What is Prometheus?
It’s not an Alien prequel, Mr. Scott himself said so.
Except it’s set in the Alien’s universe, concerns events that directly lead on to the four previous Alien movies and features, um, some Aliens. What this means is that it won’t really be about the Aliens but will feature them just enough to detract from the rest of the movie and leave both sides of the coin feeling short-changed.
Bang, opening scene: Apparently Humanity was created by these Titan-like figures that look a bit like a bald Christopher Ecclestone crossed with an albino body builder. Its all very image laden life from death stuff. Switch to present day and it turns out they’ve left us a Star-map to come visit them! Whoosh, into space! Humanity and its gods! Conflicting motivations for all the oddballs on board. Go. What was the name of that planet again? LV223? Hear it’s lovely this time of year, very friendly locals.
Hold on, did I mention a cast of oddballs? Scratch that, there are the two characters that we really care about the rest are essentially casualty roster filler; especially Charlie Theron, who seems like she should have a significant role, but is instead relegated to the position of occasional icy blonde bastard. Anyway, these are Dr Shaw, played by the lovely Noomi Rapace, a consummate believer who wants to get all up and personal with her adopted deities. We can call her Proto-Ripley, as she will soon be displaying feats of stamina and gut-wrenching daring do that would make Jack Bauer’s eyes water. Her one unfortunate flaw (the Shaw flaw) is that she plays Ridely-Scott’s hammer-like mouth piece for the film, blaring out his messages and plot points with all the subtly of a chimp at a launch party for a new banana based aphrodisiac.
Four eyes: “What about X-hundred years of Darwinism”
Shaw/Scott: “Yeah, fuck that”*
*I may be paraphrasing here.
And there’s David, played by Michael Fassbender, the angelic android prodigy of the big bad corporate big-wig behind the voyage. He’s a plucky little devil obsessed with Peter O’Tool’s performance in Lawrence of Arabia and possessed of a dogged disregard for personal boundaries. Like a newborn child he is an intriguing mixture of innocence and potential for evil and all together a thoroughly fascinating and nuanced character.
Of course everyone arrives at the planet and before too long things START GOING WRONG (Both for the protagonists and the film, hoho). You see, this is a philosophical film about humanity’s relationship with its gods, the question of what it might mean to be human and what if god wasn’t particularity impressed with humanity’s species school report?
Except its also about bioterrorism, familial rejection, Faustian bargains, corporate skullduggery, digusterous body horror, lost cultures, Aliens fan-wank … the list goes on and the only single item that gets addressed satisfactorily is the disgusterous body horror (It is disgusterous). For a philosophy film there’s very little explanation or exploration of the central questions. The horror elements have their sense of tension destroyed by the environment and topic shifts. While the mythos expansion is thoroughly unsatisfying, shattering some of the mystery of the proceeding films while creating its own separate void of unanswered questions. Worst of all the two principle characters are not given any time to really interact with one another despite this holding more potential than a treasure chest of magic lamps; seriously, it would be like the Odd Couple in space. In addition, considering the suspenseful, measured, some would say boring, tone the film holds for 80% of its run-time, conversely the final act is like suddenly tuning into a cyborg demolition derby – slabs of inarticulate meat and metal smashing into one another in an orgy of fire and violence, with Rapace doing a surprising but very welcome impression of a homicidal Motoko Kusanagi. A fantastic pay-off but not the one being looked for.
The film itself is absolutely beautiful, with some truly stunning sets and costume design. It also holds the raw material for some brilliant ideas; creators being disappointed with their creations vs. creations disappointment with their creators, except all this possibility is left hanging, a question not only never answered but only half asked. Finally it ends before it’s even seemingly started, but well after you wished you’d walked out.
This mock advert for the Type – 8 David Android is unironically far superior to the actual film it’s featured in: