I’ll begin this review by stealing a line from my friend who saw the movie with me. She says, “By the year 2093, you’d think these characters would have seen enough sci-fi movies to know what would happen.” Prometheus, a big-ass sci-fi extravaganza by Ridley Scott, is visually stunning and frequently exciting, but the script is a collection of cliches and flat-out dumb behavior by characters who are supposedly brilliant. For example, if I were a biological expert, and I saw a snake-like creature that I’d never seen before emerge from a pool of oil, I wouldn’t talk baby-talk to it like it was a dachshund puppy.
The scenario borrows elements from the old Chariots of the Gods theory put forth (and debunked) years ago. Archaeologists and romantic partners Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, discover cave paintings in Scotland that repeat a theme from around the world: a configuration of heavenly bodies. They have a theory that a moon in that configuration may hold the origin of man.
A billionaire industrialist (Guy Pearce, under a ton of makeup) believes the theory to the tune of a trillion dollars, and commissions a two-year mission to this moon. He sends Rapace and Marshall-Green, along with corporate hatchet-woman Charlize Theron, looking as sleek and shiny as the Spirit of Ecstasy on the hood of a Rolls-Royce. She’s also about as warm. I imagine that, after this film and Snow White and the Huntsman, Hollywood executives, when needing an ice queen, will say, “Get me Charlize Theron!”
The crew also consists of other experts in geology (Sean Harris, looking like a refugee from a rave) and the dumb biologist (Rafe Sprall). There is also the typically cynical, world-weary pilot (Idris Elba). The first indication that this script was dumb was when the crew, who were is suspended animation for two years, are informed of the nature of their mission only after they are awakened. I don’t know about you, but before I commit two years (and presumably two more for the return trip) I would want to know all the details before I left.
The crew is rounded out by a robot, played unflappably by Michael Fassbender, who spends his two years shooting baskets while riding a bike and watching Lawrence of Arabia endlessly. Given that this film is connected to the Alien franchise, it should be no surprise that David (the robot’s name, certainly a wink in the direction of Stanley Kubrick) may have his own agenda.
Once on the moon in question, the crew explores a pyramid, and finds the remains of their presumed creators, who share identical DNA as humans. But they’re all dead, and holographic films suggest that they were fleeing from something. Maybe it’s the oily things in all those vases that surround a huge stone head, like something out of an Olmec temple.
From here the movie goes sour, turning into a typical “Don’t go in that room!” film, like a teenage-slasher movie. There’s also dumb moments like when Rapace reveals that she can’t get pregnant, which tells us that she will in fact become pregnant, but not necessarily with something human (the most thrilling scene in the film has her give herself a Cesarean). There are all sorts of lines that, as Harrison Ford said of George Lucas’ dialogue, may be written, but can’t easily be said, like “Son of a bitch,” “Jesus Christ!”, or my favorite, “What the hell is that?”
The film rests on a mystery that is not answered, left presumably for a sequel that I won’t be all that eager to see. The connection to Alien is there, if you wait for the credits, but the H.R. Giger design scheme ties it together visually. Scott, who can make a good movie when he has a good script (Alien and Thelma and Louise for example, but not Blade Runner or Gladiator), is at sea here, the story lumbering along without any particular purpose.
My grade for Prometheus is C+, with the plus for the visual effects and some exciting, white-knuckle sequences. I did not see the 3D version, as I am morally opposed to the process.