It’s been nearly thirty years since Ridley Scott’s last foray into the realm of science fiction. Curious is an appropriate word to describe Scott’s distance from a genre that seemingly built up his sterling reputation. Through the power of Blade Runner, Scott questioned the moral implications of artificial intelligence, as well as its parameters. In Alien, he just wanted to the scare shit out of us, while boasting a bit of female driven power that was missing from the cinema. For thirty years, filmgoers have been seemingly frothing at the mouth and waiting for Scott’s return. Prometheus is the vessel that has finally brought Scott back. Acting more like a spiritual prequel to Alien, Prometheus brings us on a journey to the beginning of man. The answers that continuously plague the human race come to the forefront, as lifelong musings coalesce with suffocating fear. How did we come to be? Who made us? Why do we exist? These questions are all unanswerable. That is until Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), along with her research companion Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), discovers a celestial icon dispersed throughout the world. The icon, featuring a singular human reaching to five stars, gives birth to a possibility of answering the unknown.
A few years removed from their discovery, we find Shaw and Holloway on the film’s titular ship. There we’re introduced to a crew of seventeen, one of which is an artificial being named David (Michael Fassbender), a painfully loyal bot that holds a wealth of knowledge, as well as an assortment of secrets. Dictating the ship’s adventure is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a hard-nosed business woman who funds Prometheus’ trip not for universal reasons, but for personal and corporate gain. Through the navigational strength of Captain Janek (a stoic Idris Elba), Prometheus makes its way to LV-223, a moon lost in the deep chasms of space. Theories suggest our creators hail from there. Upon their arrival, the crew of Prometheus immediately see a landmark, which appears man-made, protruding from the surface of LV-223. This is the resting place of our makers, or as Shaw calls them, the Engineers. Decked out in your typical flashy sci-fi garb, the Prometheus gang infiltrates the landmark and explores its lurid, decrepit hallways. Within hours, everyone will come to regret their decision to seek existential answers. As the mythology behind our existence forms, blood becomes the price of truth.
As is the case with most films of its ilk, Prometheus reminds us that the mystery, no matter how baffling it may be, is often easier to swallow than the cold reality of it all. Under Ridley Scott’s direction, fear looms in the eyes of our characters and hesitation hangs on their breath as they’re surrounded by cryptic monoliths and foreboding corpses. With unbelievable set pieces, all of which are more awe-inspiring on an IMAX screen, Scott crafts a suffocating experience that makes us feel like we’re haphazardly rummaging through the playground of our gods. His visceral visuals still linger in my mind. Fueling Scott’s pressure cooker film are the fine performances from everyone involved. Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress that gained international acclaim for playing film’s first incarnation of Lisbeth Salander, is a marvel. Her character’s thirst for truth and inherent unease are wonderfully conveyed through small, physical moments. Most importantly, Rapace’s humanistic appeal has us hyperventilating with her amid the carnage that consumes the last act. The counterbalance to Rapace’s emotional connection is the distance developed between us and Fassbender’s elastic David. Matching the curiosity of a human, but lacking the emotional appeal, we’re constantly marveling at Fassbender’s automated performance. His cold stare begs us to question his motives.
Capturing the ambiguity behind David’s presence, and smartly exploiting our characters’ dependency on him, is the screenplay. Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, the screenplay makes a concerted effort to separate itself from Alien. Focusing more on the mythology surrounding the birth of human beings than sheer intergalactic terror, Prometheus attempts to seduce us with the inquiries that plague our main characters. It’s hard not to fall for it. Unfortunately, for those who expect the film to unravel cleanly, well, disappointment is likely. The screenplay grants us few answers, while evoking additional questions once the film ends. I can’t say this comes as a surprise; Lindelof has built his reputation on keeping the truth out of an audience’s reach (see Lost). By no means do I slight the film for this. In actuality, it made me leave the theater yearning for more. The film’s pervasive nature, from the crisp production to the acting, still rattles in my mind. Even if the answers end up being toxic, Prometheus is a film worth discovering.