directed by Ridley Scott
(20th Century Fox, 2012)
Ever since my first viewing of Ridley Scott's seminal 1979 film Alien I have wanted to know where the nearly perfect bioweapon that was an Alien had come from. Prometheus, the long-awaited prequel, adds much to the background picture. It's a film that promises greatness and delivers it most if not all of the time. While there is a clear connection to the movies it seems to predate, the connection isn't explicit to someone who isn't familiar with the at least the first two. That can leave some moviegoers feeling as though they are in an Aaron Sorkin TV show.
Set on a planet that seems composed of a Led Zepplinish dreamscape of monolithic spaceships and gigantic, mysterious beings who hold the fate of humanity in their massive hands, Prometheus, while overall a good and sometimes great effort, is hampered by a number of things. One of its worst problems is its complete lack of compelling leads. Even the android David, played by Michael Fassbinder, a normally compelling actor, is very muted. Charlize Theron's performance is that of a walk-on, and no one else frankly seems to matter very much except to advance the plot forward. Noomi Rapace, the original girl with the dragon tattoo, is Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, who locates the catalyst for all this space exploration and discovery. She seems to be the only one who cares enough to actually do her part.
Shaw and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are archeologists who are leading a group of explorers in the year 2089 on the Isle of Skye when they discover a cave that contains a cryptic message that is a match for similar drawings found in several other parts of the world. Since all the drawings correlate to a certain constellation, a mission is formed to send Shaw, Holloway and Meredith Vickers (Theron), along with a team of experts, to that location to see if the theories regarding extraterrestrial life are true. Boarding a spacecraft called Prometheus, they submerge themselves in hibernation for years until android David releases them when they reach their destination.
From then on Scott follows his usual formula, this time moving the action from inside cramped ship's quarters to a palatial, mountainous spaceship that creates plenty of stunning visuals that support the excuse for filming in 3-D. Yet Prometheus somehow feels utterly devoid of feeling, or depth, or even the ability to create suspense. It is interesting but doesn't quite come together, and that feeling of dreadful, gut-twisting fear so prevalent in the first two films is absent here. There's a grimness that seems to flatten the action. But what it lacks in originality and tension it makes up for in mammoth landscapes and pristine action sequences. Its visual showmanship is stunning.
While the movie hesitates from exploring anything truly mind-blowing and doesn't quite deliver on its action promises, it does have a feeling of brooding menace and chilly, otherworldliness. It's a technical success, if nothing else, a more intellectual and somewhat more constrained film than the rest, but still worth the price of admission.
11 August 2012
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