[NO SPOILERS HERE]
Back in 2000, a little movie called Mission to Mars came out, was quietly panned by critics, and slinked out of theaters before anyone noticed or cared. I saw it in theaters and, being 15 and a huge sci-fi dork, I quite enjoyed it. Later I realized I had been taken in by the trio of talented lead actors (Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, and Don Cheadle), and a fantastic score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. It was resoundingly mediocre, but had some cool ideas. Shortly after watching Prometheus, I couldn’t help but picture screenwriter Damon Lindelof catching Mission on HBO and thinking, “I would like to see this, but better, slightly more confusing, and set in the Alien universe.” Mostly because that’s largely what Prometheus is.
I don’t want to go into plot specifics (if you want those, go see the movie), but I will say this: it isn’t Alien. And, I don’t mean that in terms of quality; if you even entertained the idea that this would be as good as that, you haven’t been watching enough movies lately. I’m talking about genre. Alien, masterpiece that it was, was a low-key haunted house movie set in space. This is epic sci-fi about exploration and discovery. It certainly has it’s share of jump-scares and intense moments (there is a scene inside a surgical machine that damn near reaches chest-burster levels of terror), but don’t go into this looking for a horror-movie experience.
A lot of critics have been complaining about the plot-holes present. There are a few things that go frustratingly unexplained, but that wasn’t really my main issue. The only plot holes really emerge when you try to neatly line it up alongside the Alien movies (hint: you can’t). I respect that, like X-Men First Class, Prometheus is more concerned with telling it’s own story than contorting itself to fit neatly into a franchise canon. And, aside from the story being too straightforward and less cerebral than I would’ve liked, my quibbles with it are mostly in the details. One of the actors was cast based entirely on his role in the viral marketing campaign, which is another way of saying miscast. The plot of the movie drags on for a beat too long, mostly to set up another movie. Dear Hollywood, finish the candy bar you’re currently eating before unwrapping a new one. I will gladly see Prometheus 2: Alien Goo Boogaloo, but I’m pretty tired of movies derailing themselves while detouring into sequel-town.
As for what I liked, I don’t want to give too much away. What I do want to say is that the acting is fantastic. Noomi Rapace is pretty damn good in what is essentially the proto-Ripley role. As usual, Michael Fassbender crushes it as the android David. The ability to come across as both a loyal manservant and a psychotic captor is probably a lot harder to pull of than he makes it look. Idris Elba continues his role in Hollywood as Dude That Should Be Way More Famous; The scene between him, Charlize Theron (playing a total ice queen, a role she just gets better at) and a concertina is the best human moment of the movie. The rest of the crew makes for colorful and interesting background noise.
As a huge fan of The Twilight Zone and old EC sci-fi comics, I feel like the classic genre of space exploration is sadly under-represented in modern film . Oh, look. Another movie about robots. Hey, it’s a metallic city full of flying cars. Hi there, time travel. Booooring. Someone grab a rocket and see what’s going on with Saturn. Prometheus scratches that itch nicely, even if it isn’t the heady, existential meditation I was expecting.
TL/DR Version: To see this, I drove an hour and paid sixteen bucks for an Imax 3D ticket, and was fine with what. Take that for what you will.