PROMEHEUS
Author: JoAnne Hyde
June 7, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: Ridley Scott, director of Alien and Blade Runner, returns to the genre he helped define. With Prometheus, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Prometheus, Ridley Scottís new sort-of-a-prequel film, brought forth conflicting emotions in me.

First of all, let me say that this film delivers all the technical brilliance weíve come to expect from this director. All effects, both generated and natural, are spectacular. The rugged terrain of Scotland and the other-worldly environment of Iceland effectively evoke a very early Earth and the moon of a distant planet that constitutes the setting for the majority of the film. Computer-generated settings, especially the cave on the distant moon, are equally effective. That being said, the film does not produce the strong emotional connection common to Scottís best films. Iím thinking of Alien, Aliens, Gladiator, and Blade Runner. Iím a huge Ridley Scott fan and have enjoyed all of his films -- even the ones that didnít do well at the box office. I chose those four, however, because they were set either in space, a distant future, or the distant past, meaning that all of them created a unique and unfamiliar world and culture, but still managed to involve the audience emotionally with the characters and their stories.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus was the Titan who created man from clay and then stole fire from the gods to help mankind. Western tradition also associates him with risk, over-reaching boundaries, and bringing on unintended consequences. In fact, for his bold acts (creating man and giving him fire), Prometheus was punished by being chained to a rock, having his liver consumed every day by an eagle sent by Zeus, and since he was immortal, having the liver grow back only to experience the same torment day after day. In some myths, he is eventually freed by Hercules. So how does this connect to the film? Prometheus is the name of the spacecraft that carries the explorers to the distant moon. Two of the characters, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Charles Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), are archaeologists whoíve discovered ancient cave drawings on Earth suggesting a star map to a moon of a planet in a solar system light years away from Earth. The moon shows signs of being capable of supporting life. The two scientists believe that the moon will hold the answer to the development of human life on Earth. The project is funded by mega-wealthy industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who has his own reasons for wanting to know the answer. The Weyland Industries executive on board, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), seems to have her own agenda for the excursion. Michael Fassbender portrays David, an android created by Weyland to run the ship while the humans are in hyper-sleep, and to see to it that Weylandís secret agenda is fulfilled. Idris Elba plays Janek, the shipís pragmatic captain, and various engineers and technicians Ė Fifield (Sean Harris), Milburn (Rafe Spall), Ravel (Benedict Wong), and Ford (Kate Dickie) -- accompany the main characters. Such a Herculean effort (pun intended) certainly suggests unintended consequences!

Since Scott has been so secretive about this film, Iíll not divulge any important plot details. Let me just say that the ending sets up a different kind of sequel than the Alien series of films, as well as setting up that series. The problem with the filmís story is that the characters simply do not have chemistry. Even the lovers, Elizabeth and Charles, produce no sparks. The occupants of Prometheus just donít seem to like each other very much, nor do they seem to have much unity of purpose. I really didnít care much whether or not they survived. Much of the suspense in Alien (1979) came from not being able to clearly see what was stalking the crew members, and from the fact that Scott had assembled an excellent, ensemble cast. They clearly cared about each other, and their efforts to survive pulled the audience into the drama. In Prometheus, everything is either clearly laid out or finally explained. Add that to the emotionally-detached cast, and the outcome is severely diminished. Worse, I didnít think it was particularly scary. Alien, which I saw on opening day in 1979, almost made me pee in my pants! I keep mentioning that film because its echoes are so prominent in this endeavor, that I found it quite distracting. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B+

JoAnne Hyde Likes film.
She likes to write.
So she combines those two loves by reviewing films for BOF


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