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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba
DIRECTED BY
Ridley Scott
SCREENPLAY
Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
124 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
20th Century Fox
DVD EXTRAS
  • 15 Minutes of Deleted or Alternate Scenes
  • Ridley Scott Audio Commentary
  • First and Final Draft of the Script in Text Document
  • Four Viral Videos Including Peter Weyland’s Full Ted Talk
  • Ridley Scott’s Sketches
  • Noomi Rapace’s Screen Tests
  • 9 Featurettes Comprising 120 Minutes of Behind-the-Scenes Looks at the Creatures, Story, Visual Effects, and More
 "Prometheus" Review 
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Prometheus is a masterpiece, a visually stunning film with eye-popping yet non-distracting 3-D imagery woven together into the fabric of a story that simultaneously confounds and astounds and balances characters both intriguing and appealing.

But.

Prometheus is also a disappointment, an over-reaching film with a high-tech flea market sort of a feeling that really really tries to blend together substantial metaphysics with sci-fi/horror only to achieve decidedly mixed results.

Prometheus is a film you will argue about, perhaps vehemently. Some of you, we may call you the Roger Eberts of the world, will declare the film a masterpiece and you will refuse to budge. You will construct convincing and well thought out arguments to support your assertion and you will scoff and nod your head dismissively toward anyone who dares to disagree.

"You just don't get it," you will finally declare.

Some of you, on the other hand, are likely to acknowledge the film's technical mastery but will lament director Ridley Scott's semi-provocative philosophical meanderings given such an air of universal importance by Scott that one practically expects that the filmmaker will produce the long asked question "What is the meaning of life?"

No one will be wrong in these arguments, but that will be hard to accept in the heat of the battle.

We can argue the technical aspects of the craft until we are blue in the face, but that would only land us on the set of Avatar. Or The Smurfs.

The simple truth is that beyond a legitimate analysis of technical competency, film is far from an objective experience. It transcends objective criticism and, in fact, the best film critics are those who successfully manage to weave together critical analysis with authentic experiential observations.

I've long stated that the best film critics won't try to tell you if a film is good or bad, but will instead guide you towards an effective decision on whether a film is right for you. While my praise for Prometheus is somewhat muted compared to that by some of my peers, the mere fact that this decidedly non sci-fi geek who doesn't consider Alien one of the best films ever made actually considers this a film you should see is actually a rather bold endorsement.

And, yes. I do think you should see Prometheus. For as maddening as the film can be at times, it's also Ridley Scott's best film in quite some time and is unquestionably in the upper echelon of cinematic 3-D experiences. While I found Scott and screenwriter John Spaiht's philosophical approach dissatisfying, it's still a risky approach considering American audiences have a tendency to be most attracted to spoon-fed storylines and concrete resolutions.

Long rumored to be the prequel to Scott's 1979 original, that assertion is never completely resolved within the framework of the film. Prometheus has the look and feel and attitude of a prequel, or it could simply be a righting of the cinematic ship that sailed wildly off course when the studio began licensing the alien into schlock horror films with no rhyme nor reason. The film opens with Scott doing his best imitation of Terence Malick, though to a lesser and more cohesive degree. We then leap forward to 2093 and a mission involving Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). The two are leading a crew aboard the ship Prometheus, following up on alleged clues that may reveal the origins of life.

The two are decidedly different in their guiding philosophies, a theme that recurs time and again throughout Prometheus. Holloway is more of a skeptic, while Shaw is a cross-wearing yet fairly open-minded believer whose faith never wavers despite the increasing scientific evidence that surrounds her. Prometheus is a film for both of them, though a good portion of the not so subtle propositions are more New Age in nature. They are joined for this adventure by the always efficient captain (Idris Elba) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a representative of the Weyland Corporation that financed the project and who seemingly regards everyone around her as inferior and who proves to be quite the challenge for both Holloway and Shaw.

Then, there's David (Michael Fassbender). David is an android (No, not the phone!). Arguably the most satisfying and intriguing character in the film, David possesses both child-like wonder and an eerie sense of menace. This really is the perfect role for Fassbender, who really leaped to wide acclaim last year in Shame yet has long been regarded as an under-appreciated and gifted actor. Watching Fassbender's David take his lessons in humanity from Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia is an unexpected delight, and Fassbender's performance is a droll yet constantly involving one.

There are others in the film, of course. Yet, they are for the most part irrelevant. Guy Pearce is along for the ride in a way that adds a dimension to his filmography that one would certainly never expect. For the most part, however, supporting players aren't much more than transitions that allow the film to move along at a decent clip.

Devotees of the original Alien may be disappointed that this film lacks the meditative and contemplative quality that so completely defined the original film. Prometheus spends less time in silence and more time in dialogue-driven searching as our characters discuss and debate the issues that went largely unspoken in the original film. The simply unforgettable Jerry Goldsmith score from the original film is replaced by an effective yet much louder and more dominating original score by Marc Streitenfeld. It isn't necessarily a less effective approach, but simply an approach that may frustrate purists.

Prometheus is a beautiful film to behold, with Arthur Max's awe-inspiring production design destined to elicit gasps.  There is one scene, in particular, involving Shaw and an alien that has become immersed inside her body that is simply an awesome scene utilizing technology in a way that was likely not even dreamed of in 1979. It's a squirm-inducing scene both emotionally riveting and technologically astounding.

With the exception of Fassbender, only Rapace is truly compelling here. Rapace is given a wide ranging character with which to work here, and she proves that her masterful performance in the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was no fluke. Theron is good here, yet her turn as Meredith Vickers is no particular stretch. While it's nice to see the under-appreciated Idris Elba land a big budget opportunity, it's simply a shame that he wasn't given more to do with his character.

Prometheus is a good film, but it is not a great film. Oddly enough, the film falls shy of greatness perhaps because Ridley Scott is simply reaching so far trying to achieve it. As awe-inspiring as the film is visually, there are times when it seems as if we've been dropped inside a Terence Malick film where the visuals have once again taken precedence over every other aspect of the film. There are also times when Prometheus simply feels intentional and manipulative, with even its refusal to answer questions feeling more like the planting of a sequel rather than an intelligent and informed cinematic choice. I found myself entertained by and appreciative of the cinematic experience offered by Prometheus, but I wasn't blown away by it nor deeply moved by it nor in awe of its artistic accomplishments. A mere one day after viewing the film, I find myself feeling neither the passion to defend the film nor the passion to rage against it.

Prometheus entertained me. That's good. But, I can't deny it. I was hoping for more.

It's kind of like searching for the meaning of life and finding out the answer really is 42.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
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    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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