Mark Reviews Movies

Prometheus

PROMETHEUS

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Guy Pearce

MPAA Rating: R (for sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language)

Running Time: 2:04

Release Date: 6/8/12


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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 7, 2012

If one is going to ask the big questions耀uch as the origin of life on Earth and the existence of life elsewhere in the universe擁t does help to load the scenario a bit. Prometheus has big things on its mind, and while we could easily forgive that its queries are loaded (The answer to the second example葉hat, yes, there is life elsewhere容xplains the first葉hat those beings are the reason that humans exist), it's far more difficult to absolve the movie for its tendency to become distracted by all things shiny and, above all, slimy.

In between the search for the aliens who created humankind (in a haunting prologue that observes a giant humanoid creature committing a devastating sort of ritualistic suicide at the top of a waterfall, after which his DNA propagates in the water), another origin story unfolds葉hat of the nasty creatures from the mind of H. R. Giger in director Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien (Oddly, it misses a key visual cue from that film葉he one that actually is the chief link, no less). That's a film that manages to accomplish the same nihilistic worldview that Prometheus ultimately embraces ("There's nothing," a man who has put the last of his hope into some meaning to his life cries as he lays dying; "I know," his soulless companion responds) simply by telling a straightforward story about survival in a hopeless situation.

Here, those aliens, which quickly evolve over the course of the movie, are essentially superfluous and redundant. One of these stories has been shoehorned into the other, and the result is an incongruous blend of thoughtful science fiction and a grotesque horror sideshow.

After the prologue, the story jumps far ahead into the future, specifically the year 2089. In the highlands of Scotland, a scientific expedition led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her significant other Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a long-lost cave where an over-30,000-year-old painting shows a tall human-like figure pointing toward a specific set of stars. This is like many others the two have found.

Four years later, Elizabeth and Charlie are onboard the spaceship Prometheus heading toward the moon of a distant planet that could at one point have sustained life. There, they believe, they will find a race of extraterrestrials they have dubbed "Engineers," who are probably responsible for life on Earth. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the representative of the company sponsoring the mission, wants to ensure everyone knows she's in charge. The biologist of the team (Sean Harris) is skeptical of the entire theory: It makes sense but only if they want to throw out two centuries of evolutionary biology for what is essentially a new variant of creationism.

Religion is a reoccurring theme throughout Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts screenplay, with characters discussing matters of faith in routine ways. Surely, Charlie argues to Elizabeth, it's time for her to take off the cross she wears around her neck after they learn that the DNA of the Engineers is an exact match to that of human beings, essentially placing the Engineers in the role those of faith assign to a divine creator. If they created us, though, she responds, "Who created them?"

Putting the entire conversation into another level of subversion entirely is David (Michael Fassbender), a robot that looks and acts like a man (specifically Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia). Charlie is less hopeful about his own place in universe than Elizabeth and goes to David for solace. What was the reason for David's creation, the robot asks. "Because we could," Charlie answers, to David slyly suggests that there may be no greater purpose for humanity's existence than his own.

All of these debates and lines of thought become unimportant as threats arise. The first is a strange, oozy mutagenic in vials the team discovers in the Engineers' central base (The art direction throughout the movie is quite remarkable, from the cavernous tunnels of that base to the massive structures and ships where characters must eventually escape and avoid).

David has an odd relationship with it, taking a sample for no apparent reason except, perhaps, admiration and running experiments with it just to see what it might do (He seems to take perverse pleasure in the results, and Fassbender doesn't shy away from the sinister side of the character's inhumanity). As we learn during an intense standoff between a mutated serpentine creature and a pair of lagging team members, the results are deadly. The movie's other chilling setpiece watches as an automated surgery system slices through a character's abdomen to remove a living foreign body.

Each of the two threads of Prometheus has its moments of individual inspiration (Enough cannot be said of its enigmatic opening sequence, and the pure horror elements are genuinely disturbing), but they simply do not mesh together. The only way to merge the two in the end, of course, is to abandon them both for a loud, chaotic climax that furiously maneuvers its pieces to connect the movie as closely as possible to its predecessor.

Copyright ゥ 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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