Prometheus (20th Century Fox, R)

prometheus-movie-poster-by-midnight-marauder-3-150x150The film suffers from what I’m going to call The George Lucas Effect.

 

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A heady mystery has surrounded Prometheus since word circulated that director Ridley Scott was at work on another space movie. Did this mean that the long-desired Alien prequel had come to fruition? Would it take place in the same world created by that famed film? Could it be as awesome as Alien, if not awesomer?

Not wanting to ruin any surprises, I can tell you two things: If you loved Alien, you won’t be disappointed. And, also, if you loved Alien, you will be very disappointed.

The crew of the spaceship Prometheus has a very clear goal: explore the life-sustaining moon of a faraway planet to see if an alien race planted the seeds of humanity on Earth. Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead a team of explorers who soon see that things can go from bad to worse to downright scary pretty fast.

Lovers of popcorn-movie spectacle will enjoy the visuals. Every inch of the alien world and the beings that belong to it are a feast for the eyes. As alluded to in the trailer, there’s some creepiness to behold, which will keep you on your toes. The film’s idea of technology, both our own toward the end of this century and ancient alien tech, shows us some blessedly new things. There’s an emergency surgery near the end of the movie that will likely take your breath away as much as it freaks you all the way out.

And yet, the cloak-and-dagger secrecy behind the plot of the movie is mostly unwarranted. Not only will any sci-fi geek worth their salt know what they’re getting into with Prometheus, but the standard tropes aren’t even fulfilled very well.

It shouldn’t shock anyone, for instance, that there’s a ragtag band of mostly nameless, soon-to-be sacrifices aboard ship. But, since we never get to know most of them, we couldn’t care less about their survival. Plus, none of them seems as intelligent as we’d assume one would need to be to score a gig like this. Early on, two of these supposedly important individuals do something so inexplicably mindless that you wonder how they managed to finish school, much less go on to do big, important science stuff.

The crew is watched over by hard-ass company drone Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who’s trying to keep the mission on track. Prometheus wants her to be the human face of villainy, but the filmmakers don’t give us nearly enough to go on. Vickers wants to protect the crew and the ship her company spent trillions on, and make sure she gets her butt back to Earth. Isn’t that what pretty much anyone in that situation would want?

I can best describe the plot by saying it’s muddled. Characters are thought to be dead, found to be alive, and then killed for real without saying or doing anything meaningful. Secrets are revealed that don’t mean anything for the film or the audience that’s paying attention. People who appear smart do stupid things for stupid reasons. And when evil is unleashed, it behaves very differently in each instance, following not any rules of the world that’s been created, but the desires of how the filmmakers needed it to act at that time.

You’ll spot a ton of loose ends when the credits roll on Prometheus, but it’s possible that none will be so maddening as the exact desires of that alien race. Did they actually create humanity? If so, why did they turn on us so violently? We never find out.

Prometheus suffers from what I’m going to call The George Lucas Effect. After years of hearing “When can we have more of that? When? When!?” the director finally put something together. But, by this time, he’s too big of a legend to censure. There’s no one to say, “Sorry, the script doesn’t make complete sense. Can we try this again?” Or, “Hey, good work so far, but the dialogue kinda sucks. Can we try this again?” So, we end up with Prometheus, the film equivalent of a fresh-baked cookie: It looks good on the outside, but will always leave you hungry for more. | Adrienne Jones

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