Most of the conversation surrounding Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s best film since Matchstick Men, or Black Hawk Down, or hell, Thelma & Louise, is how closely it is rooted in Scott’s own Alien. Is it a prequel, a spin-off, its own movie entirety? Conversations like this are, to me, not only boring, but completely counterproductive to what’s at hand, which in this case is a very fine, very badass, very intelligent science fiction film. I’m only making mention of the would-be Alien tie-in so that we can be done with it. Moving on.
In Prometheus, a group of doctors and other assorted people of scientific importance descend on a faraway planet in search of the origins of human kind. In charge of the expedition are noble doctors (and current lovers) Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Elizabeth and Charlie have spent their lives tracking what they call “invitations” from unseen beings as to The Why of our race. And, now that they are closer than ever, things start to go a little wrong.
Their initial and main hindrance is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the Head Bitch in Charge who represents the company that footed the bill for the mission. Another character of great deception is David (Michael Fassbender), a robot who does exactly what he’s told… which has varying degrees of menace, depending on who’s doing the talking.
But really, Vickers and David are small potatoes compared to the shit Shaw and Co. find once they touch down on a seemingly isolated planet. I’m not going to go into what happens – just know that happens shit does. And them some. In truth (and rarely do I say this), Prometheus is 124 minutes long and could stand to be even longer. Its thrills are engaging, its frights and genuine and its aesthetic power is utterly mesmerizing.
Using as little CGI as possible, Ridley Scott, along with expert cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and countless other technical crewmembers, have crafted a film of pure visual wonderment. From the cold, wet caves found on the new planet, to the sweaty, claustrophobic rooms of the aircraft, Prometheus has the uncanny ability to lock viewers in and make them feel as though they’re there. An IMAX screen helps with this, as does a bit of reserved 3D, but no matter what dimension you’re in, Prometheus is visually mind blowing.
Equally impressive are the skills of practically every actor involved. Nearly as good here as she was as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, Noomi Rapace nails the varying nuisances of her performance with the proficiency of a pro. Several specific, differing emotions are demanded of Rapace in this performance, and she exudes all of them flawlessly. Elizabeth is the heart of the story – if we don’t trust in her, then the film could fail. Prometheus had the budget to cast whoever it wanted in its lead role. Props to Scott for giving Rapace a well deserved shot.
Logan Marshall-Green is an actor I had never seen before, or at least not remembered from duds like Devil and Brooklyn’s Finest, but what he does with Charlie is something that certainly isn’t going to merit any complaints from me. It isn’t an extraordinary performance, but it fits snuggly into the world Scott has created.
“Extraordinary” is a word best saved for Mr. Fassbender, the finest actor of his generation who has been kicking ass and taking names in various roles for the better part of two years. His David is the antithesis of Rapace’s performance; he never changes emotion, he never raises his voice or sweats out of panic. He calculates, manipulates, and operates within the confines of his robotic software. Playing a robot is tough – push too hard and you provoke laughter, save too much and you’re forgettable. Instead, Fassbender makes every line of dialogue and every subtle gesture an act of curiosity. When we hear David tell himself “big things have small beginnings,” it’s impossible to not smile at the actor’s exceptional prowess.
Now, it is typically my practice to list and detail the faults of a film as much as a do its strengths, but to be honest, plenty of people are being hard on Prometheus for what I consider unjust reasons. Is Marc Streitendfeld’s score puzzlingly out of place at times? Yes. Is Idris Elba’s southern accent as pointless as you might expect? Indeed. But, frankly, this is the month of June, and if I’m judging Prometheus based on the merits of other blockbusters released in this or any year, then I can confidently assert that this movie kicks a whole lot of ass. Discussing the few minor quibbles I have would be to reveal a litany of spoilers, which ain’t gonna happen.
The film is not without its faults, but let me put it this way: the minute Prometheus was done, I told myself that I had to see it again. Now. To the best of my recollection, that’s the first time I’ve felt that way about a movie this year. A-