Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pierce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Guy Pierce
Rated: R for sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language
If the measure of great art is how much thought and discussion it inspires, “Prometheus” is very great art indeed. It asks so many questions, and leaves so many of them unanswered, that it is producing interesting, thoughtful discussions far and wide. It’s more of a meditation on the eternal questions of philosophy than a story — which is both a great strength and a major weakness.
The film opens with a large, humanoid being on a cliff consuming a strange substance as a spacecraft lifts off through the clouds. The substance breaks him down into his component parts, which begin to reform into DNA, seeding life onto the planet. Next, we meet anthropologists Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Shaw (Noomi Rapace), who study cave paintings and keep finding the same image over and over: groups of humans worshipping a large humanoid, who points to a particular configuration of stars or planets.
With funding from the enormously powerful Weyland Corporation, Holloway and Shaw mount an expedition to find the star system from the paintings, which turns out to have an Earth-sized moon orbiting an enormous gas giant. There, they find what looks like a landing strip and a massive pyramid — which contains vases of a strange oily substance, and corpses of large humanoids. Something killed them, but what?
If you know going into the film that “Prometheus” is a prequel to Ridley Scott’s film “Alien,” you can probably guess the answer to that question — but you may be surprised by the half-answer the film provides. Scott is a master of the grand, philosophical film, and “Prometheus” is no exception. If you thought “Blade Runner” was too pretentious and full of plot holes and unanswered questions, “Prometheus” will drive you right up the wall.
It’s also not for the faint of heart — Scott is a master of body horror, and with the huge budget he had at his disposal for this film, he is able to accomplish some truly horrifying moments. He also accomplishes absolutely gorgeous visuals, from the sweeping panoramas of a volcanic and lifeless landscape of the opening to the strange interior of the pyramid the protagonists explore.
Another thing Scott has a knack for is strong female characters. Rapace brings us a highly intelligent but ultimately faith-driven character who clings desperately to her faith and her life, even against overwhelming odds. Charlize Theron plays the Weyland representative in charge of the mission, and brings an iron resolve to her that makes the character very intriguing to watch.
It’s a pity that the plot has as many holes as it does and that the characters are as foolish as they are (the star configuration shouldn’t be exactly the same after many thousands of years — the constellations shift! Why doesn’t the ship have a rotating watch while on a strange alien planet? Why is nobody concerned about pathogens until it’s too late?), because it means that “Prometheus” pretty much only works as a fable. As a story, it’s too full of inconsistencies and errors.
As a fable, though, it succeeds admirably. I’m hoping that Scott is able to make the second film he originally planned. Doubtless it will raise more questions than it answers, but if it does so as gracefully as “Prometheus” does, I’ll still be satisfied.