Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated return to science fiction is immensely ambitious and visually stunning, but sloppy writing and some lackluster performances prevent Prometheus from truly living up to its potential.
While waiting in line to buy some body wash and a bag of Swedish Fish (shut up, it was $1.99) this morning at Rite Aid, I walked into a conversation between two of the employees discussing the movie. One said, “Hey, by the way, what was the deal with the giant *SPOILER REMOVED* at the end?” His buddy’s response to that question? “Dude. Were you even watching the movie?”
That’s what I most admire about Prometheus. Like all good science fiction, it doesn’t provide a gift-wrapped answer with a shiny bow-tie for every question it poses. Some of the loftiest inquiries faced by mankind are explored here. Where did we come from? Why do we exist? What is our purpose? The film poses these questions and doesn’t do a whole lot to answer them. But that’s ok. I don’t expect it to. The movie leaves many things up to the interpretation of the viewer, which makes for a stimulating and rewarding experience. The concept behind this origin story to the Alien series is astounding and imaginative, but Lindelof and Spaiht’s mediocre screenplay contains too many plot holes and oversights to truly elevate Prometheus as one of the great sci-fi films. I could go on and on about all of the awful screenplay decisions, but to avoid spoilers I’ll simply tell you that you’ll find yourself constantly saying, “Wait. What? Why?”
The dialogue is poorly written, which when paired up with some truly awful acting makes for multiple cringe-worthy scenes. Logan Marshall-Green is particularly awful as Dr. Holloway. Fortunately, these shortcomings are redeemed somewhat by Michael Fassbender’s wonderful turn as David, an android working aboard the Prometheus. He steals every scene, reminding us all that he’s one of the great actors working today. Noomi Rapace turns in a fine performance as well as the leading lady, but the rest of the cast fails virtually across the board. Even veterans Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce stumble through the awkward script.
All that aside, Prometheus is a masterpiece of design and haunting images. The films boasts Scott’s trademark arresting visuals, from the sweeping vistas to the elaborate set pieces. Every shot in the film is awe-inspiring and a marvel of technical achievement. It’s an exercise in world-building, and the movie excels in that way like very few sci-fi movies that I’ve seen. From start to finish, I found myself entranced by everything on the screen, despite the fact that I was watching dim-witted characters make awful decisions continuously. If one thing is certain, it’s that Prometheus is a stunning visual treat.
While it may not excel in all regards, Prometheus should please all but the most pretentious sci-fi fans. Despite the missteps, I admire the ambition of the movie as a Hollywood blockbuster that attempts to do more than blow shit up. With a more competent screenplay, I have no doubt that Prometheus would have stood up against, and maybe even eclipsed Scott’s early sci-fi masterpieces, Alien and Blade Runner. Here’s to hoping that the subsequent films in the Alien origin story improve upon this already remarkable exploration of faith and the metaphysical.