In the future, man’s quest for answers will take him to the edge of the universe. But the knowledge they seek, should never be known.
Venturing into “Prometheus Trap” completely blind and with zero point of reference, I found myself a little more at ease than if I’d had the opportunity this past summer to experience Ridley Scott’s latest attempt at science fiction gold, “Prometheus.” Assuming this was a low-rent mimickry in the Asylum Pictures vein, I could enjoy it for what it was, not despise its lofty ambitions. After all, there have been so very many occasions when the remake of a film would have stood firmly on its own, had the prior knowledge of a superior predecessor not been so engrained in memory. “Let Me In” is a prime example of this. My date was unaware of the original Swedish masterpiece “Let the Right One In,” and found the Hollywood reboot to be excellent. I, on the other hand, wanted desperately to throw things at the screen, screaming drunken obscenities like an angry father at a Little League game. Or was my old man the only one who did that?
I am both relieved and ecstatic to announce that “Prometheus Trap,” though bearing more than a passing resemblence in both melencholy tone and production design to Scott’s “Alien,” is taut and fairly original, an independent sci-fi thriller completely unto itself. Truth be told, it owes a greater debt and gratitude to the 1993 Billy Murray comedy “Groundhog Day” than to anything else that has come before.
In an unspecified distant future, an intergalactic war has been raging between Earth and seemingly every other planet capable of harboring life. At the onset, “Prometheus Trap” earns originality kudos for making our humble planet the enemy. Why not? The military vessel Venom and its tiny crew of three is diverted from its return trip home to investigate the derelict cargo ship Prometheus and gather its mysterious contents. If this is already sounding more than a smidgen similar to the aforementioned 1979 classic, stay with me. The crew consists of soldiers Rhodes and Haskin (Andrew J. Langton, Rebecca Kush, respectively), and the now-obligatory android with the equally mandatory cool name of Finn, outstandingly portrayed by newcomer Michael Shattner. Prometheus and its inhabitants have both fallen victim to saboteurs, and only three survive aboard it: The pilot Cornell (James Edward Becton), chief engineer Trent (Kate Britton), and, of course, their well-named android Artemis (Sarah-Doe Osborne), who knows precisely what the others are going to say before they even utter the words. The cargo in question turns out to be a massive Doomsday device, meant for complete destruction of the enemy and guaranteed victory in the war. Unfortunately, Trent herself calls Earth home, and detonates the bomb before it can wipe out her entire species. Prometheus and Venom are both vaporized in the blast, everyone dies, roll credits. Right?
Wrong-o. The massive explosion tears a rip in the space-time continuum (I’ve grown so weary of hearing those words in these kind of movies, my fingers almost refused to type them), reversing everything back the moment of the soldiers’ entry onto Prometheus and forcing all involved to unwittingly relive the hopeless scenario. The only ones aware this is happening are the androids, whose memories are stored in a database satellite millions of miles away as opposed to their corporeal bodies. This is an insidiously clever ploy that is regrettably explained by Rhodes far too early in the film, for no apparent reason other than to set up the premise. Clunky bit of foreshadowing notwithstanding, it is a great twist of logic on a familiar theme. How was Murray the only person cognizent of the time loop in “Groundhog Day”?
Though executed with impressive and artful flourish by director Andrew Bellware from a script by Steven J. Niles, “Promethus Trap” raises several unanswered questions. Why was Prometheus attacked in the first place, its deadly and presumably invaluable payload left unmolested? Why leave any survivors at all? How was a tiny military vessel supposed to even harbor such a colossal device if they were able to appropriate it? Why does Trent mercilously gun down one person, only to ditch the rifle and stalk the others weilding merely a crowbar? This query is two-fold, the adjoining segment being, why in the name of all that is holy was there a crowbar on a spaceship? What possible purpose would such an obviously archaic tool serve aboard an advanced craft? I won’t even delve into my puzzlement over how a civilian would have the first clue how to arm and engage a sophisticated weapon of mass destruction.
These complaints are simply my undeniable critic’s urges to nitpick, because I allowed for these lapses thanks entirely to the acting displayed by Shattner and Osborne as the androids. Both bring a beautiful, doomed pathos to roles that could have so easily been devices of plot in the hands of lesser actors. There is so much humanity in their scenes together, as Finn struggles to altar the path of time, Armetis imploringly trying to convince him that his attempts are futile. “The end cannot be stopped,” she tells him, adding “A stream that is diverted in the forest still has the same destination.” This is heady stuff for a modest sci-fi thriller, performed impeccably by the two unknowns. Everyone else in the cast becomes a secondary player to their story, and accolades must go out to the director and screenwriter for their instincts in focusing on them once the ball gets rolling. Finn and Artemis, two synthetic individuals created without discernible emotions, are truly the emotional core, the heart, of the film.
Finn’s ultimate resolution left this reviewer a bit cold, and it was far too neat and tidy a conclusion for a movie that boasted the atmosphere of a futuristic swan song. Nevertheless, I was thoroughly impressed and engaged from start to finish. It’s a bit of a shame and a sham that the powers-that-be behind it obviously titled “Prometheus Trap” to eke out a few more dollars based on banal name recognition. As I’d previously stated, this one stands on its own.
Prometheus Trap (2012)