There are three movies I’ve been really looking forward to seeing. Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. The new 007, Skyfall. Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien – Prometheus.
But with such anticipation, it raises the stakes for the movie. It HAS to be good. It just has to be. That’s a steep slope to climb. Almost better to go in with low, Phantom-Menace expections.
Then there’s the director. Ridley Scottt. He’s made some of the most iconic movies of all time. Alien, of course, defined space horror movies to this day. Blade Runner, a visual masterpiece. Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?” Thelma and Louise. Black Hawk Down. Body of Lies.
But he also made Matchstick Men and Robin Hood, for the love of God. So which director would show up? And how would he outdo, well, himself?
I went on opening night. The cinema was packed. I mean, packed.
A good sign.
I gobbled my popcorn and slurped my drink and waited for the movie to begin. Ok, I’m a nerd. I know this. But I was excited to see what he would do.
The story is simple, really. We, (the ever curious humans,) are off to find our roots, our origin. Seems Darwin wasn’t completely right. Seems we may have another beginning entirely. Cool, right? So, fire up the engines, load up a ship full of scientists and evil corporate villains and awaaaaay we go to have a chat with the aliens who made us.
Now, I can’t help feeling if they had called the ship the Beagle or Fun-Fun-Happy Place (a chinese translation of a japanese translation of an english name,) then everything would have worked out fine. But why ohwhy name a ship after some poor fellow who was chained to a rock while eagles ate his liver with fava beans or something? If you really want to send a doomed ship, call it the Titanic. (Note to future scientists who might one day read this blog, don’t get on a f$&#in ship with a doomed name!)
But that’s the plot in a nutshell. Kind of profound adventure, though. Meeting our creator. Our… God.
Now the movie does a good job with this story line but, wait for it, things don’t go particularly well for our scientists and corporate villains. Bad things happen, but hey, they have to, it’s a horror movie.
As I sat there watching the plot unfold, I have to say I was awestruck by the visuals. Oh sure they were all 3D-ie and Mr. Scott did a fine job with that process but he filled each and every scene with stunning effects and fantastic details. I challenge anyone not to have a ‘wow’ moment when one of the characters stands at the center of a 3D star map as it spins and twirls and glows like silvery spider webs. Or when the storm comes in. Or when… oh, you get the idea.
And, for the most part it does. It creates one of the best robot characters I’ve seen anywhere, played with subtle brilliance by Michael Fastbender. Old Ridley went back to one of his other movies, Blade Runner, and brought forth a compelling character that has evolved a personality based on Lawrence of Arabia, down to the way Peter O’Toole played with his hair. Here is a man, a robot man, in search of an identity, a purpose in life, and he is filled with wit and love and, yes, hatred.
The rest of the cast, including, once again, the absolutely beautiful Charlize Theron, all have roles to play but in each scene, each of them are also built up to be more than just paper-thin creations: They have personalities and fears and hopes as well.
She gives the original heroine, Ripley, a run for her money. She is brave and driven and vulnerable and, oh my, is she as tough as any hero I’ve ever seen. Oh, you doubt this? Well, wait until you see what is willing to do to save herself. I may have nightmares about it. I know half the audience couldn’t watch it.
Oh sure, there are flaws in this movie. Some scientists have to be completely stupid for some reason. (Second note to future scientists, watch freaking horror movies, you dolts, you don’t try to pat-the-alien you just met!)
There are also some things that happen in the movie that go unexplained. This, apparently, is for a reason. A sequel. But it’s maddening to have some of those questions not answered in the movie. I don’t want to give away anything but trust me, you’ll know them when you see them. I honestly love having some thing not explained in a movie, it gives me something to talk about with my friends but I think they took it a bit too far.
In a sense, though, that is my major concern with this movie. It’s a bigger story than they are able to tell in 2 hours. It’s an epic story that, fed to us in bits, leaves us feeling like I went out for a pee and missed something.
But, here’s the thing. It isn’t as good as Alien. It just isn’t. But Prometheus is still one of the best movies this year. Better visuals than Snow White and the Huntsman. 2 of the best characters I’ve seen on screen in a long while. An intriguing plot with some nifty twists and turns. Fantastic acting by everyone.
And a hint at something greater to come.
Go see it. Be warned, though, there are some scenes that you may not be able to watch.