Before I forget my initial reactions to the visually splendid new sci fi film Prometheus, here they are. In a nutshell, I almost loved it but not quite.
30 some years after directing the space horror movie Alien, director Ridley Scott brings us back to the creepy-crawly universe that scared the bejeezus* out of us. (*The term "bejeezus" is used deliberately. See spoiler note below.) His starting point, he has said in interviews, is the so-called Space Jockey from Alien. Who was he? Where did he come from? What killed him?
In this outing, Scott takes us to a time prior to the adventures of Ellen Ripley, the hero played by Sigourney Weaver in the original. In Prometheus, he gives us a whole new cast of characters, including the ship's captain (played by Idris Elba), an icy executive (played by Charlize Theron), a hologram billionaire named Weyland (played under pounds of makeup by Guy Pearce) whose company finances the trip into space, and a Blade Runner-ish synthetic character called "David" (played by Michael Fassbender), the android with a secret purpose. Plus we meet the "Engineers." The less said about who they are, the better. (For those intrigued, here is a fascinating deconstruction: http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html)
The nominal star is Noomi Rapace (of the original Girl With Dragon Tattoo films) as a visionary and faith-filled scientist named Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. She and her scientist boyfriend are searching for the origins of life on Earth by following an ancient star map to a distant planet. Rapace carries the film well though script issues undermine her efforts.
At the risk of going into spoilery territory, let me offer a brief analysis. First, think back to Scott's original Alien. When the suspense and terror of that movie grabbed ahold of you, it did not let go until Ripley blasted the monster out of the door into space. (The non-Scott follow-up Aliens also had a very well-structured throughline to an equally satisfying climactic battle.) In Prometheus, there is a bit too much going on, some of which frankly seemed out of sequence. One scene in particular (hint: this film's answer to the chest bursting scene in Alien) occurs way before it should have for maximum impact. And two crucial characters (hint: they have a father-daughter type relationship) are dispatched in pointless ways when they could have had a much more glorious demise if the script writers had used a wee bit more imagination.
The end result is the last half of the film goes clunkety clunk when it should have gone voom.
Still I give it a thumbs up for its eye-filling visuals and recommend that anyone who likes sci fi should go see it.
Spoiler Note: While his original film Alien does a very good job of scaring audiences out of their wits, in Prometheus (and the intended sequel) Scott is trying to do what William Friedkin did in The Exorcist: combine gooey horror scares with a deep sense of awe and mystery about the religious beliefs (including Christianity) we have inherited from the past. Prometheus comes close but misses by just a smidgen and ends up a muddle.
Addendum: I have just read an interview with Ridley Scott where he is envisioning a sequel that follows the further exploits of Dr. Shaw and David the robot as they go in search of the mystery behind the Engineers. I am looking forward to it.