And in the beginning, there was silliness.
Ridley Scott’s winking maybe-prequel to Alien—hijacked at the screenplay level with a bunch of notes from nervous executives who were paying too much money for a picture without any franchise backing—is the best-looking stupid movie I have seen all year. It’s sumptuously photographed, and most often inane.
Starring the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Noomi Rapace as a free-thinking scientist who wears a cross around her neck yet still believes that aliens created mankind—a contradiction the movie can hardly be bothered to explore—Prometheus gathers a bunch of doctors and roughnecks on an ill-fated journey to chase down a couple of cave-paintings and find out where life on Earth really began.
It’s all warmed-over Chariots of the Gods gobbledygook, benefiting mostly from yet another killer performance by Michael Fassbender as the ship’s resident android, dying and cutting his hair to look like Peter O’Toole in his oft-watched Lawrence of Arabia and calibrating the performance accordingly. He’s Roy Batty by way of The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Fassbender spends most of the picture teasing secret agendas with unforeseen plans that often just don’t make a goddamn bit of sense.
But neither does the rest of Prometheus. Co-scripted by Lost writer Damon Lindelof, it’s a ginormous cocktease. Here’s where I must confess that I never watched more than two hours of that show, as it mainly struck me as an excuse for my friends to get angry on the Internet. Prometheus probably won’t fare any better, because for all the highfalutin’ creation myths kicked around in the first hour, it eventually settles down into a subpar space-monster movie and never bothers to address a single question. It just becomes a dopey action flick, benefitted by the presence of Charlize Theron as a sassy government operative and The Wire’s Idris Elba as a no-nonsense spaceship captain with a weird thing for Stephen Stills.
Prometheus is a languorously paced picture, inviting you to bask in the strange, oddly antiseptic images and hint-hints about the films to follow. Fitting, then, how it forgets to tell a complete story and ends with a trailer for something more.