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Should You Be Anti-“Prometheus”?

June 11, 2012

In space, nobody can hear you snore. But that’s what I did through the first hour of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Or, as I started to think of it, Slowwww-metheus. Oh, it’s all very sleek and pretty to look at, as the Alien prequel sets up its premise: In the not-too-distant future, a spaceship travels to a galaxy far, far away to track down the species that may have created life on Earth. But aside from the small matter of an exploding severed alien head, not much happens…until the crew starts to have close encounters of the worst kind. And, finally, that’s when Prometheus catches fire.

Granted, the plotting doesn’t make sense (and why should it, when the script was cowritten by Damon Lindelof, whose work often leaves me Lost). The space travelers seem all-too-willing to open the doors to their ship or engage the E.T.’s, even after they’ve proven their motives are much more malevolent than phoning home. But even as the movie falls into a predictable and-then-there-was-one structure straight out of Scott’s original Alien, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

That’s despite the lifeless lead performance from Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist who discovers the cave paintings that lead to the mission. The Swedish-born Rapace was the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but her charisma gets lost in translation. Suffice it to say she’s no Sigourney Weaver—and Shaw is no Ripley, believe it or not. (She does, however, perform a self-service c-section that’s so gruesome, it should be shown by abstinence advocates as a form of birth control.)

Good thing, then, that the rest of the ensemble is so strong. Shame‘s Michael Fassbender is ideally cast as David, a robot whose mix of emotionlessness and effeteness make him seem like what would happen if Spock and C3PO had a baby, and—SPOILER ALERT!—its head popped off. Charlize Theron follows up her tour de force as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman with an equally chilling performance as an ice-princess commander. Idris Elba grounds the film with his down-to-earth work as the spaceship’s cigarillo-chomping captain, and Guy Pearce dons old-age makeup that makes him resemble Val Kilmer as the mission’s billionaire benefactor (or is it malefactor?). Too bad Pearce couldn’t disguise himself in the cheap sci-fi knockoff Lockout.

Prometheus seems to be polarizing audiences as well as critics, and I find myself falling somewhere in the middle. It’ll deservedly earn Oscar nominations in tech categories but probably won’t return Scott to his Gladiator glory. Perhaps his next film, The Counselor, which teams him with No Country for Old Men‘s Cormac McCarthy (and reteams him with Fassbender) will do the trick. Or maybe his long-planned return to another sci-fi classic of 30 years ago, Blade Runner, will. Just please, Ridley, don’t reboot Legend, even if Tom Cruise’s leather pants in Rock of Ages suggest he could still squeeze into those old green tights.

Did Prometheus get you all fired up? Post a comment!

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