Originally Reviewed – 7/3/2012
Ever since Prometheus was released in North America on June 8th, there’s been a swarm of conflicting opinions. Some hail the movie as an intelligent return to true science fiction and others call it a twisting, turning mess that asks a ton of questions with very few answers. Some moviegoers have gone so far to say it’s as bad as the Phantom Menace and a disgrace to the Alien franchise it may or may not be rebooting. From my perspective, these people are expecting way too much from Ridley Scott’s return to the sci-fi genre. Prometheus is an exquisitely made film full of excitement and intrigue, despite some story pitfalls and mistakes that have left many a fanboy weeping in their Cheerios.
The tale revolves around two archeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who discover repeated circle patterns in remote cave paintings. There’s only one galaxy in the known universe where the planets are arranged in the exact same fashion, so what do they do? Get the backing of a major corporation and take a team of scientists on a 2 year journey to the remote cluster of planets. While traveling in hibernation, the ship is run by David (Michael Fassbender), a humanoid robot thing that watches films, plays bicycle basketball and reads the sleeping crew’s dreams. At the end of the journey, the team wakes up to find themselves two years older and ready to embark on a unique expedition. Their goal? Nobody knows.
From the opening image of the film, Prometheus takes great pains to ask a number of questions. These quandaries revolve around the nature of creation, humanities place in the universe and the never ending search for truth. These themes are fascinating and bring you deeper into the mystery of the crew and the strange planet they find themselves on. As a couple of reviewers have said, Prometheus is a true science fiction film. Not sci-fi-fantasy-action or a dramadey set in space. This is sci-fi at its most genuine, a genre that’s always been about the search for answers beyond our world and abstractions of our basic reality. While the movie doesn’t end on the most satisfying note (more on that later), the ride it takes is one of fascinating intrigue.
Of course, some beautiful visuals help things along. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski graces the screen with an alien world that looks natural and real. Everything in the film looks as though it was plucked from an alien archive. The technology all makes sense, the far off vistas are immaculate and the entire film is coated with a polish that’s hard to deride. Scott also uses the beautiful setting to create some genuine tension and fear for the well chosen cast. Michael Fassbender is the true star of the film, creating an unreliable character that is likable and terrifying in equal measure. Rapace is well suited to play the female scientist, despite her spending much of the film screaming and quivering, as should be expected in a Ridley Scott directed alien movie. The rest of the cast ranges from perfectly suitable (Marshall-Green as the other scientist) to downright horrendous (Charlize Theron in a role that had no reason to even exist). Idris Elba also deserves some special praise as the ship’s captain, the only one of the quickly assembled crew of side characters to ever develop beyond simple alien food.
But if you put your ear to the wind and listen closely, you’ll still hear the whisper of science fiction fans yelling in the distance. These gripes, while excessive, are not completely unfounded. Like I mentioned earlier, the movie takes great pains to ask hard questions while never once providing concrete answers. While the nature of the film makes this palatable, what doesn’t work is the ham-fisted ending that has many sci-fi geeks flooding message boards with immutable rage. The film takes great pains to develop real tension and pacing in its first ninety minutes. The scenery is realistic, the action is well done and everything seems to building towards something. Anything. All well and good until the film spirals out of control in the final half hour. What started as a carefully paced movie with moments of terror and suspense, rockets to its conclusion in a flash of explosions, head scratching reveals and obvious fan service. None of it is terrible, but it’s disappointing to have such good pacing ruined by what looks like a hacked up script. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the studio stepped in during script approval and demanded it be cut to a trim two hours. It’s either that or the screenwriter (Damon Lindelof of Lost fame) did what he does best: create spine tingling intrigue only to ruin it by simply making things up as he goes along.
Despite some questionable character choices, baffling turns and an ending that moves so fast it kicks up Road Runner dust, Prometheus is an impeccably crafted and thoroughly entertaining science fiction film. Filled with intense action, moments of terror and some clever winks to the Alien franchise faithful, Prometheus will satisfy viewers who go in with tempered expectations. While this isn’t the sci-fi messiah super fans were hoping it would be, it’s still a damn good film and one of the best times you can have in theaters thus far this season. And, let’s be fair. In a summer full of shoddy Adam Sandler comedies and vampire slaying presidents, being a well made film that delivers in nearly all the ways that really matter should be more than enough for the average moviegoer.
Score – 85%