Movie Review: Prometheus

Mild spoiler warning. If you do not want to know anything going into this movie I recommend you do not read this review until AFTER you’ve seen the film.

First of all, yes, Prometheus is indeed set in the same universe as the 1979 classic Alien. But it does not have anything to do with Ripley, Dallas and the other doomed space truckers of that film. This story is about a group of explorers looking for the Creator and the horrible things they find along the way.

The film opens with a very intriguing scene that I won’t spoil here. It then jumps to Scotland where a team of scientists are exploring an old cave. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), our optimistic and plucky protagonist, and her “boo” Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead them. In that cave they find drawings that depict humans standing next to big men who point to the stars. Must be aliens! The stars also give them coordinates that suggest the place of origin of these possible creators of humanity.

Jump several years into the future and we find ourselves sliding through space aboard the Prometheus. Here we are introduced to the android David (Michael Fassbender) the only crewmember not sleeping through the voyage. The introduction comes via an amusing quasi-montage that endears him to us almost immediately. Michael Fassbender’s virtuoso performance has a lot to do with this endearment. Everything he does seems to be minutely calculated to emphasize that this is an android and not a human being. The way he walks, the way he carries himself, the way he emotes or doesn’t. It’s eerie, fascinating, and just plain awesome.

When the Prometheus reaches its destination, Shaw, Holloway, and the rest of the crew wake up from their two year slumber. Several scenes reminiscent of Alien introduce us to the other crewmembers. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is a determined and superficially cold woman. She gives the impression that she is representing the money behind the mission. Captain Janek (Idris Elba) is a charismatic lady-killing man’s man. One scene later in the film shows him with an accordion, suggesting a sea captain of old; a scoundrel on par with Han Solo. Fifield (Sean Harris) is a geologist who is way out of his depth. His xenophobia is countered by his want for money. Guy Pearce also shows up in the film as Peter Weyland. There are other members of the crew who fill in the background as well.

The real fun of Prometheus begins when the crew starts exploring an unnatural structure on the planet surface and certain crewmembers begin doing shady things. This is nothing new in sci-fi storytelling, but it is compellingly wrought here. Damon Lindelof’s script and Ridley Scott’s direction ensure a tight sense of dread and tension whenever the crew is exploring or examining the alien structure. You might have seen people die in the trailer but you still don’t know when those scenes happen. Even something like the autopsy of an alien body part is exciting and edge of your seat. It also helps that the film is incredibly nice to look at.

The visual effects are nothing short of stunning. Whether it’s the colorful and detailed holograms, the alien creepy crawlies, or the starships and planetary vistas, Prometheus delivers beautiful first class effects work. The production design, art direction, practical effects, makeup, and costumes are also top notch.

And for those of you worried that this movie would somehow skimp on the horrific and disgusting gore factor don’t worry, there is plenty to go around. Your skin will crawl a lot.

Luckily the film never devolves into some kind of cheap horror movie counting on ingenious kills to keep your attention. Most of the characters are very likeable or interesting even if they don’t all get enough time to grow and develop. The charisma and strength of the performances from the cast, especially Rapace and Elba, are enough to make you root for them. In a crowded film like Prometheus this is very important.

Prometheus also keeps us enthralled with its overarching theme of finding out where we come from, who made us, and why. I won’t say if the filmmakers try to completely answer these questions here, but I personally enjoyed how they handled it.

Ultimately Prometheus’s success for you will hinge on your own expectations. If you want an answer to life, the universe, and everything in it, you may or may not get what you want. But if you’re a fan of provocative sci-fi or horror, you will find something wonderful here. Prometheus is certainly a welcome addition to the Alien universe. 4 out of 5 stars.