First off, here be spoilers. If you haven’t seen Prometheus, go away unless you don’t mind hearing about what happens. You’ve been warned.
I haven’t seen any of the Alien movies. It’s been one of those things that I always mean to do that just hasn’t happened. Like flossing. Regardless, when I saw the trailer for Prometheus, I knew I had to see it. Sci-fi, crazed science, and space? Yes, please. Factor in some goo, and I’m yours. And goo there is.
From the trailer, I expected protagonist Elizabeth Shaw (portrayed by Noomi Rapace) to be borderline schizophrenic and psychotic, mostly because they seemed to edit together the clips of her looking feverish and ever-so-slightly possessed.
The film opens with a god-like biped reverently destroying himself down to the DNA by drinking sludge from a ceremonial vessel and plunging into a river, where we as the super-special viewers get to zoom in on the view of his double-helices breaking down and restructuring into new forms of life. I had a serious “Oh…huh” moment after trying to deconstruct that scene with friends to little avail when I read an article that identified it as the origin of our planet’s evolution — so the first thing we see in the film is one of the “Engineers” giving his life for the creation of ours. But just one. Which is important.
Did you get that? I felt rather thick that I didn’t.
Next, the camera panned through some familiar-looking scenery (to me), landing on the Isle of Skye in Scotland much to my momentary delight. There Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover the cave painting that launched the Prometheus, and we see that they’re just two archaeologists digging around.
Once in the ship, we meet David, the android who needs to dye his hair. His development throughout the film is one of the more interesting. He’s a robot, but there is some dissonance in his accepting of that fact. He knows he is, but he watches Lawrence of Arabia and touches up his roots and creeps around in Shaw’s memories while she sleeps. He’s intrigued by humanity and plays at it, while knowing fully who and what he is.
To me, most of the characters are rather forgettable. Charlie Holloway is hard to like, both because of his childish pouting and the way he pokes at David — which most likely leads to David choosing Charlie as the conduit for his little experiment. Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers is made complex too little, too late, and most of the crew don’t have anything going for them. I think they missed the ability to make some of those doomed crew members interesting, and most of the real poignant moments centered around Elizabeth Shaw’s uterus.
Noomi Rapace was, I think, the shining star in this film. Her guttural reaction to Holloway’s comment about creating life touched on the primal fears of many women, even those who don’t want children, and later her pure panic and resolve to rid her body of the alien hybrid fetus inside of her only made that scene more dynamic and destructive than a self-inflicted cesarean is standing alone. Which, by the way, jeeeebus.
Far from the sycophantic awe I expected from the trailers, both Shaw and Dr. Ford (played by the fabulous Kate Dickie) showed believable apprehension that gave way to the same pulse-pounding fear I would have encountering a structure built by an alien species. As they delve deeper into the pyramid, that apprehension grows, and if it had been left to the humans, their caution might have forestalled the progression of the plot.
Not so, says David, as he pockets a ginormous cylinder and its oozing goo. (I told you there was goo.)
That and Fifield and Millburn (Sean Harris and Rafe Spall, respectively) have some navigational issues that turn their fleeing into lost-dom. We get to see an interesting interaction between Millburn and a very phallic alien that jumps down his throat, and I’ll be honest and say that part of me laughed at that because it occurred right after he spent a few minutes telling it how beautiful it was.
The crew gets picked off, starting with those two and combusting with a very infected Charlie taking a flamethrower to the face for the team, which would all be well and good if Fifield didn’t turn up outside Prometheus’s door in the shape of a pretzel and pulverize most of the nameless engineers and mechanics in the hold.
Aside from the obvious themes of humankind’s origins and Freudian parental complexes, this film seems to share the message that going on a hunt for our creators will get us raped in the face and/or impregnated by alien spawn. I found myself rather thankful that I will not be alive when technology progresses enough for human silliness to find some other lifeform in space that will kill us all. I’ve seen Independence Day too many times to think anything venturing by would fancy a cuddle.
And yet the formerly holographic Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in a lot of makeup) shows up in a tucked-away corner of the ship and seems to think the Engineers will help him stave off the impending culmination of his mortality. Puh. The Engineer found by David in stasis has no such plan. He rips off David’s head and kills Weyland, but doesn’t seem to think Shaw is a threat.
Whoever this guy is, he’s either a very abusive daddy or didn’t care much for the creation of humanity. All he wants is to take his ship full of oozing, DNA-ripping goo back to Earth and wipe it out.
The remaining crew of Prometheus decides to crash their ship into his as it tries to fly away, and both Vickers and Shaw attempt to outrun it as it tumbles around the distorted landscape. When Shaw manages to get back into the escape pod, she finds her offspring has grown into a tentacled monster and lucks out when the Engineer (who survived his own crash) tries to take it on and fails.
Elizabeth Shaw doesn’t have much going for her at this point, but she gets a lucky call from Head of David. If I were in her painful and banged up position, I would probably make the same decision she does: take a different ship and the android and go off to find more Engineers. Because, you know, why not? She’s not going to go back to Earth and risk bringing goo with her. Even though she records a warning message, we all know what people do when you tell them not to. So she skedaddles with David’s parts, and I really, really wanted to follow her.
That’s the mark of a pretty good movie. While there were some plot holes and dangling scenes with little or no development, I enjoyed Prometheus immensely. Critics of genre film (and books, for that matter) don’t like it when genre films address Big Questions, but I love seeing Big Questions addressed through a fantastical lens. To me, it doesn’t make it any less valid. And Prometheus addresses many questions, some better than others.
Should we quest for the origin of our species, and how far should we take it? When (and I believe it’s a when, not an if) we find intelligent life on other planets, should we try to interact with them? Could we deal with the idea of our species being nothing more than a cosmic experiment?
Overall, I’ll give Prometheus a 75%. I enjoyed it, and it left me wanting more. It also sated my craving for seat-squirming, cringe-worthy human desperation at its finest. It exceeded my expectations in regards to protagonist Elizabeth Shaw, who I found to be strong, convincing, and rather spectacular. It’s a movie I’d recommend and see again, and overall, I’d put this prequel on par with The Thing. I can deal with a few minor plot inconsistencies if you have a strong character arc, and that was present in both films.
Now. If you’ll excuse me, I think it’s high time I flossed.
What did you think of Prometheus? Have you seen Alien? Discuss!
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