“Prometheus” is not “Alien,” or “Aliens” or… You Get The Point?
I don’t often care for prequels. These days, most Hollywood productions are all flash and no substance, so I was reluctant to see if they’d butcher yet another beloved franchise.
I’m relieved to say that Prometheus, while not perfect, is a surprisingly entertaining film that manages to tie the story into the Alien universe while setting itself apart as a (hopefully) new franchise.
Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshal- Green) discovered clues that predate some of the earliest evidence of a race of humanoids that have come in contact with humans. Shaw and Holloway believe it to be an invitation to seek out the humanoids and with a little funding from the Weyland Corporation set out on an expedition to find the planet they believe would hold the answers to that one mysterious question; why were we created? When they arrive, they begin an investigation that slowly unravels a dangerous and terrifying reality.
For those that have watched the first Alien, they will undoubtedly remember a very iconic scene in which the crew stumbles upon the gigantic pilot of an alien ship (AKA, “The Space Jockey”, or “The Pilot”). Upon closer observation, they notice that the creature has a gigantic hole in its chest, which serves as foreshadowing to one of the most memorable scenes in horror movie history.
The story behind Prometheus is aimed at giving The Pilot an identity and a link to the Alien universe. I completely forgot about that scene over time, but after hearing about Prometheus and figuring out the link between that scene and the entire plot, I could really appreciate the wonder left behind from that strange, awesome-looking creature with a hole in its chest.
As I mentioned earlier, this movie is not perfect. It has elements that, hardcore fan or not, will likely disappoint. It also has some very nice touches that give it that Alien feel while still establishing its own identity. I will focus on the good points first.
The set design was awesome! Most movies that are set in space these days have hyper-futuristic designs that make any space movie from the 70’s and 80’s look outdated. I was very pleased that they kept the ships & crew looking almost exactly as they would in a late 70’s sci-fi flick. Obviously, things like computer interfaces and touch screens look more modern, but everything else had that slightly retro look that felt right and made me feel a bit nostalgic.
David 8 (Michael Fassbender), the resident android, is excellent. It would not be a far stretch to say that his character is really what holds everything together. Despite being an android, he often challenges the views of his human companions and brings up plenty of interesting points regarding creation and purpose. Prometheus would not have worked nearly as well without David.
Now let’s get to what can possibly disappoint. If you’re a hardcore Alien fan expecting this movie to be about a crew desperately fighting to survive against the alien’s predecessor, you will be greatly disappointed. The central theme in Prometheus is about exploration, both physical and philosophical, and finding answers. It’s a pretty stark contrast to a movie about the crew being picked off one by one, or about space marines showing up to kick some alien tail.
The best comparison I can come up with is Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. They are two movies that go in completely different directions and have Riddick as a link. Alien and Prometheus are similar in that they take different approaches and are only linked by The Pilot. If you go in expecting an Alien movie, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
The other problems I could see with Prometheus are that it doesn’t fully explore its own philosophy or some of the other characters. It brings up some interesting ideas regarding our origin as a species, but never goes into great depths. Some of the characters in the movie have a much lesser presence than they should have. I was especially surprised by the fact that Charlize Theron (who plays Meredith Vickers) barely has any screen time. Hers was the only character I felt was just tossed in so a big name actress could have a presence. You’ll leave wondering why certain things happened, and if you’re the type that needs everything cut and dry, you’ll hate leaving with more questions than answers.
By the end of the film, there is hardly any doubt that this movie is its own saga. There is much that remains unresolved, but it leaves you feeling certain that there will be more. I wouldn’t count the aliens completely out, but I can tell you that if this movie spawns more sequels, it will likely be more focused on humanity’s battle with a new adversary.
Prometheus does not require you to have seen any of the Alien movies. It’s not too deep, but the story is pretty intriguing and some of the characters and visuals can really pull you in. Basically, as long as you aren’t expecting an Alien movie, you’ll have a good time with Prometheus.