By MICHAEL WALTERS
While Director Ridley Scott insists this is not a prequel to “Alien,” the signs are frankly everywhere — from the “Alien”-inspired spacesuits, to the female heroine with an independent streak, to the creepy human-like android with questionable motives, to the opening titles which slowly reveal in the exact same way as the original film. “Prometheus” delves deep into the backstory to determine the origin not just of the Alien, but of life itself. Scott once again creates a visually impressive world but leaves the audience with far more questions than answers.
“Alien” and its first sequel, “Aliens,” were a treat for the eye and the brain, full of visual puzzle pieces that weren’t always explained. Instead, it was up the audience to figure out how they fit together in the context of the world they inhabit. But both films stand on their own even if you haven’t figured everything out. Prometheus was inspired by just such a visual puzzle piece from the original, but lacks the wonder, energy, and visceral emotion of those first two films.
We begin with two scientists played by Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green who believe they’ve found a clue to the origin of life itself on earth millions of miles away. They enlist a gigantic corporation and its eccentric founder to sponsor their mission to a far off world.
Their ship is run by a jumpsuit clad Charlize Theron (far more hiss-able here than as the Wicked Queen in Snow White). She cares little for the alleged scientific aims of the mission, and keeps her corporation’s bottom line first and foremost at all times.
But it’s Michael Fassbender as the humanoid robot “David” who steals the show. He’s a bit like the living breathing embodiment of HAL from “2001,” with an accent cribbed from Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. He too has only the corporation’s interests at heart, and doesn’t let things like emotion or human life get in the way of progress and profit.
Without giving too much away, things don’t go quite as planned when the ship finally does touch down on the remote planet. The landing party finds signs of an ancient civilization, and plenty of unfriendly organisms. What he have next is essentially the Alien creature’s origin story.
Much of what happens next doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Patterns are established and then seemingly broken arbitrarily. Did these ancient peoples aim to wipe out life on earth, or create it? Was the creation of the hissing chest popping creature we know today an accident, a mutation, or something more akin to a vile world destroying biological weapon?
Scott aims for the Big Questions here and it’s easily the strongest continuation of the story in 25 years. But the end result doesn’t stand on its own nearly as well as those first two films, and becomes essentially a latter day Ridley Scott movie – it’s Good but not Great and not entirely satisfying. Prometheus is an aperitif being passed off as a full meal.