The trailers for Prometheus looked absolutely epic and the movie definitely doesn’t let you down on that aspect. Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator, American Gangster, Black Hawn Down) returns to the terrifying genre of alien horror that he created with the Aliens franchise and he seems comfortable with the genre with this outing, though maybe too comfortable.
Here’s the basics. Prometheus is a prequel to the Alien franchise though in fairly minimal ways. This is essentially an origins story for the aliens, though there are a lot of dots you have to connect yourself, and people who are fairly unfamiliar with the Aliens films may not even know that they are related. “Prometheus” is a ship that is bound for an Earth-like planet that may hold the race that created / evolved into humans. We follow two scientists, a few ship technicians, the financial backer, and an android played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. They don’t know what they will find on this planet but luckily we have the insight that things won’t likely end well.
I was concerned that Prometheus may share the same faults as Snow White and the Hunstman, that it would be full of amazing moments or images but lack the heart. Luckily that’s not the case. The movie is passionate and emotional and there are many times where you’ll be completely engrossed in the film, even if you desperately want to tear your eyes away from what’s happening. It’s terrifying in some parts but not in the same “What’s lurking in the dark?” way as the previous Alien films. This is more of a WHAT IS GOING ON!? terrifying. It’s cerebral and disturbing but well-crafted.
The themes of faith are the cornerstone of this film and it brings up a lot of big questions that don’t really have answers (which might frustrate some viewers). This ship of humans is seeking their origin and what they’remeant to do but there’s another layer with Fassbender’s David, who was made by humans. This exchange is made halfway through the film but is genius writing:
David: Why did your people make me?
Charlie: Because we could.
David: And how would you feel if your makers said the same to you?
This movie revolves around faith and seeking answers. It doesn’t answer all of them but gives you enough that most of you would leave satisfied, if you’re able to read between the lines.
Michael Fassbender as David is truly the shining star of this film. You start to wonder if androids really do have emotions and how something like that could be artificially created. Noomi Rapace (Swedish actress and star of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films) is also pretty outstanding here. Everyone else does a suitable job with what they’re given. My only question is about Guy Pearce, who was brought in to play an old man and the CGI/prosthetics were distracting, like the makeup at the end of the last Harry Potter film. I question that decision.
What doesn’t work?
People who didn’t like how Lost ended may have similar feelings about Prometheus, as both were written by Damon Lindelof. There are things we don’t get answers to, but you have to decide for yourself if you really need those answers. If you’re able to walk out of the theater and feel okay with it, that’s great, but others may have that silent feeling of “…What just happened?” that can ruin a movie-going experience.
My experience was a little of both. I was content with the lack of answers but I still had this emptiness when the film was over. They left it open for a sequel but that means that there’s little closure. It just kind of ends… I don’t know how to explain the feeling. On one-hand, I liked the movie but I didn’t really enjoy it. I doubt I’ll see it again. It’s dark, cerebral, and kind of terrifying in a way that I don’t enjoy.
And the confusion over “Is this a new Alien movie?” makes the movie feel contradictory. You see something happen and you think Oh, maybe this is going to be a facehugger but it’s not. It’s confusing and it’s not enough like the original films to feel like a prequel but it gives little clues to the original films. It’s a confusing middle-ground.
Prometheus is likely a great film, in the way that Requiem for a Dream is a great film. It’s dark and fairly unenjoyable and makes us think about things that usually make us uncomfortable to think about. The big questions are interesting and the search that this movie takes us on is fascinating but after such an adventure, the absence of answers can be a punch in the gut. The visuals are incredible and the actors are convincing and enthralling. And although this story is set in the world of Alien, don’t go in with that mindset, because you’ll likely be disappointed. Aside from a few comments, the two movies share very little.