What is your opinion of high school reunions? Some people love to catch up with old friends and relive their glory days as the football star or head cheerleader. Others view it as a painful reminder of being the outcast, bullied, or worse, ignored kid who suffered through those years and never wants to think about them again. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Taking a look back at where we came from and what made us who we are can be painful or enlightening; however, rarely is it ever as harrowing and possibly deadly as it is in this week’s movie, “Prometheus.”
Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner and lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered what seems to be a star map in the ancient cave drawings and artworks of diverse and unconnected civilizations around the world. Shaw and Holloway believe the drawings are an invitation by the advanced civilization they call Engineers that planted life on Earth to come for a visit. The pair takes their theory to super-rich industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) and convinces him to fund an expedition to the star system. After two years in suspended animation on board their spaceship called Prometheus, the crew of 17 is awakened by the artificial life form David (Michael Fassbender) who is a creation of the Weyland Corporation and has been monitoring the ship and their life signs during the flight. Along with Shaw and Holloway, the crew includes Capt. Janek (Idris Elba), medical officer Ford (Kate Dickie), geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall) and others. Representing the Weyland Corporation’s interests is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who quickly lets everyone know she is in charge and makes all the rules. As they approach their landing, Holloway sees a group of structures that appear to be artificial. Landing near one, several members of the crew suit up and begin to explore it. Inside, they discover a breathable atmosphere, several chambers and the body of a very tall humanoid life form that is missing its head. David, who has been studying dozens of languages of all types during the flight, begins pressing indentations in the wall which are part of a control panel and opens up a chamber. Inside they find the missing head of the alien, dozens of cylinders lined up on the floor and a giant sculpture of a very human-looking head. An approaching storm requires everyone to return to the ship, but David picks up one of the cylinders that have begun to ooze out a black fluid, and brings it along. David appears to be following different orders than everyone else and has his own agenda but who is giving him his orders? What is the black fluid? Who does the giant sculpted head represent? How did the alien lose his head? Is this where all life on Earth came from?
The answers to these and many other questions are available to those who wish to buy a ticket to see “Prometheus.” It is well worth the price of admission even if you are unfamiliar with director Ridley Scott’s 1979 film “Alien” to which “Prometheus” is a prequel. “Alien” left several questions about the titular character and the discoveries on the planet unanswered. “Prometheus” answers many of those questions and posits many more. At its heart, “Prometheus” is a film about seeking meaning to our existence by looking to the stars. It also finds that the answer to that age-old question may be wholly unnerving.
The first thing I noticed about the movie was how good it looks. I saw the 3D version and while it isn’t a requirement to pay the extra bucks for the added dimension, the addition of depth gives the film a more natural look and involves the audience in the environment in a way most other 3D films do not. The landscapes are starkly beautiful. Mostly consisting of rocky deserts and rolling green plains, the locations selected for the film suggest otherworldly environs even when they are on Earth. The set design is also spectacular thanks largely to the original designs from “Alien.” Given what I’m sure was a massive budget Scott is able to replicate the look and feel of the original “Alien” on a much grander scale. The detailed surroundings of the alien structure make the bizarre world seem very real and believable. It’s a lush and sumptuous looking film.
While many of the characters are types, the actors play them with enough nuances to make them interesting people. Rapace’s Shaw is the idealistic scientist hoping to answer the Big Questions about life and what comes after. Her curiosity about the afterlife is colored by the death of her mother at a young age. Marshall-Green’s Holloway is more of a pragmatist who wants to ask the Big Questions directly to the Engineers. Theron’s Vickers plays the corporate lackey with the kind of cold detachment one would expect but she also can be fiery and dangerous if need be. The rest of the cast fills out their roles as types and eventual victims very well. The most interesting character is Fassbender’s David. The android that doesn’t seem to follow Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics operates without compassion, without mercy and without a conscious. He makes decisions based solely on the orders given to him by an unseen entity who isn’t interested in the safety of the crew. It’s a chilling character simply because he can lie without remorse and possibly kill to follow his programmed commands.
“Prometheus” is rated R for sci-fi violence, brief language and some intense images. Alien creatures attack a couple of crewmen and leave them looking kind of gross. We watch a robotic surgery performed on a conscious patient. Two characters are set on fire. There are a couple of scenes of characters being beaten to death. One character infected by alien cells has what appears to be a worm crawling out of his eye. Since this is an “Alien” type film there is naturally a creature bursting from someone’s chest. Foul language is scattered.
I am a sci-fi fan from way back and I clearly remember watching “Alien” with a friend at a theatre not long after it first came out. Me and the crowd were awed and shaken by the images on the screen. It’s a film that has stuck with me for over three decades and if I catch it on TV I will still watch it with the same thrill I had all those years ago. While “Prometheus” is a different kind of film it still thrills in its own way. It’s a deeper, more complex film that asks big questions in an entertaining way. The ending of the film suggests the possibility of a sequel and I’m already looking forward to finding out if there are answers still to be discovered in space where no one can hear you scream.
“Prometheus” gets five guitars.
The big screen version of a Broadway musical and the product of an inappropriate student/teacher relationship are the subjects of this week’s new movies. Vote on which film I see and review.
Rock of Ages—Small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock 'n' roll romance is told through the hits of Def Leppard, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.
That’s My Boy—While still in his teens, Donny fathered a son, Todd, and raised him as a single parent up until Todd's 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd's world comes crashing down on the eve of his wedding when an uninvited Donny suddenly shows up.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently playing.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.