Prometheus (20th Century Fox, 2012), Ridley Scott Returns to Space With Alien Prequel
Director Ridley Scott's amazing career would ordinarily set expectations pretty high for any new movie he directs, but since this is Scott's first science fiction film since his groundbreaking Blade Runner thirty years ago, this looked to be a special movie. On the surface, Blade Runner was the story of Harrison Ford's police detective trying to find and kill four renegade androids that were so much like humans, it was hard to tell the difference. What the movie was really about was nothing less than life, death, and what it means to be human.
Prometheus is well done by almost every measure. It's extremely well directed with good cinematography, breathtaking artwork, gripping special effects, excellent acting, casting, and dialogue. Noomi Rapace excels in the lead role of scientist Elizabeth Shaw, proving that her great performance in the original Norwegian version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was no fluke; she's got a brilliant acting career in front of her.
Prometheus begins with virtually the same premise as the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. An earth spaceship goes on a quest in attempt to find our makers, ostensibly the race of beings shown in the opening scene bringing life to planet earth, millions of years ago.
Like in 2001, we see a crewman walking the ship and doing mundane tasks and bouncing a basketball. The crewman is really an android and as in 2001, the crew are all in sleep stasis for the journey. When they reach the destination, it seems like the makers have been almost all wiped out by an infestation of other alien life forms that are apparently the ancestors of the monsters that were so lethal in Ridley Scott's earlier movie Alien (1979). These creatures still have a penchant for entering your body all sorts of ways including the mouth, and then exploding out with deadly results.
When our crew awakens the one maker who is still alive in his stasis chamber, he wants only to kill anyone in his way, aiming to take off in his enormous spaceship. When he rips the android's head off, there's a nice nod to 2001, when the now disembodied android head says "I know we've had our differences...", it's directly reminiscent of the classic scene where the HAL 9000 computer gets disconnected in 2001. For unknown reasons, his destination is earth. Noomi realizes that if he were to reach earth and infect it with the creepy alien critters, there will be no earth to go back to.
On the surface, this is a first rate science fiction movie; it's beautifully rendered, well made, and there's plenty of tension and scary special effects, but somehow, that's not enough. 2001 truly went where no one had gone before and was written with a beautifully nebulous ending that has been the subject of debate for almost 50 years.
Considering that with Blade Runner, Ridley Scott made a film for the ages, one that just keeps getting better over the years with each viewing, the payoff of Prometheus is a major letdown. I was hoping for more than the the monsters from Alien. From the look of Prometheus' vision, you might think that we are all descended from H.R. Giger.
All photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox