Thursday, July 5, 2012


In a New York Times interview, “Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott described his third science fiction film “Prometheus” as “‘2001’ on steroids.”  This comparison is entirely appropriate, particularly if you’ve seen the enigmatic but thought-provoking Stanley Kubrick epic about the evolution of mankind since the dawn of time.  Scott’s first 3-D spectacle (“Prometheus” is fun to watch once in 3-D) has elicited a wide variety of commentary since it arrived in theaters.  Essentially, “Prometheus” (**1/2 out of ****) chronicles mankind’s search for its origins.  Two archeologists convince a wealthy corporate sponsor to create a spaceship that will transport them to the far reaches of the galaxy where they believe that they will find the answers to questions that the ancient etched in caves long ago.  Of course, what they find is not what they wanted.  Nevertheless, they do learn something not only about themselves but also their creators that will keep audiences arguing about the meaning of “Prometheus” until the producers shed more celluloid on the situation.  Ostensibly, “Prometheus” qualifies as a quasi-prequel to Scott’s own scary sci-fi saga “Alien.”  The chief difference is that “Prometheus” isn’t a tenth as horrifying.  Nothing like the pugnacious pickle-shaped predator bursting from the chest of a human appears in this tame sci-fi opus.  Meantime, Scott has stated that “Prometheus” isn’t a prequel. He concedes, however, that the seeds of “Alien” have been sown into it.  You cannot watch “Prometheus” without thinking about “Alien.”  The “Alien” space jockey—as it is referred to--appears in “Prometheus” and so does an “Alien” prototype.  Furthermore, the story unfolds like “Alien,” boasts a contemplative android, a tenacious female protagonist, and a couple of tentacled reptilian creatures icky enough to make you shrink in revulsion.  The problem with “Prometheus” is that it is more speculative than dramatic.  Everybody about the physical appearance of “Prometheus” looks dazzling.  The technology and the equipment look like each belongs in the future.  Some of the performances are extraordinary, too, especially Michael Fassbinder as a sophisticated android with a lethal sense of humor.   Like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Prometheus” spends more time contemplating our predicament rather than frightening the living daylights out of us above it. 

“Prometheus” opens on what appears to be planet Earth.  We are treated to some awesome vistas as we fly above the sprawling terrain.  A man in a cloak with alabaster-white skin and a muscularly sculpted physique walks up to a waterfall while a gigantic, saucer-shaped UFO hovers not far away.  He takes the lid off a container and consumes some blackish goop.  No sooner has he swallowed this nasty stuff than he suffers crippling spasms and plunges into the waterfall.  The man’s powerful body integrates and we see his DNA appear.  As incredibly visual and mysterious as this scene is, you find yourself wondering exactly who this dude is and from whence he came.  The next sequence finds a team of archeologists excavating a site in the year 2089 when Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Naomi Rapace of “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”) finds a star map on the wall of a cave.  She summons her colleague, Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green of “Brooklyn’s Finest”), who also happens to be her boyfriend, and shows him a cave painting with a tall, thin, man pointing to an array a stars.  The importance of this primitive drawing is that Shaw and Holloway have found similar examples of it around the world.  They believe that they have discovered a star map that will take them to meet their creators.  The next scene finds everybody aboard the Exploratory Vessel Prometheus in the year 2093 as an android, David (Michael Fassbinder of “Centurion”), keeps track of them before they awaken from stasis.  Once Dr. Shaw and Dr. Holloway along with their colleagues have gotten up and eaten, they meet the CEO of the Weyland Corporation, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce of “Lockout”), whose billions have brought them into orbit around a faraway moon designated LV 223.  He makes comments about the mission in a holographic presentation to them and then hands the briefing over to our heroes.  Not long afterward, Weyland’s dictatorial daughter, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron of “Snow White and the Huntsman”) informs them that they answer to her and she controls the mission.  Basically, Vickers is the equivalent of Ellen Ripley from “Alien.”  She warns them not to contact any aliens until they have notified her about it.

Our heroes, David, and their colleagues land on the surface of the moon near a gigantic structure and enter it wearing space suits.  No sooner have they walked in than they discover that they can take off their helmets because they can breathe the air.  They find a Mount Rushmore sized alien head in one of the rooms as well as mysterious vases that contain the black goop that the exterrestial sampled in the prologue.  They also find tall, imposing aliens like the “Alien” space jockey.  Most of these fellows are dead and laying about in piles in what appears to be bunkers.  David checks out a room teeming with vases.  Their exploration is cut short because a storm is moving in and they are order to evacuate and return to the ship.  Two of Shaw’s colleagues are accidentally left behind.  The captain of the spacecraft, Janek (Idris Elba of “Ghost Rider, Spirit of Vengeance”), advises them to sit out the storm and await their arrival in the morning.  Creepy things begin to happen and the two men encounter a snake-like creature that latches on to them.  They are not prepared for what happens to them.  Later, it turns out that Dr. Shaw has been contaminated with an organism in her body that resembles an embryro.  She explains that she is not fertile and begins a mad dash to remove this organism from her body.

The monsters in “Prometheus” aren’t as scary as the “Alien” beasties.  Meantime, this two hour-plus, R-rated potboiler will make you think about what didn’t happen on screen more than what did.

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