By Michael Calleri

Although “Prometheus” is trapped by its connection to, and the fact that it has to hover around elements of “Alien,” director Ridley Scott’s new movie has enough stand-alone material that makes it worth seeing. There’s justification for calling it a return to pure science-fiction.

From the very beginning, “Prometheus” has some wonderful moments of expressive visual poetry. If Scott is anything, he’s a brilliant imagist and stylist. Where the movie falters is with its screenplay, co-written by Jon Spaihts and and Damon Lindelof. The script keeps looping around to what’s come before and slightly drains your interest because of its repetitive nature.

At the outset of the new film, strands of an unknown (alien) DNA are introduced into Earth’s water. I won’t tell you how. This takes place at the start of the movie and energizes your expectations. The questions that will be asked throughout the film are these: What was in that element that is blended with the water? Did this element (DNA) lead to human life on Earth? Is this how life began? What exactly is the meaning of life? And, how is it all of this connected to the grand scheme of the universe? If you think writer-director Terrence Malick answered these questions in his “The Tree Of Life,” you could be wrong. The most serious problem with “Prometheus” is that Scott and his screenwriters dance around giving substantive answers. Think about the “Alien” series of movies. Where any heavy-duty questions really answered in those? And I’ll leave it up to you to decide how well “Prometheus” leads to the first “Alien” picture, which was released in 1979.

In Scott’s new tale, it’s the year 2089 and two archeologists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) are exploring deep caverns and find some wall drawings that hint at interplanetary travel and alien-beings creating and possibly structuring life on Earth. Jump ahead some years, and these archeologists are on a spacecraft named Prometheus heading into outer space seeking an explanation for what was depicted in the cave paintings. The adventure is paid for by a hologram of a billionaire played by Guy Pearce. His corporate representative on the trek is Charlize Theron.

Story-wise, that’s all you'll get from me. You go for the visuals. You go for Michael Fassbender’s superb performance as David the robot, who is part of the mission and models himself after Peter O'Toole in “Lawrence Of Arabia.” You go for Rapace’s equally outstanding performance. Pearce is perfect as the loony wealthy benefactor. Theron gets too manic, which tends to irritate, and to hamper scenes.

 

“Prometheus“ delivers moments of pure dread that create some excellent tension. Are the theoretical aspects of the movie satisfying? Not fully, especially with the screenplay that shapes it. But it's mostly engaging and often entertaining.

 

Should you see it in 3D? Not really. Slithery creatures are no big deal in 3D. I saw the film in 2D. At this stage of Hollywood’s slavish devotion to 3D, it’s easy to tell if something merits being seen in that format. “Prometheus” doesn't. But you should enjoy yourself regardless of how you experience it.

 

Michael Calleri is a free-lance writer who specializes in reviewing movies and reporting on entertainment. He can be reached by email at Movierole (at) aol.com. “Prometheus” is currently playing in theaters throughout the world.