I have long been a fan of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction (think, R is For Rocket) and Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movies because I like the way mixing humans with robotic and alien life forms seems to bring out the best and worst of humanity. “Prometheus” is an engaging and wondrous movie, and a worthy addition to the Ridley Scott pantheon of movies about lonely doomed space ships travelling the cosmos and lonely doomed droids (“Alien” (1979) “Blade Runner” (1982)). This is Scott’s first sci-fi movie since “Blade Runner.” It begins at the dawn of time with a space ship delivering a giant pale creature who tumbles into a waterfall, spreading DNA to young planet earth. In the year 2089 the heroes of the movie, scientist lovers Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find cave paintings pointing to the star origins of these “engineer” spaceships and they are on their way.
I liked the characters in this one. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is a plucky, sincere scientist bent on making contact with the engineers. Holloway, also a scientist, has kind of a bad boy slacker vibe, unusual for a scientist. The most enigmatic character is David (Michael Fassbender), a human-like droid who is perky, unflappable and has patterned himself after Peter O’Toole’s performance in “Lawrence of Arabia.” Like most droids he seems to resent his lack of full humanity and this breeds an agenda. Being a droid also makes him a savior, a flawless tech-charged superhero, and David seems drawn to the God-like nature of the engineers. Vickers (Charlize Theron) is the corporate manager of this space venture, and she gives orders and sashays around the ship with enough droid-like detachment to question how human she is. Weirdly, David refers to her as “mommy.”
So the crew lands on this drab, rocky planet and they take off in cool dune buggies wearing oval aquarium heads which thunk into each other and they have no idea of the catastrophes that await. Something I appreciate about Ridley Scott is his mixture of live action with actors in wild locations, engaging sets, and special effects. The focus is on the actors in their futuristic costuming, with holograms or goopy liquids in supporting roles. The Ridley Scott way of doing things seems more real to me than full CGI movies. To me going full “Avatar” is a bit too cartoonish, and it leaves me cold.
Another staple of doomed spaceship movies is crew dissension. The crew of Prometheus wakes up from their liquid time suspension capsules (a movie device so accepted it is practically settled science) and sit on folding chairs to watch a holographic presentation from the wrinkly septuagenarian founder of the Weyland Corp, the underwriter of the voyage. They are immediately cranky and have no idea what they have signed up for or the degree of danger they will be exposed to (spoiler alert: extreme maximum danger). Who signs up for two years of suspension to a distant galaxy without asking a few basic questions?
There is alot of great action in this movie, be it droid basketball feats, wildly savage attacks from mutant crew members, huge keeling spaceships rolling in the desert, or self-operations performed inside iPad vending machines. The usual Ridley Scott questions of alien life are asked: Should we embrace alien life forms out there? Should we kill them out of fear, or should we run for our lives because they are out to destroy us? The struggles of these characters bring these questions to life in some new and intriguing ways. The ending has sequel written all over it, but still satisfies. Check it out, I found it worth the price of admission.