Prometheus: Intelligent Design Sometimes Not So Intelligent
Like the holographic founder of the corporation that bankrolls the Prometheus mission to meet one’s maker, Ridley Scott could be accused of desperately reaching for immortality in his later days by hanging his Alien ”prequel” on a script co-penned by a “Lost” writer who consistently raises deep questions without answering them. After all, selling ambiguity that passes for gravitas is something of a postmodern sport these days. What better vehicle, then, for a high-brow summer blockbuster than a dissection of one of the most seminal origin myths in cinematic history?
At the movie’s core beat a few misanthropic, horrifying ideas, among them: sometimes intelligent design is not so intelligent, and human beings prove that point in body and spirit better than anything creeping in the darkest parts of the galaxy. There is nothing more neurotic than realizing your own body can be your worst inescapable, enemy. Sci-fi is innately existential and all directors are brushed with hubris, so the entire undertaking is prone to pretention. The flaws in Prometheus can be frustrating, but I wouldn’t call this film a failure. I’d rather watch my boy Ridley wrestle and fall short than watch anything else on a marquee at the cineplex on a summer Saturday afternoon.
Early in the movie, Fassbender’s android aping Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia says, “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” If the shortcomings in Prometheus bother you to distraction, consider that quote both a hint and a wink from Ridley Scott, who may have not made a perfect, high-brow blockbuster, but clearly has made a movie he “chose to believe in” (a recrurent refrain in the dialogue).
Flaws and all, Prometheus makes for a great trilogy alongside Alien and Aliens, and renders all the other sequels irrelevant (sorry, David Fincher). Resetting the narrative for one of the biggest movie franchises is no small feat. That its creator reclaims his myth with ambition and eloquence is a success all its own, and worth watching.