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Prometheus Is Ambitious, Beautiful, and A Letdown All At Once

Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Fox, 2012

Prometheus has the same issue that the Star Wars prequels had, and I don’t mean to say that the two are similar in quality at all.  What I mean is, the problem of expectation.  When Prometheus was first getting discussed, it was all about how it was the prequel to Alien, and Alien’s original director Ridley Scott would be on board, and how awesome is that going to be?  And then we saw the trailers, with the gorgeous cinematography and killer, fast-paced editing and those signature alarm noises, married with the viral videos on YouTube, man, Prometheus was marketed to the highest extreme, made into an event.

But here’s the problem with that kind of thinking in the first place.  Ridley Scott may possess every last power he had in 1979 when the original Alien came out, but movies have changed so much since then.  Directors from the 70’s have had a hard time adapting to the way films are done today, and whether it’s age, or a lack of total control like they used to have, or just run out of ideas, the Ridley Scott of Alien is not the same Ridley Scott we would be getting with Prometheus.  Not that the product would, by rule, be bad, but Prometheus was not going to be Alien.  And that’s important to note before going in to see it.

Prometheus is the name of the ship carrying scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her colleague/lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) to a remote system that many of Earth’s ancient cultures on many different parts of the world described in drawings, even though they didn’t know about each other and definitely didn’t own a telescope.  They are at the mercy of cold ship-owner Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the whims of deceased tycoon Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, showing up on videos in complete “old” makeup).  There are other scientists and such on board: the captain (Idris Elba), some geologists, and this movie’s android, David (Michael Fassbender).  David is the android who knows so much it’s freaky.  He’s been learning a lot while the crew sleeps during the two-year flight, watching Lawrence of Arabia, and learning information that would be a total breach of trust among humans.

The ideas that Shaw and Holloway have are disregarded as tantamount to religion: that the ancient people of Earth were created by the original human beings and were sent here.  But soon after the Prometheus lands, discoveries start taking place immediately.  Not long after that, things start going wrong.  This isn’t Alien, where the antagonist is a clear-cut killer.  The antagonist here is…blurred.

I won’t get into a lot of that here, as you should be surprised.  But first, here’s the good: the visuals are amazing, the 3D is quality here because it’s not about stuff flying out of the screen, but adds depth to the images, and that’s where 3D shines.  Michael Fassbender is deserving of all the accolades he’s getting for this movie.  He’s genuinely creepy: he looks human, and thinks his imitations of human behavior help him blend in (they do not), and even while he’s being helpful, he finds a way to do something off-note that reminds you how not human he is.  Although, some people might be unable to discern the difference between him and someone with Aspberger’s.

But here’s the bad, and here’s what ultimately made turned this film from good to average: the explanations we get for all that is happening is just…unsatisfying.  And this is a clear case where no explanation would have been better.  Plus, tacked-on at the end is the “Oh my God!” moment that either completely harmonizes the Alien franchise in your brain, or wrecks it slightly.  You start remembering the Patton Oswalt line about, “I don’t care where the things I love came from, I just know what I love.”

With that in mind, it’s obvious that Ridley Scott and company want to do a series of films based on this, so some of the questions that arise aren’t going to be answered until Neo finds his way into the Matrix and finds out that we’re all batteries and then discovers the Creator, who tells us that there have been other incarnations of the Matrix but people just suck and have to be destroyed over and over.

Overall, this is decent sci-fi that beats most of the movies you see day-to-day.  I just wish they could have figured out that “meaning of life” better.

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