Years in development, Ridley Scott’s Aliens prequel Prometheus flaunts many roots, from epic themes sucked out of 2001: A Space Odyssey to the inevitable, awful ick-with-teeth (Aliens and its progeny). There is a dull nod to the sunken city of the Krell in Forbidden Planet and a conceptual one to Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan with a dying billionaire (Guy Pearce, unrecognizable) who seeks eternal life.
And so the billionaire bankrolls a mission to a cruel planet where almost all life has died. Preening on board the vessel Prometheus is his daughter (Charlize Theron), an ice princess who seems more alien than the creepy aliens. As contrast, Noomi Rapace — with that name, you have to appear in sci-fi — incarnates both scientific curiosity and Christianity (she wears a cross, winsomely). After two years of cryogenic sleep, she needs space sex with a hunky co-scientist (Logan Marshall-Green). Is that Chopin on the soundtrack?
Michael Fassbender is a brainy, humanoid robot with elements of Spock from Star Trek, David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Rutger Hauer in Scott’s Blade Runner, even Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. As the vessel’s captain, Idris Elba discharges cool vibes of “whatever” attitude before rushing in to breathlessly explain some plot. A pair of vaguely comical fools are ready to become alien snacks.
The story is a lurching carnival of budget blasts. The 3-D does not much help stuff such as the storms of metallic dust. This movie could be its own Comic-Con in hell. Characters we never cared about die wretchedly, and in her big scene Rapace grotesquely operates on herself. It may be cinema’s worst anti-abortion scene, or is it pro-abortion? In the kitsch maze of Scott’s mind, the issues tend to fog. As Elke Sommer wisely said in The Oscar, “Take one from column A and two from column B — you get an egg roll either way.”