After a long, long day at the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, I made the choice to see the midnight showing of Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel, Prometheus. Two hours and change later, I walked out of the movie with my mouth agape and lots of questions in my head about what I just experienced. In short: Prometheus is a great science fiction film that, despite a few issues, delivers in spades. This is the non-spoiler zone, please see towards the end of this review for the spoiler-area.
Again, without spoiling anything, Prometheus basically is a story of human beings finding what they believe to be an invitation of sorts in the form of a star constellation found in various, ancient pictographs from numerous dead civilizations. The lynch pin in this find is shown as two scientists, played by Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, discover another pictograph and put it all together. The story moves VERY quickly and we find ourselves nearing the end of the starship Prometheus’ journey to this star system. This is where we we meet one of the two most-interesting characters in the film: David, a synthetic person (see: Android), as he tends to the various shipboard functions while the crew is in hypersleep. While David is talked down to throughout the film by various other characters as to having no feelings, emotions, etc, we can’t help but think that the Weyland corporation has indeed conquered this feat as well based on his actions. His identifying with a particular film and character so much during this short sequence is very moving and telling of this. He identifies with this film so much, he colors and styles his hair like its main character. His reactions to jibes also hide a subtle emotional response. College students will be writing thesis pieces on the character of David for a while – there is just so much “meat” to his character. David is played by Michael Fassbender, who does a tremendous job in the role. While we have seen great actors such as Lance Henriksen and Ian Holm play similar androids in other Alien films, Fassbender is “different”. I could have watched him as this character for days – his nuances, etc. – just terrific.
After the Prometheus lands on the planet LV_223 (Alien took place on LV_426), that’s where the real action of the film begins. Suffice it to say that, before the film’s end, there are plenty of creatures, mayhem, backstabbing, and other visceral punches that sometimes seem to reach out of the screen and slap you in the face. Aside from Fassbender, Charlize Theron plays the film’s other most-interesting character (who is very underused), in company-woman Meredith Vickers. Her character has a very intriguing personal dynamic to the mission and the company, which I wish we got to see explored a bit more. Again – she was tragically underused and, without spoiling stuff, I can’t go into all of that for now.
The biggest issues I have with Prometheus is in the actions of the rest of the crew. We see in today’s space missions just how slow and methodical our brave astronauts, cosmonauts, etc are in carrying out their duties. NASA does not rush anything – far from it. There is a lot of “cowboying” around in Prometheus which just doesn’t make sense given that it is the most expensive undertaking in human history (according to Theron’s character in the film). I am assuming this was done for the sake of time as, if the audience were treated to weeks upon weeks of scans, surveys, etc before any human set foot inside whatever they find on this alien world, it would not make for good cinema. Either way, I noticed and it bothered me. Also, while Noomi Rapace does a fine job as Dr. Shaw, and is meant to be the heroine of the film, I kept wanting to know more about David and Vickers. Their characters and performances are simply too amazing for their own good.
Seeing the film in IMAX 3D on opening night, I was expecting at least some playing to the technology. The 3D gimmicks kill me – I simply hate them. Even Cameron could not resist that floating, glowing flock of small creature scene in Avatar. Thankfully, Scott never seems to play to the technology. I could have watched Prometheus with our without 3D and been completely happy either way. More importantly to my movie-viewing experience was seeing it in IMAX. This film is grand in scope and the larger frame helps bring this home even more.
Overall, Prometheus poses several philosophical questions: Why are we here? How did we get here? What or who is “God”? What would happen if we met “God”? Should we meet “God”? Why does “God” need a starship? (okay, so not that one) While it might not answer everything by the end, it does a decent job of setting us up for these answers in a possible sequel which, apparently, Scott is thinking about after the Blade Runner follow-up. Prometheus is an excellent science fiction film that explores the universe prior to the Alien films and also sets up a whole new adventure. See it now – do it! Spoiler zone follows below…..
The Connection to Alien Discussion — SPOILER ZONE!
So after speaking with several people and reading other reviews and forum posts regarding Prometheus, I came to the following conclusion: It seems as though most people are trying to connect the various creatures in the film to the Xenomorph we all know and love. After all, most of the creatures look like they could combine into a Xenomorph eventually. The cobra-worms have facehugger bladder looking sides and a vaginal mouth part – as well as constrict their prey. The squid beast has several of these traits as well – including the ability to lay embryos down the throat of its victim. Additionally, and most confusing in the grand scheme of figuring it all out, is the big reveal Xenomorph-like creature that erupts from the Space Jockey’s body. It is clearly NOT a Xenomorph as we know them – it has smooth skin, a pointed cranium, and its jaws shoot forward as a whole instead of having a second set internally. It actually reminded me a bit of Gena Davis in Beetlejuice when she pulls her face forward to scare the new residents of their house, but I digress…
Again, most seem to be trying to link this particular creature with somehow giving rise to the Alien in the original movie. The problem with this logic, however, is that earlier in the picture, Prometheus glances over a full-on Xenomorph mural on the wall of the ampule room – including an out-of-place green crystal underneath it (looking like it contains something ala the amber in Jurassic Park). It is my personal belief (not the belief of our site as a whole) that this is the origin of the black goo responsible for mutating things into these creatures. This goo is a derivative of the Xenomorph itself. Aside from this, we know that the derelict craft on LV_426 has been there (according to the crew of Alien) for quite a bit earlier than the events of Prometheus. The Xenomorph already exists in Prometheus. What we are seeing is the outcome of using its DNA to alter existing life forms. It is a somewhat similar to the Ripley experiments in the not-so-good Alien Resurrection. Additionally, the Space Jockeys seem to revere the Xenomorph, hence its crucified (or Vitruvian) pose on the wall – either in some religious fashion or as a “perfect organism” similar to how Weyland-Yutani views the creature in subsequent films (another parallel between Humans and the Space Jockeys). Ridley mentioned seeing “the DNA” of Alien in Prometheus. LITERALLY, we are, in the black goo!