Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott
I’m a sucker for IMAX 3D, which colors anything I see in that format. Given my bias, I can assure you “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s new science-fiction thriller, is an exciting two hours that will keep you riveted. It is a great story and beautifully filmed with incredibly realistic special effects. What I’m not sure about are its philosophic pretensions.
The opening was so good that people clapped. You are taken to a strange, yet familiar world that could be the early Earth. A figure appears, human-like, but larger and distorted; alien, yet familiar like his surroundings. After drinking a solution, he begins to dissolve into the water. In case you had any doubts of where this might be heading, you see the strands of his DNA unravelling.
Next we are in our near future with two geologists who discover similar cave drawings in unrelated, prehistoric civilizations. Since these early humans didn’t communicate with each other, these symbols must have come from our true, space ancestors. A huge leap, but OK. You can buy it for the sake of the entertainment.
Cut to a space ship where the crew is just waking up from their induced space comas. We are off to discover the origins of our extra-terrestrial forebears. The first to wake is Meredith, played by Charlize Theron. She represents the shady, maybe evil corporation funding the mission. It's free enterprise triumphant in the late 21st century! No bloated government bureaucracies like NASA. (Wait - didn't NASA manage to land a man on the moon in less than ten years?) The rest of the crew is mostly forgettable, except for our two geologists, representing the pure, research branch of the company.
Waking them all is the most fascinating character in the movie. David (Michael Fassbender) looks human but is, in fact, a robot. He is like a fourth-generation HAL 9000, and his voice has that same scary tone - even, optimistic, unflappable, no matter the situation. You’re intrigued by David from his first appearance, as he admires Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia, who utters a foreshadowing: “The secret is not minding the pain.”
Since the uncertainty of what will happen next is the pleasure of this movie, I’m not going to give away the rest of the plot. The action picks up when the crew explores the planet the geologists think is the home of “the Engineers,” our extra-terrestial ancestors. It’s not revealing too much to say that David starts identifying more with the Engineers and rebels against his human masters. In what may be an unintentional nod to Fassbinder's role as Carl Jung in "A Dangerous Method," David opines “Don’t all children want to kill their parents?”
Besides the HAL comparison, there are obvious references to the "Alien" series, including Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace), one of the geologists, performing a robotic Caesarean on herself. It’s very gory but one of the most exciting scenes in the movie. In another “Alien” parallel David’s head is torn off, but he doesn’t miss a beat as, literally, a “Talking Head.”
The resolution of all this was a little murky for me, but one thing was very clear: they set it up perfectly for a sequel. How about “Prometheus Rebound?”
For all that Charlize Theron has done to promote this movie, I was surprised what a limited role she had as Meredith, both in screen time and character range. Elizabeth is much more central to all the action. But Fassbender really steals the movie, with the depth and restraint of his David.
If “Promotheus” doesn’t answer the secret of life, so what! You will be on the edge of your seat for most of the movie, and, if you see it in IMAX 3D, you will be jumping off it.