A clue to mankind's origins leads a team of explorers to deep space, where they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.
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More than thirty years ago, director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise) single-handedly revised the science-fiction/horror genre with his masterpiece Alien. After a series of sequels made by such heavy-hitting directors as James Cameron (Aliens) and David Fincher (Alien 3), Scott has finally returned to the franchise with the fifth installment, Prometheus.
In the year 2089, a pair of scientists named Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Charlie Holloway (Across the Universe's Logan Marshall-Green) notice an identical pattern of circles in the skies contained in cave paintings of several ancient civilizations located in different parts of the world and painted at different times. They are able to find a similar pattern in a solar system far from earth, and they believe that what they have discovered is the key to the origins of man. After securing sponsorship for their expedition from the Weyland Corporation and its CEO, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce from Memento), the doctors set off in a space craft called Prometheus with a crew that includes a no-nonsense representative from the corporation named Meredith Vickers (Monster's Charlize Theron), a humanoid android named David (Michael Fassbender from Shame) and an eclectic crew of pilots and fellow scientists who are all looking for the same thing; the "engineers" of mankind. When the ship arrives at its destination, the crew finds the answer to the question that they have been searching for, but it comes with terrifying revelations.
Ridley Scott seems to know exactly what he wants to convey in Prometheus. The film uses practical sets and exotic locations instead of green-screen sound studios, so the look is authentic. While there are CG effects, they are used sparingly so the film does not rely on them, instead using them to further the story arc. The 3D effects in Prometheus are very tastefully used, not obnoxious and gimmicky. The 3D is used more for depth perception and texture than for actual in-your-face shots, so the overall result is one of the audience members feeling included in the scene. Scott's use of state-of-the-art technology is restrained, so the film does not end up looking like an effects-heavy, blown out action film. Instead, Scott lets his actors tell the story, augmenting the formula with visual effects, and Prometheus is a very effective film because of it.
There's been a lot of mystery surrounding Prometheus, mainly as to whether it is, as rumored, a prequel to the Alien series. It doesn't take long for this mystery to be solved; even a casual viewer can see that the film looks and feels like an Alien movie, and astute fans of the franchise will notice consistencies that carry over into the first film, right down to the use of H.R. Giger's art and designs from the first film. Still, if taken out of its Alien context, Prometheus stands on its own merits. The film is well written, perfectly cast and wonderfully directed. The viewer is treated to a combination space-opera/philosophical think piece that is a treat for the mind as well as the eyes.
The screenplay for Prometheus was written by "Lost" show-runner Damon Lindelof (who wet his feet with last year's Cowboys & Aliens) and Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour). The guys have definitely done their homework, as the film fits right in with the other Alien films, yet doesn't rely on the other films to make sense. In fact, Prometheus answers a few questions that Alien leaves open. In typical "Lost' fashion, there are several clever twists and surprising turns that come out of left field, yet still seem organic, but there are also a few questions raised that are never addressed ("What are those things?"" "Why did David do that?"). Prometheus deals more with disturbing ideas than actions, exploring theories about the creation of man that, if found true, would disprove everything that most of the people on the planet believe. There's a great scene with Fassbender's David discussing the mission, talking about the humans seeking out their creators. His monologue is fascinating, given that his character is an android who knows the identity of his creators, and he's giving advice to those creators about finding their own origins. The scene comes off as more philosophical than ironic, giving both the characters and the audience something to ponder.
The ensemble that makes up the cast of Prometheus is large, and everyone pulls their weight. There's no real weak link in the chain, but there are a couple of standouts. First, Michael Fassbender is great as David, Prometheus' resident android. Unlike the other Alien movies, the fact that David is an android is known from the beginning (even before the beginning if the viral videos are watched beforehand), so Fassbender has the unique opportunity to embrace his robot character. David comes off as much more human, exhibiting a desire to learn and even showing a sense of humor at times. He knows that his first alliance is to Weyland Corporation, so he walks a thin line between protecting the humans and defending the integrity of the mission. This dichotomy makes David a fun character to watch and, whether he is being loved or despised, Fassbender's performance dominates any scene in which he appears.
Another outstanding performance comes from Guy Pearce. Pearce plays Peter Weyland, and his character is also made more interesting because of the viral videos that were used to promote Prometheus. The TED conference videos show Pearce as Weyland in 2023, so, as the movie takes place in 2089, a little math shows that Weyland is an old man in the movie. Pearce appears as an elderly hologram, caked with old age makeup, yet still recognizable as the dynamic Peter Weyland from the conference. His performance in both the film and the promo videos shows a deep commitment to his character, and the connection shows that Prometheus is much more than just a movie; it's an entire mythology.
While there is no doubt that Prometheus is an entry in the Alien franchise, it's a different type of movie than the other films in the series. While Alien was a more straight-up horror/monster movie and the sequels leaned more towards action/adventure, Prometheus is a psychological thriller. Although there are creatures and aliens, there is no iconic monster present; the film is comparable to Event Horizon without the Hellraiser influence. It's not scream-out-loud scary, but some of the ideas presented are frightening in a philosophical way. Mankind goes looking for answers to the origin of their species, only to find terrifying concepts and ideas are at the end of the search. Prometheus won't make anyone jump out of their seat, but it might make them think a little bit about man's curiosity and greed while they're driving home from the theater.
Science Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
June 8, 2012