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Official Vatican Newspaper Criticizes 'Prometheus' for 'Mishandling' Delicate Questions

"Prometheus"

With the criticisms, "Prometheus" joins a list of films the Vatican dislikes that includes "The Da Vinci Code" and "Avatar."

ROME – The Vatican’s official newspaper attacked Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, taking issue with the film’s premise about the origins of mankind and saying it is “a bad idea to defy the gods.”

The film, which opened in Italy Sept. 14, stars Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, and Charlize Theron in a story about a team of explorers seeking to understand the origins of mankind on earth after discovering a series of clues left behind by ancient civilizations.

The science fiction thriller has performed well in a relatively weak box office period in Italy, taking in €1 million ($1.3 million) last weekend, good for second place behind Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper comedy Magic Mike, which did not generate any complaints from the Vatican.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, said Prometheus “mishandles the delicate questions raised by … the battle eternal between good and evil in yet another attempt to steak the secret of immortality.” The newspaper also said that “the journey of Prometheus should instead symbolize the search for the supernatural,” referring to the original hero of Greek mythology who is said to have created man from clay.

Scott -- who has earned best director Oscar nominations for Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down -- may be best known for sci-fi thriller Alien and 1982’s Blade Runner, whose interpretation of what could be seen as a post-apocalyptic future, also turned heads at the Vatican at that time.

The Vatican, which is a spiritual touchstone for the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics, has not been shy about criticizing films it believes include an un-Christian take on Christian issues, such as James Cameron’s Avatar and The Da Vinci Code, based on the Dan Brown book of the same name and directed by Ron Howard. The language used to criticize Prometheus was more mild than that used in attacking Avatar and The Da Vinci Code

Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty), the euthenasia drama from Italy's Marco Bellocchio that drew critical acclaim at this year's Venice Film Festival, drew fire from Catholic advocacy groups but not from the Vatican itself.

But the Holy See has also endorsed its share of films over the years, including Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, Jesus of Nazareth from Franco Zeffirelli, Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ, Victor Flemming's Joan of Arc and It's a Wonderful Life from Frank Capra.

In 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, the Vatican attracted headlines by using the term “Catholic Classic” to describe The Blues Brothers, the John Landis comedy in which Jake and Elwood Blues -- played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, respectively -- set out on a series of adventures aimed at raising money for the Catholic orphanage where they grew up, claiming repeatedly that they were “on a mission from God.”