Movie Review: Prometheus

My... what a large head you have.

Allow me to get something out of the way immediately… Prometheus is not a direct prequel to Alien.  I would have bet my left arm that it was and that Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof were simply being coy when asked about whether or not this was a prequel and giving answers such as, “shares some DNA with Alien” and “the final 15 minutes will remind many fans of Alien“.  I didn’t buy it.  I was wrong.  Although the film takes place in the same universe of Alien, albeit ~90 years earlier, the events that take place are only tangential to the original Ridley Scott 1979 classic.

Since viewing the film this weekend, I have read many reviews, comment sections, and spoke with other viewers who largely come away slightly confused.  I did not have those confused thoughts…. in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed Prometheus with a few caveats.  It is a flawed movie with a number of specific problems (I’ll go into some spoilers at the end of the post), but overall, a gorgeous film with a fascinating concept that does in fact inform much of what happens in the subsequent four films although it ultimately has no bearing on any plot in the later films (sorry… by later I mean the previous four Alien films) beyond the initial contact with the derelict ship in the first Alien… which is actually not directly addressed in Prometheus.  Confused yet?

The film opens on a planet… not Earth (this is according to Scott)… not LV-426… simply, a planet.  There we see a large pale bald man with impeccable deltoids and jaw structure drink something at the edge of a waterfall while a large disc-like space ship hovers above watching as his body begins to disintegrate and dissolve into the water thus seeding the planet with his DNA. 

Jump to an archaeological dig in the year 2089 as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Dr. Charles Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a 35,000 year old cave painting that happens to show the same pattern as many other ancient sites spread across space and time on Earth depicting a star system.  Jump forward another four years to 2093 as the ship Prometheus carries a crew of 17 to the aforementioned star system in search of who left behind the messages and ultimately, as believed by Dr. Shaw, our creators… or as she likes to refer to them, Engineers.

Prometheus is chock full of not too subtle symbolism.  Whether the title, Prometheus was a god who gave fire to man only to have that act backfire on him, or the constant reminder of Dr. Shaw’s “faith” in the form of the cross around her neck… Scott feels the need to bash us over the head, multiple times, in order for us to understand that he is talking about creationism… or rather, the potential lack of evolution over the concept of “seeding” by an other worldly creature.  At times this works… at other times, not so much.

Prior to the arrival at LV-223, the only life sustaining planet in this particular system that they have been lead to, and prior to waking the crew, we are introduced to the runaway star of the film, David (Michael Fassbender).  David is an android fascinated by twentieth century music and film, specifically Lawrence of Arabia.  He goes so far as to model his hair and mannerisms on Peter O’Toole in such a wonderfully quiet, and creepy, way.  His performance in this film stands out over all others.  If you are a fan of the original Alien, you will know that Ripley has a certain prejudice when it comes to androids… that tension continues here… yet, not by the characters on screen, but by those of us in the audience.  Is David benevolent?  Does David have an agenda?  I won’t spill the beans…

Once the ship arrives at LV-223 (a point is made to show us the planet’s designation… it is NOT LV-426), we are introduced to the crew.  Funded by the Weyland Corporation, headed by Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce in distracting old guy makeup), the crew consists of a number of scientists in various fields and one uptight corporate overseer, Merideth Vickers (Charlize Theron), giving a deliciously cold and icy performance.  A couple of the scientists are given a few things to do as the movie progresses, but are more notable for being complete idiots in some of the more unbelievable acts they commit.  Rounding out the crew, at least the crew that matters, is Captain Janek (Idris Elba) in a wonderfully laid back ship captain sort of way.  He may get the best line in the film… you’ll know it when you hear it.

The movie begins to open up as they discover a number of structures on the planet and begin investigating.  Visually this film stand above almost anything I’ve seen in a while.  Incredibly shot, beautiful set pieces, a conceptual and visual through-line between this and the original film… unfortunately, as I mentioned before, there are some decisions made by what would otherwise be considered very intelligent people, that make no sense.  I understand the need to further the plot, but I have issues with people who hear, “don’t touch anything” and proceed to touch everything.

Although there are a few squirm inducing moments and a couple of frightening scenes, this is much more of a sci-fi thinker than a sci-fi action film.  Prometheus does not contain the abject horror of Alien, nor does it have the balls out feeling of space marines charging into an infected war zone… instead, we get a film that asks the question of who we are and where did we really come from, then gives us an answer… sort of.

As to the confusion, I welcome the ambiguity.  I am getting sick and gosh-darn-diddley-arned tired of people expecting movies to hand you all the answers without viewers have to either interpret the meaning or think about differing possibilities on their own.  Yes… there could be more than one outcome and not everything is spelled out for you, especially in terms of how this relates to the previous Alien films.  Get over it.  You are either too dim to understand it or too entitled in the idea that it should be spelled out for you.  Sometimes art makes you think.  That said, this is not a perfect movie and I certainly have my gripes… and yes, there may be a plot hole or three… but this is entertainment, and sometimes film makers want to tell you a story… Prometheus is the story Ridley Scott chose to tell, whether you like it or not.

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed Prometheus.  Great entertainment, phenomenal 3D, and a number of cool ideas to mentally chew on.  This may not be the masterpiece we were hoping for, but it certainly stands as one of the better chapters in the Alien franchise, with the possibility of more to come.  I would welcome a sequel to this prequel.

(I have a few things to say after the trailer that are super spoilery.  If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t scroll down past the trailer… you have been warned.)

In space, no one can hear you perform self-surgery,
Cornelius J. Blahg

OK… this is where I will spill a few spoilers.  Really, if you haven’t seen Prometheus, move on… don’t linger… go.

Alright, the main issue many people seem to be having is whether or not the ship that crashes is the same ship from Alien.  The answer is no.  The ship we see crashing at the end of Prometheus is simply a different ship on a different planet, which is why the Engineer was not in the Space Jockey’s seat when the chest burster escaped.  Also, the specific xenomorph in Prometheus is different from the xenomorph we are familiar with because it was either incubated in a different fashion and/or a slightly different biological weapon developed by the Engineers in order to either eradicate life on Earth as was the plan 2000 years ago, or another seeded planet’s life forms, we can’t be sure.  What we do know is that this ship from LV-223 was going to head to Earth in order to destroy us.

I read a wonderful theory by some fan out there in the interwebs that basically laid out a very plausible explanation for all of this.  My favorite aspect being that the derelict ship we encounter on LV-426 left LV-223 when the xenomorphs first attacked the engineers 2000 years ago and crashed, or landed, after having the queen burst through his chest or just prior.  that would explain the fossilization of the Space Jockey and the eggs as opposed to canisters.  It was also pointed out that the derelict on LV-426 was never fully explored and we only saw a tiny portion of the ship, hence, canisters and giant heads could have been found elsewhere if they had looked.

What is up with a biologist who treats an unknown snake/eel/cobra like creature coming out of strange black goo as though it was a cute kitten or puppy?  And a geologist with all the mapping tech who gets lost in a ship that he just mapped?  Why are these assumed intelligent people being complete and total dumb asses?  I understand David touching what he shouldn’t have touched, he is not organic and up to something sinister anyway, but there is no excuse for the others being as stupid as they behaved. 

In that same vein… since when doesn’t a captain care about his crew?  He seemed quite nonplussed when it came to the safety of his people.

I giggle now thinking about Scott saying this movie “shares DNA with Alien“.  Very clever way of saying their DNA is our DNA.  I liked that.

That’s about all I have to say… any thoughts?  Send me an email or leave a comment.  Just make sure you mark it as a spoiler if it has any info that would spoil the story.

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