Ridley Scott created two of the most well-known, well-respected, and popular science fiction movies of the last 30-plus years, and seemingly was on the road to becoming a sci-fi master. To be fair, with those two movies alone, he is a sci-fi master. He hadn't returned to science fiction until the recent release, 2012's Prometheus, a prequel to Alien. Worth the wait? Flawed overall, but an epic success when it does work.
It is the year 2089 and two scientists, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), have made a series of discoveries -- cave paintings from different places and eras in human history -- that all have a common link. They all contain a drawing of some sort of being pointing to the same galactic location. Some two years later onboard the spaceship Prometheus, Shaw and Holloway are part of an expedition traveling to the darkest corners of the universe in search of what those paintings might mean. Is there intelligent life out there? Did they create us as a race? After the two-year journey, Prometheus arrives at the moon LV-223 to continue the investigation. They find evidence of another race but something else as well. What did this race create?
Some film directors just have credibility at the very mention of their name, and Ridley Scott is one of those few. When this movie is good, it is great. I didn't see it in 3-D, but the look of the movie is incredible, especially a mysterious opening sequence...but more on that later. The musical score is kept to a minimum, but when it's used, it makes quite an impression (kudos to composer Marc Streitenfeld). Like the most effective science fiction stories and movies, it succeeds because it makes you think, makes you question. What better place to do that than the far reaches of the universe? Anything could exist out there, friendly or aggressive. Were we put on Earth for a reason? Does faith mean anything? Do your beliefs truly mean something to you? When you're in a spot, how do you react? At its best, Scott's film explores some of these issues. Oh, he also does a fair job trying to scare the hell out of you as a viewer.
It's been years since I've seen the Alien movies, but as a prequel, it has a distinctly different feel. The visual is stunning here. Yes, it's a science fiction movie that degenerates into a creature feature (unfortunately), but it can also fairly and accurately be described as an artsy, minimalist take on mankind, space travel, the future and so much more. Basically the exact opposite of a summer blockbuster. It forces you to pay attention and think for yourself. It isn't always an easy movie to follow, but for the most part you're rewarded in the end. Nothing is ever really spelled out for you. That can be both rewarding and frustrating, especially in the finale. It is different though, and Scott tries for something more than the norm.
An effective, solid ensemble cast steps to the forefront for Scott's prequel, starting with Rapace and Holloway as the archeologists searching for answers. Charlize Theron is brutally cold and efficient as Vickers, the Weyland Corporation representative in charge of making sure the mission goes off according to plan. Her looks can deceive you, but she's cold and calculated. Idris Elba has another scene-stealing part as Janek, the Prometheus captain (with co-pilots Emun Elliott and Benedict Wong), an everyman but highly intelligent and able to piece things together for his job and mission. Guy Pearce in heavy make-up plays Weyland, the aging, decrepit CEO who finances the deep space mission. Sean Harris and Rafe Spall have smaller but just as important parts as Fifield and Millburn, two members of the investigating team, each with their own hopes on the mission. Also look for Patrick Wilson in a one-scene part, Shaw's father in a dream sequence.
The part that no doubt most moviegoers will remember though is David, an android created by the Weyland Corp. to blend in as a human, possessing everything but a soul. David is played to perfection by rising star Michael Fassbender in a part that could/should earn him an Oscar nod. The obvious comparison is to Hal in Space Odyssey, but that's limiting and not a completely fair comparison. This android has human mannerisms and touches -- he moves like a man, rides bikes, plays basketball, mimics Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia -- but there's also that one thing, that one little thing that prevents him from being a man. It's hard to put my finger on it, but Fassbender does an incredible job. His David is sympathetic, menacing, brilliant, intimidating and conniving. Because he can be programmed, it's can be difficult to get a read on his intentions, but whatever they may be, Fassbender is the star of Prometheus without a doubt.
Certain moments in Prometheus have stuck with me since seeing it and no doubt will stick with me in the days and weeks to come. The opening sequence is a jaw-dropper; a supremely muscle-bound, albino humanoid being left on a desolate, isolated landscape (a pre-civilization Earth?) as a spaceship takes off. He takes a potion that kills him, his body decomposing in seconds. Is it the creation of mankind? Who knows for sure? The arrival at LV-223 is equally impressive, the Prometheus attempting to find a landing zone as it travels through the atmosphere and the terrain below. Stunning visual sequences, both of them. Once the crew detects some variation on life, the visual turns to the dark and unsettling, the feeling of Doomsday looming in the air.
While I will readily recommend the movie overall, I can also say I came away slightly disappointed in the end. I don't need everything wrapped up nicely with a bow, and open-ended endings aren't a movie killer for me. But as is here, the ending left me unsatisfied. I wanted more.....of something. It doesn't have to be answers spelled out for me, but there's got to be something. Here, it just ends. On the whole, I'll heartily recommend it. Know there are flaws, but the positives ended up being particularly memorable for this moviegoer. Definitely give this one a try! Also check out the great teaser trailer below. The full-length trailer (watch HERE) is also above average as trailers go.
Prometheus <---trailer (2012): ***/****