“Prometheus” continued the “Alien” epic once again with director Ridley Scott at the helm. However the 2012 science fiction film takes a different approach than its predecessors. Unlike the action-oriented “Aliens,” or unique albeit polarizing “Alien 3,” “Prometheus” diverges from the Xenomorph epic. Despite its loose connecton to the “Alien” universe, “Prometheus” is gorgeous, superb sci-fi.
As “Prometheus” opens, a massive spaceship leaves a planet. Meanwhile, a hulking humanoid drinks a mysterious liquid and dissovles, cascading into a waterfall where its DNA gels with the water. Cut to 2089 where archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan marshall-Green) uncover a star map in a Scottish cave. While it matches several other maps scattered about, the ancient civilizations appear stratified.
Shaw and Holloway believe the map is an invitation. More specifically, an invitation to meet humanity’s makers. Therefore, Holloway and Shaw depart on a spacecraft, named Prometheus. Aboard the expeditionary spaceship is android David (Michael Fassbender), Weyland employee and overseer of the journey Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and captain Janek (Idris Elba). Unfortunately, the crew of the Prometheus discover that their creators were not quite as they imagined.
“Prometheus,” like “Alien 3,” is a decidedly dividing film. As a continuation of the “Alien,” franchise “Prometheus” offers few answers. Instead, it fosters more questions. However, it’s this element of mystery which makes “Prometheus” such a masterpiece. “Alien” is fairly barebones. It’s simply “the alien” instead of Xenomorph, and “crew expendable,” rather than “Nostromo crew.” But this minimalist aspect allows for added intrigue and suspense.
Similarly, “Prometheus” hints at answers. However there are no definitive answers presented. I like this aspect quite a bit. As with Stanley Kubrick’s tour de force sci-fi gem “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Prometheus” delivers a poetic journey packed with masterful cinematography and an engaging narrative. In eschewing concrete answers, it’s a film that embodies the concept of show, don’t tell.
It would be remiss to discuss “Prometheus” without touching on its excellent soundtrack. The entire “Alien” franchise, yes, even “Alien: Resurrection,” features lovely, appropriate scoring. “Prometheus” is no exception. Its soundtrack a la German composer Marc Streitenfeld mimics the plot of “Prometheus.” It retains notes from Jerry Goldsmith’s “Alien” soundtrack, notably on “Friend from the Past,” but ultimately takes the musical backdrop in a different direction.
Characters are largely enticing. Shaw and Holloway bring an unrelenting zest and passion for their mission. Fassbender as David really steals the show. His cold, detached voice emulates Hal 9000 from “2001.” Unfortunately a few characters feel underdevelped. Namely, Janek as the pragmatist piolt. While his character does offer a surrise, much of the film finds him as the Southern drawling captain. This is more a matter of writing, not any fault of Elba’s. Similarly, Theron’s Vickers is a bit too stiff.
Nevertheless, “Prometheus” is simply a well-shot, brilliantly acted, and utterly riveting piece of sci-fi cinema. Its veil of mystery follows in the same vein as “Alien,” and the minimalist aesthetic works wonderfully. Despite its slow pacing, “Prometheus” remains a taut, pretty, suspenseful materpiece.