Director: Ridley Scott
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: 20th Century Fox
It can be frustrating to watch a new science fiction flick, all the while fantasizing about how much better it would have been had director Ridley Scott been at the helm. It’s even more dispiriting to sit through Prometheus, Scott’s much-anticipated sorta Alien prequel, and think the same thing. But let’s face it: the futuristic movie that marks the great Scott’s return to the genre after a 30-year absence is, unlike the director’s earlier Alien and Blade Runner, no game-changer, no groundbreaker. Instead, it’s an enjoyable, intelligent film with age-old philosophical underpinnings – and gross-out gore. For much of its excellent first half, Prometheus, set in 2093, investigates such questions as who were those Alien creatures, what were their motives and who made them – in other words, what’s life in this universe all about?
An idealistic scientist (Noomi Rapace) is exhilarated by her discovery of cave paintings thousands of years old that depict extraterrestrials landing on Earth; this sends her and a crew of 17 experts and grunts on a trillion-dollar expedition to a solar system far, far away. In the end, though, after Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof throw around lots of lofty questions, symbols, allusions and provocative imagery, the movie runs out of steam and ideas and descends into no more than an alien vs. human all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. That’s a shame, because Prometheus is so visually ravishing with stunning special effects, especially in 3D. But the characterizations are thin and one-note, leaving most of its talented cast members (like Charlize Theron stuck in deep-freeze Ice Queen mode) without much interesting to say or do before they get chomped, stomped or otherwise iced. One exception is Michael Fassbender, who is witty, inventive and oddly sympathetic as a dutiful, androgynous HAL-like robot harboring a trick or two up his sleeve and a mighty Peter O’Toole/Lawrence of Arabia fixation. Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is certainly up to the physical demands made on her, and although she gets to do some of the movie’s juicier scare scenes, those scenes disintegrate into the gelatinous goo of illogic even while you’re watching them.
Beware of high expectations. They can be crushing.