Here’s a piece of trivia — it’s been 30 years since Ridley Scott directed a sci-fi movie. In 1982, Scott cast a vision of the future as a bleak dystopia in Blade Runner where big corporate entities cast shadows over a human existence struggling to find meaning. Three years before that, he directed, Alien, a film that melded two genres, horror and sci-fi, and was summed up with the tagline, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Alien is perhaps Scott’s most popular movie , so when news that Scott was returning to that universe and building a prequel, news swirled with contradicting iinterviews and reports. Now that Prometheus has landed, it’s evident why Scott didn’t want to attract moviegoers by playing up the association with Alien. In Prometheus, Scott has created a compelling sci-fi masterpiece less concerned with how those acid-blooded creatures were created and putting humanity front and center with all of our complications and redundancies.
Noomi Rapace stars as Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist/explorer whose life is dedicated to finding out how humans came to be. After discovering a map to an alien world, she and her significant other, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), fly through space courtesy of Weyland Industries aboard the titular Prometheus. Evidence of extra-terrestrial life is immediately evident as they land, and the explorers are off in a hurry to find answers for the creation of humankind. What they find is some parts curious, some parts mysterious, and altogether fearful as they learn more about the past and its implications for the future of humanity.
It’s a deep film with excellent characterization, tight script, and beautiful cinematography. While some movies introduce their characters in such an obvious way that also trivializes said character, Prometheus is filled with people and other beings who unfold in ways that unravel the plot and push the story forward. Details are key because of the intricate web that connects characters, motivations, and themes. There’s a whole lot of mystery, and Prometheus doesn’t spend much time laying it all out or explaining what’s happening — in fact, even after the movie is finished, audience members may come out of the theater asking more questions. There are absolutes that would need plenty of screentime to be explained away, and that’s not what Scott is aiming for. What he’s produced is a fantastic story full of wonder for the unknown, fear for the same, and doing what must be done to make sure what you don’t know doesn’t kill you. Rapace is amazing, and Michael Fassbender’s android David, a fascinating blend of Peter O’Toole and a psychotic child, is superb. The movie’s relationship to Alien isn’t the drive; one can make the argument that Prometheus is the root and Alien the offshoot. It hardly matters — there’s something here that’s fresh and exciting. Like DNA strands and genealogies, Prometheus is a product of threads and connective elements. Combined, it’s a powerful entry in the franchise and one that adds an entirely new element, or maybe brings back the fire, to the Alien mythology.