‘Prometheus’ movie review: Ridley Scott’s fantastic prequel to Alien

Prometheus, director Ridley Scott’s hotly-anticipated ‘prequel’ to the groundbreaking sci-fi/horror Alien, is a masterful mixture of brainy sci-fi ideology and splatter movie schlock that may not win over all audiences, but provides a wonderful reprieve from the usual summer blockbuster blues.

It’s about nothing less than the essence of our existence. Where do we come from? Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have pieced together a number of star map cave drawings from diverse early cultures that had no way of communicating with each other, which all point to the same place: a solar system on the other side of the galaxy that contains a potentially life-sustaining moon.

It’s the Ancient Aliens theory: early intergalactic visitors to Earth created or altered humanity and the course of our existence. Shaw and Holloway and a small team of others are frozen in stasis and shipped off to moon LV-223. Of course, the company funding the trip may have ulterior motives; Weyland Corporation’s Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is along for the ride, in her own detachable life raft.

David (Michael Fassbender) is the most fascinating character in the movie. An android precursor to Alien’s Ash and Aliens’ Bishop, he seems to learn his way of communicating from watching Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (a parallel is immediately drawn between the two actors – and Fassbender just might be in the same league). But we’re never entirely sure of David’s motives or allegiances; during a key climactic scene, the filmmakers wisely keep ambiguous what, exactly, is going on in this machine’s head.

The film’s most interesting angle is the comparison between David and his human counterparts, who are searching for their own creators. “Why did you create me?” David asks Holloway at one point. “Because we could,” is the reply. “Imagine how disappointed you’d be to hear that.”

The creation theme continues in the film’s most shocking segment, a self-C-section performed by one of the characters after being impregnated by alien technology.

Credited writers Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof (Cowboys & Aliens) didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence in this project. But Prometheus has a lot on its mind, and raises a lot of questions that are (mostly) left unanswered. 

It’s also gorgeously shot in muted tones by cinematographer Dariusz Wolskiby and fluidly directed Scott, returning to the realm of sci-fi following his classics Alien and Blade Runner; those films weren’t instant successes with critics or general audiences, and Prometheus doesn’t seem to be, either. But it’s an undeniable experience, and the kind of flick whose reputation will grow with age.

In 3D, the film looks pretty phenomenal; it’s expectedly dark and dim, and the press screening at CineStar Anděl was even misframed, cutting off the sides of the picture (in the main title, the ‘P’ and the ‘S’ were both sliced in half). 

But director Scott has shot, framed, and edited this thing perfectly: the 3D is never a distraction, and adds some depth to the experience. While never especially memorable on its own accord (no Comin’ at Ya! overkill), the 3D is subtle and effective; it is, perhaps, the best use of the technology I’ve seen since Avatar, though that’s not a ringing endorsement.

Those looking for another Alien or Aliens may leave Prometheus disappointed; while it’s set in the same universe as those films, and it (seemingly) ties in to the original film, it’s a whole ‘nother creature. 

Tackling stimulating subject matter with a degree of intelligence unusual for films of this budget, the movie peppers itself with splatter movie shocks but remains admirably ambiguous in terms of both its own self-contained story and its connection to the earlier films.

The door is left (wide) open for a sequel, but Prometheus can easily stand on its own. Science fiction, especially big-budget, mainstream sci-fi, doesn’t get much better than this.

The film was memorably publicized in a couple viral videos, one featuring Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland giving a TED 2023 keynote speech, and another featuring a pseudo-advertisement for Fassbender’s David.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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