For a film that’s supposedly not a prequel to 1979′s Alien, Prometheus sure does bear a lot of similarities to that movie. And considering the standard that Ridley Scott set for sci-fi horror with that film, any correlation is a lot to live up to. Which is exactly why film-goers’ guts are ready to burst with excitement over this latest installment in the franchise. Or not installment. Or whatever. But even after a few days of gestation, I’m not quite sure whether or not Prometheus quite stands up to the film that may or may not have given it life more than 30 years ago.
What I can say is that Scott is clearly following a similar formula here. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s actually quite clever. But you tell me if any of this sounds familiar. After archeologists in the near future conclude that some sort of Promethean being on a distant planet could very well have engineered humanity, a ragtag group of scientists, crewmen, corporate scum and an android fly to this distant place (on a ship called Prometheus) in hopes of meeting their makers (or making a quick buck). It’s all funded by Weyland Industries, the company that has been (or will be, since the events in the previous films have yet to happen) willing to sacrifice the lives of humans in exchange for exploiting what they find on other planets.
Charlize Theron plays the icy cold Weyland employee overseeing the expedition, and her suspicious nature makes for some uneasiness amongst the rest of the crew. Her seemingly evil empowerment is offset by the optimistic archaeologist (Noomi Rapace) who chooses to believe that she is answering a call from a godlike being. Michael Fassbender plays David, the android, and he accurately captures the creepy nature of a being that is almost human, but not quite (and who has likely been programmed with some sort of ulterior motives, if the other movies have taught us anything). Powerful female characters and androids have become standard in the Alien films and Prometheus is obviously no exception to that rule. These are also the characters that typically weather the most abuse, only to come out stronger (and still alive) after all is said and done (with the heroine reluctantly relying on what’s left of the android in order to escape).
But it’s not just the characters that are familiar here. Once they land and begin exploring this mysterious planet, they discover a series of cavernous structures where someone (or something) has created a livable habitat beneath the surface of an otherwise uninhabitable terrain. These caverns, as well as the things found inside them, are clearly from the same eerily imaginative settings of H.R. Giger, the artist whose work heavily inspired the Alien movies. And the farther they go into the ribcage-like tunnels, the more biomechanical discoveries they make until they eventually end up in a dark room with large egg-shaped things meticulously lined up all over the ground.
I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not an alien hive. At least not like the ones we’ve seen before. But these canisters are shaped like eggs for a reason, and it has nothing to do with omelettes. Things continue to be simultaneously familiar and shockingly new as the story really starts to hatch, with phallic creatures that like to shove themselves down people’s throats, corpses found with their chests opened from the inside and unknown life forms that are conceived in the womb’s of other species. And while Weyland was just an ambiguously Orwellian notion in the previous films, the old man himself makes an appearance here (thanks to holographic technology, initially) to reveal his own personal agenda. The fact that he’s played by Guy Pearce in old-man prosthetics not unlike those worn by Theron in Monster implies that we might see Pearce as a younger Weyland in subsequent films (at least I hope that’s why Pearce was cast here instead of an actual old man).
Whatever was inhabiting this underworld (and may still be lurking there) definitely has some omnipotent technology, which offers some splendorous visuals that help explain what’s actually going on here. But as the aliens did in the previous films, it seems that something with no regard for anything other than a primal need to kill has violently wiped out these not-so-heavenly creatures. You do eventually get to see the humanoid beings that supposedly set all this in motion. You also get to see some things that are definitely directly connected to scenes from Alien. And after one character successfully removes an in utero creature in a gruesomely intense scene, that familiar feeling that the only way to survive is to blow everything up and hope for the best really starts to set in.
While it all sounds like what you’ve seen before, Scott’s ability to tell this parallel story without it being the exact same thing is quite impressive. And the way Prometheus ends definitely puts an entirely new perspective on the events that will presumably lead into the beginning of Alien, while also leaving things open to a Prometheus sequel. But for as many questions as it seems to answer, it presents at least as many new ones, which is truly what brings things full circle. And in true Scott fashion, you don’t truly see “it” until the very end.
Proemtheus. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce. Rated R. www.projectprometheus.com.