In 2089 two archeologists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) discover some 35,000-year-old cave paintings showing people worshiping a giant humanoid figure who is pointing at a group of spheres that apparently represent an identifiable star system.
They have previously found similar images in drawings and paintings left by ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Hawaiians, etc. They are convinced that the giant figures are the “Engineers” who created humanity, though how they deduced that from the primitive images is never made clear. (In any case that explains the title since Prometheus was the Greek god who created humans.)
So they convince the evil CEO of Weyland Corporation (Guy Pearce) to fund an interstellar expedition to visit the star system indicated by the paintings. The ship has a crew of oddballs. Idris Elba plays Janek the hard-bitten captain, but the cold-blooded Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is really in charge. David (Michael Fassbender) is an emotionless android but he has created a personality for himself by assiduously copying Peter O’Toole’s character in Lawrence of Arabia (IMDB).
On the Earth-sized moon of a giant ringed planet they discover an alien base, apparently abandoned for thousands of years. But it conceals a terrifying secret…
As science fiction the movie doesn’t stand up well to the refrigerator test. Just to point out the most obvious problem: since all life on Earth shares the same genetic code, the Engineers would have to have visited Earth billions of years ago to create the first bacteria. Then they would have to visit repeatedly to create the first humans and pose for cave paintings, last visiting less than 2,000 years ago to meet the Mayans and Hawaiians. That doesn’t square well with the Engineer’s base having been abandoned for thousands of years.
But it is unfair to judge this by the standards of written science fiction. Compared to Star Wars or Star Trek or most other Hollywood sci-fi this is a masterpiece of logic.
Technically this is very well done. Even the fact that it has the dark, washed-out look common to many CGI-heavy movies doesn’t bother me. In this case it is appropriate to the atmosphere of the film. Most importantly it doesn’t look like they are making it dark to obscure the crummy-looking special effects. The special effects are quite visible and are very effective. (I did mention that this is not for the weak of stomach didn’t I?)
My main problem is that I found it hard to care about the characters. They are a typical horror movie cast: all with their own quirks but generally not very likable, and often painfully stupid.