Prometheus (Spoilers after the break)
Friday night I went with a friend to see Prometheus, and I have to say that on the whole I quite liked it.
It felt like a return to more old-school scifi with themes of exploring the unknown and dealing with the horrors you find there. Some call it a prequel to Alien, though that is not entirely correct. The story is independent to Alien, it’s just set in the same universe and has some of the same themes, just fleshing out the universe by telling a new story rather than attaching itself to the old ones.
Now, it’s not a perfect film. It has its issues with characters acting in ways that don’t make sense and whole scenes that, while not exactly bad, just feel like they don’t belong in the movie and add nothing to the story.
On the positive side there are some good performances in this movie, especially Michael Fassbender as David, and a couple of truly spectacular scenes.
Now, I don’t know what else I can say with going into spoilers, except that if you like the Alien movies or just science fiction in general, I would recommend you give it a look. As always I will recommend you go to a non-3D viewing if you can, as the 3D added nothing significant to the movie and I left the theatre with a headache. If you can’t find a non-3D viewing, it might be worth waiting for the DVD instead if it has caused you issues in the past.
So beyond this point we will be delving into HEAVY SPOILER territory, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you’ll probably want to stop here. If you have seen it though, I would also recommend checking out The Flixist’s Prometheuscast featuring Jim Sterling of Destructoid and Jimquisition fame.
Now I expect everyone who’s still with me is ready for spoilers(!!!), if not, then this is your last chance to turn back.
Okay, have they left? Good, let’s get down to it.
As I said, this movie does not tie directly into Alien, and can as such not be seen as a prequel in the traditional sense. The planet has a different designation, so the chance that this is the same one where Alien takes place is slim, despite the revelation at the end, but let’s get to that later.
Now as I said up there I thought Michael Fassbender did a brilliant performance as David the android. I did find it a little weird that they always called him “robot” and not “synthetic” as I thought was the custom in this universe. Could be that since this is set earlier than any of the Alien movies or games, that particular habit hasn’t become a habit yet. But he was an interesting character with interesting motivations that weren’t always clear. There was a certain ambiguity to him that really helped elevate the film.
As for the other actors, I thought Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green did admirably as the main scientists, and Charlize Theron wasn’t bad as the bitchy corporate lady either, and while they tried to build some mystery on hinting that she might be a robot/synthetic, she wasn’t as interesting as David, even though we knew what he was. The other characters did decent jobs, though apart from the captain (played by Idris Elba) I didn’t find them very memorable.
I did take some issues with how the characters in general were written though. These were supposed to be a bunch of scientists, yet they didn’t seem all that smart, and had a tendency to do things that didn’t make sense and seemed to go against safe conduct protocols, and even the science itself was questionable. I’ll get more into that later.
Now the magical macguffin of the movie was the black goo that oozed out of the containers in the first chamber they encounter. It was never really made clear why it started oozing as soon as they got near it, but I’m assuming there was some symbolism with how they were placed much like the eggs were in Alien. If it was triggered by their proximity though, why didn’t the containers on the ship react? Perhaps they were simply programmed differently, but then that raises the question of why the Engineers would program them to react to proximity within their own facility.
As for the goo itself, it seemed to mess with the DNA of any living thing it got into contact with, causing Engineers to fall apart, humans to turn into homicidal, super-powered monsters and earthworms to turn into xeno-cobras with the trademark acidic blood of the xenomorphs. This raises several questions in my mind regarding what the goo was actually for. Is it the origin of the xenomorphs? Is it the Engineers’ attempt to create their own xenos as a weapon of mass destruction? Or is it a homage to a species they worship?
If you’re wondering where I get the worship thing from, it’s that tablet in the room where they find the oozing containers. Pictured in that carving is a very clear image of a more traditional xenomorph. So does that mean they were worshipping the xenomorphs, or was it a reminder of what they were copying, a blueprint of sorts, or merely a concept sketch of what they were working towards?
As for the Engineers themselves… they take a DNA sample from a corpse they find, remarkably preserved over 2000 years, and apparently it’s a match to human DNA. I can’t remember them saying how close a match, but the image they show hint that it’s a perfect match. So why does the goo seem to affect them so different from us? And if it’s a perfect match, why do they seem to be so different altogether? Like, they establish early on that because of a 3% level of CO2 in the otherwise perfect atmosphere, it will be toxic to breathe. I haven’t checked the science on this, so it could be on the ball, but then why doesn’t it seem to phase the Engineer towards the end of the movie as he walks out into it without a breathing apparatus?
But yeah, I keep getting sidetracked here. The goo’s effects. In the very beginning we see an engineer standing on a planet I’m sure is supposed to be Earth, and then ingest a cup of the black goo (maybe I should start calling it the macgoofin?) that causes him to promptly spazz out and fall to bits as his DNA is shredded, tumbling over a waterfall and dissolving into the water where his DNA seemingly starts to reform. Is this supposed to be how human life on Earth got started? If so, you’d think our DNA wouldn’t be such a close match to theirs…
While we get to see actual humans subjected to the goo, first with doctor Holloway, and it seems to be turning him into a monster of sorts, so he commits suicide by miss Vickers’s flamethrower. Though to be fair, her refusing to let him onboard is one of the few sensible decisions anyone makes in this movie. Then there’s doctor Shaw herself, who gets infected via sex after Holloway got infected, and it starts growing a squid monster in her stomach, that she manages to remove via a particularly gruesome and horrific scene in an automatic surgery pod. And finally we have doctor Fifield who turns into a homicidal super-being, who begins his rampage by unfolding much like that scene with the xenomorph from the original Alien. (Is it just my imagination, or was the xenomorph in the original much larger than the ones in Aliens?) Actually, that’s one of the scenes I felt were largely pointless.
And then there are the xeno-cobras, which is really one of the scenes that, though spectacular, falls into the “characters acting dumb because of plot” territory. Millburn (the biologist) and Fifield (the geologist) get stuck in the ancient structure because of a rock storm and because they have no sense of direction (which is ironic since Fifield apparently made the machines that are mapping out the structure) and decide to camp out in the creepy room with all the goo. Why? Because plot, that’s why. In there they find the xeno-cobras. Like that captioned image I saw said: Looks like a cobra, acts like a cobra, let’s pet it! Seriously, that’s how the biologist reacts to an alien lifeform. The thing starts crushing his fist, then breaks his arm. Fifield cuts it in an attempt to get it off, but gets his faceplate sprayed with acid for his trouble and collapses into a puddle of goo while the xeno-cobra slips into Millburn’s suit and jams itself down his throat. So yeah, that happened… it was a spectacular horror scene, but it’s a shame it required a character acting dumb for plot reasons to get it there.
The next day while everyone else is dealing with horror, David finds an old Engineer ship that has an actual live Engineer in stasis onboard, and discovers through holographic logs that the ship was apparently destined to go the Earth, and considering the cargo, I assume either to wipe out Earth, or turn all life on the planet into weapons for whatever purpose. Now considering there seemed to be nothing wrong with the ship, as the Engineer easily takes off with it after being woken, it does raise the question of why he rather went into stasis than just go.
Then there’s the badly kept secret of Peter Weyland himself being onboard, which does explain why the highly advanced medical pod was set for a male, but if it was supposed to be a shocking revelation, it really wasn’t. It was heavily hinted at, and you’d have to be quite oblivious to not catch it. He joins them as they go to wake up the Engineer (a brilliant plan if I ever heard one), and doctor Shaw seems to realise the intent of the ship as soon as she boards it and sees all the canisters, and kinda freaks out at the Engineer as he gets up and listens to them. David tries to talk to him using an amalgamation of ancient languages that the Engineer seems to recognise, though we’re not told exactly what David attempted to say. The Engineer then goes all Hulk Smash, ripping David’s head off and beating Weyland with it before killing the guards. Shaw runs and he doesn’t pursue because he decides to start up the ship instead. What exactly happened here and why is a mystery, and it’s a good one. Why did he decide to kill them and then to lift off, presumably to head to Earth and release his cargo? Was that the plan all along and he felt they were ready for it? Did he think they’d gone wrong and needed to be purged? Did he simply freak out because mutant midgets were screaming at him? Did David insult his mother?
Shaw convinces captain Janek to take down the ship before it gets away, doing a suicidal ramming after ejecting the life-support pod they brought along with them. Vickers gets into a escape pod, though she ends up crushed by the crashing ship because she tried to run in front of it instead of to the side to it, which makes me want to call her a dumb cow, though that might be unfair as she probably just acted on instinct. Shaw is nearly crushed, but makes it to the pod and finds her baby all grown up into Xeno-Tentacruel before the Engineer catches up to her and tries to kill her. Again, if they’re supposed to be a match to humans, how did he make it through the supposedly unbreathable atmosphere? Anyways, to save herself, she releases Xenocruel and he latches onto the Engineer, wrestling for a while before impregnating it.
After that David convinces Shaw he can get them out of there, and she goes get him and they fly off to find the Engineer homeworld to ask them some questions, and we’re left with the final scene of the movie, the product of the impregnation bursting out of the Engineer’s chest, or rather slicing his whole torso up before it rolls out. It’s quite clearly xenomorph-inspired, but it comes out fully grown, rather than as a chestburster of old, it has a placenta attached, its colour is different (the skin/exoskeleton is more purple, and the inside of its mouth is actually red), it’s missing the the bitey tongue, though it does seem able to extends it jaws. Is this a prototype for the final xenomorphs we see in Alien and Aliens? A knockoff made through military experiments? An homage made by a people wanting to come closer to their gods? Either way, if it’s anything like the regular xenos, it will morph into a queen since it’s alone and set up a lair full of eggs on that planet, which is possibly the hook for the sequel.
There are probably more issues I haven’t thought about writing down, but this article is far too long already. In spite of all the problems, I still liked the movie quite a lot, and I’d be happy to continue discussion in the comments.