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Prometheus, a movie for adults, but not an adult movie

Ridley Scott's Prometheus delivers a thrill ride and offers up an armchair philosopher’s worth of provocative questions. It's gorgeous, the high def cinematography is vibrant, crisp. The creases in Charlize Theron's Meredith Vickers suits are so fine and precise they cut the air. Heck, I'd even say that her suit and David's suit function as architecture, they're so straight and even. The performances are equally sharp, and purposeful, and are means to an end: to hold up the popcorn confection philosophy of sci-fi creationism. Combine it with the smarts of the script and the mysteries they probe and you've got a fine slice of sci-fi, speculative fiction.   It's scary, beautiful, and possible. Many critics and movie-goers were baffled by the quasi-prequelness of much of the hype--it’s not a direct prequel, the film takes place a hundred years or so earlier than the events that destroyed Ripley’s Nostromo, but instead of "wtf" they should have been saying "what if."

Now the Aliens franchise, at least the first two, were huge influences upon my own sense of cool. The noir, close tightness of the original, matched with a serious adult question: what if alien life was more dangerous than us, and even higher on the food chain than us? The equally exciting sequel held my imagination that entire summer--I saw Aliens in the theatre four times, and rented the VHS the first week it was out and copied it--using a borrowed VCR and Maxell 8 hr tape. So of course I was hooked by the whole hype: Ridley Scott returning to the franchise he created, the genre he helped define (see John Carpenter’s The Thing, Cameron’s sequel, countless knock-offs--good and bad).

The first hour explores the theme of creationism--wondering who is our creator and pondering our purpose--from two perspectives, David the android, and Holloway and Elizabeth Shaw, a pair of archeologist lovers who happen to have discovered the key to ancient clues that point to where we may have originated. Michael Fassbender’s performance as David is a ballet performance--channeling HAL, Tom Ripley, and the Stepford Wives, while Noomi Rapace takes over the Sigourney Weaver heroine role with her own personal conflict with the nature of creation. The third wheel in the character spoke is Theron’s robotic Vickers, daddy’s girl gone Machiavellian, a great foil for David’s fussyness and Shaw’s optimism. All three of these characters have daddy issues, and personal agendas to fulfill. Throw in the military straightforwardness of remaining crew, especially Janek, Idris Elba’s’ smirking and drinking Tom Skerrit-like skipper of the Prometheus, and well you’ve got a mix familiar to fans of the sci-fi horror genre.

I won’t get into the heebie-jeebies of the film, they involve aliens, and creatures from Scott’s original film, but the action takes place in a different corner--LV 223-- of the same universe as the original two films of the franchise--LV 426.

What takes this film beyond its own borders are the philosophical questions, which are never answered, and the footnotes Scott took the time to compile in the form of viral videos; they almost steal the show. Damon Lindelof, of Lost fame, wrote the script and co-created the Weyland promos, the fake website, the Shaw plea for money from the Weyland corporation, and the “Happy Birthday, David” promo from Weyland. The footnotes underscore the various themes, agendas, and motives for the characters. Do they belong in the film? Hard to say, what it is best is an example of how a film, if done right, can extend beyond the cinema and into your imagination. The Nietzschean philosophy at the center of Weyland’s philosophy, resonates with the literal ubermensch of the film: our buff alien forefathers who somehow both create us and wish to destroy us--in the most sadistic way possible.

In the end it doesn’t matter if David, Vickers, or Shaw finds resolution, like the opening of the film, we’ve been seeded with ideas, given a trope, and a score to work with. Create your own answer, Scott seems to say. It’s the journey that counts.


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