“Prometheus”

            Science fiction writers have often concentrated on heady, philosophical issues:  Robert Heinlein’s “Brave New World,” Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot,” Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” and even Gene Roddenberry’s TV series “Star Trek” emphasized intellectual debate usually at the expense of action.  Part of this was because until the 1980’s the cinematic technology to make other worlds appear believable and exciting simply did not exist.  Interestingly enough, director Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979) and “Blade Runner” (1982) revolutionized that genre, making science fiction visually visceral as well as philosophically demanding.  Mr. Scott returns to those career roots with “Prometheus,” an ambitious film aiming at satisfying both those elements.            “Prometheus” opens with two scientists in the year 2089, probing paleolithic pictograms for the source of humankind.  Fast forward four years and those two scientists have joined a team of explorers on a mission to space to discover those roots.  “Prometheus,” the name of their ship, is apt, for as in the Greek myth, these mere humans expect to meet their Creators (the Titan Prometheus is said to have pitied humans on earth and gave them the gift of fire so they could elevate themselves to be if not equal to, at least as comfortable as the gods).  But of course, the humans meet something much more terrifying, something that threatens to destroy the human race.            The screenplay of “Prometheus,” like those ancient Greeks and like those early sci-fi writers, asks a plethora of questions.  And like those previous writers, it doesn’t give very many answers, expecting the viewer instead to provide his or her own hypothetical solutions.  This is at once a great strength for the movie, but also a great weakness, because the expectation of the viewer is to have resolution to the conflicts presented in the story.  On a surface level, “Prometheus” often resembles an old Scooby Doo cartoon, where the intrepid investigators split up to find clues, but with the resulting mayhem and murder in graphic, splatter movie fashion.  But the conflict resolution of that element of the movie is only the excuse for the movie.  The real intent of the Jon Spaihts (“The Darkest Hour”)/Damon Lindelof (“Cowboys and Aliens”) script seems to focus on the suicidal, destructive nature of creation (and procreation).  To this end, the prevailing theme of father/child relationships bounces along the trajectory of this story, with all the dysfunctional family elements present in the Greek myths.            If that’s too abstract, don’t worry, the physicality of the story is overwhelming.  Everything is enormous in “Prometheus” (as if to emphasize our own insignificance).  Even the actions of the heroine of the story, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”) are Homeric.  She plays a woman who has an intrinsic faith in God, yet spearheads this investigation to find her creators.  She has lost everything she loves and desires in this world yet somehow has the faith to persevere.  Dr. Shaw should be a true inspiration to all of us.  The only other role demonstrating anything beyond a one dimensional character is David (Michael Fassbender, “Inglourious Basterds”), which is surprising considering David is a robot.  Yet his soulless loyalty, contrasted to Shaw’s faith, and various other characters’ sacrifice and selfishness, valor and cowardice, is what really makes this movie tick.            When you leave the theater, you will be in awe of the special effects and you will think the story a bit unsatisfying.  But as time passes, and you ponder the elemental concepts “Prometheus” discusses, and its unique analysis of human nature, you will find yourself enjoying the story more (although the basic plot is only mildly interesting).  This is a movie that should be seen multiple times to savor the philosophical nuances of these allegorical characters.

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