It’s certainly been a fun road to here. First it was an Alien prequel, then it’s a completely new original movie and then it becomes clear that it is in fact related to Alien. However, the important thing to take into consideration when watching Prometheus is that while it is connected to Alien, it is in no way an Alien movie.
Prometheus has been presenting itself as a grand story about the origins of mankind and it opens appropriately with high sweeping shots of the primordial Earth as we witness the creation of the human race as an Engineer, as the God-race are later called, sacrifices himself so that his genetic materials can seed life, as the title slowly fades onto the screen, Alien-style.
The main story of the film is carried by the desire to meet these Engineers as the main characters, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway, played by Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green respectively, lead an expedition to what they believe to be the home planet of their creators.
So this is where the connection to Alien comes in. These Engineers are what we’ve come to know as Space Jockeys and this movie is about them and their relationship to the human race and that relationship is that they are our creators, our “engineers” but we’re not the only thing they create.
When the expedition of the Prometheus finally arrive at the planet (LV-223) they discover a series of mounds very similar in design to Giger’s concept designs for the Harkoneen castles for Jodorowsky’s aborted Dune project. Inside these mounds they find an Engineer facility, at the centre of which is a massive chamber that contains the Engineer head used in the majority of posters as well as a series of urns.
Now these urns are what causes the majority of the trouble that occurs in the movie. They contain a black liquid which is implied to be some sort of weapon. I really don’t want to spoil too much but I can’t avoid talking about these urns and what results because some of these results and how they are dealt with are my complaints.
So the Engineers are our creators but for some unknown reason decided to destroy us and these urns and their black contents are the weapon they decided to use to destroy us. However, their own creations destroyed the Engineers before they could launch and use the weapons on us. Much of the climax of the movie is motivated by Shaw’s desire to find out what made the Engineers change their minds and want to destroy the human race.
So the black liquid from the urn spawns a series of monsters: the snake type creatures seen in the trailer, the mutated Fifield and the creature which grows inside of Shaw. The snakes are only seen very briefly when they attack Milburn, the mutated Fifield is only in the film briefly and I’d say the creature that Shaw gives birth to is the most important.
What I found somewhat annoying was how so many different results came from the black liquid and how little the resulting creatures were actually used. Their relationship to each other also made no sense. The only consistent part of the black liquid was that it effected Holloway much in the same way it effected the “sacrifice” Engineer at the start of the movie. But ultimately it felt like we had too many creatures and nothing really done with them or explained about them. They were just there.
And then there’s the ending! Ridley had always said the ending would be the most obvious connection to Alien and we’d all correctly guessed that it would be the birthing of an Alien. This Alien actually looked exactly like the H.R Giger designed mural that the characters find the head room. Where it gets confusing is that this Proto-Alien is the result of a human character infected with the black substance from the urn. That infected character then has sex with a female character, who then births a creature that grows into a massive Face-Hugger type creature.
This Face-Hugger then goes on to infect an Engineer. This Engineer then gives birth to an almost-Alien (it looked a lot like Steve Johnson’s Alien concepts for the first Alien vs Predator movie). What?! But then the mural would imply that the Engineers are aware of the Aliens and that they’d known of them for a while but this is a long road to get to their creation…What’s happening here?
Elizabeth Shaw, David and Holloway are the main players of the movie and their actors do a fantastic job. I had loved Michael Fassbender before I saw Prometheus and I’ve got to say his android is absolutely fantastic. He brings something very cheeky and inappropriate to the synthetic character. His performance is completely unlike Ian Holm or Lance Henriksen or Winona Ryder.
We’re introduced to David much in the same manner that James Cameron wanted to introduce us to Bishop with him roaming the halls of the Sulaco while everyone was in hypersleep. We find David entertaining himself on the Prometheus while everyone else sleeps. What I really liked was that we see him watching Lawrence of Arabia (which he also states is his favourite film), in particular he is watching the scene which Peter Weyland talks about in the TED video: “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” He was easily the star of the show.
Noomi Rapace was also wonderful as Shaw. Her character wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It had always been implied that she would be this religious character but it wasn’t like that. She’s about having the faith to believe in something. Having faith in that her theory about the Engineer’s is correct. She carries the movie really well and brings a strength to it that really made me love her. I saw no shades of Ripley in her. Rapace really made Shaw her own.
Rapace’s Shaw is nicely contrasted by Logan Marshall-Green’s Holloway, Shaw’s headstrong lover. He’s all about taking risks and leaping without looking and Green also does a fantastic job of making him charming but also very flawed. His attitude towards David and his reaction to the disappointment of finding nothing living when they first explore the mound are well done.
I would easily say these are the main players of the movie but the supporting cast all do fantastic jobs as well. I wouldn’t say there was a single actor or character who didn’t pull their weight but I would say many of them were underused and what seemed like relationships or plotpoints between the supporting characters are very short lived and dropped off quite quickly, in particular a moment between Charlize Theron’s Vickers and Idris Elba’s Captain Janek.
And then there was Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland. Don’t get me wrong, his performance was great and I could clearly see his intention and his purpose but it just felt like another thing added to the movie which wasn’t really dealt with that much.
As could be expected from a Ridley Scott movie, everything looked wonderful. The work on the set was absolutely fantastic, the SFX are great and his whole visual style looked amazing. I really liked what they did with the set of the Prometheus. It certainly had a level of detail I’d expect and a lot of the design, while cleaner, resonated with some of the design aspects of the Nostromo. I certainly can’t complain about anything on the screen.
I was very happy with the design of the Engineers and the snake-like creature. However, the camera never really lingered on them too much to get a full look at the Engineers or their suits and we barely saw anything of the Proto-Alien. I wasn’t too keen on Shaw’s offspring, though. Tentacles are never really a good look – but the birthing scene was very disturbing, I’ll give Ridley that. There were people sat around me covering their faces at this point.
I think the one and only thing I really disliked strongly was the score by Marc Streitenfeld. Prometheus was always presented as being this grand and epic movie and it’s clear Streitenfeld took this and ran with it because the score remains grandiose throughout. Where it should have been creepy, it was grandiose. When it should have been somber…you guessed it, it was grandiose. It was a completely inappropriate score.
So…I think that about sums it up. It wasn’t an awful movie by any definition of the word. It just wasn’t amazing. Lindelof and Ridley are trying to squeeze too much into the movie and it just detracts. Things such as the creatures are simply done and not explored. The relationship between the Engineers and these weapons are left hanging, their connection to the Alien; a frustrating and confusing relationship; Weyland showing up halfway through.
And these points are often forgotten by the characters. Shaw and her baby…David was ready to freeze her and save the baby but when she removes it herself, we quickly move onto Weyland’s appearance and nothing is said about the baby…Again, too much going on.
Prometheus is left blatantly open for a sequel and there are so many questions that need answering. And I want to see the sequel, I want everything to be explained but I just feel somewhat cheated by the sheer amount of setup that is Prometheus and the lingering questions left me feeling unsatisfied.
But as I considered the movie on the drive home, as I sat and wrote this, there is much in Prometheus that I enjoyed. I just hope Ridley hasn’t sabotaged himself too much by trying to cram too many questions into this movie as I want more and I want to see my answers.
From Aaron Percival at AvPGalaxy, I award Prometheus a 3.5 out of 5.