By Max Lalanne, film critic
Following the sad death of the legendary sci-fi author-poet Ray Bradbury just last Wednesday, I subconsciously entered the theatre for Prometheus with different expectations than most, or so I thought.
What I wanted to see was a sort of 21st-century visual embodiment of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles collection of short stories. These wildly ambitious sci-fi storytelling inspires and provokes thoughts that you wouldn’t normally think of, something that seems so new and cool and groundbreaking, and yet has a sort of sophisticated, timeless grandeur and satisfactory familiarity that makes it all the more enjoyable.
Foolishly brave researchers all covered head-to-toe in sleekly futuristic yet 60′s-space-age retro suits, stepping off onto an unfamiliar planet to explore whatever unknown’s out there – bring it on. I’m a sucker for these stories and that’s what I wanted to see from Prometheus, perhaps unfairly. But even if I had this immensely high, and I thought, un-reachable expectations from Ridley Scott’s latest, I’m glad I did because Prometheus is an excellent, thought-provoking and masterfully created sci-fi opus, full of some of the very best questions that good, old-fashioned science-fiction should ask: Who created us? What lies out there that us humans can’t even begin to conceive? Should we even start finding out?
These eternal questions are exactly what a team of researchers, led by archeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), are seeking the answers to. Traveling aboard the spaceship Prometheus in the year 2093, their mission is funded by the Weyland Corporation and headed by the imperiously icy corporate chief Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who certainly appears to have a second agenda that no one except maybe the android-in-residence David (a positively succulent Michael Fassbender) has any knowledge of. Either way, this team have a more specific goal to fulfil – they are following a mysterious star map, previously found in various prehistoric caves all across Earth, in order to find what Elizabeth calls “the Engineers,” the forerunners of the entire human species.
I seriously don’t want to say more – in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t seen the trailers for this movie – but bad things begin happening on this planet. All the requisite icky, gooey stuff that horror fans were wanting, and bigger, bone-chilling revelations that will seriously send shivers down your spine in a very well-done, not-at-all contrived way. Some of the things that Prometheus will throw at you will seriously make you ponder intelligent thoughts, which nowadays sadly not a lot of films actually do, all wrapped up in breathtaking lensing from Dariusz Wolski and gorgeous production design by Arthur Max.
I’m sure there are two questions that you need answering, and I’ll do my best here.
One: Does Prometheus throw out all these un-answerable questions about humanity and give us questionable answers – or worse, not answer them at all and leave them hanging? Hell no. Jon Spaights, who wrote Prometheus with the help of Damon Lindelof, filled the script with as much as the two-hour runtime could handle, but it doesn’t feel hopelessly stuffed nor is the audience shown too much they can’t handle. Sometimes, yes, it does get a little too ambitious for the film to handle, but it would be for any film so it’s actually very commendable of the writers.
Second question: Is Prometheus a sequel, a prequel, a reboot, or something completely different to 1979′s Alien? Obviously, you can look at it any way you want to, for me it’s a fantastic prequel that stands perfectly well on its own, and doesn’t depend on the legacy of the beloved Alien to survive – so it’s ironic, of course, that the two are being compared, to Prometheus’ loss. But obviously you cannot separate the two, so Ridley Scott obviously had to know what dangerously simmering waters he was treading into when he decided to make Prometheus, because the two are similar. And yet not.
All I ask of you, ignore the middling reviews, forget what presumptions you have prior, push aside whatever you think of Alien, and go see Prometheus for what it is, which is a very good, intricate, powerful science-fiction tale. I can’t presume the late, great Ray Bradbury would say the same, but I do think he would appreciate it.