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“Big things have small beginnings.”
Who are our creators and why did they create us? These are the big questions that PROMETHEUS poses in Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to science fiction. We follow a group of scientists in a space expedition on the distant moon LV-223 to find ancient artifacts and evidence that would lead to the discovery of humanity’s earlier existence. The mission was catalyzed by a series of primitive cave drawings that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw had discovered back on Earth, in which she had interpreted as “an invitation” by these creators known as the Engineers. All goes well until something goes bump in the dark and as we all know some questions are better left unanswered, for it was curiosity that killed the cat.
First and foremost, this is a beautifully shot film. Unlike ALIEN, this film has an incredible sense of grandeur and space found in its organic settings, while incorporating claustrophobic spaceship quarters and caves, mostly done on location and practical sets as opposed to green screen. The visuals are absolutely stunning and imaginative with its darkly gray tones and brightly-lit/sterile spacecraft, and it’s especially impressive given the modest budget of $120 million, which is low for a summer blockbuster. Might I add that this is not only Mr. Scott’s return to science fiction but to horror science fiction. This time around it’s less about the creatures and more about its sinister environment. Fans who are expecting any face hugger or chest burster type moments will be delighted when they’re treated to a cringe inducing equivalent that is horrifically worthy. Ridley Scott and company really made use of their surroundings and provided it with meticulous attention to detail, in turn creating a gorgeous universe of terror and wonder.
The memorable characters in the ALIEN universe is what draws audiences in as well as building a lifelong fan base, the first one that always comes to mind is Ellen Ripley. Now what they’ve done here is smart by not attempting to create another Ripley clone (tehehe) in Elizabeth Shaw, played by Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace. Unlike the tough as nails Ripley, Shaw is sensitive, has a strong sense of faith, and it is her curiosity that brings doom onto the crew of PROMETHEUS. The one thing they do have in common is that by the third act of their respective films, they transform into warriors, which is a pleasure to witness evolve on screen. For the rest of the gang, there wasn’t enough time to develop them all but they provided strong support and they held their own minus a few weak links, which I’m surprised to say that one of them is Charlize Theron. Coming off as a no nonsense ice queen does not make for a compelling character. However, a character that is suppose to be the cold, emotionless one is the android David, brilliantly portrayed with child-like innocence by the chameleon Michael Fassbender. David is the one monitoring the ship when the crew is in a deep slumber; he is curious, lonely, fascinating, and even jealous. He feels the most out of all of them and desires that his creator respect his existence as much as the humans want theirs to as well. Hints of BLADE RUNNER can found as an inspiration here with questions of does one necessarily need a soul to be considered alive?
This film has been in development for over a decade. It started off as a sequel to ALIEN, then it became a prequel, and then it became PROMETHEUS. With multiple revisions and a barrel full of ideas that have been tossed around for so long, the story feels just as jumbled and fragmented as it’s script. The first two acts, the setup and the rising action, are wonderfully executed. It begins as a search for the origins of humanity and brings up plenty of questions of human existence that is generally more cerebral than the average blockbuster. The problem is that it has trouble answering its own questions. The third act, the falling action/resolution, loudly comes crashing down as it became more about the chaos as opposed to the exploration and the seeking of answers. As an audience, we’ve come to expect to see the spectacle and the massive action set pieces from these kinds of films, which is fine but when a film forgets its own core philosophy, it loses it integrity and all of its validity. The last act is saved, however, when Shaw answers David’s question of why she would be willing to go through all this madness again and again just to find the answers she seeks and she simply replies, “I’m curious and that’s what makes me human.” It was fitting and poetic, as how any masterful piece of science fiction should end. However that is not the case, as we are force fed another ALIEN connection, which could’ve easily been placed after the credits.
The ALIEN mythology is a lasting and influential franchise that prides itself on its creature effects and terrifying spectacle. Its pseudo-sequel attempts to one up it with bigger ideas and questions. PROMETHEUS comes out of the gate running and stumbles a bit near the finish line but all in all, it was what every classic science fiction film wants to be: ambitious ideas, grand visuals, and the ability to generate discussion. People will be talking about this film whether they like it or not, due to the philosophical questions it conjures about mankind’s origins and existence, it will make us rethink about science and religion, which in turn makes this a successful film because it made us THINK.