Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” is a rare thing – a big budget summer movie with both brains and brawn.
Much like last summer’s “,” Scott’s sort-of prequel to “Alien” poses open-ended questions on mankind’s place in the universe. But unlike most of its blockbuster ilk, the picture is intellectually stimulating, thoughtful and genuinely thrilling.
The movie’s mysterious prologue shows a lone being standing before a waterfall, ingesting something that makes him ill and causing his body to decay, morphing into new life forms.
We cut to the late 2080s as the titular space ship prepares for a voyage to the outer limits in search of a race of beings referred to as the “Engineers” that may or may not have helped to create mankind on Earth.
The ship’s crew includes two scientists – Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who believe that mankind has been invited via cave paintings to seek out the Engineers, as well as a corporate representative (Charlize Theron), a captain (Idris Elba) and an android named David (Michael Fassbender).
Similarly to HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Ash in “Alien,” David is more than just machinery. In fact, he is the first character we see trolling the corridors of Prometheus, twirling a basketball and watching “Lawrence of Arabia.”
The film’s first half involves the crew’s arrival on a seemingly deserted planet where large statues paying homage to the Engineers are discovered.
But soon, the crew finds evidence of potentially sinister plans that had been hatched by the alien race prior to its apparently sudden extinction.
And just as the Engineers managed to create mankind by using their own DNA, the film’s humans accidentally come into contact with cylinders of chemicals on the planet, creating new life forms in the process.
Scott scored a major breakout hit, both critically and financially, with “Alien.” His latest picture exists in the same universe with that 1979 classic, but is only moderately similar in tone.
The first sections of “Prometheus” are ponderous, its mid-section has the feel of a space opera and its finale delves into darker territory that could technically be classified as horror.
One particularly memorable sequence involving an operation rivals some of the most intense moments from Scott’s original.
The film is visually gorgeous and Scott wisely employs special effects to complement its narrative, rather than drive it.
"Prometheus" is a welcome addition to a summer movie season that has, so far, been lacking in ambition.
The film is playing at AMC Loews in Bay Terrace and Douglaston’s Movie World.