Like Ridley Scott’s original Alien (1979), Prometheus seduces viewers with a simple space mission that goes haywire. Unlike the Nostromo, a commercial vessel that is re-routed in the interests of its corporate sponsor, the Prometheus is a trillion dollar ship sent out to space in the name of science, entrusting two lovebird scientists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) with leading an expedition to fulfill man’s pursuit of knowledge, to prove that they were right all along. We are not alone, and we indeed evolve.
That’s what’s laid out in the opening sequence–a glimpse into the serene, unsettled planet before organic life laid it to waste. Humanoid-like visitors came here–to conduct experiments–and humans would eventually grow out of this big petri dish. Leave it to humans and their thinking cap to eventually come around and understand how to read prehistoric paintings as an invitation to a party, that takes two years to get to, while traveling at the speed of light.
As the crew sleeps in space, an android named David (Michael Fassbender) is hard at work, learning the ways of human interaction, downloading and processing all-known information, especially that which pertains to communication in hopes of finding patterns within every known civilization to decipher whatever will be encountered. He is a perfect blend of human and robot, perfectly programmable but also capable of independent thought and action. He’s not the first android we’ve seen. Ian Holm, Lance Henriksen, and Winona Ryder have all done so, each a different take, its own model. Fassbender is the most peculiar, and the most captivating.
David tours the lifeless Prometheus on bike and flip-flops and upon arrival at their destination, wakes Shaw and Holloway and introduce them to their fellow scientists. They are debriefed by the man who helped fund this entire operation and created David, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who backs them with his faith by way of hologram.
There were ingenious “Ted Talks” viral campaigns that can be found littering the Internet, of a much younger Weyland touring his work and the accomplishments of science that sadly never made its way into the film. So this withered, wrinkled, shell of Weyland appears almost otherworldly when he is introduced–the cut footage is sure to make the director’s cut. If you missed them, I highly recommend seeing them before watching the film. Understanding the man who would create a perfect working android is important in comprehending David’s ambiguous and scientific actions. David was created in a human’s likeness, but is also programmed to play with matches–in the name of science. He is a perfect match for this crew.
When the Prometheus lands, Shaw and Holloway are understandably in a rush to make contact, but their first expedition into these massive dome structures they call “pyramids” is a major disappointment, just ruins in what appeared to be a botched space mission thousands of years old. David is able to decipher the language and triggers a holographic video of sorts that recorded the final moments of this mission and that’s where things begin to echo Scott’s original and suspenseful wild ride.
Viewers will and should question each action and motive of every crewmember, amidst the beauty of this planet and the most gorgeous constructed shots in a modern science fiction film. The picturesque nature of this scientific exploration surprisingly makes the 3D experience, the most pleasant in a live-action film since Hugo. Yes, Hollywood, for this one instance, I am supporting the 3D. As the pyramid is continuously mapped and most importantly its remains are revealed, we are given everything to make the mind wander–the gift of any good science fiction.
Meanwhile, those that remain on the ship, Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) keep the mission business oriented and committed in self-preservation. That’s a good thing when you consider how stubborn and selfish scientists can be. Vickers is not a scientist, representing Weyland Industries; she is so cold and hard that Janek asks if she’s an android too. Is she? You’ll have to see for yourself.
Emotions run cold through the entire crew, filled with selfish but intelligent individuals. They are strong-minded and brave sons of bitches, and a few ladies with the grit and spit too. Rapace’s Shaw and Theron’s Vickers carry on Scott’s customary female leads that do women proudly, especially in the face of a crisis. Rapace, the original Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, is especially marvelous in her first feature role in an American film. Ripley would’ve been proud. The only emotional bond on the ship, Shaw and Holloway, and their desire to celebrate their discovery is a strange mismatch, perhaps rushed. It appeared to be the one warm gesture to contrast all of the cold shoulders on the ship. And as far as the pyramid went, the only thing that seemed to have blood running through them were the very things that seek to destroy them. Speaking of which…
They too are experiments, or are they weapons? David’s discoveries and his poking and prodding appear to be filled with an alternative mission, or is he simply enacting what humans would do if they were committed to their science? Free will or his directive? One discovery in particular will be familiar with Alien and be the key to the disaster to undo them.
Prometheus though, leaves us with plenty more questions than gives us answers about our creators. To explain them all would defeat the purpose, viewers must go a bit further on their own, but it is fun to hypothesize. Why did they create us? Why create such terrifying biological weapons? And who were they meant for? Us, or something even more terrifying?
Prometheus is a perfect prequel to the Alien saga, regardless if subsequent sequels are planned or not. It is as clever and riveting as it is contemplative and that is sure to puzzle and frustrate some. How satisfying is to see Scott deliver such an inspired film, with today’s bells and whistles, and create a beautiful companion to a story he started? He should also be allowed to finish it, if Prometheus does well enough in the box office. Now, Prometheus requires some hard discussion afterwards. There are some shortcomings and some good stuff that’s missing, like Weyland’s early campaigns that would have made this a stronger effort, but it’s still a glorious ride.
Our mind is left to wander and wonder with the questions that drive this film–ones so truthfully sci-fi: man’s creation and battle with mortality for instance are two that are posed. Man gets answers, assisted by his own man-made creations and machinations. We can be brilliant at times, but never brilliant enough, and so continues the torment of our most talented intellectuals, ever pushing forward to that, which is unknown.