Movies: "Prometheus" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Prometheus"
Movies: "Prometheus"

 

“It’s an invitation.”  

 

That’s how paleontologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the girl with the dragon tattoo in the Swedish versions) explains the prehistoric cave paintings she’s found, all showing giant figures pointing toward a distant constellation.  Could this be the origin of human life?

 

Gazillionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, made up to resemble the dying old man at the end of “2001, A Space Odyssey”) decides to accept that ancient invitation, and funds a manned excursion to the unknown planet the cave paintings were illustrating.  

 

On board the spaceship “Prometheus” are icy Weyland businesswoman Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, virtually reprising her wicked queen role in “Snow White and the Huntsman”), Dr. Shaw’s fellow scientist Charlie Holloway (TV actor Logan Marshall-Green), Captain Janek (Idris Elba of “The Wire,” now affecting a Louisiana accent) and, most interesting of all, a debonair humanoid robot named David (Michael Fassbender, Magneto in “X-Men: First Class”) who patterns his speech patterns and hairstyle after Peter O’Toole’s performance as Lawrence of Arabia.

 

What they will find on the unnamed planet is awesome and occasionally scary, but not nearly as much so as director Ridley Scott’s original “Alien,”  to which “Prometheus” is thematically linked.

 

Scott, who also gave us the sci-fi classic “Blade Runner” along with the terrific war movie “Black Hawk Down,”  borrows heavily from “2001” for this largely philosophical outing.  Like that movie, "Prometheus" begins at the dawn of time.  David is a slicker version of the HAL 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, a subservient machine that may not be as nice as he seems.  And in place of the grungy, claustrophobic space freighter that sealed in the horrors of “Alien,” “Prometheus” is as sleek, clean and roomy as the spaceships in “2001.”

 

To realize his vision, Scott brought his crew to the bleak and barren stretches of Iceland, and enlisted the work of some longtime collaborators, including production designer Arthur Max (“Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down”), and costume designer Janty Yates (also “Gladiator” and “Robin Hood”).  His cinematographer is Poland’s Darusz Wolski, who shot all of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

 

Thanks to all of their efforts, “Prometheus” looks great, particularly in 3D.  But there is a critical leak in its air supply:  screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have simply  not given their human characters as much range as the robot David.  Despite a few touches here and there -- like Janek’s southern accent and Cajun squeeze-box -- these people never really interact with each other.  Noomi Rapace may be small in stature, but her strong-willed character is the one person who can truly match the silky smooth David.

 

“Prometheus” is rated R for some really gross extraterrestial violence and occasional rough language.  I give it a B.

 

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