Prometheus could have gone either way…really good or really bad. It went really good, despite what you might read elsewhere.
I talked about my high expectations for Prometheus a couple of weeks ago before its release. I can thankfully and happily say that the movie lived up to what I thought it would be. It wasn’t perfect but it did everything it needed to do to entertain the audience while keeping sci-fi nerds like myself happy.
The tagline for Prometheus is “They went looking for our beginning. What they found could be our end.” And that couldn’t be a more appropriate phrase because that’s exactly what happens. A band of scientists lands on a planet looking for the answer of why and how humans were created. Obviously they find something a little different and chaos ensues. I’m not going to go on in detail about the events because you can get all that (and probably already have) in other reviews. Instead I’m going to outline what I thought was done right, what I loved and what could have been better.
The following does contain spoilers so you might not want to continue unless you’ve already seen the movie…or unless you don’t really care.
More than just eye candy
One of things I was looking forward to the most in Prometheus was the world created by the visuals and style…and there are zero disappointments. Everything in Prometheus is gorgeous and looks exactly like it should. A lot of time is spent in a spaceship and in the alien cave but every scene was delivered wonderfully. The CG in the film is blended wonderfully with the live action, which is where I feel many films still fall short. The weapons, the suits, the spaceships and all the aliens fit the sci-fi bill exceptionally well.
But movies don’t live or die by their visuals. Story and characters do make a difference, and both are well executed in Prometheus. Noomi Rapace is a perfect fit as a somewhat “modern day” Sigourney Weaver if for no other reason in that she comes off as a very tough woman that doesn’t sit around and wait for someone to help her. I think that type of role and emotion is hard to pull off convincingly but she does it wonderfully. I also think it helps that Noomi isn’t quite an A-List celebrity so you’re not really challenged to suspend your disbelief that she is who she is supposed to be.
On the other side of that coin, I think Michael Fassbender might just be a robot. His android performance in Prometheus proved worthy of all the hype in the weeks leading up to release, but for Alien fans it was all about how David the android would fit into the story. In Alien the android went berserk and tried to kill people. In Aliens the android was a good guy. So how would the android be played in Prometheus? The whole time you feel he’s kind of doing his own thing but does that mean he is gaining emotions and learning? Or was it some sort of pre-programmed instruction? Maybe he himself is evolving? Even at the end of the movie I’m not real sure…but that’s okay! A few of the reviews I read about Prometheus criticized the movie’s lack of answering all the riddles that existed both in and outside of the movie, but I welcome those questions because it makes you think about the film rather than just take it at face value. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first in line to enjoy a mindless romp through an action film, but I’m all for getting deep with a movie if that’s not all it is. Being deep for deep’s sake is wasted on me. Prometheus delivers a good balance of thriller/suspense, eye candy and social commentary…and for once, I think the commentary is the best part of the movie.
The whole premise of Prometheus is origins and evolution. Humans are trying to find out where they came from, and along the way, we not only get that answer, but also learn about the aliens themselves, which we can then take and think about how Prometheus evolves into the other Alien movies. Looking at the trailers before seeing Prometheus it’s easy to say this movie is just rehashing the old movies but it’s really not. The scene in Prometheus where they find the giant head and cylinders looks a lot like the egg scene in Aliens which makes a lot of sense once you learn that those aliens evolved from the Prometheus aliens. There are a lot of events like this in Prometheus that make you think back (or really ahead) to the other Alien movies, making them even more enjoyable. The aliens, the android, the spaceships, the “evil” corporation…they’re all in Prometheus and they all get you thinking about the timeline in this universe and it’s a lot of fun.
Filling in the blanks
However, even though I feel Prometheus is a wonderful example of what good science fiction can be, there are a few places where I would have loved to see and learn more. On top of that list is the Weyland character that funds the entire expedition. Much like in the movie Contact, Weyland comes off as this bored billionaire who had nothing else to do with his money, so why not help some eccentric scientists achieve their unbelievable goal? Plus I think they severely underutilized Guy Pearce in the role. He is a great actor that can do so much more than act like a crazy old person. To fall in line with the theme of the movie, I would have liked to see some evolution of his character. There was a promotional vignette on YouTube that featured Guy Pearce as Weyland at a TED talk in the “not too distant future” which kind of primed the pump but I have to say that I was not expecting to see him as a 90+ year old man in the movie.
Prometheus does a wonderful job at setting up what becomes the Alien universe. The movie is exciting, beautiful and well played. The end result is a movie that gives you Blade Runner-esque questions but doesn’t suffer from the same slow pacing. There’s not a lot of action in Prometheus but the film never drags, it keeps you looking for the next big event. In some ways those big events never come to fruition but all the energy you invest into those emotions will come out AFTER you leave the theatre and spend hours discussing what you saw with your friends.