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Movie Review of "Prometheus"
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Idris Alba, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris
After discovering a clue to the origins of mankind in a cave in Scotland, a group of scientists set out into deep space to search for the answers to the questions they have about the origins of man. Their journey takes them to a distant planet, where they discover a threat that could wipe out the human race.
What's Good About the Movie?:
Prior to seeing Prometheus, I read a Christian movie review on Crosswalk.com, which stated that the film's story is a “slap in the face to believers in a Divine Creator.” Well, I'm a believer, and I'm here to report that my face was left un-slapped by the movie. The way I interpreted Prometheus was that it was not a movie that attacks beliefs, nor does it endorse any. Instead, it is a movie that simply asks questions. Questions about the origins and purpose of man. Questions it doesn't pretend to have the answers to. It raises these questions because, I think, it wants the audience to think about them for themselves, and to draw their own conclusions. Prometheus doesn't have some secret agenda. Like its leading heroine, Christian scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), it's simply curious.
The movie gets off to a spell-binding start. Opening up with a breath taking montage of shots of some possible alien planet, we then cut to a pale humanoid standing on a high ridge near a waterfall. It drinks something, begins to vomit, and falls into the water while its body starts to decay. Who was this being? Why was it alone? Why did it drink what it drank? We later learn, when our heroes find the body of another pale humanoid and test its DNA, that it's DNA structure is a direct match to our own. Some of the crew members assume that because of this, they must have played some part in our creation. Shaw even considers that a possibility, but stands by her faith when it's challenged by one of the other crew members. “Who created them?” she retorts.
What's smart about Prometheus is that while Darwinism and Creationism are introduced as possibilities for our existence, neither one of them are seen as the answer. The final shot of the movie shows Elizabeth journeying into the great unknown in an alien space craft, determined to find the answers to the questions that have been raised over the course of the film. That the humainoids they find share the same DNA as us could be evidence of a Creator, and that said humanoids are products of the same Creator. Or there could be a strictly scientific explanation for their existence, as many believe about human beings. Not all the narrative threads are tied up in the end of the film, which allows the movie to retain its air of mystery right to the very end.
But let's not kid ourselves. The movie isn't advertised as a discourse in philosophy; it's advertised as a monster movie, and in that regard, Prometheus more than delivers the goods. The movie is directed by Ridley Scott, who is certainly no stranger to the science fiction genre (Prometheus is a prequel, of sorts, to his 1979 horror film Alien) The creature effects are gruesomely effective (the giant albino humanoid in the end was particularly horrifying), and some of the set-pieces are bound to leave many viewers squirming in their seats (there is a scene where the infertile Elizabeth becomes impregnated with a baby alien, and has to perform a Cesarean section on herself). Visually speaking, the movie is a triumph. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski is jaw-droppingly beautiful (this is especially true for the film's mysterious and hypnotic opening sequence), and the production design by Arthur Max, set decoration by Sonja Klaus, and art direction (credited to eight different people) are wonders to behold.
The acting is also surprisingly excellent (save for one; more on her in the next section). Noomi Rapace creates a strong, vulnerable, and surprisingly complex character out of Elizabeth Shaw, and Idris Alba brings a lot of charisma to the role as Prometheus' captain, Janek. Michael Fassbender continues to prove that he's one of the most talented actors working in the business as the android David, and an almost unrecognizable Guy Pearce is actually quite engaging as the man responsible for the expedition.
What's Bad About the Film?:
There are a lot of questions raised in the film that are never addressed, which I thought worked in the movie's favor, but many will probably find maddening. Some of the characters are guilty of making stupid horror movie mistakes (one character decides to break away from the group when they go exploring the catacombs on the planet, and, of course, they get lost). And while Charlize Theron turns in a strong performance in the earlier moments of the film, she becomes less and less interesting as the movie progresses (and the twist involving her character is perhaps the only moment in the film where I rolled my eyes).
The climax is sort of hit and miss as well. It has some of the most extravagant images in the film (ie the scene where Elizabeth and Meredith run from an exploding alien ship is quite impressive), but it also kind of ends things on a whimper. It was already mention that the albino humanoid was impressively rendered, but what he's made to do in the climax is sort of shrug worthy. And the scene where the humanoid battles it out with a giant alien creature was especially disappointing. It wasn't exciting in any way shape or form.
In spite of its faults, Prometheus is one of the better films released this summer. Like the best science fiction films of yore, it delivers the eye-catching special effects and thrills one would expect, but it also feeds the mind at the same time. It's proof positive that a special-effects heavy blockbuster doesn't have to be brain-dead in order to be successful.
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)
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