"Prometheus" is a masterpiece -- in a parallel universe where Ridley Scott's grand ideas actually go somewhere, are fully realized and converge in a beautiful dark way similar to the climax scenes of "Alien," "Blade Runner and "Gladiator."
But we live in this universe, where Bruce Jenner's daughters inexplicably are celebrities, jhorts are a fashion statement and "Prometheus" is a good popcorn film. But it could've been so much better. Then you realize the plot holes that lie expose as large as gashes across the Grand Canyon.
I should've figured it was too much to expect that the long-rumored "Alien" prequel would finally be revealed in all of its gooey glory. Sure, there are lengthy, indirect connections between "Prometheus" and "Alien," as you'll see in the final scene. But don't call it a prequel. In fact, it'd be unfair to even try to compare the two. It seems that, to some extent, Ridley attempts to gives us a 21st century version of "Alien," Except that silence and shadows and compelling, strong, believeable characters were key in "Alien." You could view it today and little of its fright, its shock value, has worn off since 1979. The movie was organic, free-flowing and competent.
But with "Prometheus," Ridley had to tease us with questions about mankind's origins. I'm not surprised screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof fills our heads with philosophical thoughts about who/what created human beings. Was it God? Was it some other intellectually, technologically superior creature eons ago elsewhere in the universe? And if it were the latter, what happened to them?
Not that I totally expected to receive a definitive answer, Ridley's version of "Chariots of the Gods," about advanced beings from long ago traveling across the universe, eventually planting humanity's seed on Earth, to what ends we wouldn't know. The problem, however, is "Prometheus" tries to be everything to everyone: A surprising, dark sci-fi/horror film with the highest production values; a metaphysical tale exploring the ultimate questions of existence; a commercialism vs. science vs. religion morality tale. Audacious, yes, but the movie falls flat at all levels in the second hour.
There's an absence of originality and consistent pacing. Plot holes and implausibilities increase in number. So much time is spent exploring a dark, temple-like "cavern" that turns out to be something else (OK, fine, I'll spare you a spoiler), but this dark, oily stuff that appears to be alive, teeming with mysterious organisms -- is this the impetus for the giant, slithery, murderous, acid blood-filled xenomorphs that Ridley and James Cameron introduced us to in "Alien" and "Aliens"? Who knows? I don't think the writers knew. The temple-like cavern? I'll say this much: Leave it to the ornery captain of the ship Prometheus to pretty much explain the fate of the so-called "engineers" of the human race. And suddenly, in one fail swoop, one scientists tasks him to stop the engineers and save Earth.
Aside from inconsistencies in the story and screenwriting, and random actions with unclear motives, I'm disappointed in the lack of tension. The scientists neither sound nor act like scientists. That's particularly unnerving because they, along with a blue-collar piloting crew and a few hangers-on for security, are on a trillion-dollar corporation-led venture that is suppose to find the meaning of life on some planet light years away from Earth.
The supposedly scary scenes? Some are gory but hardly shocking. And while it has an air of disbelief, perhaps the hardcore scene to receive some admiration is Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the de facto heroine, who panics upon receiving news that she's pregnant -- with an alien fetus. And she's about to give birth right...about...oh wait! There's the newfangled plot device Dr. Shaw gushed over earlier in the movie, an otherwise cool do-it-yourself medical portal where she undergoes a very VERY fast C-section to extract her little bundle of squid.
Don't get me wrong. The special effects are wonderful, as they should be. Ridley Scott films are often visually arresting. The acting isn't bad. Noomi Rapace has come a long way in a short time, from antisocial cyberpunk Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy to Dr. Shaw, who ultimately undergoes a semi-terrifying battle of wills and chills in the climax of "Prometheus." But by no means does Rapace's performance rival those of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in the first two classic "Alien" films.
I expected more from the cold, detached corporate leader played by Charlize Theron. Her presence commands attention, and she does well, but is nearly wasted and is Idris Elba as the aforementioned ship captain. Perhaps the best performance comes from Michael Fassbender as David, the android. He's self-assured and emotes well with a mere flinch. He joins a small, exclusive family of solid android portrayals in previous "Alien" movies such as Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen. And Guy Peace as the really old multi-billionaire -- that's a mystery unto itself.
But that's all there is. Methinks Spaihts, who gave us the craptastic "The Darkest Hour," provided the mostly uninspired action scenes. Of course, Lindelof of "Lost" fame probably provided the big philosophical ideas that eventually fall apart. "Prometheus" may be added to my private movie collection one day, but as filler, to kill two hours. It's, sadly, not the flick many of us thought we'd admire as the next great piece of intelligent sci-fi/horror cinema.