One of the aspects of science fiction I love is that it almost effortlessly makes you forget that you need to suspend your disbelief to consume what you’re about to experience. The name of the genre itself implies what could be, and any doubts about how plausible a movie’s premise might be simply vanish. This genre invites you to wonder and escape like no other genre can ever achieve.
Ridley Scott has made some of the most influential science fiction movies ever, and he tries once more with Prometheus. Though this movie takes place in the same universe as Scott’s franchise, Alien, it is only loosely related to the series and should be considered more of a stand alone film. This movie follows Prometheus, a ship launched from Earth near the end of the 21st century to a distant planet that scientists believe holds the key to discovering the origins of mankind.
Though Scott asks some very big questions like, “Where did we come from?” and “Is there a God?” I ultimately left the theater disappointed, not because I wasn’t happy with his answer, but because he didn’t really give one. Obviously questions like these don’t really have answers, and even if Scott had given them to us, the information probably wouldn’t sit well with some people. Maybe any answers given to some of the most pondered questions in history would be unfulfilling, but I would have preferred an attempt rather than sidestepping the truth for what I can only imagine will be the inevitable sequel. Then again, one of the writers of Prometheus was Damon Lindelof who was also a writer for Lost. If you’re familiar with the show, you know he is the king of spinning a yarn that hooks you, and leaves you and without much of a resolution.
Story isn’t always everything for a movie so long as it has compelling characters. Sadly, Prometheus falls short here too, but not entirely. The main character, Elizabeth Shaw, is played by Noomi Rapace and I really could have cared less about what happened to her and her team of “scientists.” They all make questionable scientific decisions as they explore this alien world with very little regard for themselves, or the scientific method if I may be so bold. Trouncing about as they did, they were just asking to be killed, and many of them were. For the most important scientific discovery ever, the Weyland Corporation sure hired a bunch of imbeciles. They poke, prod, and examine their surroundings with the grace of a bull in a china shop. The whole company was not all bad though. I did like the captain of Prometheus played by Idris Elba. He was likable, grew as a character, and best of all, he was not a moron! The other character I really liked was played by Michael Fassbender. He clearly stole the show with his cold, sometimes humorous, and always calculating performance of David, the synthetic human.
When you strip away the crappy characters, the numerous idiotic decisions they made, and the unsatisfying resolution to the movie, Prometheus is actually a somewhat entertaining movie. I chuckled a number of times thanks to Michael Fassbender’s icy, but darkly humorous David. Though there is not much of a plot, it does move along at a fairly nice clip. Once Prometheus turned into a monster movie, the special effects were on full display and they looked good.
Though I left the theater entertained and certain I did not waste my time and money, I can’t help but feel disappointed knowing what Prometheus could have been. The trailers promoted a movie that looked like it would be elevated to the level of science fiction greatness with Ridley Scott at the helm once more. Instead we are treated to a monster movie that most anyone could have made that asks some brave questions, but ends up being too afraid, or incapable of answering. I might have forgiven dodging the big truths this movie boasted if it had had more of an atmosphere. These characters were on an alien world running through unfamiliar caves and corridors, and there is zero sense of tension or fear. I did get a slight feeling of wonder and exploration, but I know Scott is capable of more.
Prometheus is an entertaining monster movie, but it favors special effects over creating a compelling atmosphere and narrative. Though I disliked many of the characters, there were a couple that stood out to me. There’s enough good about this movie for you to see it if you’re a science fiction fan, but lower your expectations before you go. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
for what gave me the most enjoyment as a result of this movie.
tl;dr - Ridley Scott has done much better in the past, but Prometheus is not the worst thing you can see in theaters this summer. No, that award will probably go to That’s My Boy.