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Film Review: Prometheus

With Prometheus (in theaters today) director Ridley Scott returns to the film universe he started with Alien in 1979. Co-written by Star Trek’s Damon Lindelof, the new movie is a worthy addition to the Alien franchise, but also a different film that poses as many questions as it answers. More in the TrekMovie review below, including some spoilers.

 

REVIEW: Prometheus

Science fiction is at its best when it is both exciting and thought-provoking. And that is what you get with Ridley Scott’s new film Prometheus.  In a return to form, Scott presents a visually stunning vision of the future as he takes us along the journey of the ship Prometheus on a mission to discover the origins of humanity. The film also explores some weighty themes including creation and religion.


Prometheus heads down

Since word of the film first came about, much of the discussion and even debate as been whether or not it is a prequel to Scott’s Alien and how does it fit into the universe. This debate is not unlike that for JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie. But in a technical sense, there is no doubt that Prometheus is a prequel to Alien. It is in the same universe, and takes place a few decades before Ripley and the crew of the USCSS Nostromo were woken up to check out what was happening on LV-426. And while there are no characters from the other Alien films, you have some of the key archetypes, including the android with questionable motives (Michael Fassbender’s David), the corporate weasel (Charlize Theron’s  Vickers) and a kick-ass heroine (Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw).


Director Ridley Scott with Noomi Rapace

Prometheus kicks off in the year 2089 with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (played ably by Logan Marshall-Green) discovering a star map in a cave in Scotland, the oldest of a series they have found throughout the Earth. They decide this is an invitation from some alien visitors who guided humanity. Sparking the interest of Peter Weyland, founder of Weyland Corporation (the precursor to the ubiquitous Weyland-Yatuni from the rest of the Alien series) they and a crew of (mostly) forgettable characters are sent off to LV-223, a moon in an unknown system on board the ship Prometheus. 

Once on the moon the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed team of scientists dive into a dome that the audience can see is just a giant creepy horror show waiting to happen. Influenced by work from the original Alien designers (including the famed H.R. Giger) the production design is spectacular, from the Prometheus ship to the exploration of the moon and its creepy contents.


Hey a room full of dark creepy jars – what’s the worst that can happen?

But it is in this exploration that some things go amiss in the film, and likely not as intended by the filmmakers. We have characters who are supposedly brilliant scientists who have traveled farther than any people ever have before who soon chicken out and want to get back to the ship only to be seen soon after showing less common sense that a coed heading off into the woods alone in a slasher movie. We also have the laid-back captain of the ship (played by Idris Elba) who shows more interest in getting into Charlize Theron’s skin-tight space pants than leading the historic expedition. And most of the other characters just seem like glorified red shirts (without the shirts of course).


Charlize Theron and Idris Elba in Prometheus

On the other hand, you have Michael Fassbender’s David who may be the most interesting android yet in the Alien universe, and that is saying something. Fassbender steals the show as David pushes the story forward while almost everyone else seems to be acting like kids on the school’s worst ever field trip. Also impressive is Rapace’s Shaw, who carries much of the load for exploring the themes of the film, along with providing some of the more memorable sequences, including a "I can’t believe she is doing that" self-operation, complete with laser scalpels. Remember, this movie is rated R, so it goes pretty far when it is trying to creep you out, gross you out, or just plain scare you.


Michael Fassbender’s David the android

While the movie is part of the universe and technically a prequel, it is a different film than Scott’s Alien. Then again, each of the three Alien films that followed had different directors and writers, so no two films in the series really feels the same and Prometheus continues that trend. While there are elements of Scott’s claustrophobic monster-movie Alien and James Cameron’s action-film Aliens, Prometheus is more of a sci-fi epic than any in the series. The visuals are truly stunning and take true advantage of the 3D.


A star map on an alien ship in "Prometheus"

Besides a few lapses in logic and character motivation, Prometheus is still an entertaining and though-provoking movie. Some may feel that the film ends up leaving you with more questions than answers. It is certain that this movie will spark many conversations about both the themes and the meaning of various moments (too hard to discuss without getting into bigger spoilers). This should probably not be a surprise coming from Damon Lindelof, who with Lost was never one to tie everything up in a neat bow.

I feel that this ambiguity is likely part of the design from Scott himself who brought in Lindelof to rewrite Jon Spaihts original draft to expand the film’s scope and make it less of a direct link to everything about the first Alien movie. And in that they have succeeded in creating a new landscape that while in the universe, now has its own road to travel in what was set up (perhaps too obviously) for sequels to come.

Bottom line, Prometheus is a good movie, but short of being a great movie. It is a must see for any fan of the Alien series or thought-provoking science fiction.


caption contest? (post yours below)

Prometheus opened today nationwide.

 

POLL: Did you see Prometheus? What did you think?

[poll=694]

 

 

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Matt K
June 8, 2012 6:13 pm

Thanks for the review Anthony. I’d like to check the movie out in theaters, but a lack of babysitters probably means I’ll be seeing it out on Blu Ray. Of course, when Star Trek 2 comes out, I’ll have the babysitting situation taken care of WAY in advance :)

USS Enterprise C
June 8, 2012 6:16 pm

Little typo “Alien in 1919” in first sentence… I agree more questions than answers… reminded me of Lost in that regard, but besides that I had no complaints. Loved it!

Red Dead Ryan
June 8, 2012 6:16 pm

Thanks for the review, Anthony! I’m really looking forward to this!

AJ
June 8, 2012 6:23 pm

I’m on the fence….cinema or BR disc? It looks wonderful, but I’m not a fan of cheap scary effects like monster-induced instant C-sections.

As someone who hasn’t seen it, it still looks like a “Preservers” retread in some ways.

June 8, 2012 6:26 pm

I was entertained, but think the movie would have been better served with less people running around, and more characters, if that makes sense. When ****** goes on a killing spree, I really don’t care about the people getting whacked. I think Alien pulled it off a bit better by keeping the cast smaller.

That being said, on retrospect I enjoy the whole experience more thinking of David as the lead character rather than Dr. Shaw. I enjoyed the irony of humans being so enamored with finding who created them while blatantly disregarding the life they themselves have made.

SherlockFangirl
June 8, 2012 6:29 pm

Was there a reason for doing a bit of Prometheus coverage in recent weeks? I get the whole Lindelof/Trek connection, and that it was declared TrekMovie Movie of the Year or something, but it just seems to be that you guys just jumped on the bandwagon in the past few weeks.

Anyway, I saw this last week at a midnight screening, and it was epic. Looked beautiful, and a really neat way of tying into the Alien mytos while not getting bogged down in what we think an Alien movie should be. I hope they make another.

And for the love of god, see it in a cinema. The opening title sequence alone makes it worth it.

(And Noomi Rapace in a skintight space suit, but that’s just me)

Jack
June 8, 2012 6:31 pm

See, and I thought Prometheus had more answers than questions. I’d wondered if the point of the whole thing was that answers to questions like “Where did we come from?” “Why are we here?” and “What was the deal with that space jockey in Alien?” can’t help but be disappointing.

Alonso Duralde’s review had a line that hit the nail on the head — “the film ultimately winds up playing like very expensive fan-fiction for people who would have liked 2001 better had everything been explained.”

Gary S.
June 8, 2012 6:38 pm

Seeing the the movie tomorrow.
A critic on the radio who gave it 3 stars said he didnt “Get” Noomi Repace.
I like her .
I think she is exotic .

ados
June 8, 2012 6:39 pm

Not to add any spoilers to this thead…but the stomach cut was a real change to the chest burster…..

Jack
June 8, 2012 6:41 pm

“We have characters who are supposedly brilliant scientists who have traveled farther than any people ever have before who soon chicken out and want to get back to the ship only to be seen soon after showing less common sense that a coed heading off into the woods alone in a slasher movie. ”

– actually, that aspect (smart scientists being clueless generally) rang true, or least fit the trope. And these guys didn’t know what they were getting into, which is also an interesting set up… which didn’t entirely pay off…But I liked that there’s a bit of meh from characters when confronted with some of this stuff.

Red Dead Ryan
June 8, 2012 6:42 pm

I don’t mind a movie that asks more questions than it answers. Sometimes its best that the viewer comes to his/her own conclusions, especially when it comes to questions about humanity’s creation, existence and place in the universe. There is so much ambiguity to the matter anyway that any answers the writers come up with will most likely be unsatisfactory. Better to toss out some thought-provoking theories and questions and give the viewers something to ponder on the trip home after the movie ends.

Gary S.
June 8, 2012 6:43 pm

#8 2010 had all the answers to 2001.
I HATED 2010!
So if Prometheus has some ambiguity , the more the better .

June 8, 2012 6:53 pm

Final score for Prometheus is….. 3 out of 10.

Overall, it’s a nice looking hollow mess. The characters have very tacked on traits, the reveal moments don’t add anything, and worse, it feels like the first AVP film. The similarities are shockingly similar. To see grown adults who come from very complex professions act like children just took me out of the movie. If the film was trying to convey something else with their behavior, it wasn’t working.

But speaking as an ALIEN fan from way back in the day when I was in my single digits, the biggest disappointment came in the form of the Space Jockeys themselves. Looking at the dead pilot in the chair in the original film always had me wondering what they would have looked like when they were actually alive. I never EVER assumed that they were merely suits for creatures that looked exactly like us. Why should I? That’s no fun at all. To see that very alien looking design by H.R. Giger be turned into that white hairless marshmallow guy will probably rank as one of my all time most disappointing reveals in the history of film. Nothing speaks great creative thinking when the best origin story for life on earth came from a big tall white guy from space.

Red Dead Ryan
June 8, 2012 6:54 pm

#9.

Interesting about “Robopocalypse”. I bought the novel and plan to start reading it soon!

Look forward to the coverage!

CmdrR
June 8, 2012 6:57 pm

caption for last picture:

They’re light years ahead of us in technology, but we’re tied when it comes to oversized, government-funded public art projects.

Gonna see it tomorrow.
Thanks for covering this Anthony. Some of us Trekkies actually like other genre events as well.

June 8, 2012 6:57 pm

Watched it today. Really enjoyed it. Great movie. It was gorgeous on the big screen too. Ridley’s directing was top-notch.

I don’t understand why they were so apprehensive about calling this a prequel. It’s certainly not a prequel in the traditional sense, but it’s absolutely a prequel. I think they just wanted to make sure the movie stood on its own and it does.

I’d love to know just how much of the original script remained after Damon made a pass and re-wrote it, but the end result is terrific. I normally don’t like when I exit a movie and don’t have clear “this is what happened” / “this is why it happened” answers, but Prometheus unfolds in a way where it’s actually a bit fun to unravel and dissect.

Besides, the payoff doesn’t have to come just yet. That’s what the sequels would be for. :)

Red Dead Ryan
June 8, 2012 6:59 pm

#15.

I get the feeling you went into the theatre already hating the movie simply because one of the writers (Damon Lindelof) also helped write J.J Abrams’ “Star Trek”.

My question is: Why did you bother seeing it in the first place?

James, London
June 8, 2012 7:06 pm

Visually it was one of the best films i have seen in the last few years

Some of the acting was top notch

The direction and music was fantastic

The weak link was the plot if i must be honest – it didnt flow at all

Vultan
June 8, 2012 7:25 pm

Sounds like it would’ve been better as a one-man show.
Fassbender playing a version of Wall-E. ;)

Eh. I’ll wait for the DVD.
Save my money for the Bat.

CarlG
June 8, 2012 7:43 pm

@20: Answer: “something, something Strong Female Protagonist (TM), but NOT STRONG ENOUGH! RAWWWR!”

Jack
June 8, 2012 8:05 pm

RDRyan: Have you seen it?

Bob Tompkins
June 8, 2012 8:07 pm

Slow pace- even plodding at times, as I expected; surprised it didn’t get a PG13- not nearly the gore and bad language we would expect from such a movie. I have seen worse get the PG13.
I gave it a 5, which is better than I expected. It could have used some judicious editing and cut 15 minutes out.
It’s a VERY direct prequel to Alien, I don’t understand how anyone could watch the final scene and not get that.

Long Island Trekster
June 8, 2012 8:10 pm

What an awful movie! I blew $35.00 and 2-1/2 hours of my life that I can not get back ever.

THey had such good special effects and terrific ensemble of actors. The action sequences were great. And, that was all. The story line and reasons for tha action sequences with first rate special effects made no sense at all.

It felt like watching special effects clips edited together with no rythme or reason. SAVE YOUR MONEY! SAVE YOUR TIME! STAY AWAY!

YOU WERE WARNED.

spock
June 8, 2012 8:13 pm

I just got back from seeing the movie. The set up was interesting, the movie quickly fell apart once Alien contact was mode. It was a disjointed mess. People were laughing when they shouldn’t have been, etc. From the med lab scene on, the movie was a big joke. It turned into a parody of Alien 3 and 4

Bob Tompkins
June 8, 2012 8:15 pm

AP- You should broaden Trek Movie’s horizons and review any movie you feel worthy of being reviewed. It’s not as if this is a magazine or newspaper with space constraints.
There have been periods devoid of Trek or related news with no posts at all.
I, for one, appreciate your journalistic efforts.
Thanks for the Trek [and other] updates an reviews.

June 8, 2012 8:16 pm

Excellent review- completely on point with my feelings. From the moment the human characters awoke from stasis, I was bounced out of the movie. There were so many failures in common sense (the mission plan, the fact that none of these people knew each other before getting on the ship?) and the lack of professionalism were shocking. But then you get Ridley Scott- the master of making a person’s breathing the scariest thing in the world- and the movie works. Prometheus is infuriating, and I’ll probably see it again in the theaters. Oh, and I’m tired of the “Lost” approach to storytelling. You get 2 hrs of my time, just finish the damned story, please.

mojomonkey
June 8, 2012 8:21 pm

I enjoyed it but Scott should have stuck to his guns & not let Fox drag him back to making an Alien “prequel”. It doesn’t even take place on the same planet & explains *nothing* about the original Alien that we didn’t already know. The whole movie feels needlessly fettered instead of soaring on wings of pure imagination. And Lindelof has to be one of the worst writers in the biz right now, just atrocious!

Maybe the inevitable Scott “expanded cut” will remedy some of the story/pacing problems in the film. But it’s still worth checking out.

Daoud
June 8, 2012 8:26 pm

CAPTION:
Lindelof works in a Bob Orci cameo as a Giant Stone Head
.
(C’mon, it does favor Bob a bit there!)

Whalealein
June 8, 2012 8:27 pm

LOVED IT!!! Anyone wanting to see a clone of ALIEN will be disappointed. DO NOT go see it expecting that!! But if you want to see and excellent science fiction film from THE MASTER Ridley Scott — go see it!! AND go see it in 3D!!!! Is it a perfect film? NO!! Was ALIEN? NO!!!

It’s just a thought provoking, excellent film…go see!!!

Brevard
June 8, 2012 8:33 pm

Yes, the production design and visuals were stunning. We’d expect nothing less from Ridley Scott. Yes, Michael Fassbender was superb. Yes, I’m a huge fan of Alien and went into this movie expecting to be blown away. I was not blown away. After a great 30 minute set-up, the film quickly dissolved into a B-movie mess. Poorly written dialogue. Characters behaving in ways that do not seem true to their natures. Brilliant scientist who behave like children. A mish-mash of religious tripe. Had there been a better script, this would have been a wonderful film. I keep hearing Damon Lindlehof say that he was a “gun for hire” for this film and simply did what Ridley wanted. Surely Damon must know this was a poorly written script and he’s simply trying to save face. For anyone who was a Lost fan, you know that Mr. Lindlehoff and crew are great at setting up glorious ideas, but not so great in seeing them to fruition. I’m sorry, but for me, Prometheus had Damon Lindlehof’s stamp all over it.

Brevard
June 8, 2012 8:34 pm

Sorry, I did not spell Damon’s last name correctly.

luke montgomery
June 8, 2012 8:40 pm

This film was a big let down. I’m sad that he will now be directing his attention to a sequel to Blade Runner. It took all the wonder and mystery out of Alien and felt trite, confused and plodding. Do we really need exposition in every scene? People will talk about how it’s “thought provoking” but that’s only for those not used to thinking much. Thankfully, at 74, he won’t be doing this kind of crappy work for much longer.

Lil' Shat
June 8, 2012 8:47 pm

I don’t know, I was so excited about Prometheus until I read that Damon Lindelof was hired to write, and then of course it became not an Alien prequel but a story set in the same universe (thanks Damon!)… alarm bells were going off like crazy by that point.

I don’t think I can bring myself to see this film in the theater. It’s just that I’ve been cheated out of my hard-earned money by Hollywood (and especially Damon Lindelof) in exchange for shoddy, hollow excuses for entertainment so many times that I just can’t bring myself to sucker up again and pretend to like things I don’t like just because of anticipation, hype and viral campaigns.

kmart
June 8, 2012 8:52 pm

Boy am I glad I never watched LOST! Prometheus was a huge disappointment.

I’ve rarely seen a movie where nearly every creative call seems to be the wrong choice. Outside of Elba and Fassbender, there are no performances (can’t be any really, given this writing, though Elba does wonders with utter crap to spout), and even the art direction is inconsistent, with the PROMETHEUS ship interior registering as boring.

Excellent one minute of ship collision, undone by stupidity of characters running from big thing ON ITS SAME AXIS OF MOVEMENT and not realizing if they go left or right it will roll on by.

I was fearing this would be EVENT HORIZON. No, this is much worse. EVENT HORIZON’s art direction and VFX make it something I can put in on DVD and at least scan for the good stuff … this is not ever getting another viewing out of me.

Keachick - rose pinenut
June 8, 2012 9:23 pm

I don’t know what to think. Prometheus started here on Thursday. Maybe I might give it a go on Tuesday when movies are cheaper. I was never a fan of the Alien movies. Oddly, when posters talk about there being religious “tripe” in the dialogue, I start to get interested. Maybe that is because I have always been interested in comparative religion, mysticism and philosopy (certainly no scholar though) and because most of what I read from people on the internet about religion is often negative and dogmatic while, at the same time, revealing some genuine ignorance.

I’ll guess I will have to see and hear for myself. I don’t know if I will pay more to see it in 3D – just stick to 2D probably.

I suspect that the Star Trek sequel being done now will probably be my second foray into 3D, first being the Hobbit. JJ and co. had better “bring it on”!

Whalien
June 8, 2012 9:34 pm

I don’t know what you big whiner babies wanted from this movie! It’s a better movie than that last Star Trek movie was!! LOL!!!

Anyone curious about this film who is also an ALIEN fan should see it.

Plain and simple. And that Batman movie looks LAME!! SO lame!!!

Vultan
June 8, 2012 9:42 pm

#39

Exclamations points and capitalization aren’t helping you.

Vultan
June 8, 2012 9:42 pm

Exclamation.

sean
June 8, 2012 10:05 pm

I will be seeing this tomorrow.

But for all the folks blaming Lindelof for plot failures, it’s worth noting that a fella named John Spaihts actually wrote the story. Lindelof came in after and touched it up, making it less of a direct Alien prequel. So it’s entirely possible that all the things you’re pinning on Lindelof are actually from Spaihts.

spock31a
June 8, 2012 10:12 pm

disappointed & unanswered questions. Wanted this to be a tight prequal to the the 79 alien movie.

Red Dead Ryan
June 8, 2012 10:17 pm

I’m going to see the movie within the next few days. Not sure when exactly though.

thebiggfrogg
June 8, 2012 10:29 pm

Caption: Blech! Does anyone have a 30′ by 30′ tissue?

thebiggfrogg
June 8, 2012 10:32 pm

Ambiguity and exploration is good. I wish nuTrek would go there.

Elias Javalis
June 8, 2012 10:40 pm

A great all around movie. Great fun. Some genuine scary moments, extraordinary cinematic detail. I am satisfied cause it ties a lot of loose ends from the past film and creates others. I also believe that a comparison with ALIEN is a wrong thing. The first film was an introduction and a sequel (kind of). Prometheus is meant to provide answers and questions, and succeeds with flying colors. Granted Alien was more scary but dont forget…1979 was an other era. The genre was experimental. The cinematic technics we take for granted today were pure then..and there is an other thing i should address. 99% of sci fi movies today suffer from thin dialogue and character development. You just cant squeeze heavy special effects and character development into 2 hours..If you want that, you re better off with a TV series..So..its unfair to talk about character development in Prometheus..Why? Because…SPOILER….:):)

dmduncan
June 8, 2012 10:42 pm
After a long line of Ridley Scott movies that left me underwhelmed, I felt after watching Prometheus that Ridley Scott is back home where he belongs, and where he should stay. Ridley Scott really does his best work when he has worlds to design. Prometheus managed to capture an odd blend of wonder and horrifying disgust — things that I expect would normally not mesh well together in a movie had I ever seen the mixture tried before, but which did just fine here. I did not have problems with the story’s logic. AP’s criticism that some of the characters did not act as logically expected is not one that I shared, since people do not act rationally when they are spooked, and the incident that spooked them was enough to account for how some characters changed their attitudes. And because of some inconsistencies between this movie and Alien, I have some trouble seeing Prometheus as a straight up prequel to Alien. It strikes me as a prequel to some alternate universe Alien that we don’t get to see, if that makes sense to say, rather than as a faithful prequel to Alien in the same way, for example, that The Thing tried to be a faithful prequel to John Carpenter’s far better movie. So because of those differences you do not need to see Prometheus as a direct ancestor to Alien. It’s related enough that you can, but there are also some important differences that do not make Prometheus… Read more »
Red Dead Ryan
June 8, 2012 10:47 pm

#48.

Thanks for the review, dm! I’m looking forward to it even more!

Hugh Hoyland
June 8, 2012 11:33 pm

#48

I agree 100% with just about everything you wrote.

Aside from the obvious beauty of the visuals (IMO the movie at times looked like fine art) I found myself engrossed in the story as well.

It asks big questions, yet doesnt attempt to shove the answers down the viewers throat. It almost reminds me of some of the better stories from TOS.

This is one of those movies that sticks in my mind, and for different reasons. It takes a bit to absorb.

Mr. Scott welcome back to the film genre you do best! :]

Like Star Trek 09, this movie motivates me to learn the craft of screenplay writing. I may actually do a spec script on a sequel story just to entertain myself lol

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