6. Prometheus (R) - Runtime: 124 minutes
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender
Director: Ridley Scott
Prometheus is by far my favorite movie this year. I probably could not explain how much I was looking forward to this movie. When I wrote my Most Anticipated list, the trailer had not yet arrived and I think just in the past few months I would have bumped this up into my top three must-see! Kudos to the marketing team - they did an excellent job at selling this movie. Going into the theater, I was expecting a pretty intense sci-fi action flick, but what I got instead was something far more intricate and complex.
It's hard to write a review on this movie without mentioning the Alien franchise. Obviously, the movie is a prequel to the Alien movie and so of course you have to consider the source material and how much this influenced Prometheus. I am a huge Aliens fan - when I was home sick every day because of cancer I would watch my brother's VHS tapes of the trilogy (that and Dazed & Confused - I know - weird, weird choices for a 13 year-old kid) and I have very fond memories of each of those movies. In fact, I really dug Alien 3, which most people wrote off. So when Alien: Resurrection came to theaters in 1997, I was eagerly awaiting the next installment of my favorite trilogy. But when I left the theater I was only disappointed in what was the worst Aliens film by far and quite possibly one of the worst movies that year (I recently bought the Blu-Ray Anthology for Christmas and have yet to watch it). I think that's when my love for the trilogy had waned and when Aliens Vs. Predator came out, I was not going to be fooled again - I have yet to see that movie and its sequel.
My feelings have been mixed ever since - even when I found out about Prometheus. But Ridley Scott was back on board, there was a terrific cast and the previews looked mind-blowing! Well, expectations have been met and I really, really want to go back to the theaters to watch this one again!
The movie begins with flyover scenes of beautiful landscapes and we finally see a near-naked humanoid alien stand by a cliff's edge and drink some sort of black gooey stuff. He soon deteriorates physically and we see him fall off the cliff into the water where his DNA becomes deconstructed and then reconstructed into new cells. Cut to 2093 and we see Prometheus, a ship bound for a distant planet (actually a habitable moon of a planet). There the crew's scientists (Elizabeth Shaw and her boyfriend, Charlie Holloway) explain the reason for this expedition - ancient ruins show giant humans pointing to the sky of a distant planet and thus must be alien visitors. Shaw is hoping to find her creators (and possibly disavow her deeply held Christian beliefs) while Charlie is merely hoping to find an advanced alien civilization. And when they finally arrive, nothing is what they're expecting.
Now if you're an Aliens fan, you'll enjoy this movie - there's no doubt you will - because everything about this movie (the setting, the story, the tone and look) is steeped in Aliens lore. In fact, it answers a lot of questions about the lore and delivers some really jaw-dropping moments (seriously, my mouth was wide open during one scene in particular!). For those not too familiar with the franchise, I'm going to try and look at the film from its own standpoint, aside from its origins and answer the very basic question: Is this a good movie?
I would say a resounding yes. The beauty of the original Alien movie and to some extent, Prometheus, is how much it takes from the horror genre. A well-crafted horror movie makes sure to leave a lot to the imagination and not reveal the scary monster too much during the movie. Alien did this to perfection and Prometheus does this as well. There's not necessarily one main monster in this movie - it's a little more complex than "they find an alien, it hides and everyone dies except for one lone survivor." But the movie only reveals the horror at the right times. There's a lot of mystery to this movie and it doesn't give you answers right away. In fact, I would say the movie leaves quite a bit unanswered, but not to the point where it was unsatisfying - there's still gotta be some mystery, right?
Now when I talk about how complex the movie is, I'm talking about the different layers the movie has. There's more than just scary alien life-forms happening in the movie. The movie is about humanity's own search for answers - and can we really know the whole truth as to the meaning of life? Shaw and her boyfriend Charlie are complete opposites - one has faith and the other doesn't. But I think they both find meaning in their visit but that also leads to even more questions. The film is just about humanity's never-ending curiosity as it is about cool alien technology.
There's also another layer that somewhat ties into themes of human life. And that is artfully portrayed by Fassbender as the human-like android, Dave. Dave cannot feel human emotion and is subsequently ridiculed and mocked by the rest of the crew for this. But Dave is much more sinister then he looks and he has questions of his own. There's an interesting scene where Dave is talking to Charlie and asks him the same question they want to ask these aliens: Why did you create me? Charlie responds to Dave by saying "Because we could." A kind of harsh thing to say to your creation and you start to see parallels between Dave's relationship with his creator and the crew's quest to find answers. It's astonishingly deep and thought-provoking.
The movie doesn't spoon-feed you any answers and it actually raises more questions when you start to think about the movie as a whole. The performances are top-notch. Rapace replaces Sigourney Weaver's role as the tough female who can overcome anything with her ingenuity and strength. Theron is perfectly suited as the corporate asshole who won't let the mission falter despite people dying around her. Idris Elba is the no-nonsense pilot who doesn't care too much for science, but get's his due as the hero. And Fassbender is probably the best thing about this movie - he's simply the most brilliant and deeply psychotic android ever to be put on screen. I got chills from his performance - there's a bit of The Shining coming through in one scene (when he's all alone on the ship with the basketball) and other times I felt sad for his role in the ship's crew.
So great performances, a nuanced story and spectacular action and horror - you can't go wrong. There's one scene in particular that still haunts me (the aforementioned jaw-dropper) where Rapace has to throw herself into this robot-surgery auto-pod. It's simply one of the scariest and can't-look-away moments in movies I've seen in a while. I would say give this movie a shot even if you haven't seen the other Alien movies. It's got a grandeur that no movie can match it so far this year!
Rating: See It!