Ok, let me start by saying I'll keep this relatively spoiler-free, with a couple of things in inviso-text for the uber-curious. The highlights?
Prometheus is very much the ideological, thematic, and tonal brother to Ridley Scott's first creative foray into this universe, Alien. In a series that has had as much crap as it has goodness, this is a good thing. This is a good movie, just not a great movie. And in the same way that Alien had some problems, so too does Prometheus.
As an added bonus, there are a lot of moments, or character beats, where Ridley Scott gives us fairly obvious homages or symmetries to his earlier film. This is a good thing, especially as ship's captain Idris Elba goes through many of the same moral/ethical decisions as Tom Skerrit did in Alien. There are debates about whether or not to violate quarantine protocol to allow infected crew members onto the ship-- decided. . . ummm, decisively by Charlize Theron. . . and a flamethrower. My only complaint in the symmetry is that there is simply no replacing Sigourney Weaver and Ripley. Instead our female lead is a bit weaker, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw played by Noomi Rapace, and arguably the instigator of the tragedy that is about to befall them, while Ripley was always the skeptic, the Cassandra that no one listens to when she says this is a bad idea. And instead of allowing Charlize Theron to play this role of badass skeptic (which she does) and focusing more on her, we spend more time following Dr. Shaw. Quick, pretty major spoiler here in invisotext:
And when the film is down to its final survivors of Rapace and Theron and Rapace escapes from a spaceship crash, I literally wanted to shout at the screen "WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!" You set yourself up for a sequel and you kill off your best female lead?!?! Idiots!!!!!" My friend who I saw the film with, this was his first and biggest complaint. And probably mine, in retrospect.
This cast is amazing. Arguably as good as the casts of Alien and Aliens. Idris Elba reconfirms my commitment that he could read the phone book and I'd watch it-- except they give him a lot to do here. Charlize Theron should've been given more to do, as she was equally excellent. There were a couple of great scenes between the two of them where they play off of each other so well. Awesome. But the person who steals the movie is Michael Fassbender. His portrayal of David is so perfect- he is part evil robot, part disaffected robot, part awesome sauce. So, too, is Guy Pearce excellent in this movie as Peter Weyland of Weyland Industries, the precursor of The Company in later films. You almost forget he's in it until he shows up in the third act. To give you some idea of who these guys are, watch these short videos, part of the viral marketing of the film:
"Large things have small beginnings." Indeed.
So what's wrong with this movie? This all sounds super-great?
First, let me bag on the studio a little bit. I HATE when studios show us a movie a week early and then tell us we can't review it until the day it opens. For me, this was adding insult to injury since I got up at 4am and drove to Dallas from Austin to make a 9am press screening. Grrrrrr. Maddening, especially when I've wanted to say mostly positive things about your movie!!! And especially when most other people don't give a crap about embargoes and will spoil and ruin your movie and trash it all over the internet anyway. . . why are you tying my hands because we at BSR actually follow the rules? Ok, rant over.
Next: Ok, so notice who co-wrote the script: Damon Lindelof of Lost. This movie is Lost. This movie is Twin Peaks. Mind you, that's partially a compliment-- I like both of those quite a bit. But underneath all the awesomeness and trying the answer the questions we have, it maddeningly adds two or three more. Like Lost's finale, the final act of the film delivers some awesome, but it doesn't ever fully inhabit the space it set itself out to. This left me, at least, feeling like the film was a little self-important, a little obtuse, a little meandering.
I expected to go into this film to figure out where the space jockey and the spaceship came from in the original Alien, how he came to be sitting on that chair, and why he had an alien-sized hole popped out of his chest. I got a similar, parallel storyline, and in the final minutes of the film you get some clue as to that. . . but a lot of space left between the end of Prometheus and the beginning of Alien.
"Ok, but you haven't told us-- do we ever get to see the f@#$ing Alien in this movie?" Inviso-text away:
Yes, kind of, at the very, very end. We find out that the "Alien" is actually some sort of ridiculous biological weapon, and we see proto-facehuggers that take the form of things that look like snakes and like giant 4-legged cephalopods, but we only see an "Alien" like what we expect from the other films in the very, very, very end of the film. And even then, it's a little different from what we see in other movies. The explanation, obviously, is that this is still a step in the beast's evolution.
Also, one major rule of Prometheus:
Don't bother seeing it in 3D. I don't really know why this movie was in 3D. There was no single scene where it really made it more effective. Don't bother, it's a waste.
So, overall, Prometheus is good, not great. The best thing I can say about it is that I've spent a lot of time thinking about it in the last week and want to be able to see it again before I completely make up my mind about it.
And as for what it's really got going for it, there is some smart, heady science fiction in this slick, incredibly cool-looking action-drama. Just as Ridley Scott set out to make the original Alien have a lot of imagery that connotes male rape (think about it), this is very much the case with this film except back on the female side. In fact, the best scene in the entire film is: where Dr. Shaw has to give herself an alien c-section to get the growing parasite out of her womb.It's got a lot of commentary about the limits of technology and is also just downright awesome, dramatic, and creepy.
Go see this movie. If you're a fan of Alien you'll really enjoy yourself. If not, you'll probably still like the movie. This is certainly Ridley Scott's best film in years, and the tease about a possible sequel(s) makes me interested to find out where they go from here. In some ways, I felt like this was all just a huge tease for something later. If that happens, let's hope it's more completely satisfying than some of the more disappointing elements of Prometheus.