In Greek mythology Prometheus created mankind from clay, and was punished for his act with eternal torment. He’s also become known for the quest for scientific knowledge and the risks of overreaching—in fact, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is “The Modern Prometheus.”
We are, of course, supposed to think about this as we watch the film Prometheus—writer/director Ridley Scott’s prequel-of-sorts to his classic film Alien (1976).
Unfortunately, it’s really, really bad for this movie to get compared to that amazing one. There are more holes in this movie than a swiss cheese convention. (Is that even a real thing? I don't think so...)
Please know that I can’t talk about how dumb this movie is without revealing spoilers, so consider this your warning. (Here’s the spoiler-free review: Wait for the DVD…maybe.)
The film opens with a humanoid alien moving across a landscape that might be Earth. He drinks something that tears him apart on a molecular level, allowing him to seed the planet with life. That seems like an extreme and bizarre way to accomplish that.
Then we’re brought to Earth, approximately 100 years from now, where a scientist (Noomi Rapace) has found a hieroglyph that matches ones found across the planet among various people at various times in history. Somehow this is an invitation to go to a planet far away-and somehow they know just where this planet is. It makes no sense, but the film tries to tie the belief into Rapace’s Christian faith, passed down to her from her father. “I choose to believe.”
Somehow her blind faith—and that of her scientist boyfriend—is enough to convince a super-rich old guy to finance a trillion-dollar trek to this mystery planet. I don’t know how they got all that from some drawings of people pointing at circles, but Rapace must be REALLY convincing…
They get to a planet, discover some aliens, and try to keep them from destroying all of humanity. Unfortunately, in doing so, people start acting in ways that real people don’t act. For instance, the biologist runs around terrified of alien corpses, but when an alien cobra slithers up he acts like it’s an adorable puppy until it eats his face off. The captain decides that when there are people away from the ship exploring, it’s a perfect time to try and have sex with Charlize Theron’s character. And then her character—who’s been an ice queen up until this point, and is for the rest of the movie—agrees to do it!
There are lots of little things like this that just don’t make sense and don’t ring true. Why did the android infect the scientist? Why did Charlize’s character run straight, where the ship was falling—rather than sideways, where it wasn’t? And why in the world was there a Christmas tree on board, and why would decorating that dumb tree be the very first thing the captain does when waking up from two years in stasis—even before getting food?! Dumb, dumb, dumb.
The acting is hit-and-miss. Michael Fassbender is good as the android who emulates Peter O’Toole. Guy Pearce plays the elderly billionaire who finances the flight; I have no idea why they didn’t just use an old actor, rather than put Pearce in some not-very-convincing makeup. Idris Elba is an excellent actor—and when he does an American accent you’d never know he was British. For some reason Scott has him use a southern American accent, and it is TERRIBLE.
Rapace’s scientist is playing the part of Sigourney Weaver here—the kick-butt female who has to single-handedly take care of stuff. She goes through emotional and physical torment—some of it quite visceral and grotesque. Her acting chops aren’t quite up to carrying the movie.
The ending leaves space for a sequel, but the characters were so shallow, I just can’t care what happens to them now. I’d rather go watch the original Alien—or have a toothy alien explode from my stomach.
Rated R for sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language
Scott Firestone is the editor of youthministry.com. His favorite horror movie is Alien, and Aliens is in his top five action movies. So Prometheus had a lot to live up to...