A&E » Film

Prometheus aims high



Prometheus opens this week. I've been to Greece, on a classic mythology and history tour in Grade 11. I don't remember much (and will admit I had to Google "Prometheus") but I did buy a sweet butterfly knife there that I still have somewhere.

Prometheus was a titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to us mortals. Pissed off, Zeus chained him to a big stone and summoned up a giant eagle to peck out his liver every day for all eternity. (The liver would grow back each night; Zeus wasn't afraid to get creative with his punishments.)

Prometheus then became a sort of iconic champion for mankind's folly of overreaching. That old saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" pretty much sums up Prometheus.

The Prometheus that's opening this Friday at the Village 8 and Garibaldi 5 is Ridley Scott's take on that theme, and also a sort of prequel to his seminal horror/sci-fi classic, 1979's Alien.

Set up as a mission to seek out the origins of human life, Prometheus is first and foremost a visual tour-de-force. From the eerie opening shots of an alien suicide to sprawling (yet somehow still claustrophobic) spaceship interiors, to parched landscapes of an alien planet, the look of the film is impressive.

Scott has always been a master of crafting rich and textured foreign environments (Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) and at age 75 he's still got it.

The cast is bomber but they're just playing recognizable types — the bright-eyed scientists who made the big discovery that set everything in motion, the hard-ass corporate chick sent to keep an eye on things, the capable ship's captain and the too-straight android with a secret. Noomi Rapace (original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is the real star playing one of the scientists, but Charlize Theron, starring in her second flick in as many weeks, shines as a not-too-hard ball-buster.

Prometheus will mean different things to different people. Aliens is one of the best horror flicks of all time (basically a killer haunted house story set in space) but since 1979 the iconic, H.R. Geiger-designed alien creature has really been watered down — cinematically in the Alien Vs. Predator series (and a score of Alien rip-offs like Leprechaun 4 or the last stage of the Contra videogame) but also in numerous comic book spin-offs (both Superman and Batman have fought the Aliens). Fans looking for this film to reinstate the unique awesomeness of the first time they saw that toothy alien will be disappointed.

But this is Scott's first sci-fi since 1982's Blade Runner and for true fans of the genre it will be good enough to keep the discussion going long after you leave the theatre. This is a well-envisioned flick about the idea of humankind meeting its creator, for better or for worse.

Of course, those are hefty themes for a genre pic and Ridley Scott runs the risk of making the same mistake his own characters (and Prometheus) did. Prometheus aims higher than most genre pics do; whether it deserves to have its innards pecked out by a giant pissed-off eagle remains to be seen.

The other film opening this week is Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. The first two were just a bunch of animals yelling at each other and painful to watch. From the trailer this one looks even worse as the arguing idiot animals traipse through a bunch of European clichés set to crappy techno-pop that reminds me of Aussie Day.

Plus David Schwimmer is garbage.

Skip it.