I’ve heard and read a lot of comments lately about Ridley Scott only returning to the Alien universe because his most recent movies (See: Robin Hood, Body of Lies, and American Gangster) haven’t done as well at the box office or in the eyes of the critics. Quite frankly, I’m a firm believer in the old saying that writers live by: “Write what you know.” Considering Ridley Scott created the Alien universe, why shouldn’t he go back to it and give it more depth? You can’t really screw up something you created…unless you’re George Lucas.
The plot you say? Here’s how it’s described on the movie’s website: “Ridley Scott, director of Alien and Blade Runner, returns to the genre he helped define. With Prometheus, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”
I cannot stress enough how fantastic the cinematography is in this movie. The opening title sequence had beautiful wide shots of space and of LV-223’s terrain, where most of the movie takes place. This is where I was glad to be watching a live-action movie in 3D because the extra dimension made this sequence all the more incredible. I hope it gets a nod at the next Academy Awards because it really was outstanding.
Fans of Alien and Aliens will most likely notice this since it showed up in those films as well, but there’s so much gender/sexual symbolism in this story’s universe (Yes, I mean penises and vaginas). Now, you might be thinking, “Why the hell does a phallic or uterine symbol make a difference in whether or not the movie was good?” Well, considering some of the main themes of the Alien universe are the creation of life and sexual fear (albeit through alien face-rape and stomach-bursting), it shows that the film’s writers, set designers, storyboard artists, director, etc. all have thought extensively about how they could metaphorically and visually interpret and suggest notions of life, gender, and sex.
Don’t believe this is actually a thing? I direct you to these discussions here and here. As shocking and disgusting as some of the imagery can be at times, the underlying meanings give the film more depth. Did you seriously think Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) mentioning that she was unable to produce children right before she suddenly found out she was impregnated with an alien parasite—which she immediately removed from her uterus thanks to the hyperbaric surgery machine—was all just coincidence? If pregnancy of a foreign body and abortive c-section (Let’s see the conservatives argue in favor of that fetus) doesn’t encapsulate the creation of life and sexual fear all in one plot point, I don’t know what does.
Another movie/plot theme that was worth mentioning: Science vs. Religion. No movie can escape this theme. It’s always there because it’s so deeply embedded into our culture. This movie, however, used it outright—what with Dr. Shaw’s wearing a cross around her neck and the scene showing her memory of discussing religion with her father. What I liked about this theme was that the entire plot focused around the Prometheus crew and its scientists using the ancient drawings and maps they found around the Earth to find the “engineers” (a.k.a the being(s) who created the Earth and its lifeforms).
I loved the message this movie conveyed because it’s the same one I like to point out whenever people get into religious debates—we aren’t smart enough, nor big enough, to fully understand the truth about our creation. Considering what happens when the characters do find out who created them, I’d even change that message to don’t go looking for answers you’re not ready to know. Really, this movie could be used to start a dialogue about how our faith would be impacted if we learned that we weren’t created by God.
The one problem I had with this theme, though, is that the very notion gets ruined by its own main character, which makes it inconsistent for the plot. Dr. Shaw studied these engineers’ drawings and maps for years and finally found out that they created humans. But then, at the end of the movie, she puts her cross necklace back on. What does that say about her character? She’s a scientist who now knows the truth about her creation, yet she’s willing to deny the truth because it’s an answer she didn’t like?
Is this supposed to be a metaphor for the ignorance of religion, or was someone not paying attention to the script? I think the latter. Sure, you could argue that after all of the crazy shit she just witnessed, going back to her original beliefs in God would be much more calming (as it has been proven that believing in a higher-power psychologically benefits people). Still, it was her motive to disprove God by finding mankind’s creators, which she then completely deconstructed herself.
The DNA plot point kind of irked me, too. When Dr. Shaw takes a DNA sample of a dead engineer found on the planet, she does a comparison with human DNA and claims it’s a “perfect” match. *Side eye* Um, when you finally see the engineers, you will notice they look somewhat human but are gigantic, pale, overly-muscular creatures with funky teeth. Obviously, they adapted to their planet’s environment (which, plot twist, wasn’t even LV-223), but how can they be a “perfect” match to humans when they were nothing alike? They might have breathed a nitrogen/oxygen mix, were mortal, and walked on two legs, but that doesn’t make them exactly like humans. Sure, we all have DNA that distinguishes us as human, but every human has a unique DNA structure that gives them a different appearance, personality, immunity, etc.
Another issue? 2094 is not that far away. I’ll most likely be dead 30 years before then (unless I become a teenage vampire), but it really isn’t that far. Now, I know some of you nerds are probably yelling at me through your computer screen, saying that Alien took place in the 2100s, so Prometheus had to be before it. I agree, for consistency’s sake, that 2094 was a good year to choose. But unless NASA gets some major funding in the next 70 years, I doubt we’ll have mastered space-flight and cryostatis by 2094. I mean, we still have yet to see the Autobots fight the Decepticons here on Earth.
Let’s end on something good. David (Michael Fassbender) is a well-developed character that felt like a mashup of the previous androids Ash (Alien) and Bishop (Aliens). And I mean that he’s both good and bad, and you really can’t pinpoint how you feel about him even after the movie ends. One minute, he gives you the creeps; the other, he’s charming and brutally honest. If you can love and hate a character at the same time, then a writer did their job right. He also kept up the whole “sexual” theme I mentioned earlier. Not because we got to see his Fassdong, but because his portrayal of David’s mannerisms and physical appearance was very asexual.
Overall, this movie was an epic summer blockbuster that should not be missed. Fans of Ridley Scott’s Alien universe will absolutely love this movie, especially when they’re treated to a couple of images and scenes throughout the movie that parallel Alien and Aliens. If you don’t mind paying extra to see it in 3D (or IMAX 3D, if you like), I would recommend it, as it really does make the movie look awesome. Some of you might be disappointed that Prometheus‘ main character, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, is not as badass as Ellen Ripley; but if you’re up for a better understanding of how the alien race came to be, then you’re in for a treat—and a somewhat disturbing one at that.