Say what you will about Prometheus, it’s still guaranteed to be this summer’s blockbuster that will cause Twitter to light afire and have fans standing outside the theater talking about it for hours. It’s extremely high concept in a way that it will alienate half the audience, while the other half will snarkily approach it with the “I’ve already read about this” mindset. In short, I expect harsh criticism. Much like Prometheus, I’ll stand outside the circle and approach this with an open mind.
Since its inception a few years back, director Ridley Scott, and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have firmly attempted to separate the film from Scott’s breakthrough sci-fi horror Alien. While insiders continued to push that this was in fact a prequel to the 1979 classic, also directed by Scott, the filmmakers stood firm only teasing that Prometheus had the “DNA” of an Alien film. They will be redeemed by the time the end credits roll. For once, they weren’t lying.
Briefly summarizing the deep, thought-provoking plot, Prometheus opens with an alien creature standing on Earth, drinking something from a cup, and then melting into a water supply that quickly transforms into cells and DNA molecules. Is this the creation of man? It cuts to Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) making a life-changing discovery in a cave in Ireland. As teased in the TV spots and trailers, the couple proposes that man was created by an alien species and that these aliens have invited us to visit their planet – to meet our maker so to speak. They join the motley crew – David (Michael Fassbender), Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), Janek (Idris Elba) and a few others – assembled by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), whom spends 1 trillion space dollars to fly the Prometheus ship to this unknown planet mapped on the cave walls. Once there, (some) questions are (vaguely) answered as chaos erupts.
Without giving anything away – which is extremely difficult – the ideas presented are quite anti-Hollywood. What I mean by this is that Hollywood (executives, filmmakers) likes stories to be told in formula and to be overbearingly clear. Prometheus is anti-Hollywood in the sense that Scott and co. tell the story the way they want to tell it without any care as to whether or not theater patrons will understand. It sticks firm and will gladly take criticism.
We are all constantly screaming for originality in film; that’s what was delivered. And while some of us may already be aware of such “big” creation conspiracy theories through stories like Erich von Daniken‘s 1968 “Chariots of the Gods?” or TV shows such as “Ancient Aliens,” those unaware will literally be blown away by the mind-bending story. It’s such a massive idea that many viewers will be immediately alienated either through confusion or by not actually understanding the events that occurred. Of course, everyone will claim to understand (God forbid anyone can be honest and just be like, “enlighten me”)…
Without getting into the real meaning of the movie (it’s impossible to examine without an onslaught of spoilers, but watching David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia is a good start), the relationship between man and alien, and man and android are juxtaposed. There are many themes touched upon from creation to religion (Shaw wears a cross around her neck even though they know they were created by an alien species; “who created them?” she asks) to playing God, and thankfully none of it is thrown in the viewers face. But what’s so incredibly impressive is how cohesive Lindeloff and Spaihts’ screenplay is considering the high concentration of complex themes.
Digressing a bit, and moving away from the “ideas”, the scope is equally as massive. Prometheus is a visually striking sci-fi epic that delivers an incredible sense of awe mixed with breathtaking visual effects. The 3-D effects work is mind blowing, adding various levels of depth while also toying with some new 3-D concepts (such as holographic imagery and real-life recordings). The ships, planets, costumes and structural designs are nothing short of Oscar worthy, as is the score. There’s even a gorgeous mix of CGI with miniatures and even what appeared to be claymation?! While just as venomous, the newly imagined creatures will be recognizable, but are unique to this universe.
(Spoiler Warning) Speaking of recognizable, the highlight of the film comes in a shocking moment when Shaw must give herself a C-section to remove an alien from her stomach. And while this sequence will go down in infamy, unfortunately, the rest of film struggles to deliver the same impact. The third act is a bit muddled, and ultimately won’t be “finite” enough for some readers. The biggest complaint expected is that Scott never truly bridges Prometheus to Alien. It should be recalled, though, that the intention is for this to be a trilogy. (Spoiler End)
Even with some pacing issues and questionable creative choices (such as the quasi-zombie guy shown in the trailer) Prometheus in an iconic sci-fi spectacle that will forever be remembered as a pseudo-classic. But to be more than clear: don’t expect to see an Alien film. We celebrated when James Cameron, instead of rehashing Alien, told his own story with Aliens; expect more of the same with Scott’s new vision. Prometheus should be accepted as a standalone sci-fi thriller that has the DNA of Alien — and will proudly push AVP and AVP:R off your video shelf for good.