Three decades in the making, Prometheus is one of the most anticipated sci-fi films in recent memory. While it doesn’t always manage to meet the lofty heights it aims for, the movie holds its own as a tense and mesmerizing visual spectacle that will assuage fans of the Alien series while introducing a whole new generation to the universe.
The film follows archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) as they investigate a series of ancient star maps which point towards a mysterious planet and the possible creators of the human race. The duo launches a space exploration mission, accompanied by a crew consisting of ruthless Weyland employee Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), unsettling android David (Michael Fassbender), pragmatic captain Janek (Idris Elba), and cynical botanist Milburn (Rafe Spall) amongst others. The Prometheus team encounters more than it bargained for as they encounter rich history, betrayal, contagion, and a mysterious alien race…
As a standalone prequel, Prometheus manages to avoid clichés by surrounding itself with a unique tapestry of creatures and mythology while still providing enough answers and clever nods to its origins. The script is well thought out, with believable dialogue and interesting enough plotting to keep you drawn in. Ridley Scott directs the film’s fleeting intimate moments with the same poetry and significance that he affords the surprisingly few set pieces. While this is no Alien or Blade Runner, Prometheus reinforces the director’s place as one of the masters of science fiction, and reminds us just how sorely missed he has been by fans of the genre.
The acting is stellar throughout, but Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender in particular stand out as masters of their craft. Rapace may appear a bit static in the opening half hour, but as the tension and emotion begin to run thick, she excels in several heartbreaking and often terrifying scenes. Fassbender is – predictably – wonderful throughout, exuding a cold front right from the off, and as the many twists and turns begin to unfold, the sinister undertones simmer and bubble until they reach a crescendo boiling point of unnerving – and at times, deeply disturbing – malice.
Visuals are where the movie truly comes in to its own, though; every shot is beautiful and poignant without becoming too obscure. As with the film that inspired it, claustrophobia is a recurring theme, and long takes ensure the viewer feels just as enclosed and restricted as the characters. Even when the scenes are large in detail and scope, a lingering sense of mystery keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.
Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. Despite showing a lot of promise with the big questions that are raised and deep subject matter that Prometheus probes, as the running time draws on, you realise that Scott and co. aren’t too concerned with providing much closure to the many subplots. While there are Alien nods and small mystery solutions aplenty, the film ends in a very similar situation to how it started. The viewer is left feeling like they’ve just seen a pilot episode to a television series – lots of promises, but no answers. The possibility of a sequel is considered and blatantly set up in the climax – we feel like we’ve just seen two hours of exposition.
These niggles do detract from the film, but in no way make it inadequate: Prometheus is still one of the best films of the year and a fitting tribute to its predecessors with captivating performances and enough visual flair to hold up as a separate entity worthy of its own sequel.
Rated: R (for sci-fi violence including some intense violence, and brief language)
Prometheus opens in theaters on June 8, 2012.
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