Set in the year 2093, Prometheus tells the story of a 17-person crew answering an invitation from an advanced, alien race left in the form of ancient artifacts planted in cultures as diverse as the Egyptian, Greek and Aztec here on Earth. Or, at least that’s what the two scientists who initiated the journey are doing. The motives of the rest of the crew, including the intense and serious captain (Charlize Theron), vary. What they find of course, surprises them. And so should it you, so this will be a spoiler-free review.
Prometheus marks Ridley Scott’s return to the genre that made him a household name for fans of sci-fi across the world in the late 70s and early 80s. Having directed both Alien and Bladerunner, he earned a permanent place on the “master of the genre” list. Then, inexplicably, he went on to direct so many mainstream dramas, some of which are very good (Thelma and Louise, Gladiator) and some of which are pretty bad (A Good Year, Robin Hood), that fans began to wonder if he would ever come back to them – to us.
My friends, he has, and he has done it in style. Prometheus is a good movie. In fact, it is a very good movie. It stops just short of being great, but only by a small margin. It is entirely worth the price of admission – perhaps even more than once.
Let’s start with what works.
The story has weight, the events feel important. The fervent belief of Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, the aforementioned scientists, that their mission will bring to the human race answers about where we come from, why we are here, and what may come after we pass, gives the audience the same hopes. We all want those answers, so we are connected to these characters and the creation story they have written for themselves. Noomi Rapace (Shaw) and Logan Marshall-Green (Holloway) are excellent. Rapace in particular proves now that she has breadth as well as depth as an actress, as Shaw is about as far from Lisbeth Salander (from the original adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) as you can get.
I want to talk endlessly about Michael Fassbender’s performance, of course, but I don’t trust myself to do it without giving something away. Suffice it to say, he’s brilliant. That guy is going to get a whole post dedicated to him in the not too distant future.
The script from the relatively new Jon Spaights and the more seasoned Damon Lindelof (contributing writer for LOST and screenplay writer for Cowboys and Aliens) is excellent – they know when to have the characters speak, and when to let the effects do the work for them. Scott himself, of course, gets much of the credit for that as well. The music is perfect, the effects are stellar – under the leadership of a director who clearly knows what he is doing, the team behind Prometheus creates both a nail-biting thriller and a philosophical mind-bender. Time and time again, I found myself thinking, “This…this is what Ridley Scott is meant to do.” He is just so good at it.
So, if all of this is so well-done, what keeps the movie from being great, you ask? Not much, but there are some moments when the characters behave in ways that don’t quite make sense. Unanswered questions or ambiguity when it comes to the bigger-picture the film strives for (and achieves) by way of philosophy and religion are acceptable, but the audience should understand the characters, at least in the long run. Whether this is a problem of script, direction or an effort at keeping the film around the 2-hour mark, is unknown. But, there are moments (and characters, really) that don’t seem to add up. Other characters we barely get to know at all – perhaps a 17-person crew is too large – and what we do see occasionally feels perfunctory. This is one of the few times I found myself wishing a movie was longer by 20 minutes.
Still, let me be clear: this movie is a success. There are many things about it that call for further discussion – could keep us talking for days, in fact – so perhaps in another post or on an upcoming podcast, we will do just that. For now, go into the movie not knowing what to expect by way of events, but knowing full well you’re in for a hell of a ride.
So, have you seen it!?? Let us know your thoughts in comments.
For videos of the trailers shown before the movie in my theater, click here.
This review was originally published at Good Girls Gone Geek.