Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012): USA
Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy. Viewed at the Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara, CA.
The discovery of an ancient star map left by celestial beings, compels an archaeologist (and believer), Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) to accept an offer by deceased corporate philanthropist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), to lead a mission in space for the discovery of our “creators,” referred to as ”engineers.”
Aboard the spacecraft Prometheus is an average motley crew consisting of: an obnoxious close-talker Fifield (Sean Harris), a matter-of-fact droid named David (Michael Fassbender), Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) a hard-nosed corporate exec., Shaw’s impulsive and highly unlikeable partner, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), and the ship’s practical Captain Janek (Idris Elba).
After landing on moon LV-223 and entering a cave-like fortress, the crew stumble upon a pre-recorded holographic scenario, displaying giant, ghost-like figures, in a panic-stricken state and running for their lives. As one creature is decapitated, Fifield and his buddy get freaked out and return to the ship, but the remaining few recover the actual skeletal remains, with the head remarkably still intact. They decide to tow it back to the ship for analysis, while someone secretly absconds an organic liquid substance, which sets off a fierce dirt storm.
Now for some unknown reason, Fifield and his buddy don’t make it back and are forced to bivouac in the cave overnight, while on board the ship, Shaw and Holloway are ecstatic to retrieve proof of the existence of their “engineers,” but now must find out why they’ve been systematically wiped out.
A sinister plot begins to unfold when one crew member is slipped a hyperspace mickey, another is impregnated with a life form, and surprisingly Peter Weyland is not deceased, but alive and intent on negotiating with the engineers for a longer life (?)
If you’ve hung on this long, you’ll be rewarded, because the character of Elizabeth Shaw begins to emerge from a boring, one- dimensional science nerd, to an adept, no-nonsense multi-tasker, slightly reminiscent of a certain Ellen Ripley.
As the official prequel to 1979′s Alien, Shaw and her crew not only encounter a highly aggressive organism/species, but also their said ”creators,” or “engineers.” When the idealistic Shaw realizes her error in judgement – her creator is really her destroyer – she must horrifically conduct a spontaneous, self-surgical proceedure, in order to undue the damage she has contributed to, and from here on the audience surges into a white-knuckle, adrenaline rush.
With themes of creator and creation, god and man, father and son, nuances of a Ridley Scott production are evident. Beginning with a slow and methodical buildup with intricate details, there are exceptional graphics and terrific action sequences, accompanied by a great score.
There are however moments when the story just doesn’t jibe – Fifield doesnt’t make it back to the ship though he was first to depart the cave, and despite their use of high-tech tracking devices, helmet-cams, and advanced navigation systems, we are not given a lucid explanation as to why. Sometimes necessary ladders appear out of nowhere, and David knows just the right buttons to push inside the mysterious cave, which gains the expected results.
Charlize Theron as Vickers is completely forgettable – in fact an actress with Kelly Hu’s talents might have brought a different dimension to the otherwise bland character. Guy Pearce’s Weyland is equally uninteresting, with the same unimpressive aging makeup similarly found in J. Edgar – hasn’t anyone seen Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington – now that’s impressive aging make up!
By far the most interesting character of the bunch is David the fastidious droid, who’s deliciously articulated by Michael Fassbender of 2011′s X-Men: First Class. David is a self-proclaimed fan of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, and grooms himself to resemble the character of T. E. Lawrence. He is the perfectly created son of Weyland, and he’s neither cold nor calculating in his choices, but rather pragmatic.
Elizabeth Shaw is an acceptable follow up role for Noomi Rapace, who is the superior Lisbeth Salander, of the original 2009 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. In fact Rapace’s Madam Simza in 2011′s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is the only redeeming character of an otherwise forgettable film, and I suspect there will be difficulty in finding a character as equally penetrating to the psyche, and as well-loved by the audience, as her Salander is; much as Sigourney Weaver has had difficulty in trumping her own Ellen Ripley – both roles are championing for women, larger than life, and unfortunately rarely seen on the big screen.
In Prometheus there is much to be forgiven, and despite a muddled DNA quandary, the film is pretty damn good, leaving you willing to forgive.
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