Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
Michael Fassbender as David
Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers
Idris Elba as Captain Janek
Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland
Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway
Sean Harris as Fifield
Rafe Spall as Millburn
Emun Elliott as Chance
Benedict Wong as Ravel
Kate Dickie as Ford
Directed by Ridley Scott
Some people never learn and some people only have one trick up their sleeves. It’s hard to tell which you’re dealing with sometimes, and “Prometheus” is a perfect example of that. Ridley Scott’s much anticipated return to the “Alien” universe morphed, in the hands of co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof (“Lost”), into a sci-fi epic asking bold questions about a creations relationship with its creator (or creators) that would very much like to be this generations “2001.”
The plot itself is the heady stuff of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. In the late 21st century a pair of archeologists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered a series of murals spanning multiple ancient human civilizations all pointing to a far off star system ancient humans couldn’t have known about on their own. Convincing a dying industrialist (Guy Pearce) to fund their adventure, they and a crew of scientists and miners have traveled across the galaxy to discover signs of an ancient spacefaring race which may well have bioengineered humanity itself.
It would like to be that, but the end result is something which contains both the strengths and weaknesses of both creators which suggest limits neither man may be able to get past. For Scott, despite all his skill, he needs a good script given to him to produce a good movie without the ability to fix problems through his own storytelling acumen. And Lindelof seem so have a lack for follow-through at least equal to his ability to build a story up. What they produce together then is a film which is entertaining but ultimately deeply unsatisfying bound to leave audiences with a sense of ‘wait, that’s it?’ which transcends anything else they might take from it.
Until that happens, “Prometheus” is an immensely entertaining film. Scott and his normal band of compatriots, particularly cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and production designer Arthur Max, have crafted an exceptionally beautiful film.
And an intensely moody one. From the sleeping crew watched over by a lone android (Michael Fassbender) desperate to entertain himself to the first sight of an underground complex filled with dead bodies and strange capsules, Scott has filled his film with a deep sense of dread that rarely ever requires jump scares to keep its audience on the edge of its seat. And it’s a dread which comes from multiple areas as the Shaw must contend with not only what is inside the ancient cavern but someone conducting covert experiments on the crew itself and the something the Prometheus brought with them all the way from Earth which only David and the company’s representative (Charlize Theron) know about.
Despite all those disparate plot threads, Lindelof and co-writer Jon Spaihts script and Scott’s direction keep all the strands together with ease and speed through the story with verve. It’s all promising to come together to answer the question of what were the Engineers doing with their strange black ooze which mutates any life form it comes into contact with into some sort of crazed killing machine, and what were they planning on doing to Earth with it?
Unfortunately, these are promises which will never be answered, and how much you will like “Prometheus” depends a great deal on how much that bothers you. To put it another way, if you liked the last episode of “Lost” then “Prometheus” will suit you just fine. And if you didn’t, stay away.
It’s not a complete waste of time. When it is good it is very good; Scott knows how to make a movie and most of his cast are more than up to the challenge. Rapace, Fassbender and Theron are particular standouts, inducing ambiguity and strength in surprising places and always keeping you guessing about what drives them. In fact, most of the main cast is perfectly chosen, with the one major drawback being square jawed Logan Marshall-Green as Shaw’s partner who seems picked more for his looks than any particular acting ability.
That’s not entirely his fault as the script does him no favors, casting Holloway as starry-eyed dreamer who acts like a bi-polar man child, particularly when things don’t go his way. Marshall-Green isn’t the actor to salvage a part like that, but ultimately it is just another indicator of “Prometheus'” one huge, glaring weakness: its script.
For all the thought and effort which has gone into the first two thirds of the film, ultimately the script doesn’t know what it wants to say and instead wants to have its cake and eat it too, giving its audience nothing but ambiguity after two hours implicitly promising the opposite. There’s nothing wrong with ambiguity, but it has its place as much as detail does and part of being a good storyteller is to know when to use it and when not to. Lindelof either hasn’t learned that, or only knows one trick–I still can’t tell which–and Scott doesn’t seem to be the director to fix that problem.
“Prometheus” is enjoyable for what it is more often than not, though anyone expecting something up to the standards of Ridley Scott’s most well-regarded films is best off reeling in their expectations a bit. Most of that is because of a third act collapse which the film just can’t get out of the way of. For all the noise and thunder early on, “Prometheus” just runs out of steam, but what a ride until it does.