‘Prometheus’: Ridley Scott’s astro knot | 2½ stars
By LOEY LOCKERBY
Special to The Star
* * 1/2 out of ****
Rated R | Time: 2:04
If you happen to be among the first humans to visit an alien planet, here’s a useful piece of advice: The sentient goo creatures are not pets.
Don’t go poking around and trying to make friends with them. Those things will eat your face.
After what he did to poor John Hurt in 1979’s Alien, you’d think director Ridley Scott would stop having his characters engage in such foolishness.
But Scott has bigger issues on his mind in the uneven Prometheus, which means logic is thrown out of an airlock pretty early on.
Set in 2093, Prometheus starts off with archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) finding evidence that humans may have been created by alien visitors.
When their likely planet of origin is discovered, Elizabeth travels there with her scientist boyfriend (Logan Marshall-Green) and a ragtag crew-for-hire, under the supervision of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who represents the mysterious Weyland Corp. Meredith’s agenda is unclear, as is that of David (Michael Fassbender), an android whose lack of human feelings leads to some strange and disturbing interactions.
Elizabeth and David are the only characters with any particular personality, both fearless explorers whose quest for knowledge overrides every other concern. David is simply programmed that way, but the deeply religious Elizabeth is motivated by spiritual — more than scholarly — curiosity. She is searching for nothing less than God himself.
This is the real story of Prometheus. Its preoccupation with the meaning of human existence calls to mind Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, with spaceships instead of dinosaurs.
Scott’s philosophical mood caused him to hand off Jon Spaihts’ original script to Lost honcho Damon Lindelof, who pared down the numerous Alien references to go for something more self-contained.
Of course, Lindelof had six seasons to untangle his TV show’s mysteries and still left fans with plenty of unanswered questions. With Prometheus, he gets only two hours and has to make enough of an action-packed blockbuster to appease summer movie crowds.
The result is certainly thought-provoking, asking viewers to consider the compatibility of faith and science and wondering if we really should be so eager to discover our origins.
Scott handles the epic scale masterfully, so even the slower scenes have a terrifying beauty and momentum. It all feels half-formed, though, as if plot and character development were mere afterthoughts.
On balance, the experience of watching “Prometheus” makes up for the movie’s flaws, but you’ll still spend a lot of time being frustrated.
In space, no one can hear you yell at the screen.