Prometheus is at its best...when extraterrestrial nightmares are slithering and undulating and finding novel ways to burrow into the bodies of their hapless human prey. (There is also the film's most queasily memorable sequence, in which Elizabeth is trying to get one out.) To this end, the film borrows liberally from the Alien saga (in particular the first and third installments), John Carpenter's The Thing, and David Cronenberg's "venereal horror" period.
Alas, Scott is not content with such grotesque delights, and aims for something larger, a contemporary 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the director put it, "the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large, and provocative," and I suppose those terms more or less apply, provided one also appends hokey, shallow, and confused. Elizabeth's character is one of those rare creatures—more alien to Hollywood than any extraterrestrial—known as "practicing Christians." Perhaps inevitably, her faith is the source of a great deal of category confusion over the difference between belief in God and curiosity about the alien beings who manufactured humankind—the latter a subject that I suspect would interest Richard Dawkins as much as anyone. Moreover, the script, by Jon Spaihts and Lost guru Damon Lindelof, is an utter mess.... It all leads up to a conclusion so false and off-key that it is borderline astonishing.
MORE ON 'PROMETHEUS'
I won't attempt to catalog the absurdities that pile atop one another over the course of Prometheus's latter half. (Commenters to the original review did a more than adequate job.) But I will note one particularly illustrative howler that takes place toward the film's conclusion. An immense, torus-like alien spacecraft has crashed and is rolling violently along the barren, rocky landscape. Two characters find themselves caught in its mortal path. But rather than move out of said path, both diligently run in a straight line directly in front of the onrushing colossus. One of the two stumbles and, falling to one side, is saved. But her fitter companion keeps going, never deviating a centimeter from the obviously doomed route, and is ultimately squashed. It almost seems intended as a moral of sorts: Try as you might, you can't outrun the narrative inanities of Prometheus. You can only step aside and watch them barrel past.
Next week: The precocious charms of Moonrise Kingdom
This article available online at: