Maybe if PROMETHEUS had not been set in the Alien universe, Ridley Scott would have ended up making a decent movie. Maybe if Ridley Scott had spent a longer time developing the script before heading into production, PROMETHEUS would not have been the disastrous mess that it was. There are a lot of maybes with PROMETHEUS and only the test of time will determine whether PROMETHEUS will attain cult-like status among sci-fi nerds (like BLADE RUNNER, which was met with indifference by audiences and critics alike upon its initial release) or it will become a mere footnote in Scott’s illustrious career (like LEGEND, 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE, and ROBIN HOOD, three previous attempts by Ridley Scott at making an epic). As it stands now, PROMETHEUS has sharply divided nerdom. There are those who regard this film as a worthy addition to the Alien canon that poses thought-provoking questions and there are those that view this film as an ungodly mess that isn’t worth your time or money. I belong to the latter camp.

PROMETHEUS essentially deals with the search for God. The film begins with two scientists who discover ancient cave paintings that are linked to a star map. The map in turn leads them to a planet that supposedly contains evidence of who or what created humankind. A ship is sent on an expedition to this planet where the crew finds a giant structure. They go inside the structure and find out that the atmosphere inside the structure is breathable. They also find a bunch of passages and rooms, one of which has a giant head surrounded by capsules. The crew somehow triggers an alarm that causes the capsules to leak black liquid. The liquid turns out to be organic and turns into a snake-like creature similar to the facehuggers from ALIEN. These creatures attack and kill two of the crew members and infects one of the main scientists, turning him into a mutated killing machine. Eventually, the crew finds out that the “Engineers” who built the giant structure intended to come to Earth with this black goo thousands of years ago. However, something went wrong (presumably the black goo infected the Engineers and killed them).

If you’re going to see this film, then you might as well experience the only salvageable part of the film in the best possible way. If nothing else, PROMETHEUS is a stunningly beautiful film to watch and if you are going to throw money away to see it, then you might as well check it out on the 3D IMAX to fully experience the cinematography (I’m talking real IMAX, not the fake ones AMC likes to advertise). Shot by Dariusz Wolski (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films and THE CROW) on the RED Epic camera (NOTE: the upcoming THE GREAT GATSBY was also shot on the RED Epic and I can’t wait to see what Baz Luhrmann has done with it), PROMETHEUS utilizes the alien-like landscape of Iceland to create the moon planet the expedition lands on. It’s a nice reprieve from the usual method of creating alien landscapes entirely from CG.  The world looks more authentic (because it is) and consequently, it does a great job of suspending our disbelief and making us believe we are actually on an alien planet.

Now on to the show. Why did I not like PROMETHEUS? Lets begin with the casting. The two main scientists/archeologists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, are played respectively by Noomi Rapace (Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO trilogy) and Logan Marshall-Green (TV’s DARK BLUE, TRAVELER, THE O.C.). There is a reason why most of you have probably never heard of these actors. They are horrible and annoying. I know this is below the belt, but Rapace’s face reminds me of the Gelflings from THE DARK CRYSTAL. I was constantly wondering whether there was something naturally off about her face or whether one of the black liquid goo alien things had infected her and was causing physical facial deformations. As for her performance, she is definitely no Ripley. Despite all of her running around and being action-like, never once does she exude any confidence or initiative. Shaw is merely trying to survive and proceeds through the story reacting to everything going on around her. Not until the very end of the film, where she takes a beheaded David with her, does she make a determined choice to go find the Engineers’ home world. In ALIENS, Sigourney Weaver became a heroine and took control of her situation. She saved Newt from the aliens and ultimately took on the Alien Queen. Ripley was certainly a much stronger woman than Shaw is. Here, I felt that Shaw spent the majority of her time crying over the failed mission. Her few moments of heroism are overshadowed by her reactionary and emotional approach to everything.

As for Charlie Holloway, let’s just say I’m glad he dies halfway through the film. I’m dumbfounded as to why Ridley Scott and his casting director felt that Marshall-Green was a good choice to play Holloway. The “actor’s” performance reeks of bad TV acting. Worse, I was never convinced Holloway was even a scientist. His vocabulary, mannerisms, and body language fail to make me believe this guy has intelligence. The lowest point of the movie with this character is the supposed romance scene between he and Shaw where he knocks her up. The dialogue was so poorly written and it was so poorly performed that the scene came off as something between a porno and an episode of THE O.C. (which Marshall-Green used to be in).

With the exception of Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, the remainder of the cast is both underdeveloped and misdeveloped. For example, the crew is also comprised of a medic (played by Kate Dickie) and the ship’s pilots (played by Emun Elliott and Benedict Wong). These characters are severely underutilized and two dimensional. Consequently, you can care less what their fate is going to be. To again contrast with James Cameron’s ALIENS, in that film every marine character was developed enough so that each was memorable. You can probably put a face to every one of those characters and even recall their names. Not so here. Considering the film is over 2 hours long, Ridley Scott did not use his time efficiently to establish all his characters. That or he should have simply released a longer cut of the film (which apparently exists and will be released on blu-ray).

The crew of the ship Prometheus has two other characters who stood out as being entirely inconsistent with the types of characters they should have been. One of the characters is a geologist played by Sean Harris. The other is a biologist played by Rafe Spall. For one, based on some vague statement he makes with further explanation, the geologist was apparently on the expedition for money. Not only did we not get any clarification as to what his (or many of the other crew members) intent was, but it seems kind of strange that a geologist would accompany a scientific expedition in order to make money. What’s stranger, he acts like he never wanted to be a part of the expedition. Later in the film, when the geologist and biologist are lost (and how in hell can they get lost when the entire structure has been mapped out and the rest of the crew can guide them?) inside the giant alien structure, they behave like complete morons when they encounter the black alien goo. Not only is the set-up of the scene so painfully predictable, but it runs counter to how a scientist, especially a biologist, would act in that situation.

As I allude to above, I enjoyed Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender’s performances. Theron plays Meredith Vickers, who is a Weyland Corporation employee and is sent to monitor the expedition. Fassbender plays David, an android like the ones in ALIEN and ALIENS. I wish the story actually had something for Theron to do because an interesting character like her is completely wasted here. In fact, I was hoping she would end up being the Ripley of this movie. As it is, Theron does little more than pace around her ship waiting to hear news from the expedition. As for David, Fassbender gives a terrific performance, especially in the very beginning of the movie when we are introduced to his character. However, a major problem with David is that for someone (or something) that is supposed to be emotionless, David exhibits quite a bit of emotion towards the crew members. Specifically, Charlie Holloway basically tells David that he’s just a robot and so he will never know what its like to be a human. David responds by setting Holloway up to have the alien goo infect him. The idea of a supposedly emotionless robot acting evil has been done in the past (2001, ALIEN, MOON), but in those films, the robot was not really evil, but it was actually executing an order that it was programmed to carry out. Here, David is not given such a task (or at least I didn’t interpret it that way) so his behavior is inconsistent with what we are told he does.

Those who praise PROMETHEUS make much of the philosophical ruminations spouted by the characters. The film’s themes explore creation and faith. Interesting choices that are perfect for a science fiction film. Unfortunately, the script was handled by the man many consider to have ruined LOST, Damon Lindelof, and science fiction hack, Jon Spaihts (THE DARKEST HOUR). What they have concocted is something that, given its heavy themes, lacks any substance. The plot developments and devices in this movie are hilariously obvious and the story seemed to be lifted directly from Brian De Palma’s moronic MISSION TO MARS. One would think that going off into space to explore the origin of humankind would be kind of a big deal to the crew members. Nope. Everyone seems totally unfazed by the weight of their mission or by what they later discover.

The scene that got the most laughs in PROMETHEUS and is probably the most talked about is the scene where Shaw performs abortion on herself in the span of what seems like a few minutes. Immediately after the surgery, she continues to run around the ship as if nothing happened. Undoubtedly medical technology will be far more advanced than what it is today, BUT unless human evolution takes some sort of giant leap forward and turns us into virtual super-beings, such rapid healing is preposterous even in the future. What’s more, as Shaw runs off, the crew appears to not give a damn about what just happened to her. Say what you want about this scene, but it clearly showed that the filmmakers were much too lazy to sweat these very important details.

Although I enjoyed the use of practical landscapes to depict the alien planet, I was less impressed by the designs for the alien pyramid structure and the crew’s ship interior. The designs looked uninspired and way too derivative of what we have already seen in countless sci-fi movies, including the ALIEN films. I have been waiting for some time for Hollywood to give us a totally new conception of alien beings, ships, structures, etc. I hoped Ridley Scott would be up to this challenge, but apparently he isn’t and we pretty much see the same old stuff.

In the end, I wish PROMETHEUS had not been set in the Alien universe. I suspect that the Alien canon restricted Ridley Scott to a degree that he was unable to give us a truly epic science fiction movie. I can only guess at what PROMETHEUS would have been had the Alien not been woven into the story. What we ultimately get is a plot that is incoherent, a cast of shallowly conceived characters, and a film that totally lacks the tension that we got in ALIEN and ALIENS. PROMETHEUS is nothing more than a production designer’s wet dream. I was actually offended that Ridley Scott had the gall to include a scene from LAWRENCE FROM ARABIA (a film that I consider to be the greatest one ever made) as if the epic scope of that film can be compared to the crap Scott has made. If you truly consider PROMETHEUS to be great, then its pretty safe to say that you would buy just about any big budget shit that Hollywood would fling on a screen. If you want to see a truly thought-provoking science fiction film, do yourself a favor and rent (no, buy) Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.