Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce
Review: The human condition can often be a sad one for many different reasons. Some would argue one of those reasons would be our constant desire to have meaning in our lives beyond just our physical states. Throughout all of human history it seems people are wont to look beyond our world for the answers as to why we are here, why we were created, and who created us.
In his book ‘Breaking the Spell’ Daniel Dennett looks at religion as an evolutionary paradigm. Something that was inevitable based on our genetic makeup. Humans are programmed to want to be together. Loneliness is something that was left behind in the wake of evolution eons ago. We all had a better chance of survival together and those that had that trait were the ones that carried on.
But even in the largest crowd one can still feel alone. There can still be a sense of emptiness. This leads us to looking beyond ourselves and those that could look out and find answers were the traits most desired. Thousands of years later we have the current state of evolved religion that we have known for all our lives.
Yet there are still those out there in which what we have is not enough. The biggest component of religion is the faith required to embrace it. More precisely, blind faith. All religions of the world operate under the assumption that a God they cannot see does exist and has a reason behind our creation. For those that don’t share this faith they look for something more. There has to be something out that there has led to our being.
The main protagonists of ‘Prometheus’ are exactly these kinds of people. They were no doubt raised within a certain faith just as most people are, but there wasn’t enough there. They started looking for more answers and found them in the form of extraterrestrial ‘engineers’ who may have created all of mankind on a whim. With that notion they set off to travel many light years based on ancient maps with the hopes of meeting our makers and discovering the secrets of the universe.
Just like our everyday lives, they discover that things aren’t quite as simple as traveling to find the meaning to all existence and everything going off without a hitch. Something as complex as creation doesn’t have a simple answer and lots of what they find leads them to other more pressing questions that they look to answer.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) is the woman who is “leading” the expedition and seems more on a personal quest than one of true science. She chooses to believe that the answers to creation are out there and she wants to find them. It comes out that her father had faith based in Christian religion and things didn’t turn out so well for him. Shaw wants to know that there is more to it than faith that we don’t have to rely on that concept to make our way in the world.
She leads a crew of 16 others including her boyfriend. Together they are trying to make the most important discovery in all of humanity. We soon learn that Shaw isn’t able to have children and begin to think that perhaps to make up for her lack of ability to create life she is trying to find the answers to all creation. Maybe even then, once she learns about how we were created then the secrets of creation will open up to her and she might be able to create life on her own, even if it’s not in the conventional sense.
While Shaw is the leader, the crews true “boss” is Ms. Vickers (Theron), who is a representative from the Weyland Group sent to make sure the mission goes as planned. She if flanked by the android David (Fassbender) who is programmed for his singular purpose but also seems to be designed with an innate curiosity to keep him moving in the search for more knowledge. Together they could have ulterior motives but is not made clear.
With these two characters we have the best and worst part of this movie. As David, Fassbender gives an outstanding performance that could be abuzz come Oscar time. He is robotic enough to be a believable android yet still finds a way to be human enough that would we would believe he is unthreatening to other humans. On the flip side is Theron’s character. Her motivations are unclear and even the ones they give her don’t really seem to make sense in the greater context of the film. They try to develop her character but make it so inconsistent it’s hard to see the humanity within her. It’s even to the point where the ship’s captain (Elba) asks her if she’s a robot and is completely serious.
Elba gives a really solid performance as that captain and breathes life into what could have been an utterly forgettable role. His talent has always been on display and if this doesn’t break him out into a mega-star it most certainly will happen. One of the best scenes in the movie comes between the captain and Shaw. After things start to go awry the captain questions Shaw as to why she wants to find these answers seemingly at all costs. She asks him if he wants to know how and why we were created as if that’s the only thing that will provide meaning to his life. He simply responds with “I don’t care.”
While intentionally ambiguous this seems to be the overarching point of the narrative. Meaning is meaning and it need not matter what form we find it in. Some will search for answers to our creation and then when they get those answers but more questions arise will keep searching. Others will operate of faith as that is enough for them. Others simply won’t care because what they have in front of them is more than enough meaning for them without having to know why it’s there. There are many answers revealed and even more questions to pop up but this seems to be the most salient point observed by any party members involved.
This film is shot incredibly and is beautiful to look at especially in 3-D. The performances are solid, even if some of the characters are slightly unnecessary. There is a point of about 20 minutes that the film nearly loses itself with a subplot that doesn’t need to be in the movie for it to be effective.
Even so, this movie is definitely worth your time.