“Prometheus” Movie Review

     After viewing Ridley Scott's spectacular new film "Prometheus", I came to one immediate conclusion.  This is most certainly, by definition, a prequel to his 1979 masterpiece "Alien".  In today's financial climate, I can see why all along this film was marketed as an original stand alone story.  In reality, a studio would be crazy to invest in a film that would require the viewing of another movie that's more than three decades old (I'm reminded of last summer's "The Thing" prequel).  For a film to be successful, it has to appeal to the all important 18-34 male demographic. With the A.D.D. nature of the current generation, there is no way someone unfamiliar with "Alien" would invest two hours in order to understand a prequel, thus the lie Scott has been telling for the past two years.  If your an "Alien" franchise fan, than "Prometheus" will play not only like a prequel, but a welcome and imaginative addition to the mythos of the story.  If your new to this and haven't been looking forward to this film, than I can see you having to ask a lot of questions.  If the term "Space Jockey" is foreign to you, than your left with what will play like an original story which I think will stand up just fine to the expectations of the average movie goer, especially if your partial to science fiction.

     What a welcome return to the genre Ridley Scott had made after three decades away.  "Prometheus" offers some of the most striking images and visuals you will see all year.  It's as if every frame is a painting containing so much thought and detail that it could only have come from such a visionary artist like Scott.  This after all is the director who changed the landscape of science fiction permanently with the aforementioned "Alien" and 1982's "Blade Runner".  I would argue nearly every science fiction film released in the last 30 years has the fingerprints of those two films all over them.  Whether it be the bio-mechanical design elements in "Alien" or the futuristic Los Angeles cityscapes in "Blade Runner", no director seems to have had such an influence on his peers.  The question with "Prometheus" to me is how could Scott possibly top himself?

     The saying "That's a tough act to follow!" is an understatement and not unlike the same situation George Lucas faced in 1999 with the release of the long awaited "Star Wars" prequel "Episode One: The Phantom Menace."  "Prometheus" has the advantage of not arriving with nearly as much hype, thanks primarily to that fake marketing campaign I was talking about earlier, but every fanboy will without a doubt hold this film to the same exact standard.  Let it be known, your reading the blog of a guy who has a 12 inch tall Space Jockey statue on his desk.  You think I was a little excited about this film?

     Fortunately, I was quite blown away by "Prometheus" and I see it as the kind of daring filmmaking we should be seeing a lot more often.  The film's plot is actually rather simple.  A rich businessman in the year 2089 funds an expedition to a distant world in order to meet his maker.  In other words, the film argues we were created by a race not unlike our own and have been visited by them many times over past centuries.  In an interview about "Prometheus", Ridley Scott talked about how surprised he was that over the course of three sequels, no one bothered to answer the question "Who's the big guy?". Hopefully you remember the fossilized creature found in the derelict space craft the Nostromo crew in "Alien" investigates.  That unknown creature was called the "Space Jockey" back in 1979 as a way to reference it.  It is that race the crew in "Prometheus" is dealing with and thus a new chapter in the "Alien" saga has been written.  Just don't expect for the answers to all of your questions to come by the film's end.  Writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof ask a ton of questions in this film, but this isn't the type of film with an "A to Z" kind of ending.  Rather, it will have you thinking and debating what you've just witnessed long after you've left the theater.  Just as I'm still wondering whether or not the last scene in "Inception" was a dream, I now ponder what exactly the Space Jockey race had in store for us on Earth and did they truly create the human race.  I'm also thinking about the Alien life cycle and how this film introduces it by one of the main characters holding a drop of a mysterious liquid on his finger tip and stating "Big things have small beginnings." To be sure, Scott and his team never intended "Prometheus" to stand alone and I would expect a continuation of the story in the near future.

     Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish "Millennium Trilogy") plays scientist Elizabeth Shaw, who along with her partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have found a series of ancient drawings from several different civilizations throughout Earth's history which share the same images.  They determine the drawings are maps which lead them to a distant planet they've named LV223 (so not the same planet from "Alien" which was called LV426).  The film gets its title from the name of the ship which takes them there and the journey takes over two years with the crew, as in "Alien" and "Aliens", in hyper sleep.  One difference between the films is both the Nostromo and the Suloco were managed by a ship computer.  Here, the "Prometheus" is managed by a robot named David, played marvelously by Michael Fassbender.

     The early scenes in the film show us David's day to day activities, whether it be playing basketball or modeling himself after Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia", David seems to conduct himself with razor sharp efficiency and always with an agenda.  When the crew awakens, we meet the main players.  Notable are Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the ship's Captain, Janek, played by Idris Elba.  They land the ship near what appears to be a dome which is clearly not natural, but rather man or alien made.  Once inside, they explore a number of dark caverns and utilize unique devices which create a holographic image of what they're exploring on the ship's bridge.  The devices also track life forms which, of course, is important later. 

     In true Scott fashion, the film spends well over an hour ratcheting up tension and giving the audience plenty to process and think about.  As an audience, we're watching from the perspective of the explorers and aren't given the view from the other side.  In other words, you know what the characters know as they enter each situation, meaning whatever the outcome, you still only get their perspective on what just happened.  This proves to be a unique way to tell a story because it forces you to put together a puzzle which always seems to have missing pieces.  When we get to the third act, all hell breaks loose and the set pieces genre fans crave go on full display.  Perhaps the most shocking scene in "Alien" was the famous chest buster forcing its way out of Kane and slithering away from the dinner table.  I'm quite sure Scott was looking to try and top that with one such scene in "Prometheus" and you'll know when you see it.

     Overall, my feeling is "Prometheus" is what a modern science fiction film should look and feel like.  Too many times, directors try to recycle familiar plots and themes going for what will sell, while sacrificing the true artist's vision.  Everything in this film looks like every detail came from the brush stroke of many talented artists who set out to make something truly special and they succeeded.  The film doesn't necessarily reach the heights of the shock factor "Alien" had or the intensity of "Aliens", yet it does challenge you to think which neither of those films were able to do.  If I have one criticism, it would be the failure to really flesh out the majority of the characters.  We get to know Shaw, Holloway, & David fairly well, but the rest of the characters don't have much impact and that's never a good thing when they are killed because your likely not to care much.  That aside, "Prometheus" delivers on a very high level. It answers many questions but asks even more.  After my viewing, I wondered, if these Space Jockeys did create the human race in their own image, were they disgusted with what our society has become? Thus the need to exterminate us? GRADE: A-