Synopsis: Scientists travel to a distant moon looking for humanoid “ancestors.” (Streaming on Amazon)
Prometheus has a visually arresting opening sequence. A humanoid who looks like a bald Greco-Roman statue on steroids stands at the precipice of a waterfall, the surrounding landscape strewn with lava rock (hello, Iceland). A space blimp hangs high overhead. I thought that the statue-human might do an awesome dive to demonstrate their preternatural athleticism. But, no, the loin-clothed behemoth downs a blech-y looking liquid- -imagine liquid charcoal. The creature starts wretching like he just had kale juice and then, as the water crashes below…
Well, no spoilers. Cut to 2089 on the Isle of Skye as two archaeologists , Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Swedish version) and her boyfriend, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Green) uncover cave paintings of humans looking up at a constellation. They celebrate the find because it supposedly is a map to the home planet of, yes, ancient aliens. I take it that they were greatly influenced by the show Ancient Aliens. While I think we should just be glad that none of these pyramid builders and crop circle fans colonized the Earth, people can’t leave well enough alone…
Not long after, the archaeologist couple join an expedition on the spaceship Prometheus. According to my phone, in Greek mythology he was the god of fire and creator of mortals. The poor titan was later victimized by Zeus who sent an eagle to eat his liver. No liver-eating in this flick.
Anyway, there are about a dozen people onboard and they’ve been in cryo sleep for the past two years. An android named David (Michael Fassbender) wanders the ship , biding his time bicycling and watching the classic film, Lawrence of Arabia. He seems to be a big fan of the titular character portrayed by Peter O’Toole. He imitates his speaking manner and adopts his hairstyle. I wondered if he watched some of his other film work, like 2008’s Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage where he plays the painter’s artistic mentor. Hmm, a questionable contribution to Art.
The android –let’s just call him Fassy– wakes up the crew as they approach their destination. First to shake off their space slumber is the boss. You should know that the filmmakers use the James Cameron One Note Character template for everyone. Boss Meredith (Charlize Theron) is an ice queen who, like many MBA’s, is an ambitious bully. She struts around in a Mao suit by way of Dior. And they must have great hair products in the near future because her pale tresses always look tidy and shiny.
Charlize is very rude to Fassy. At one point in the movie, she even batters him for no good reason! I don’t know the legal status of androids, but she must, at the very least, be violating his warranty.
Presently, everyone else is revived by Fassy and summoned to a mandatory meeting wherein a rich old man hologram informs them that they’re on a grand journey. These fools signed up for a multi-year stint in space without knowing anything beyond their job titles.
I was better prepared because I knew that director Ridley Scott had tied the story into the Alien world. (Prometheus takes place about thirty years prior to the events in Alien.) Yes, I was prepared for danger. I sized up the crew, guessing who would be expendable, ie., relatively unknown actors. One of the actors is “Glare Face, Red Mohawk.” Another is “I Wear Glasses.” Watch out non-celebs!
Idris Elba’s character is “Cowboy” aka Captain Jarek. He has what can best be described as a cowboy accent– neither western, nor southern, but very movie-esque. I figured that he, Charlize and Fassy would survive because of the fame factor. Also, an android can usually weather a lot. There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation wherein Data gets blown up, but next thing you know, his severed head is calmly talking to Captain Picard.
Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth is the protagonist; not a big star, but I figured she won’t be killed off. But if she is, may the ghost of Ripley /Sigourney Weaver haunt the filmmakers. Wait, I think her character survives the Alien movies. in that case, a hologram could at least wake up Ridley Scott in the middle of the night with remonstrances. I was really pulling for the character Elizabeth because Noomi adds nuance to her archaeologist character, who is commendably knowledgeable. Like all movie scientists, she seems to know everything about a wide range of subjects including biology, physics and kickboxing.
The other archaeologist, Noomi’s boyfriend, Holloway– ugh! You’ll be hoping that someone shoves him back into a cryo sleep pod. He’s the “rock star” archetype, tossing off obnoxious wisecracks to all but his girlfriend. He’s wise to not expose his girlfriend to too much of his personality lest she shun his frequent sexual overtures.
So! We reach the moon pretty early on in the movie, just long enough to establish that Noomi is the only likable character, so that we know to root for her when the s**t, or in this case, goo hits the fan. More on the goo in a minute…
Idris pilots the craft to the surface of what looks like an overlap of Iceland and New Mexico, devoid of any life. Or is it?
The ‘big secret’ is that the crew has been hired to find the space creatures who sprinkled our planet with some of their DNA. They call the creatures “Engineers” because Ancient Aliens was already overused in the History Channel series.
I shan’t let you in on the movie’s surprises, but I can tell you that things don’t go as planned. I can also tell you that they explore caves. Caves that may or may not be dangerous. They are. I for one wasn’t overly impressed with the been-there-seen-that set designs, sort of a Raiders of the Lost Ark look. I did like the two-story knock off of an Easter Island Moai. (Referred to by those in the know as The Big Head.) There’s also lots of black goo. The crew are suspicious of the goo, but Fassy smudges it between his android fingers and quotes Lawrence of Arabia: Big things have small beginnings. Spooky!
At various junctures in Prometheus, people scream, run, fight, scream some more and perform major surgery on themselves. In order to save their life, one of the crew has to act fast: jab themselves with an (inadeqaute) anesthetic, jump in a surgery pod, scream-request the procedure they need and then slice, slice, SCREAM, ka-junk, ka-junk (that’s the sound of the huge incision being stapled), open pod, scream and run from the room. Yes, run.
I can suspend my disbelief quite a bit. Ancient aliens? Sure. But attempting to run less than thirty seconds after surgery and not going into shock and collapsing? Sorry, we all have our limits.
Do you know the story of the Prometheus tree? In 1964 a researcher was out in the field in Nevada, collecting core samples from trees. His corer got stuck in a Great Basin bristlecone pine. A passing ranger helped him fell the tree to retrieve the tool. The grad student began counting the rings. Uh, oh. The tree was more than five thousand years old. So now this living repository of millenia was dead and gone, onto the junk heap of ecological history, with the Aral Sea and the Passenger Pigeon.
In the years since Prometheus was released in 2012, the movie has garnered somewhat of a cult following, though not as big as director Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). But, to me, the two films ask similar questions: Why, oh Why, do humans have to f**k up stuff? Why can’t people leave well enough alone?
But that’s not enough for people, is it? They go carelessly jabbing at resting bats in caves on Earth and go to caves on moons and jab at goo there. Maybe those Ancient aliens could’ve left towering cuneiforms that advised: Tread Lightly and No Jabbing.
In conclusion, Prometheus can serve future star academy students well as a cautionary tale.
P.S. Risk space madness & read Movie Loon’s review of the documentary, Apollo 11 https://movieloon.blog/2019/04/06/apollo-11/
P.S.S. Find out how Matt Damon survives on Mars in Movie Loon’s review of The Martian https://movieloon.blog/?s=the+martian