2 hours, 4 minutes
When Ridley Scott announced he was returning to the universe that made him famous, specifically that of 1979's "Alien," the online nerd-o-sphere went nuts. "It's a prequel!" "No, it's not!" "It has the Alien!" "No it doesn't!" "It's about the Space Jockey!" "It's about God!" "It's about the ALIEN!!!"
The spouting and foaming and pontificating and wild verbal gesticulation was unending. For almost a year I've been hearing about the coming -- the second coming, you might say -- of Scott's "Prometheus," a film that, by the director's own admission "shares some DNA with 'Alien'" but is something altogether different.
Though a little frustrating on some levels, Ridley Scott has achieved something epic, and not just another "Alien" movie. The opening scenes provide us with a glimpse into the introduction of life on this planet, and it all just goes from there. Fast forwarding several million years, we are introduced to archeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, the former played well by the original Lisbeth Salander herself, Noomi Rapace. The scientists have discovered a star map in a cave in Scotland that provides compelling evidence that extraterrestrial beings visited Earth and gave direction to primitive cultures -- that these "Engineers" as they are called, may actually be our makers. Jump ahead again several years, to the state-of-the-art research vessel Prometheus, tasked with following the aforementioned star map to its end and finding out what there is to know. The ship arrives at its destination, a moon of a large ringed gas giant in a distant solar system, after a two-plus year journey, whereupon David, an advanced android, wakes up the passengers from hypersleep.
Funded by the powerful Weyland corporation, the crew of scientists, including our intrepid archeologists, are instructed to explore, but not engage. This is just the kind of advice that scientists in these kind of movies tend to ignore, much to their detriment, so you can imagine what happens next. This philosophical journey to the stars is about to get very messy.
The characters are of varying degrees of interest. I very much liked principles Rapace, ship's captain Janek, played by Idris Elba, and company representative Meridith Vickers, played by Charlize Theron. The rest of the scientists are throwaway characters, with the exception of my favorite, Michael Fassbender's David.
The movie, in some ways, is really about David, his existence as a created being mirroring the other characters' search for their creator. What makes him fascinating is Fassbender's ability to imbue a character with no supposed emotion, with such levels of underlying feeling. David, unlike his companions, has met his creator, and has found him lacking. It's his performance, never flashy, that drives the plot, if not the action, in my opinion.
One thing missing is an element of "Prometheus'" viral marketing campaign -- specifically the rise of corporate backer and mega-billionaire, Peter Weyland, played by Guy Pierce. If anything, I could have used a little more early character development, perhaps with David's "youth," and Weyland's ascendancy.
As much as "Prometheus" gets right, there are few things it gets wrong. There is a major character, who I won't spoil, who is severely under-used. Also, the scientists, once on the alien world, often do and say things that seem out of character with such highly qualified individuals. This has been written about ad nauseam by the online bloggers. This criticism is, however, a little nitpicky. Here's an example. Upon landing on the moon, the explorers pack up and head off to examine a massive, roughly domed structure. Once inside, one scientist, upon checking his instruments, exclaims, "Hey, the air in here is breathable!" Almost immediately he begins to take off his helmet to prove the point, much to the consternation of the other members of his party.
OK, I'll grant you this is a terrible idea, and a mistake that almost no actual scientist would probably make. But to the vociferous critics I would also say, "Come on!" Have these guys never seen a sci-fi movie? I feel like that happens in nearly every one I own.
I think if I were Ridley Scott, I would throw up my hands and say, "Forget it!" After months of breathless speculation, the internet geeks are frothing mad, and I don't understand why. No, "Prometheus" isn't perfect. There are issues of logic and a few plot holes to get around, I'll admit. And no, the film doesn't ultimately answer all the questions it raises, leaving for some head-scrathing and philosophizing in the parking lot after the show.
But it does what the fans ask for -- what they say they want. "Prometheus" is grand-scale science fiction, tackling large and profound themes, and it looks amazing. So what if it occasionally gets a little silly? So what if it doesn't give us the meaning of life in a neat little package? What it does give is a glimpse, a taste of a compelling new mythology and the chance for even greater tales to come.
Assuming, that is, that Ridley Scott is a bigger man than I.
"Prometheus" is rated R for language, intense violence and scenes of horror.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.