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Centretown News Online
Sunday, July 22, 2020
Film Review: Prometheus
Monday, 11 June 2020
By Corcoran Conn-Grant
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Published in : Centretown News, Our Critics

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In 1979, director Ridley Scott piloted the horror genre into space with the groundbreaking Alien, sowing seeds of a distinct mythology that would breed decades’ worth of sequels, cross-overs, novels, and comics.

With Sir Ridley finally returning to the franchise he began, it is only fitting that Prometheus concerns itself above all with creators and their creations, the myriad variations on their interrelationship, and the utterly human need to make some kind of sense of it all.



Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Greene

Less a prequel than an expansion of the existing mythology, Prometheus follows a team of scientists to a distant solar system mapped in cave paintings and prehistoric art around the world, their quest nothing less than to find the source, if not the meaning, of all life.

Our adventurers touch down on a habitable moon and discover enormous structures containing warrens of tunnels where they find countless canisters of black goo, the corpses of towering humanoids dubbed Engineers, and depictions of seemingly human faces as well as the distinctive Alien xenomorph.

Atmospheric and thrilling, underpinned by the characters’ obvious questions – What happened here? How does it relate to humanity? What more will we find? – these scenes unfold effectively in lush 3D.

But in stories like these, the answers can never be as satisfying as the questions are compelling. Knowing this, Prometheus willfully dissembles; the promise of its early ambition goes unfulfilled as the alloy of science-fiction and spiritual truth-seeking disintegrates, leaving a hodge-podge of horror tropes, curtailed character arcs, and too-quick shock deaths.

A crew of 17 is simply too many for a movie like this to invest with individual personalities – though any real such expedition would surely require a far larger work force – so a number of characters (including those played by Kate Dickie and Benedict Wong) simply float by in the periphery.

At the forefront is archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), discoverer of the cave paintings, who wears a cross around her neck – explained needlessly in an early dream sequence – and literally wants to meet her maker, with her boyfriend and colleague Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), the impetuous atheist, in tow.

Charlie is not the kind of person you would find on a trillion-dollar mission to the other end of space, but neither is anyone else on this spaceship, which is why, even as their eventual deaths are a foregone conclusion, their introductions are surprising.

First seen awaking from two years in a comatose stasis, the classic “motley band” of scientists and crew members exhibit no memory of having been introduced to each other or their mission, yet here they are, with seeming sociopaths pointlessly among them.

Captain Janek (Idris Elba), a no-nonsense stevedore-type, has no apparent interest in the nature of the mission he is flying, though he later serves up what is either the film’s most human moment or its lamest. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), on hand to make sure everything follows the plan, is the icy representative of Weyland Corporation – whose ancient CEO, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), appears in holographic form to brief everyone.

But the most interesting character is the android David (Michael Fassbender), a sort of synthetic adoptive son to Peter Weyland. While the humans sleep their hypersleep, David passes time performing maintenance checks, watching Lawrence of Arabia, and peering in on the dreams of his charges. With an agenda all his own and a curious link to Meredith Vickers, David is both the apex of human achievement and the undoing of the mission; Fassbender is a delight to watch in the role.

Perhaps the blame lies with Lost alumnus and co-writer Damon Lindelof as opposed to director Scott himself, but for a film about answers – all the characters seem to talk about is “finding answers” – Prometheus is curiously bereft of revelation. In fact, nearly everything learnt in the movie is concisely conveyed in its two-minute trailers, which leaves an awful lot of time for slow-boil horror and pseudo-philosophical meandering.

Yet that is precisely what Scott must have concerned himself with throughout production, because the plot is a vessel adrift with neither rhyme nor reason at the helm (only their secretary, Mr. Lindelof, who obviously has no idea how to pilot the thing). Amid the gorgeous cinematography and set design, there are elements that almost seem designed to rip you out of the beautiful illusion.

Two scientists get lost for hours while being tracked on a holographic maps; they never lose radio contact but don’t ask for directions. Characters repeatedly fail to tell one another urgently important truths and to ask obvious questions. Even with Janek, Vickers, and two pilots to monitor communications, nobody ever seems to know what is happening inside this one small ship.

The Engineers pilot their own spacecraft with a supercomputer activated by the sound of a wooden flute. (No joke.) There is in the musical score, intermittently rearing its head, a swelling motif that emulates Star Trek but does not fit Prometheus at all. And so on.

But despite a general inability to make sense, let alone live up to its own promise of provoking thought, Prometheus does offer moments of profundity.

After they discover the Engineers and do genetic testing, Charlie suggests Elizabeth can stop wearing her cross, because they have their answers: Engineers made humanity. Her response is to wonder who made the Engineers.

When Charlie tells David that humans made synthetic life simply “because we could,” the android asks how he would feel to hear the same thing from his own creator.

Drenched in atmosphere, Prometheus satisfies on the genre front with intermittent doses of alien scares, body horror, and other grotesqueries. But it overestimates its own grandiosity in moments of loftiness, and that certain something more – promised with increasing confidence as the marketing campaign evolved – is never really present.

The overall evasiveness has been interpreted in some quarters as teasing a sequel, but that in turn seems to miss the point of there being unanswerable questions.

Last update : 11-06-2020 15:54

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