Re-View: Prometheus | On Demand
We take a second look at Ridley Scott’s sci-fi prequel.
Our first look “The film’s message seems to be that searching for answers about origins can lead to disappointment. That’s a lesson Alien fans should keep in mind when ponying up.”
Another view The best way to look at Prometheus is to pretend it’s not a prequel to Alien—and for much of the running time, it’s entirely possible to maintain that illusion. Ridley Scott’s film is at its worst when trying to draw connections to the blockbuster franchise, notably in a post-ending credits cookie that plays like a blatant sop to the fanboys.
But what Scott otherwise has fashioned is something far stranger: an ambitious, willfully imperfect sci-fi tone poem that has the courage to leave things unexplained. As in 2001: A Space Odyssey, there’s the sense that neither the characters nor the audience will completely understand what they find. Such dramaturgical nebulousness is anathema in Hollywood movies—but it’s also representative of the way science works. No single experiment or mission achieves cohesive results. Had it actually been the last beat, Noomi Rapace’s resigned final line would have struck the perfect closing note.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, the film’s enjoyability runs in direct proportion to its incoherence. As Charlize Theron’s crew goes spelunking in the mud puddles of an unknown planet, finding gooey creatures and invasive biohazards, there’s a tantalizing sense of possibility. The spell is broken only when Michael Fassbender’s all-too-human, Lawrence of Arabia–watching android starts spouting exposition (“Sometimes to create, one must destroy!”), a shift that invites the audience to ponder the screenplay’s most gaping plot holes. (If the Engineers’ plan was to destroy Earth, why would they lead humans to their arsenal with cave drawings? And so on.)
Still, saddled with a messy script by Jon Spaihts and Lost’s Damon Lindelof, Scott seems determined to make an interesting movie. Aided by Arthur Max’s production design, the film emphasizes atmosphere over plot. From a director who, at this point in his career, seemed content to throw a bunch of dirt at the lens and shake the camera (Gladiator, Robin Hood), the revitalizing effects of this experimentation shouldn’t be underestimated. There’s sleek lyricism as Scott’s camera roves the ship, gliding to the strains of Marc Streitenfeld’s anthemic score. It’s unclear why science fiction brings out the best in Scott, but one theory might be that his framing often suggests more of an interest in technology than in humans; think of our glimpses of ad-saturated Los Angeles, 2029, in Blade Runner, or the sleep pods awakening in Alien. Fittingly, Prometheus represents Scott’s first foray into shooting on digital video.
And Rapace’s emergency cesarean is a miniature masterstroke, the type of suspense set piece that one assumed Scott forgot how to stage. It’s also the sort of concession one expects in a summer tentpole like Prometheus; it would be truly radical if the director had gotten by without one. Clearly, Prometheus only got off the ground because of its ostensible commercial appeal. But in using his megabudget to mount an exercise in pure cinema, Scott has made his most subversive film in years.
Prometheus arrives on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday 9 and is in HD now at CinemaNow, Google Play, iTunes and VUDU.