Before a meteor becomes a meteor, it's part of a comet or asteroid composed of rock and/or ice, sailing majestically through space. Once a hunk of matter breaks off that asteroid, it becomes a meteor, and once it hits the Earth's atmosphere, it starts to disintegrate into smaller bits; in other words, as it progresses, it falls apart. This, unfortunately, is an apt metaphor for Prometheus, which crumbles to pieces around the halfway mark, and is all but indistinguishable from its original self by film's end.
That's not to say there's absolutely nothing redeeming about the movie. In fact, it's a suspenseful, at times jaw-dropping film, but there are more questions than answers at its empty core. Directed by Alien mastermind Ridley Scott, it has all the hallmarks of a modern sci-fi film: creepy, mysterious extra-terrestrials, gung-ho scientists ready to make the next big discovery, a cheeky, stone-faced android, and a collection of some of the most intense visual effects since Inception.
It starts off earnestly enough, as a team of explorers helmed by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) stumble upon an ancient set of cave drawings. From there, we fast-forward to the late 2000s in outer space as Shaw, Holloway and a collection of scientists, geologists and engineers are cryogenically frozen on a ship and sent to the planet where they believe the drawings -- and perhaps the first man, hence the name of the ship, Prometheus -- originated from. But they're not alone. On board is the stern matriarch of the project, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), whose father is the president of the company funding the trip, and David, an android expertly played by Michael Fassbender.
The mood on the ship is foreboding and antiseptic, and it's obvious that Meredith and David have other agendas beyond the simple scientific mission. What the motives are, exactly, is pretty unclear, and we don't really get an answer. We are forced to settle with the fact that they just aren't team players, and we never get to the heart of their motivations.
Once they land on the planet, the entire crew ventures out to a massive hulk of rock, an alien construction on a dry plain. This is the pinnacle of suspense in this movie, and probably the best collection of scenes in the film's two hour runtime. The inside of the construction is impressive, effects-wise, and we get some nasty gore and true Alien-esque moments of heart-pounding terror. But then, once they all leave the cave, the movie starts to come apart.
It isn't the acting that hinders the movie -- Rapace hits the mark as the action-movie protagonist and Fassbender is spot-on as the android -- but rather the plot and the continuity. It feels like the writers hit a dead end and didn't know where to go (much like most of the characters in the movie). Echoes of the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica came to mind as each character in Prometheus starts to make weird, unexplained decisions, some of which completely deny logic. One person turns against another, but their motivations are never explained. Medical staples are applied on someone, and they manage to hold despite multiple traumas and extreme physical exertion. A ship flips upside-down, yet drinking glasses are still sitting upright on the ship's bar counter. Little missed details and unanswered questions mar the experience, and gives the film a feeling of slapdashery.
It's sort of cheap to compare a current movie to a predecessor, but in the face of the Alien franchise (which Prometheus makes several direct nods to), this movie is a hollow shell, fabricated to appease the summer movie-going masses. One thing it's been good for is conversation, which has been happening on the Internet and in movie theatres across the continent -- so it's not a total waste.
Too bad it turns to dust before we can take a really good look at it.