Despite some efforts by the filmmakers to distance themselves from the comparison, make no mistake: Prometheus is firmly a prequel to Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 film, Alien (which went on to spurn three sequels by different directors). In some interviews leading up to the release of Prometheus, Scott has said that his new film shares “strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak,” and after you watch Prometheus you will learn that this is a very clever if cryptic description.
Not only does Prometheus take place in the same universe as Alien, it acts as a sort of homage to the original film as well. In fact, to be fully prepared to take in all that Prometheus has to offer, I strongly suggest re-watching Alien before viewing this film (although it is not entirely necessary to take in Aliens, Alien 3, or Alien: Resurrection). You will pick up on similarities and nuances that that you would otherwise have missed.
In this new film, the Prometheus is a massive spaceship vessel named after the Greek mythological Titan of the same name, who stole fire from the Gods to give to man, therefore enabling human progress. The year is 2089, and an archeologist (Noomi Rapace, of the foreign version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) discovers an ancient hieroglyph that seems to point to the origins of mankind. A crew is assembled and the Prometheus sets out to a far-away solar system in search of answers.
Idris Elba (The Wire’s Stringer Bell) is the ship’s captain, but calling the shots seems to be Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a cold woman who seems to be harboring more than a few secrets. Michael Fassbender plays the human android David, and anybody who has seen Alien knows to what extent androids should be trusted.
After entering what I’ll call “space sleep,” the crew awakes and sets foot on an alien planet, where they make some gruesome discoveries. Let’s just say that we’re not alone in the universe, regardless of who can hear us scream.
Appearing as a hologram instructor, an old man (Guy Pierce in awful age-makeup) named Peter Wayland greets the crew and sets them off on their mission. He is the person funding this exploration and as one may suspect, he has ulterior motives. Astute fans of Alien will notice his last name and know that his company is “the company” that is referred to in the original film as well as the sequels.
There is a lot to like in Prometheus, and having been shot in 3D it gives us some of the technology’s best use up to this point. It is a visual whirlwind, a loud and immersive attack on the senses that doesn't let up. Alien was more of a horror film, and the first half of Prometheus fits this mold. The second half is more reminiscent of the rest of the Alien franchise, favoring action and explosions over scares lurking just beyond the frame.
Unfortunately, the plot of Prometheus is over-stuffed and sometimes baffling. There is a scene about halfway into the film that can only be described as a manual alien abortion that may give pro-lifers the heebie-jeebies. As an alien is carved out of the belly of this person, all believability in the film is aborted as well. I would imagine that even surviving such an ordeal would be enough, but for this person to run around the remainder of the film only occasionally stopping to feign a belly-ache isn’t going to cut it in terms of suspending believability.
With Damon Lindelof (of TV’s Lost) as one of the writers, there are themes in the film about faith versus science, and even some father-figure stuff – all themes that seem to pop up in most of his other work. There is nothing too heavy here, although Prometheus is a classic example of more being less.
Guy Pearce in old-man makeup? Why not just cast an old man? Charlize Theron’s character really has no purpose when you look back at it. These plot strands muddle what the film is really about - man seeking answers, and of course, battling aliens.
Still, any fan of Alien should enjoy the tie-ins, especially the last 10 minutes or so, and there is definitely enough mindless action and cool 3D for a good night out. But for all of the hype, Prometheus falls short of being anything more than a prequel to Alien, and another less-impressive-than-the-original film in the series…it isn’t a movie that creates enough of its own mythology to be remembered as anything more.
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 2 hours and 4 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green
Written by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof (TV’s Lost)
Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, American Gangster, Robin Hood)
Opens Friday, June 8th, 2012 (check for show times).