When a film sails in on a wave of high expectations, disappointment is near inevitable. It may not be genuine, deep disappointment—as many felt after last summer’s sci-fi flick “Super 8”—but the kind that lurks in the back of your mind and reminds you of everything you wish a film had been.
Such built-in expectations may hinder your enjoyment of “Prometheus,” so it is strongly advised you forget everything you think the film should be and enjoy it for what it actually is.
And what is it, exactly? Well, no one quite knows. You could say it is a sci-fi horror film, a religious allegory, a character study or something entirely different.
What it is not, though, is “Alien.”
When Ridley Scott said “Prometheus” had the DNA of “Alien,” he was exactly right. Fans of the groundbreaking 1979 movie will be pleased with the nods to the original: a powerful female lead, frightening creatures, a blanket of paranoia and dread hanging over the entire story.
That is where the similarities stop.
“Prometheus” follows a group of explorers in 2089 who discover identical star maps found in various ancient civilizations they believe hold the answer to the creation of the human race. Featuring a cast of characters starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron, the team travels to a distant moon on the ship Prometheus in hopes they find what they are looking for. It soon becomes clear everybody is driven by his or her own motives and the struggle to survive begins.
Rapace cements her leading-lady status as archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw. After bursting onto the scene as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” films, it is easy to see why Rapace has become one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood. Her Shaw is both a heroine and a survivor—one who is grounded in her beliefs but is always curious to take that extra step in the pursuit of truth. Even her most outlandish dialogue feels completely authentic and she never allows her raw intensity to wane for an instant.
Michael Fassbender was impressive as a spiraling sex addict in last year’s “Shame” and stirs us once again with his portrayal of David. David is an android who assists the team on their journey and ultimately gives the film its backbone. Fassbender portrays him as a distant yet familiar soul—unable to feel emotion but longing for that one connection that makes him feel something. His sense of wonder is almost palpable, while his unsettling demeanor keeps you at arm’s length.
“Prometheus” asks many questions and answers several others over the course of its two-hour running time. It also poses deeper questions about how far we are willing to go to justify what we believe and whether we should trust in science or faith alone.
The movie itself is mesmerizing to look at, but is not without its flaws. Scott sometimes seems more focused on wowing us with visuals than actually furthering the story, and certain situations that characters put themselves in seem entirely illogical. Guy Pearce is also wasted as the aging maverick Peter Weyland—why put a middle-aged man in an elderly get-up when you could have simply hired an older actor? Pearce may have appeared as a young Weyland in the viral marketing campaign for the film, but no one outside of the fanboys really care about that.
The action is slow to build and when it arrives, it is rarely accompanied by genuine terror. The film is at its best in the last 10 minutes when the intensity has been ratcheted up and the stakes are higher than ever. This is where it most channels the “Alien” audiences adore and delivers riveting suspense that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Although it may fall slightly short of its lofty expectations, “Prometheus” is an ambitious, must-see film that is sure to be one of the most intriguing cinematic experiences you will have this year. It is crucial to go in with an open mind and brace yourself for the unexpected.
After all, no one can hear you scream in space, but they definitely can in a theater.