrives at its destination. Practically every crew member of Prometheus just couldn’t wait to break protocol. They refuse to wait until morning to begin exploring, acting like petulant children instead, and even remove their helmets once inside the “cave” that is actually another spaceship. They jump off their ship during a rock storm, try to bring obvious contagions on board, touch every fucking thing they see – basically acting in the exact opposite way that actual astronauts and scientists would. Which is something I didn’t expect from Scott. In Alien, (again, I hate to compare but it must be done) he gave us the reverse: a crew of utter professionals who behaved as real scientists would. I could buy into there being one rogue, reckless idiot on board. But in Prometheus, the crew was damn near made up of reckless idiots.
The bit of back story about Shaw’s faith didn’t fit for me either. We see an early memory of her father expressing his faith in the afterlife but the only faith Shaw professes is in her belief that the drawings she found were made by what she calls “engineers” and that these engineers are, in fact, aliens from another planet who created humans on earth before returning to their homeland. At no point did she speak of faith or religion, only that she wanted to meet this alien race she believed to be our creators. She never brought God into it. So when, suddenly, two-thirds of the way through the film, David asks if she feels like her god has abandoned her, I thought: she has a god?
Other inconsistencies surfaced as well. The character of Dr. Holloway transformed with every scene, so much so he felt less like a person and more like a prop to fill whatever purpose that scene needed. The absurdly handsome Idris Elba, as Janek, captain of Prometheus, spoke not with his natural British accent but one of the American deep south, which wouldn’t have been any problem except that as the movie progressed, his accent all but disappeared. The geologist among the crew looked like an escaped convict and the biologist seemed to know very little of anything biological.
Setting all of that aside, though, Prometheus is visually stunning and entertaining from start to finish. Because it takes place on an alien planet as opposed to a spaceship in flight, it doesn’t have the claustrophobic feel of Alien but it does have loads of action and some very suspenseful moments. More questions are raised than are answered but judging by its end, we’re practically guaranteed a sequel. The film’s three leads, Rapace, Fassbender and Charlize Theron (who, by the way, is so disturbingly beautiful, I think she may literally be a robot) give outstanding performances. I will probably see it again before it leaves the theaters and will absolutely see a sequel. Hopefully, Scott will better blend the impeccably professional and meticulous style of Alien with the gorgeous and technologically advanced Prometheus.