Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky, Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie with leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime, first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race, second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel, but stunning visuals, shocking turns and grand questions more than make up the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design, Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet, one they believe holds the answers to the creation or life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron), the ruthless Weyland proxy, Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain, a slew of faceless scientists, and David (Michael Fassbender), HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately to scope out the scene, zipping up high-tech spacesuits, jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien, a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn, and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus, full of hologram maps, sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules, with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful, shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film, but the film maintains tension and mood from begging to end. It all just gets a bit bloodier.
Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors, shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in with out much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled), but for the most part, the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer, capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien, some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew, Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance, delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you, but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost, Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers, and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous, unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department, but with a clear mission and end point, Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature, the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.