PROMETHEUS: THERE IS NOTHING IN THE DESERT AND NO MAN NEEDS NOTHING
Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, is an amazing film that to this day I still go back and watch from time to time because it remains relevant and entertaining even after many viewings much like Scott’s other Science Fiction masterpiece Blade Runner. Much like Blade Runner, what is amazing about Alien is the vision of the future that the film depicts. One cannot discount the amazing H. R. Giger bio mechanical designs but the the technical and industrial designs in the film still fascinate, amaze and create the back drop for the incredible Giger designs. Alien tells a great alien monster story but for me and others I’m sure, the film also raises some questions that deserve a story themselves. I refer to the beginning of the film where the crew of the mining ship Nostromo are awakened from stasis to respond to an SOS from an unknown planet. The investigation of the SOS takes the crew down to a planet where they find a derelict alien ship. While investigating the massive ship, they discover the pilot of the ship sitting a chair that is in front of what looks like a giant cannon. The pilot and cannon are on a circular raised platform. The ancient alien appears to have had something rip through his chest from the inside out. This image has always stuck with me and has always generated stories in my mind as to what might of happened and questions of who were these ancient aliens. What makes these images so impactful and lasting are the unique and amazing Giger designs. Answering these questions appears to be what Ridley Scott’s new film Prometheus attempts to do.
Prometheus opens as we find ourselves on a primordial world that given the context that follows is Earth… I assume. We are atop a massive waterfalls that feeds into a water starved world. A large muscular human like alien prepares and elixir that he quickly consumes as an alien ship leaves him behind and escapes the planet’s atmosphere. The alien begins to writhe in pain as his flesh begins to break down into spore-like dust that is carried by the wind. As the aliens limbs breakdown and can no longer sustain him, he falls into the falls and continues to breakdown as the water carries the spores of his DNA into the myriad tributaries of the primordial world.
The film then jumps to an archaeological expedition in Scotland in the near future. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find some wall paintings that depict galactic coordinates of sorts that Dr. Shaw interprets as an “invitation” from humanity’s creators. They have found these same images in many cultures from many different time periods so Shaw and Holloway believe they have found the map to the creators of humankind.
The film next jumps to the spaceship Prometheus hurtling through space in the year 2093. The ship is manned by David (Michael Fassbender), an android. As the ship approaches its destination, David begins to prepare for landing on the planet by awakening Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the commanding officer on the Prometheus, form stasis. Vickers awake, she commands David to awaken the rest of the crew and passengers; assorted geologists, biologists and other assorted experts in their field. Everyone awake, a briefing is held where Shaw and Holloway explain the purpose of the mission, to land on the planet below and meet and greet the creators or engineers of human kind… possibly.
Right out of the gate I have to disappoint some by telling you that Prometheus is not about aliens running around everywhere like the previous films from the Alien franchise. It is not that kind of film. Prometheus is a much more cerebral film. The 1979 Alien film was a haunted house film with the alien as the ghost menace and the mining ship, the Nostromo, as the haunted house. James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) is an action siege film like a cowboys making a stand against an onslaught of Indians film. The remaining Alien films are derivatives of the first two. Prometheus is built around the idea of man wanting to discover his maker and whether or not that is a good idea. As Prometheus ponders this question, it also makes a an attempt to link the film to the derelict space ship and its pilot from the 1979 Alien film and for most of film this prequel link is what I enjoyed the most from the viewing of the film.
As I sat and watched Prometheus, the movie geek in me giggled like a little kid as I saw the links and possible links to the 1979 Alien film. This link, IMO, mixed with the story of man wanting to “touch the face” of his creator made for an amazing film experience especially for someone like me who has worshipped at the foot of the 1979 Alien film. Prometheus makes for a great prequel except for last few moments of film that ruin the idea of a prequel and muddy the link between the two films and generates more questions that maybe have no need to be raised. Don’t misunderstand me, Prometheus is a very good film. I loved it. Without trying to link it to Alien, it is great but if the film ended a few scenes earlier than it does leaving Dr. Shaw abandoned on the planet it would have been a fantastic film. The ending ruins the amazing work that was done to connect Promtheus to Alien (1979) and that for me is a bit of a diappointment.
Prometheus features talented actors throughout but for my money Michael Fassbender’s David and Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers steal the show. Michael Fassbender’s David was diabolicaly polite and cordial as he undermined the expeditions actions with his own agenda. Charlize Theron’s Vickers was a steely eyed, aggressive, take no prisoners of a woman. There was a small interaction with Idris Elba’s Janek that softened Vickers but only for that one moment. The interaction was about Janek telling Vickers to relax. Janek offers his services if Vickers wants to get laid to which Vickers thinks about for a moment then tells Janek to meet her in her room in 10 minutes. It is a small but interesting moment between the two.
Visually Prometheus does not disappoint. The technical design is amazing while still keeping the look of original film although a bit more sterile and clean. The technology devised for the crew of the Prometheus was amazing and joy to view in cinematic terms. The moment when Shaw and Holloway are in Shaw’s quarters discussing the DNA sample match and Holloway walks through the computer screen that was virtual was really cool but might be not apprectiated by some but it needs to be. Fifield’s, the geologist, mapping orbs that mapped the mound was visually fantastic as the orbs traveled the corridors of the mound and sent the data in real time to the Prometheus. The Captain and crew are allowed to view the mapping as it happens via a holographic image. Love it. All of the imagined technology was amazingly well thought out and executed.
The uniquely amazing H. R. Giger original designs still run through all the alien designs. The influence can be seen in the alien engineer mound “research facility”. The alien creator suits are obviously taken from the Giger designed pilot sitting in the cannon chair. The alien creator’s space craft is identical to the derelict ship we see in the 1979 Alien film. Giger is alive and well in the franchise.
Prometheus builds to lots of revelations by the end of film making for a thrilling conclusion and a thrilling film experience. Even so, it does rely on the knowledge of the alien lore of the previous films for it to fully work; alien blood works as acid, alien needs a host to gestate, alien takes on the qualities of the gestation host. This makes it hard for it to stand alone. It has to link to the other films which makes the decision to include those last few scenes beyond the crash of the alien ship leaving Shaw alone on the planet questionable.
I thoroughly enjoyed Prometheus and the discussion about the franchise that is sparks. It is a great addition to the previous films and it is visually impressive and narratively provocative. The technology on display in the film should intrigue the futurist in all of us. The cast assembled is top notch and does not disappoint. IMO, Ridley Scott has done it again and I can’t wait to own this film and watch it again. Check it out.