From the opening scenes of “Prometheus,” it is clear that you’re about to experience sci-fi at its most epic and grandiose.
Thirty-three years after the first “Alien” film brought terror and horror into space, director Ridley Scott returns to a story which has produced a modern monster as iconic as that in Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein.” Written as a kind of prequel, “Prometheus” inhabits the same universe as the original film.
Scott has admitted to being interested in the roots of the alien, especially as there is only a glimpse of that world in the shape of the “space jockey” that the crew of the Nostramo find in 1979’s “Alien.”
Only this time, in place of groundbreaking shocks, there is a far more cerebral exploration about mankind’s broader place in the universe.
While there are enough thrills on hand to sustain fans of the original, “Prometheus” is all existential angst.
Much like Dr. Frankenstein, the scientist at the center of “Prometheus” is obsessed by the origins of human life.
Noomi Rapace, who was so compelling in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” takes center stage as a scientist who discovers cave paintings on Earth that point to mankind’s origins in the stars.
Before you can even make a cup of tea, she’s on board a spaceship destined for the home of these prehistoric alien visitors.
Like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the first four films, Rapace is a survivor, driven and determined. Yet her edges are softened somewhat by the wonder and curiosity that her faith brings.
While the biologists, geologists and engineers on board are motivated by the scientific rationalism of Darwinism, Rapace’s Dr. Elizabeth Shaw carries her father’s cross with her as a reminder of God the creator.
For her, science neither confirms nor denies the existence of God. As they make discoveries on the planet, one of her colleagues turns to her, saying smugly, “Well, now you know who created us.” Her reply: “Yes, but who made them?”
The title is taken from the Greek myth about an overly intelligent titan who stole fire from the gods.
His punishment was to be tied to a rock and have an eagle eat his liver. Every day his liver would grow back. Zeus was not a fan of grace.
You can’t help but feel that the “Alien” story is one big cautionary tale for anyone tinkering with nature.
Rapace may be the main protagonist but it’s Michael Fassbender’s robot David who steals the film.
Combining Peter O’Toole’s charm in “Lawrence of Arabia” with HAL’s mechanical determination in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he’s pitch perfect as a robot grappling with his own sense of purpose.
While inorganic, he raises questions about the urge all life has to begat more life, and why intelligent beings are driven to search for the origins of their own creation.
However, like the explorers in the film, anyone watching “Prometheus” may be left with more questions than answers.
It’s such an ambitious story (and how satisfying it is to have Ridley Scott doing sci-fi again) that the lack of clarity on the more profound questions can’t help but produce frustration. The fact that they’re even willing to ask them is worth applauding, though.
Looking for concrete answers is deeply rooted in the human soul, yet it’s those with the mind of a pilgrim who seem more content when the answers aren’t clear.
Alex Baker is the creative coordinator for the Baptist Union of Great Britain and a former sub-editor on The Baptist Times. He’s also a cartoonist.