Review: 'Prometheus' is no 'Alien'
Elizabeth Shaw is no Ripley.
The spaceship Prometheus is no Nostromo.
And "Prometheus" is no "Alien."
That said, Ridley Scott's prequel has its moments, mostly as the story unfolds, the characters are introduced and we discover a distant world that may hold the answer to the origin of our species.
Scott takes his time setting up the movie, and his leisurely approach is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie. Bit by bit, he creates awe, suspense and anticipation, largely through pacing and stunning imagery, some literally breath-taking.
In fact, it's the look of the movie that is the most captivating and engaging. The visuals are especially seductive, in part because of the subtle, effective use of 3-D. A waterfall and rushing stream tumble toward us; a laser mapping device ricochets down dark and mysterious tunnels in a dark and mysterious cavern; a violent storm barrels down on the human explorers as they race back to the ship. Instead of using the 3-D for cheap scare tactics -- this is after all an "Alien" movie -- it turns the audience into companions in the adventure.
The movie starts out promising enough: Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), an archeologist, and her husband believe that they have discovered a star map leading to a planet where they will find the "engineers," who created the human race. A mega-wealthy corporation pays for the expeditionary force to the planet; and of course, the motives of the corporate representatives (Charlize Theron) and robot (Michael Fassbender, with nothing to do) are deeply suspicious.
When Shaw and her fellow explorers, deep in the earth, come upon the remains of an ancient civilization, the payoff seems in sight. There is something familiar in those organic shapes and forms, in the headgear of those ancient astronauts. There's something familiar in the oozy slime, the black muck and the snakelike creature who entrances the ship's biologist. I'm sure I wasn't the only audience member waiting for something to bust out of some unlucky crew member.
Unfortunately, as the pieces of the plot start to click into place, the film starts to fall apart -- plot holes the size of a lunar crater, twists that make absolutely no sense, empty attempts at cosmic grandiosity, all of which even the escalating gore can't mask.
And Rapace, who was so compelling as the girl with the dragon tattoo, is flat and forgettable. Part of it may be her character, Shaw, who seems more simpering than steely -- hardly the feminist icon of Ripley. But Rapace doesn't invest Shaw's growing survival instincts with any urgency or determination. Her weak characterization stands in contrast to Theron's ferocity in an essentially one-dimensional role. I can't help but wonder what Theron would have done in the Shaw role.
On its own, "Prometheus" would be an entertaining sci-fi movie, with moments of occasional brilliance. But it suffers in comparison to the taut thrills and originality of "Alien." In space, no one can hear you scream, but in a movie theater, everyone can hear you sigh.