I can’t adequately describe how excited I was for “Prometheus” when I sat down to see it. I was excited enough to see it on my birthday and go into the city to see it on a nice big IMAX screen. And really, why shouldn’t I have been? A new film from Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, in which he revisits the science fiction universe of one of his best films, “Alien.” That and starring an amazing cast of Noomi Rapace (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class,” “Shame”), Guy Pearce (“Memento,” “L.A. Confidential”), Charlize Theron (“Monster,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Top Gun”), Idris Elba (“Thor,” “The Wire”) and countless more talented people. That sells me right there. I didn’t even need the fantastic trailers (which by the way, spoil the vast majority of the movie) to sell me on it, but they sure made me more excited. So did “Prometheus” live up to my insane expectations of it? Not even close. The film is a spectacle, sure, it’s visuals and generally everything on a technical level are superb-but it’s written so poorly and is full of just plain stupid moments that it by the end you’re angry at the movie.
For those who never saw “Alien,” the premise boils down to essentially this: A space mining ship in the future receives an SOS from an unknown planet and investigates, where they find and alien species and…let’s just say things don’t go all that well. “Prometheus” is fairly similar on that basic level. It’s set many many years before “Alien” (although as the film was made many years after, the technology in “Prometheus” is far more high tech than that of “Alien”) and follows a team of archaeologists who think they’ve discovered something that will lead them to answers about where mankind came from, and more importantly, why we were created. They’re interesting questions to pose alright: interesting questions that are never even attempted to be answered, rather seemingly saved for an obviously set up sequel.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan-Marshall Green) are two archaeologists or scientists or something of that sort, the film never really makes that clear. They’re married, or having a secret affair, or in a relationship, the film never really makes that clear either. Regardless, they both lead an expedition funded by the Weyland Corporation. On board the ship is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), an uptight corporate type who the movie tries to paint as some kind of cold-hearted evil person, but who comes off more as someone who can make tough decisions. The captain of the ship, Janek (Idris Elba) is…well, there’s not a lot to him. He cracks jokes and delivers exposition, and that’s about it. Along with him, there are a number of small characters that you can tell are going to be picked off first, because of how little we focus on them. Wasted more than any, however, is Guy Pearce, and actor I love, who appears for maybe 10 minutes caked in old age makeup, to the point where you can’t even tell it’s him. All of them are fairly basic, with totally fine performances but nothing special. The real standout in the film, and it seems this way in every film he’s in, is Michael Fassbender, playing the android David.
There’s a great sequence toward the beginning when David is alone on the ship while all the humans are in stasis for the two-year trip. He eats, plays basketball, even watches movies, all while maintaining this not-quite human physicality, and a very eerie sensibility. This is all thanks to Michael Fassbender, with another great performance. Sadly his character is all over the map, he has some kind of plan or secret mission the entire movie that leads him to do some very strange and sinister things, but of course, that’s never explained either.
So that brings us back to the movie’s key problem: answers. It was no surprise to learn that one of the two writers of the script was Damon Lindelof, who was one of the head writers on the TV show “Lost.” “Lost” was a show I really enjoyed, until it became apparent a good way through that they show runners didn’t actually have answers for the big mysteries on their island, rather they were just making it up as they went along. “Prometheus” is the same thing, except instead of unsatisfying answers, we don’t get any whatsoever. That makes me angry, the idea of posing these big questions to make your film seem intelligent but then drop them completely and just go off on tangents about God, and have a bunch of scenes with body horror and aliens. It’s a pretty terribly written film, leading to a very unsatisfying movie. Yes, the visuals and sound are all incredible, and deserve to be seen on the biggest screen they can. Despite being a big disappointment, I still say see it, just keep your expectations very low. You will be amazed by what you see, even if you get angry at the film in the end. It’s not the masterpiece I hoped for, but hey: at least it made me go watch “Alien” again.