Posted June 23, 2012 by William Dunmyer in Top-Rated

Prometheus: Popcorn Movie for Grown-Ups

Fresh from the disaster of “Robin Hood” (2010), which was perhaps his biggest flop ever, director Ridley Scott returns to “Alien,” one of the biggest successes of his illustrious and highly unique career.

I’ve heard “Prometheus” described as a prequel to “Alien,” but I’d more describe it as a separate work with some similarity to its forebear, much the way comic-book characters have myriad stories written about them with only minimal continuity between them. I think one can appreciate “Prometheus” best as a stand-alone piece of horror/sci-fi.

The story takes place about 100 years in the future — nearly the present day. Two scientists (played by Logan Marshall-Green, who has mostly worked in television, and Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress made world-famous by her portrayal of the title character in the “Girl With The…” trilogy) have discovered a pictogram that is repeated in cave paintings all over the world.

This pictogram depicts a large humanoid figure pointing to a constellation of planets in the sky. The scientists see this as both an invitation and a map, directing them to a certain planet in a distant galaxy. A rich man eventually funds a voyage to that planet, hoping to find the secret to human origins. The big question is: Did these humanoids from a distant galaxy create us? And are they still out there?

Suffice it to say, surprises are in store for our intrepid voyagers. I won’t get into the details of the plot resolution. Instead, I’ll say that what I found most intriguing about “Prometheus” was its subtexts about spirituality and the human quest for understanding.

I suppose we have co-writer Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) to thank for the theological dimension woven into the story. As was the case with the great TV show “Lost,” in “Prometheus” we have numerous references to Christianity that give the story added resonance. Here the point seems to be to draw parallels between scientific and spiritual quests, arguably the two most compelling myths of our time.

Typically depicted as antithetical, these two quests are looked at here as more similar than different. What are the priest and scientist both seeking? Keys to the origin of the universe. It was beautiful to see Rapace’s character, a true scientist, wearing a cross around her neck in such a meaningful way. And I loved how that piece of jewelry kept re-entering the story in small ways. I also noticed that Rapace’s character pointedly uses the phrase “the year of our Lord” in the voice-over narration that closes the film.

If I were to add anything to the parallels drawn between scientist and theologian, it would be to add a third figure: the artist. Who is the one drawing these parallels for us? Artists. The screenwriters and the director. All three of those modern-day figures share a yearning for deeper understanding, and “Prometheus” is a celebration of that.

It’s also a kick-ass sci-fi movie and the best popcorn movie of 2012 so far.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.