The original Alien (1979) set an impressively high standard for Sci-Fi, horror, and suspense that filmmakers of the mentioned genres have been taking notes from this masterpiece ever since its inception. With the exclusion of only James Cameron’s critically superior sequel Aliens (1986) topping off the brim, all other contributions to the Alien franchise have not only failed to impress in its legacy but have marred the storyline to the point of being criminally laughable. Also throw in a few crossover flicks featuring guest star the Predator, and you have a circus that apparently lured in the summer popcorn crowds while unapologetically raping a pair of iconic legends. With over 3 decades of experience under his belt, Ridley Scott comes out of Sci-Fi retirement since having filmed Blade Runner (1982) to release Prometheus (2012) in an attempt to bring back the essence of what intrigued and terrified audiences in his classic Alien.
Set as a prequel to the first Alien, the story follows the expedition of the space shuttle Prometheus. Its mission is based on creditable theories from a couple of scientists who believe that they have found archaeological evidence of celestial coordinates provided to Earth’s inhabitants by distant intelligent beings. The findings piqued the interest of an elderly tycoon who funds the expedition on the gamble of solving the mystery to mankind’s origin. A modest crew hibernates as they venture out on a 2 year voyage to the unexplored region calculated in the map and arrive to the relief of landing on a planet that exhibits potential to validate their efforts. Uncertain of what is to be found and following a haphazard set of protocols that do not mind much for safety, the crew becomes victims to their curiosity as well as to the ulterior motives played against them. What they find will answer some questions while bringing more to fruition, if they survive long enough to learn it all.
Prometheus is an absolute experience. Few films can garner that kind of pull but I feel this is one of them. Early showings of the film had released negative criticism that clutched my concerns. I wanted this to be a good movie and knew that it had expectations that perhaps even Scott himself couldn’t match up to of his own product. Especially considering the trend of revived franchises that fall short on promises, such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (no, we will NOT let that down), Predators, and MIB III to name a few. Prometheus does not disappoint, unless you want it to. The character development in this tale is focused on the mission itself and not of the actual crew. With the banter of idle pondering from lemmings that you are certain will be killed off to bring the answers that get built up so much. With almost everybody being mostly a face soon to be forgotten, the otherwise convincingly well performed role of David (Michael Fassbender) as an android, gets most of the attention, as he should from the intricately underlined concept of the story. The spiritual successor of Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) role as a heroine goes to that of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), even though it isn’t quite obvious at first. The frantic moments of tension that Shaw gets positioned in are well played out in her role, as her reaction of desperation to the terrors abound is what drives the hammer on an already sharp nail. She isn’t given a lot to say but that mostly is at the hands of the script, which in comparison to Ripley, isn’t much different as most of Alien consisted of gestures from Ripley cocking her head to the side with a partial slack jaw while giving that, “I don’t approve.” Look. Prometheus is gorgeously shot. Even in the dark recesses of caverns, everything looks inviting for exploration. The special effects coincide with a sense of realism and sound that knows how to set a tempo for suspense.
Again, the true stars of this film are the questions, not the people themselves. Still, it would have been nice to see the cast flourish a bit more in their successes and the calamities that they encounter. The film pushes along with the motto of being there for the answers, everything else is relatively expendable. If you feel as though Prometheus didn’t deliver what it promised, then I think the artistic style of its delivery might have been overlooked. Alien told absolutely nothing outside of an ill-fated crew gets terrorized by something that possibly led to the demise of another ill-fated crew. Yet despite this simplicity, people adore it. Prometheus recaptures everything that made Alien great, puts a new spin on the formula, and answers only what could reasonably make sense. [slight spoiler alert] The crew learns where mankind came from and what was planned for us. We just never find out why. [end spoiler alert]. Yet how could that question possibly be answered in context? In a way, the question is answered, by giving attention to David the android, showing what he is capable of, how he views the world, then asking people, why would such a thing be built? The difference being that David does not express interest in such conundrums but echoes the cycle of creation queries. I didn’t expect everything to be explained and what it remains for speculation is actually quite engaging to contemplate. Even with its high-wire spectacle aside, Prometheus is chilling, beautiful, and thought-provoking. It is every bit the movie that Alien was and in ways, much more. Prometheus also opens its doors to a new plot direction, one of which is exciting to consider the prospect of actually following through although I am skeptical as to it ever getting done. This movie deserves to be seen and appreciated, just don’t expect it to spell everything out for you.