There hasn't been a really good, pure science fiction film in some time. Children of Men (2006) is an instant classic, and A.I. and Gattaca (both over a decade old, now) are two of my faves. But there really hasn't been anything great, taking place in space. I loved Sunshine (2007) and Moon (2009), but there were a few issues with those.
When it comes to director Ridley Scott, helmer of two of the most seminal and influential science fiction films of all time — you, under the rock! I'm talking about Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) — the pressure had to be immense when returning to the genre. Oftentimes, he who hesitates is lost but in this case, Scott returns to form strong and sure with Prometheus, his long-awaited prequel to Alien.
Futuristic spelunker / scientist archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find an alien star-map hidden within ancient Irish cave drawings, and their discovery takes them to another planet, where they join the crew on board Prometheus, an exploratory vessel helmed by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and her right-hand droid, David (Michael Fassbender). The expedition is funded by immortality-seeking megamillionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). Crew includes pilot Janek (Idris Elba), and other assorted expendables just waiting to become unwilling hosts to the hostile, acid-spewing life forms.
I won't say much about what happens and won't dare pimp the scares, but I will say, there are several suspenseful, squirm-inducing white knuckle moments of pure sci-fi horror the likes of which have not been experienced (by me, anyway) in years. Robin Hood (2010) notwithstanding, Scott's still got it. In spite of a few (surprisingly) clunky line deliveries by Theron, the whole cast is up to snuff and they complement one another most impressively. Standouts are Rapace and Fassbender, for sure. Pearce is magnificent as well in a small role, but unless — SPOILER ALERT! — he's coming back for a pre-prequel, I do not understand why he was encased in elder makeup and prosthetics ala Little Big Man. It was distracting.
Fortunately, the CGI and 3D are not at all distracting. Both feel natural and organic as augmented by practical effects, models, and smooth, easy, assured cinematography. The creatures themselves are wrought to wicked and wonderful fruition, from the humanoid aliens (looking like a Michael Parks angel) to the infantile chest-bursters (looking like corpse flowers), to the full-on, fully evolved Giger alien… fans won't be disappointed.
As for the philosophical aspects, some interesting and thought-provoking parallels are drawn between the ongoing situation and Lawrence Of Arabia; artificially intelligent David is partial to the film, bordering on obsession, and to Peter O'Toole's character in particular. Still, as speculative fiction, Prometheus falls short — it's not exactly Philip K. Dick — but overall it's a satisfying, well-made, exciting, technically top-notch and scary movie. I will definitely be seeing it again.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson