Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a dumb movie with a shell of deep ideas. It is content to have characters raise Philosophy 101 concepts as if they are being asked for the first time. They might have had more time to advance the discussion if they didn’t have to worry about interplanetary sandstorms, squid monsters, and other things that usually happen in sci-fi movies.
The picture begins in Scotland as two scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star diagram in cave paintings that match those found in other places around the Earth. An expedition is formed to visit the planet the paintings seemed to be referring to, financed by a diseased multimillionaire and led by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who is assisted by the service robot David (Michael Fassbinder). On the planet, they find the secrets of the universe they were looking for, and go home, satisfied and enlightened.
Just kidding. If you’ve seen any sci-fi action movie, you know that they are going to find something horrible that will try to kill them. Prometheus is a film with multiple plot twists, none of which I found particularly surprising or interesting, but I will refrain from describing the plot further for the sake of virgin viewers.
A lot of pre-release press about the film has been on the subject of whether it is a prequel to Scott’s Alien. In terms of the storyline and style, I can report that, in my opinion, it certainly is, unless it can be counted as a remake, as so many elements from the first film are recycled. There is the muscular heroine, the look of the ship and planet (H.R. Giger worked on this movie as well), the mostly blue collar crew and the deep cynicism of big corporations. The movie also has a bit of Scott’s Blade Runner and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in its themes, and the latter in its art direction, as well.
The problem with Prometheus is that it doesn’t really exploit the wonderful opportunities its ideas might present and is instead, an action film. Occasionally, the characters will have a banal theological discussion, which is usually cut short by either an argument or a Lovecraftian squid monster. The actors cannot be faulted but, with the exception of David, none of the characters’ personalities are plausible; we can’t get involved with what happens to them. I found the original Alien a flawed film, but Scott paid attention to the characters, who also at least plausibly acted like real people. Here, I found the characters’ underwhelming reactions to what would literally be the greatest scientific discovery of all time amusing. Like almost every action movie, the characters do dumb things that get them killed. As a friend I saw the film with pointed out: ‘haven’t any of them seen a single science fiction movie before?’
Watching the film, I thought of Andrei Tarkovsky’s great masterpiece Solaris (forget about the American remake starring George Clooney). That film, set mostly on a space station, was almost three hours long and slow paced, but allowed the viewer to really believe that they were in space and experiencing marvellous things. The main character was a psychologist, deeply concerned about the inner workings of people.
The only way Prometheus is concerned with the inner workings of people is in the literal way. You might want to really think about purchasing snacks on the way into this one. If you are looking for standard Hollywood sci-fi, you’ve found it. Prometheus is not a terrible film, but it’s not a very original one, and not worth your time.
2.5 out 4