Ridley Scott’s Prometheus
2-D VERSION – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS!
Ridley Scott’s latest, which is actually a pre-prequel to his 1979 sci fi thriller Alien almost seems like a remake structure-wise of that movie, but deals with another separate adventure within that universe. More specifically it revolves around the “Space Jockey” or Engineer species (as they’re called here) that were introduced in Alien. We first saw one of them in that movie on the planet LV-426 (29 years after this film takes place) in a ship that had crash landed. With Prometheus we find out more about them as the story deals with our own human existance and connection to that race.
From the opening aerial shots of gorgeous landscapes, we are pulled into this new cinematic tale with mesmerizing visual exuberance. After a cryptic but important sequence featuring a white/gray humanoid Engineer, we move forward to the year 2089. Inside a large cave in the Scottish countryside a crew of archaeology scientists led by Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Green) have discovered a new star map. This is just the latest addition to a group of similar ancient heiroglyphics from all over the Earth which show an image of a giant figure being worshipped by humans.
With the sponsorship of Weyland Industries, the scientists are given the chance to travel to the outer edges of the galaxy where they’ll be exploring a possible location where the mysterious beings who appear on the artifacts they discovered may be living or from. Aboard the exploratory spaceship Prometheus, we meet David (Michael Fassbender) an android created by engineer genius Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who is there in a domestic capacity to awaken the crew when they reach their destination and be a kind of space butler. David is clearly a brilliant work of technology and has actually garnered a love for cinema throughout his non-human existance. His favorite film is David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia. He even patterns his look and speaking style after actor/star Peter O’Toole. Michael Fassbender gives another standout performance and its a main highlight of the film.
After two years (bringing us into 2093) in stasis the expedition on LV-223 is ready to begin. It is overseen by the shrewd mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who is revealed to be awake before anyone else doing push ups and dripping with liquids almost as if she’s the human version of the Alien Queen. The Prometheus is manned by Janek (Idris Elba), Chance (Emun Elliot) and Ravel (Benedict Wong) guys who have more in common with the blue collar workers we saw on the freighter Nostromo. Janek as we learn, likes stuff from the 20th Century, his favorite toy is a neat little memento from musician Stephen Stills.
Dr. Shaw and Charlie are the visionaries, the dreamers, partners and lovers, much like Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s characters in Jurassic Park, there’s that kind of same relationship between them. The rest of the crew includes ship medic Ford (Kate Dickie), biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall) and Fifield, a geoligist (Sean Harris). Every crew on an adventure has to have the rotten apple (it’s usually the corrupt corporate agent) and the ice cold Vickers shows herself to be the thorn in their side. She makes it clear to Shaw and Holloway she’s not there for anything except to make sure that Weyland Corp profits in some way from this trip (although she may have other alterior motives).
On LV-223 the crew exit the ship and begin spelunking into the core of a large cavernous structure that contains many rooms and cannisters with organic fluids. David seems to be on his own mission to touch everything and open every door in the place, using his knowledge of the strange language that’s written on the walls. Along the way they discover the corpses of the very Engineers they have been seeking, and find theyve been there for thousands of years. One of them has a severed head and Dr. Shaw decides to bring it back to the ship to inspect it closer (not a good idea). Suddenly a large sandstorm approaches forcing the crew to race back to the ship, in one of the film’s most suspenseful sequences. Meanwhile, Millburn and Fifield get stuck in the cave where they continue to explore and encounter a scary creature in a scene that harkens back to the original Alien.
Back in the ship Dr. Shaw and her assistants perform an operation on the severed Engineer head, and actually are able to reanimate it, causing very creepy results. Like in Alien, the ship soon becomes infected with a foreign entity and that kicks off a deadly descent into chaos.
The essence of this movie is about different forms of evolution stemming from a mysterious black substance that’s found on LV-223. It also deals with following your dreams to the Nth degree. Sometimes those hopes can be both exciting as well as frightening. Many of the themes and aesthetics employed were clearly inspired in large part by Kubrick’s 2001. Another movie that came to mind while I was watching was DePalma’s Mission To Mars, which it shares similar themes with, in particular a crew who searches for life on other planets and discover our race was actually started by aliens.
Even with the different things I liked about Prometheus (most notably the beauty and depiction of the exhilleration/fear of exploration of the unknown), there still is a part of me that wasn’t entirely satisfied with the experience simply because it didn’t quite seem worthwhile in regards to what was started in the Alien films. I feel that it would’ve been smarter for Ridley Scott (one of my favorite filmmakers) to just do a completely original story about our existance that was not attached to any current franchise instead of going back to Alien and mixing it into that mythology. It’s very similar to my view of The Matrix sequels which seemed to be tacked on to the original as afterthoughts and didn’t enhance the story but ultimately weakened it.
I also think the movie actually depletes its impact by trying to balance the existential “where did we come from?” aspects and the alien invasion genre simultaneously. It tries to do a slicker retread of what older movies that’ve covered the same kind of outer space explorational territory did before except it doesn’t surpass them in any way (like Alien/Aliens did) except in style and SFX. On the whole Ridley Scott’s latest movie may have brought back his cinematic splendor to the big screen (which I enjoyed) but as far as the relevance of the story goes it took a shot and came up short.