On Tuesday, 12 June 2012, I met fellow role-player Josh C. for dinner at Bombay Mahal on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. We then joined Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. at the Landmark Embassy Cinema for Prometheus. We enjoyed Ridley Scott’s prequel to the Alien franchise, despite the movie’s flaws.
Like its predecessors, Prometheus follows a ragtag group of humans on an interstellar vessel as they encounter murderous, parasitic aliens, or xenomorphs. (That’s shouldn’t come as a “spoiler” to anyone after 1979.) This time, Scott adds ruminations on the origins of humanity, religion, and more explicit parental conflict.
Prometheus is one of the most polished science fiction movies of the past few years, with believable late-21st century hardware and vehicles, majestic landscapes, and aliens and environments still inspired by H.R. Giger’s designs. Matte paintings, computer-generated images, practical props and miniatures, and costumes flowed (or, in some cases, oozed or slithered) seamlessly.
The casting and acting of Prometheus is also up to the standard set by the early entries in this series. Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) is archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw, who follows ancient images to a distant and dangerous world. Bloodied and running around in her underwear in some scenes, she’s idealistic and tough much like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.
Idris Elba (The Wire, Thor) is Janek, the no-nonsense captain of the Prometheus, and Charlize Theron (Aeon Flux, Snow White and the Huntsman) is the icy Meredith Vickers, leader of the ill-fated Weyland prospecting expedition.
Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds) gets many good scenes as ambiguous android David, following in the steps of Ian Holm and Lance Henrickson. Guy Pierce (The Time Machine) is nearly unrecognizable as Peter Weyland, aged co-founder of the Weyland megacorporation. None of the characters is as charismatic or sympathetic as Ripley.
Ridley Scott’s direction and the scale harken back to stately space opera epics like Dune, with a slow start and a symphonic soundtrack. The latter half of the movie is more of an action/horror flick, with some predictably stupid moves by members of Prometheus‘ crew, such as removing helmets before fully testing for toxins and biohazards.
Other than the aforementioned parental issues involving Shaw, David, and Vickers, the script and plot for Prometheus are serviceable but a bit predictable. The trailers for the movie gave away the result of some of the film’s battles. In the original Alien, a new type of body horror overwhelmed any need for suspension of disbelief, and in James Cameron’s Aliens, the Marines’ (futile) flight for survival kept viewers’ pulses racing. The second movie is my favorite.
The draw of later Alien movies, including crossovers with Predator, was to see which characters would die first and how. Prometheus only flirts with this schadenfreude, trying to juggle the big ideas of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the action/horror DNA of its predecessors, and post-Avatar expectations for “eye candy.” Its ending (avoiding “spoilers“) is more a pyrrhic victory than a triumph of human/android will or just another massacre of/by xenomorphs.
I’d give Prometheus, which is rated R for violence and language, 7 out of 10, a solid B, or three stars out of five. Prometheus is more mature speculative fiction than the underrated John Carter, but I’m not sure if it was more entertaining or if I’d care to see it again. Fans of the Alien franchise will want to see Prometheus on the big screen, even if lowbrow CGI comedy Madagascar beat it at the box office.