Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prometheus / **** (R)

Dr. Elizabeth Shaw: Noomi Rapace
David: Michael Fassbender
Meredith Vickers: Charlize Theron
Janek: Idris Elba
Peter Weyland: Guy Pearce
Dr. Charlie Holloway: Logan Marshall-Green
Fifield: Sean Harris
Millburn: Rafe Spall

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Based on elements created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Running time: 124 min. Rated R (for sci-fi violence including some intense images and brief language).

“God doesn’t make straight lines”
                                                —Dr. Charlie Holloway, “Prometheus”.

This is the line uttered by a scientist who thinks he’s discovered the planet that holds the secret to the origins of the human race. He travels to this planet in the year 2093 with his partner and a crew of specialists who have no knowledge of the purpose of their trip until they wake from their hyper-sleep two years after leaving Earth. “Where do we come from?” is a question that fascinates some more than others.

It’s important to note that the planetoid they’ve traveled to is a moon known as LV-223, a similar—but not the same—planetoid as the one depicted in the 1979 sci-fi horror classic “Alien”. Directed by that film’s same director, “Prometheus” is an exploration that came as a surprise to many that Ridley Scott would be willing to take so many years after the movie that launched his illustrious career. Where Scott takes his audience in this “prequel” is just as surprising. Those people expecting to see another movie that consists mostly of silver-toothed aliens popping out of people’s chests will be sorely disappointed. Oh, there are creepy crawly things finding their ways inside people’s bodies, but Scott is interested in something grander than shock and awe this time around.

Dr. Holloway’s statement suggests the nature of the questions that are gnawing at Scott these days, and in “Prometheus” he asks them with abandon. He’s not as interested in providing the answers, if there are answers to the questions he asks. Dr. Holloway’s statement is presumptuous and lacks some enlightenment for which he will pay a price. But Holloway is not the hero of this story. In the tradition of many of Scott’s films, it is his partner, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, who takes the strong female lead. Noomi Rapace, who gained fame as the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is a fitting replacement for Sigourney Weaver to fight her own discovery and the system that made it possible this time around.

Accompanying the doctors on their expedition is David, an artificial human that continues the tradition of android characters in this franchise. As played by Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class”) it is no secret to the crew that David is artificial, yet his agenda isn’t any less hidden than that of the android in “Alien”. Touting the company line of the Weyland Corporation, which funded the exploration, is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, “Snow White and the Huntsman”), who knows some of David’s agenda, but is foggy on the details of its execution. The ship’s pilot (Idris Elba, “Luther”) is the anchor of the crew. Logan Marshall-Green (“Devil”) portrays Dr. Holloway as a man confused in his own faith, something he lacks spiritually and possibly scientifically as well.

Although the movie only indirectly references those giant bugs we’ve come to love over the years, there are plenty of references in Scott’s production design to keep “Alien” diehards happy. The design of the Prometheus ship is almost identical to the Nostromo from the ’79 film. Some of the interior sets are exactly the same. The table where they eat is slightly more detailed than the original film, but it gives shivers for those who remember what happened there when the Nostromo set down. Another iconic set from the original plays a big role in the events here.

Other areas of the production design are more magnificent to reflect the greater dimensions of the themes explored. The aliens the crew seek out for the secrets to man’s origins are quite impressive. The planetoid has a mountainous landscape that suggests what the Earth may have been before the oceans formed its continents into the configuration we know.

While the script by Jon Spaiht (“The Darkest Hour”) and “Lost” scribe Damon Lindelof retains reflections of the corporation and mother themes of the “Alien” films, they write the details of their story in a manner that promotes the debatable nature of the new themes introduced here. It may take several viewings to figure out just what was going on under the rock of LV-223. Even study is unlikely to yield a positive conclusion, which I think is part of the point. What would we do if we had the answers we seek about our purpose in this world? Would it even matter? David asks Holloway at one point why people made him. The doctor answers, “Because we could.” “How disappointed would you be if your engineers had the same answer for you?” the android asks.

Not much of what Holloway perceives is incredibly enlightened despite his intelligence. His statement about God not making straight lines is just as questionable as his answer to David. Did not God make us? And we make straight lines. The creators they seek here certainly make straight lines. As our creators, are they not God? David may be the straightest line man has created up to the period of history depicted here. Even David doesn’t seem as perfect as he’s supposed to be. Perhaps God isn’t any more perfect than his greatest creation. Or perhaps even God evolves. I’m sure those words will get me in trouble somewhere, but the gift we were given to reach enlightenment was that of thought. So think about it.

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