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Thirty years ago Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movies “Alien” and “Blade Runner” became film classics, favorites of fans, critics and movie buffs alike.
And while Scott’s “Prometheus,” debuting in theaters this weekend, isn’t getting the same, immediate acclaim, it’s still one of the best movies you’ll see this summer and perhaps the most culturally significant film of the year.
For starters, “Prometheus” may have the best 3-D effects yet seen on film, with stark, yet majestic landscapes and breathtaking space scenes. If you’ve never seen a 3-D film, or even if you have, do not see “Prometheus” without the goofy glasses. It literally transports audiences to another world, an effect that wouldn’t be half as stunning in 2-D.
Actor Michael Fassbender puts on an Oscar-worthy performance as the android who resents – passionately – that he’s told he has “no soul” and no emotions, a truly creepy and memorable character that will still be talked about a decade from now.
And the first act of the film’s story is positively brilliant, asking questions that are demanding and challenging of faith, philosophy and science without giving the audience any real clue or assurance that those questions will be answered.
In fact, the film’s lead actress, Noomi Rapace, summed up exactly what makes “Prometheus” so significant.
“I really had to travel back and ask myself, what do I believe in?” Rapace said in an interview with Fox News. “And do I believe in God? And what’s my relationship to faith?”
Anyone who’s wiling to think about the film will walk away with some of the same questions … and more.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons some people have been turned off by “Prometheus” is that it isn’t a very entertaining film. It’s not amusing (from the Latin, “to not think”). The brilliance of “Prometheus” is in its cerebral qualities, not its blockbuster ability, despite what the film’s trailers portray.
And frankly, the film has several flaws that squash its emotional impact: From underdeveloped characters (Charlize Theron is a waste of talent in hers) to distractingly bad makeup on a 44-year-old playing a 90-year-old man (Donald Sutherland would have brought so much more gravitas to the role – why not find a capable older actor?) to amateurish, rubber creatures that only M. Night Shyamalan could love, to a second act that loses its focus in a foolish attempt to be more of a horror film, sci-fi geeks are going to be disappointed by what “Prometheus” got wrong on its path to doing so much right.
But movie fans shouldn’t allow the disappointment of what could have been to cloud their judgment of what is.
This isn’t sci-fi action fun or a horror thriller. It’s not a date movie or an adrenaline rush. It’s a big, beautiful, unrelenting, unanswered question: “Where did we come from?”
And underlying that question are many more, “Where are we going? Is there a soul, an afterlife? Is there something beyond the natural world, a God? And if so, is He good? Why has He ‘left’ us? Can you believe in Him when everything goes wrong? And is not believing in Him just a way of trying to escape His moral authority over our lives?”
And here’s what makes “Prometheus” so profound: It defies and challenges all the easy answers to those questions and gives no pat answer in return.
“Prometheus” insists these questions are important and then sets the audience loose to find the answers on their own.
In fact, in the theater where I saw it, the audience left quietly, dumbfounded. Some, I imagine, were just bummed it wasn’t a good popcorn flick. They wanted “amusement” and got a gagging dose of “musement” instead. But others were left chewing on some meaty worldview issues, brought on by dozens of powerful lines and scenes.
In just one, for example, a woman and her lover are talking about the “evidence” (I won’t spoil whether the conclusions drawn from the evidence are accurate or not) that humans were “created” on Earth by an alien species.
“I guess you can take your father’s cross off [from your necklace] now,” he says to her.
“Because they made us,” he answers.
“Who made them?” she asks in return.
“There’s nothing special about the creation of life,” he insists. “All you need is a dash of DNA and half a brain.”
“What does that say about me then?” she asks, referring to her inability to conceive children. “I can’t create life.”
In another, a man is asked why he’s so determined to make contact with the aliens.
“To meet my maker,” he explains. “If these things made us, then surely they can save us. Save me, anyway.”
“Save you from what?” he’s asked.
“Death, of course.”
Life, death, purpose, meaning, creation, afterlife … all left wide open for discussion. Christians cannot afford to miss out on “Prometheus.” It is an opportunity to engage the culture in, as the film says, “the most meaningful questions ever asked by mankind.”
- “Prometheus” contains roughly 40 profanities and obscenities, including a handful of strong obscenities.
- The film contains a few, groaningly obvious and pointless skin shots, including a gaze down a woman’s cleavage she is doing pushups and a naked woman draped seductively across the bed with a sheet strategically covering certain parts. There’s also some shirtless men and several scenes where the characters are seen wrapped in folds of gauze positioned like bikinis, running about in their skivvies. There’s a somewhat lewd conversation about sex and a pair that engage in heavy kissing with implied sex, though nothing explicit is seen.
- The film has plenty of violence, bloodshed, gore and oozing alien slime. A few scenes are designed to intentionally “gross out” the audience, and one scene in particular graphically shows a woman being sliced open surgically. Though not a “slasher” horror film, or an action, fist-fight flick, “Prometheus” does have some strong horror elements and is not for the faint of stomach.
- The film has no overtly occult elements (unless aliens or their foreign, written language are somehow occult), but “Prometheus” is jam-packed with religious elements, far too numerous to list. Discussions about God, faith and the origins of humanity abound, with a specific focus on Christianity, while the earth’s other major religions are absent. Though much of the film seems cryptically critical of Christianity, its conclusion (while trying to avoid giving away the ending) actually resolves with a Christianity-affirming bent.