A team of 21st century explorers crosses universe to find the secrets of life only to discover something much more ominous in “Prometheus,” director Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic that stirs faith, science and human creation itself into a big-budget, outer-space horror show.
Logan Marshall-Green, left, Noomi Rapace, and Michael Fassbender explore a planet in the darkest corners of the universe. Twentieth Century Fox/K. Brown
The movie’s had fans buzzing for months, stoked to see how the British filmmaker would craft the prequel to his series of “Alien” blockbusters, which launched, you may recall, in 1979 with Sigourney Weaver fighting a nasty, acid-spewing, spawn-spewing extraterrestrial insect-i-zoid.
“Prometheus” does, indeed, loop interested viewers back around to the roots of the iconic franchise, explaining how and why its long-rippling chain of humans-vs.-aliens events got put into motion. But it’s got another agenda, too, and it’s a whopper.
Students of mythology will recall that Prometheus was the Greek titan who got a big atta-boy for creating man from a lump of clay, but then got booted from Olympus for stealing fire. That might sound like a relative minor, tsk-tsk offense, but Zeus took it badly, sentencing Prometheus to an eternity chained to a rock as punishment.
In the movie, the symbolism of Prometheus hangs heavily over just about everything. Right up front, it provides the name of the starship carrying the expedition to the desolate, gaseous moon on which their adventure will unfold, and also the name of the mystery-shrouded mission on which they’re embarked.
The small crew, who’ve made the long, two-year trip in deep-sleep hibernation, is a motley group of geologists and other specialists don’t learn the gist of the job for they’ve been hired until they’ve been awoken just before landing. Also aboard are the two scientists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) who connected the dots between cave carvings, hieroglyphics and other clues from early civilizations on Earth that all seem to point to the same place in the sky.
There’s also the salty captain (Idris Elba) that you suspect will get going when the going gets tough, and the icy commander in chief (Charlize Theron), whose motives for the mission are soon revealed to be not quite so noble.
But most fascinating of all is the ship’s robot David (Michael Fassbender), who’s been fashioned as to look and act as a human. But what’s he hiding? The role is pivotal to the plot, Fassbender is riveting in it, and it’s one of the movie’s most overt links to its original “Alien” pedigree.
The sense of danger and possible doom seep into practically every scene. And once the malevolence finally does manifest, in explosions of blood and goop and graphically invasive penetrations by tendrils that spell trouble no matter what kind creature they spring from, it’s as icky, action packed and pulse pounding as fans of “Alien” have come to expect.
But for sheer movie one-upsmanship, Rapace self-administers an excruciatingly invasive emergency medical procedure that breaks new ground for boldly going where no “Alien” character has gone before – and later earns her character an inside reference to her previous role as the original “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
“Prometheus” asks a big, loaded question, but teasingly leaves the answer for another mission…and another movie. Sci-fi fans hoping for more will just have to wait – and keep looking to the heavens.