Big Things Have Small Beginnings… Like The Alien Franchise & This Prequel…
In our final look back at the past films of the Alien franchise, we take a look at the 2012 Ridley Scott film Prometheus. If you want to check out our reviews in the franchise here are links to our Alien – Retro Review and Aliens – Retro Review. Prometheus is the first film by director Ridley Scott since he launched the franchise back in 1979. While not as great as the first two films in the saga, the film does bring forth questions that left fans asking for more.
Taking place in 2093, nearly thirty years before Ripley would come face to face with a Xenomorph, the film tells the story of the exploration expeditions involving the crew of the Prometheus. Noomi Rapace plays Elizabeth Shaw, an archaeologist who finds a star map in a cave on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. This star map reveals the location of beings known as Engineers who possibly created all life on Earth, including human life. Upon reaching their intergalactic destination, the distant moon LV-223, the crew discovers the find of the century. However, the discovery is more dangerous than they could possibly imagine.
Rapace as Doctor Shaw is the highlight of this film in the acting department. A worthy successor to Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Shaw is another strong female lead that no alien being should mess with. Furthermore, Rapace gives Shaw a believable determination to find the answers she seeks. It helps that the audience wants these same answers. Where do we come from? Shaw’s question has more metaphysical meaning. Ours relate to the Alien franchise as a whole. Whatever answer she receives would help fans discover more about this fictional universe.
Unfortunately, these answers never materialize. In fact, if anything, this film gives fans more questions. Hidden in the dark caverns of the Engineer’s design are canisters carrying a sticky dark goo. I primordial soup-like substance that seems to have the ability to destroy life and then transform it. Throughout the film, we meet new life forms that remind us of the monsters from previous Alien films. Yet, different enough to make us curious as to where the classic monsters and these new ones share a lineage. Sadly, our scientist characters never uncover the answers we are looking for. The fault mainly lies in their unbelievable incompetence as scientists of any merit.
However, what the film does solve is the mystery of the Space Jockey we see at the controls of the Derelict ship in Alien. We now know that what seems like an exoskeleton with the trunk like features on the head was simply a space suit. Underneath the Space Jockey was actually one of these Engineers. Extra-terrestrial beings that resemble large humans with glossy white skin and no hair. They are really the antithesis of what the Xenomorph represents. Jet black, ooze dripping, killing machines, and truly alien. While the Engineers are translucent white, smooth, humanlike, and familiar.
The biggest character issue is Dr. Shaw’s love interest Charlie Holloway, played by Logan Marshall-Green. Holloway is Shaw’s partner in their expedition for the search for answers, as well as in bed. However, his disappointment in making the first concrete discovery of alien life is bewildering. Holloway becomes mopey and whiney despite making the biggest scientific discovery in human history. He acts this way because at first all they find are the are corpses of the Engineers. Somehow, this leads the scientist to believe they must all be dead.
In a way, this results in a disappointing experience with Prometheus. The character motivations outside of Shaw leave us scratching our head, if not tearing out our own hair. For a group of scientists, these people make some of the stupidest decisions in the history of smart people. From one geologist who is in charge of mapping the vast caverns yet somehow gets lost, to the biologists who extends his hand to a snakelike creature, while everyone in the audience screams “what the hell are you doing!?!” The film gives new meaning to flawed characters. So much so in fact that it really takes you out of the beautiful world director Ridley Scott creates.
To his credit, the film is beautifully shot and the production design is flawless. Not unlike the first two films of the franchise. Scott shows he can still build an amazing jaw-dropping world and can pull great performances out of actors no matter how bad the script is. That is the film’s biggest issue, the writing. If everyone in the audience knows the characters shouldn’t be doing what they are doing, how could any writer let these actions slip through the final draft? This unforgivable defect turns what could have been a great film into a disappointing sci-fi adventure with few real answers.
However, another positive attribute of the film is the performance we get out of Michael Fassbender as the android David. Yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a film where Fassbender is disappointing. One of the film’s successes is giving us another lovable android like Bishop from Aliens. Even if this android reminds us more of Ash through many of his devious actions. I’m excited to see Fassbender return as David in Alien: Covenant, as well as pulling double duty as another android Walter. If you think a film is good with one Fassbender, just imagine two of him.
In the end, Prometheus is an entertaining sci-fi adventure consisting of a beautifully crafted world. The film is a few idiotic characters away from making it just a tier below the films that launched this iconic franchise. While it is not the worst movie in the Alien saga, it could have been so much better. However, unlike Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection (or the AVP films), this film doesn’t tarnish the name of Alien. Thankfully, that’s because it has enough original content to not warrant the title. Hopefully, the answers we are promised in Prometheus are given to us in Alien: Covenant.