Before I get too far into this review and waste your time, let me set a number of things straight. I’m no film critic, I don’t look for deeper meaning in my entertainment, I have absolutely no qualifications to impose an educated opinion on you, and as a self-confessed science fiction junkie I will more often than not enjoy a scifi ride. In short, this is a biased and uninformed review by a total geek whose measure of the worth of a film is whether or not the time he spent in the theater was entertaining.
Did I get bored or did I enjoy myself? That’s pretty much how I judge a movie, folks. I’m simple, but I’ll try and pretend I have depth since that seems to be expected of a grown-up.
If you’ve seen Prometheus or are thinking about seeing it then you’re probably already a fan of Alien (if not so much the sequels save for maybe the first, Aliens). As such, you probably have questions concerning the origins of the xenomorph, the giant horseshoe-shaped spaceship, the “space jockey,” et cetera. After 33 years, Ridley Scott has decided to give us some answers, but also raise more questions, most likely to fan the fires of sequel-itis should this backstory to the Alien universe find enough success.
Overall I really liked Prometheus. It didn’t quite blow me away like Alien, but it was close enough in tone and pacing to keep me interested for the duration. There were a lot of things that happened during those two hours that could have used some explaining as they were vague. That may have been purposeful in order to get audiences talking about it, or it could’ve simply been me being too stupid to follow along. Judging by the various analyses, reviews, critiques, and rants over the film I’d say I’m not alone in feeling many elements needed clarification. Still, as a whole this was a good movie and worth seeing in a theater.
Consider this a warning, because from this point forward I’m going to be talking about stuff that happened in the film so let me just get the s-word out right now: SPOILERS.
You read that last bit above, right? If not let me say it another way, “Here there be SPOILERS!” Do not read any more of this unless you are okay with knowing what happens in the film, or at least the parts I remember. Alright, don’t blame me if I ruin your movie-going experience, nobody forced you to read it.
Prometheus opens with several beautiful vistas of a planet that seems devoid of life beyond that of simple plants. There is nothing to indicate if this is ancient Earth or simply a random Earth-like planet, but one can assume it’s our home since the story centers around finding our origins. The camera follows a river to a huge waterfall and stops at the top where a humanoid alien is standing. We learn later this is one of the aliens known as “The Engineers.” He opens up a small container of strange looking stuff and drinks it, causing his body to disintegrate and fall into the river.
A microscopic view inside this Engineer’s body shows us that not only is his body being torn apart, but his very DNA. At first it looks like a completely destructive act, but later we’re shown the same broken DNA bits recombining. I assume this is their way of creating new life, but it’s not really explained. The problem I had with that method of spreading life throughout the universe is if these Engineers have the ability to create new forms of life, couldn’t they come up with a better way than “suicide seeder?”
The next scene is the near future (our future) where Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find a cave painting that we later find out is identical to images found in several other unrelated civilizations around the world and across many centuries. Dr. Shaw believes it to be a map or invitation to find the beings that shaped life on Earth. Apparently Peter Weyland agrees because he ends up funding a trip to a planet indicated in these images that has a moon capable of supporting life.
Along for the ride with Shaw & Holloway are the android, David (Michael Fassbender), the carefree Captain Janek (Idris Elba), cold and heartless corporate suit Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and several other characters who don’t really get to do much. Well, two of them end up on the business end of something nasty, but I digress.
As the ship nears the surface, the crew spot a large structure and what looks like a road leading to it, so they land nearby. Inside they find a chamber with a giant human face surrounded by urns filled with black goo. This appears to be a similar substance to what the Engineer drank in the very first scene.
As the investigation of the structure continues, they figure out that the Engineers not only seeded life on Earth, but must have watched over it for centuries as evidenced by all the cave paintings and ancient images discovered back at home. However, something happened that apparently turned the Engineer’s life-creating goo against them because the crew find a pile of their bodies against a wall. There’s even a holographic scenario activated by David the Passive-Aggressive Android® that shows Engineers running from something while one lags behind, obviously in distress, and ends up being decapitated by a large door as it closes behind the others.
Oh, it should be mentioned that everyone does something supremely stupid while inside the structure. Even though the outside air has too much C02 to breathe safely, inside the readings are fine so they take off their fancy space helmets. This is after they’ve seen the strange goo and surmised that the beings who once roamed this structure dealt with biological substances that messed with life itself. People, just because the water’s clear doesn’t mean there aren’t sharks nearby!
Anyway, while poking around, David grabs a bit of that goo on the sly and later slips it to Dr. Holloway in a drink, apparently just to see what happens. Shortly after that Holloway has an amorous encounter with Shaw who conveniently reveals she’s unable to bear children. The next day Holloway begins to react much like the Engineer from that first scene did and Vickers kills him with fire outside the ship before he infects everyone else. Ten days later Shaw is diagnosed as being three months pregnant. Not good news at all.
Shaw is now carrying something created in part from the black goo so she begs David to help her remove it. David, ever the curious sort yet not at all sympathetic to human suffering, tells Shaw not to worry. Shaw takes matters into her own hands and uses a fancy automated surgery pod to give herself an emergency caesarean section in what is certainly the most intense scene in the film. The robo-doc removes a tentacled creature from her that is vaguely similar to the face huggers we all know and loathe then quickly staples her up. Shaw scrambles out of the pod and orders it to decontaminate itself which seems to kill the squidbaby, but we all know it’s not going to be that simple.
Let me just shorten the rest and say that one of the Engineers is alive in a hypersleep pod, he wakes up pissed that humans have infested his home, wreaks havoc, tearing David’s head off in the process, then fires up one of those horseshoe-shaped ships filled with thousands of urns of black goo and flies off to destroy life on Earth. The good Captain Janek and two of his trusty hands take the Prometheus and ram the crap out of the alien craft destroying their ship and damaging the horseshoe. It crashes back on the planet, angry Engineer survives the crash, and decides to take his anger out on Shaw who’s taken refuge in an escape pod left on the moon’s surface. Just as he’s gotten Shaw cornered by the medical bay she opens the door and releases squidbaby who’s now grown inexplicably huge and ends up doing the face hugger thing on the Engineer.
Shaw gets a call through her spacesuit from David, now just a talking head, who tells her there are more Engineer horseshoe ships and he can help her fly one back home to Earth. Shaw, still on a quest to find the origins of life tells David she instead wants him to take her to the Engineer home world. David agrees and they fly off into the sunset to hopefully return in a sequel.
Final flash back to the lifeless Engineer left behind with the hybrid face hugger. Suddenly, but not unexpectedly, something erupts from his chest. After a few moments the thing stands and we see clearly that it is very nearly identical to everybody’s favorite acid blood xenomorph. If there was ever any doubt this movie was a prequel to Alien, that just removed it.
There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense in the movie, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie by any means. In fact, it’s quite exciting and nearly every shot is gorgeous. The story never drags and it keeps you interested throughout the entire run. I would definitely see this again.