- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The main discussion concerning “Prometheus” is whether or not the film is a prequel to Ridley Scott’s classic, “Alien.” The cast and crew have been vague about it, at most admitting that there’s some “Alien” DNA in the film. I think they’ve been dodging the question not because of spoilers but because of revenue.
If “Prometheus” had been billed as a straight-up sequel to an old sci-fi film, then interest in it might lessen. The big question, then, is if “Prometheus” can be enjoyed by someone who has never seen “Alien.” The short answer is yes. This film does stand on its own. But only “Alien” fans can fully enjoy it because no matter what the filmmakers have to say about it, this is a prequel.
“Prometheus” is great without any prior knowledge, though, because of the questions asked within the film. The main question is the age-old question of humanity, “Why are we here?” That question takes on different variations as the film continues, but it is that initial curiosity that sends the crew of the titular spaceship Prometheus to a planet light years away from Earth to investigate a message left by multiple ancient cultures. Asking a loaded question like “Why?” can make or break a film because it has to deal with religion and science and how it can co-exist. Not to go into spoilers, but the film dodges the issue in a satisfying way.
But anytime an issue is dodged, there will be complaints. Could “Prometheus” take a risk and answer the question in a definitive and dividing way? Yes, the film could have done that and made a small group of obsessed fans – myself included, most likely – extremely happy, but instead the filmmakers left it open. That not only makes the film more accessible for the population; it also allows the viewers discuss the film.
That is what makes “Prometheus” truly great. I am writing this review 12 hours after I watched the film and I am still rolling ideas around. If all my questions had been answered, then I would have very little to write about. Instead, I am left with so many questions and theories that I can hardly focus on just one. I find that exhilarating. I’m usually happy if a film simply makes me feel something. When a movie makes me think deeply about life, that’s special.
I realize that I have not given a proper synopsis for this film yet, but I don’t intend to. “Prometheus” is science-fiction and it’s about the origin of life. If that interests you – and it should – then watch it. If that sounds like a bit too much for you, then skip it.
But “Prometheus” is still a movie and should be judged as other movies are judged. First, the visuals. Sci-fi films are typically the most impressive visual films and this movie does not disappoint. Director Ridley Scott insisted on using as many natural landscapes and practical sets as possible and the film benefits from it. The locations are otherworldly and impressive because most of them are real. The title sequence is so beautiful it seems like Werner Herzog or Terrence Malick took over directorial duties for it. As for the sets: they were great. The ship looks polished a bit, but it still fits into the technology of “Alien” in a very satisfying way.
Of course, a sci-fi film has to feature some CG effects. It’s all handled very well, though. The film is in 3D, as well, and it is better because of it. “Prometheus” is a visual spectacle and it should be presented in 3D. I have decided that all science-fiction films should be in 3D because the vastness of space is best shown in the third dimension.
“Prometheus” also works thanks to the amazing cast. Noomi Rapace is tasked with the leading role and she does a fine job. She doesn’t make quite the tough heroine that Sigourney Weaver did in the “Alien” films, but she certainly holds her own, especially late in the film. Idris Elba has some interesting scenes as the benevolent captain of the ship, and there are a few questions raised by his actions. Charlize Theron makes for an effective and emotionless corporate minder. Sean Harris provides some lively moments as a disgruntled geologist. And Logan Marshall-Green does fine in a slightly boring role.
It’s Michael Fassbender, though, who steals the show as an android named David. Who better than Fassbender to play a robot? Not to mention a robot that watches actors like Peter O’Toole and emulates them. Fassbender constantly propels the film and every scene he is in is instantly better than those without him.
But the real star of the film is director Ridley Scott. I am a huge fan of his work, most notably his sci-fi efforts, “Alien” and “Blade Runner.” A lot has been made about Scott’s return to his best genre, so I don’t need to add much to that discussion apart from saying that I am glad Scott is back in sci-fi. He has always been an ambitious filmmaker and sci-fi is the perfect place for lofty ideas and questions. Scott has tried to insert themes and ideas about life in general into recent works like “Robin Hood” and “Kingdom of Heaven” to mixed results. The vastness of space is a much better place to present ideas about humanity than historical settings are.
It was also nice to see Scott return to the “Alien” universe for both his style and his attempt to shock. Scott emulates the style of the original film with his long tracking shots throughout the ship. It’s pretty much mimicking Kubrick, but who better to copy? Also, Scott doesn’t turn the camera away when things get gory. “Prometheus” earns its R-rating – something fans were worried about for a while – by featuring some truly gruesome moments. Is anything as shocking or iconic as the chest burst scene from the original? No, but it is definitely some disturbing, cringe-worthy stuff.
Overall, “Prometheus” is an incredibly ambitious film made with great style by one of the best working directors out there. The film doesn’t answer many questions for the viewer and, honestly, a truly great film never tells the audience much. “Prometheus” is an excellent film to discuss and think about. Just check out some message boards and you’ll find multiple complex debates going on about this film.
Even if you hate it, you have to respect that it presents some interesting ideas about humanity, technology, religion, abortion, faith, and …well, life. It helps that the film is absolutely beautiful and features some great performances.
It’s my favorite film of the year thus far and will certainly be near – or at – the top of my list by year’s end.
Eric Harris of Cannelton is a movie buff and blogger who posts reviews of films at www.canneltoncritic.com.