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‘Prometheus’ bound by predecessors

‘Prometheus’ bound by predecessors

Published: 10:25 AM, 06/14/2012
Last updated: 4:14 PM, 06/14/2012

The Greek myth of Prometheus is the tale of a titan who created humanity, forging mankind through clay and later helping the species advance itself through the gift of fire, stolen from the gods.

With this gift came intelligence, which led to technology and later human folly, seen as an affront to the gods. To them, the latter gift was a mistake, and Prometheus, who felt otherwise, was punished severely – bound to a rock and forced to endure an eagle eating his liver, only to have it grow back again and repeat the same gruesome spectacle every day. His attempt to better humanity resulted in tragedy.

It’s a tale of overstepping boundaries, how seemingly benign actions can have unintended consequences.

Not to give director Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) an ego trip, but “Prometheus,” his proto-prequel to 1979’s “Alien,” does a bit of overreaching itself and suffers for it in the end. In the years of preproduction, Scott would not call it a prequel, saying it only shared some of the “Alien” DNA.

In truth, it shares a lot of DNA. They could be twins, though perhaps of the Schwarzenegger/DeVito variety. While a well-acted, beautifully filmed visual spectacle, “Prometheus” strives too hard to connect what could have been a profound, standalone film to the established “Alien” mythology, binding itself in the process.

In 2089, archaeologists Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, “Across the Universe”) discover ancient cave art that could explain the origin of mankind – a tall man, pointing toward a star cluster. Curious as it is, this same cluster and figure appear in other examples of ancient artwork spanning different continents and centuries – in other words, unconnected civilizations from different times and places had drawn the same thing.

Shaw and Holloway believe this is an invitation and seek funding for an expedition to the only life-sustaining planet in that cluster, a chance to meet the “engineers” of mankind. The trillion-dollar trip is funded by the Weyland Corporation (the predecessor to the “Alien” series infamous “company”), which has sent along steely corporate mission director Vickers (Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”) and near-perfect android David (Michael Fassbender, “A Dangerous Method”) to aid the archaeologists, while pursuing their own secret agenda.

When the crew of aptly named spaceship Prometheus, including its everyman captain (Idris Elba, “Thor”) and several standard-issue expendables, arrives, they discover the site of some alien catastrophe. A derelict base of sorts reveals a plethora of dead aliens – of the same ilk as the so-called “space jockey” from “Alien” (you know, that elephant-looking humanoid thing in the massive chair that Tom Skeritt and company discover) – and even more secrets to uncover, and most of them deadly.

As the tagline says, “They went searching for our beginning; what they found could be our end.”

In many cases, though, these folks are asking for it. The crew members, composed mainly of expert scientists, make some astoundingly awful decisions, akin to watching some hapless model run the wrong way in a slasher flick.

Co-written by Jon Spaihts (“The Darkest Hour”) and Damon Lindelof (TV’s “Lost”), the screenplay takes too many foolish leaps to advance the story, as if the writers had backed themselves into a corner. And while Scott’s concept has the potential for profundity, Spaihts and Lindelof blatantly set up plot points like a line of intergalactic dominoes. It’s somewhat blunt in presenting subtext, which doesn’t mesh with Scott’s obvious intention of open-endedness and viewer interpretation.

Those unfamiliar with the Greek myth might miss the film’s overarching theme, that of sacrifice for the betterment of all versus the inherently human need for self-preservation. But like the Greek myth, “Prometheus’s” undoing is of its own doing. In trying every which way but loose to connect this story to the “Alien” series, it limits its own potential. As an unrelated, standalone film, it may have worked better.

That said, “Prometheus” is not a dumb movie. Unlike some of his foolhardy characters, Scott doesn’t rush into things, rather savoring every frame of every scene. It’s a spectacular visual feast that takes its time, carefully setting the place for each course and offering plenty of food for thought.

The casting is stellar, particularly Fassbender, whose inorganic android is quite the contrary, while Rapace does well as a vulnerable, idealistic heroine. As to be expected, the cinematography is brilliant, accompanied by a minimalistic score and sharp sound that, like in “Alien,” serve as a counterpart to the tension.

“Prometheus” isn’t nearly as intense and claustrophobic as its original predecessor, with Scott opting for an open world and open meaning that can be just as foreboding – minus a milk-spewing Ian Holm.

“Prometheus,” rated R for sci-fi violence, including some intense images, and brief language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 16-B or visit