There are three debates that I never hesitate to join. Did Oswald act alone? Should baseball eliminate the DH? And was life on Earth the result of design or evolution? Of these worthy discussions, Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Aliens, more Aliens) addresses the last one but does so without picking sides and possibly bringing more questions instead of answers.
We’ve seen these characters before in films like the Alien series, Jurassic Park, Avatar, and others. The idealistic scientists. The immeasurably wealthy and eccentric benefactor with ulterior motives. The bitchy female who kicks ass and asks questions later. The mysterious and powerful creatures from another world or time. The seemingly innocuous and droid or assistant that might have a monkey wrench in its works. Sometimes it’s about action and adventure. Sometimes it’s about philosophical pondering. And sometimes it’s both.
Prometheus opens with a rather buff but pale humanoid at the top of a waterfall on a planet that should be assumed as Earth. “He” is dropped off by a mothership that leaves while he unwraps himself from a toga and drinks a potion that causes his body to disintegrate. When he falls into the water, his strings and code of DNA are seen and assumed to be planting the seeds that would lead to life on this planet. A number of years later, probably in the billions, we see the idealistic scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend/colleague Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) exploring caves and finding evidence that ancient visitors had explored earth thousands of years ago – and they left a return address. As they say in the film, it might be a way to “meet your maker.”
Let’s get this out of the way now – if you’re going to enjoy Prometheus, and it certainly is enjoyable, there are a few things you’re going to have to accept. They’re not easy to accept, but you can always see That’s My Boy with Adam Sandler instead because at least you know going in that it’s not even close to acceptable. For example, the previously mentioned return address cave drawing of the humanoids seems little more than a cloaked figure pointing at some indistinct satellites. Considering that the story takes place about 70 years in the future, and we can allow that maybe there will be a way to decipher that address at such time. Maybe a Google Maps Universe. Point given. NASA apparently was not willing or able to launch a space craft for a mission with so much uncertainty, so the wealthy and eccentric private investor with his own space craft and crew sends Mr. and Mrs. Sciencebook out into space.
Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, a woman whose rank and role aboard the ship are not as clear as her ass through the fabulous uniform she wears. Believe that I really, really searched for a rear-view picture but couldn’t find one. She’s not the captain, but she tells the captain what to do and when to do it, including when she tells him to be in her response when he tells her he thinks she’s not human: “My room. Ten minutes.” She gives orders to close up the ship as a storm approaches, much like on the ice planet Hoth when Han Solo and Luke Skywalker were missing at nightfall. She has the power to order that nothing will be brought aboard, which makes you wonder why the hell they’d travel two years through space without hitting the gift shop. It’s answered eventually. She’s also willing to eliminate any crew who may threaten the mission, although we’re not sure what her mission is until a hidden crew member is revealed as well as his real motives.
I was puzzled by a few of the other crew members who seem to have vague skills and speak like mercenaries just looking for a big payday. If the mysterious benefactor has enough money to send a ship across the universe, you’d think he could find a more dedicated crew. And you’d also think there would be many reputable and willing scientists across various fields of study who would be more than thrilled to join the crew, even without a great monetary reward. After remembering that those characters are usually like the “red shirts” on Star Trek, the first ones to “go,” I dismissed the thought.
David (Michael Fassbender) is a humanlike robot with the inner workings of “Bishop” from Alien, the demeanor of “HAL 9000” from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the intelligence of Spock. During the two years of hibernation for the others while travelling to LV-223, not to be confused with LV-426 (the planet from Alien), he learned several languages and watched Singing in the Rain more than any human could possibly tolerate. Although he is programmed to provide assistance in ways that humans can’t and contains libraries full of information, he’s also got the monkey wrench. For younger readers, that means he’s the cause of a problem.
Rather quickly upon arriving on LV-223, they find what seems like a giant bee hive. Instead of honey, there are streams of a black goo that you’d be wise to avoid, but the goo wasn’t immediately present. It was frozen in dozens of silvery containers that started mysteriously sort of melting as soon as the humans entered the chamber where they were stored. Instead of finding whatever humanoids that/who may have been responsible for the invitation for earthlings to find them, they find piles of their carcasses. It’s not clear if these bodies are the same “people” who visited Earth so long ago, but it is clear that they are – or were – the same species of pale humanoid, except now they’ve ditched the togas for what seems like Underarmour. That suggests to me that their purposes are different.
In an interesting scene that involves another of those things we have to just accept, scientists Shaw and Holloway, accompanied by the Red Shirts, investigate the giant bee hive. They’re suddenly surprised by what seem to be ghosts of a few ancient humanoids running through a cavern and into a sort of cave. The last in the group doesn’t make it to the descending gate in time and is decapitated. This happened an indeterminable number of years prior, but the body and head were still there. The body, on the outside of the gate, was dried and decomposed. The head, on the inside of the gate, was strangely well preserved. How they can see these ghosts is not at all touched upon, but it’s a very cool-looking shot. They look like a snowy, static image from a bad TV set, and their only purpose is probably because it was easier than having the landing party find a hard drive with surveillance video because the reason for the shot is for them to know what happened a bunch of years ago. So just go with it.
Examining the head showed that the humanoid DNA was an exact match of our DNA, thus allowing the argument that these creatures were responsible for life on Earth. This might satisfy some Creationists because it suggests that there was a Creator, or a Designer, or what they call an “Engineer” in the film. While these giants aren’t exactly God material, they’re still pretty sizable. Looking back at how the head came to be available, we saw a group of humanoids running but one lagging behind and killed because he was too slow to get through the gate in time. It’s a tip o’ the cap to the Evolutionists who carry the banner for “survival of the fittest.” You’re too slow, you’re time to go. These moments allow both sides of the Genesis debate to claim themselves a winner, but it’s really meaningless because it’s just a movie, not an authority.
In Alien, Ridley Scott directed the crew against a powerful and violent insect-reptile hybrid of a monster. In Prometheus, the conflict is more amongst the crew’s opposing ideas of the purpose of the expedition. The humanoids are mostly secondary in action but primary in the scope of the film. The most compelling scene is that in which Shaw finds that she’s been somehow impregnated, but since she knows that she’s sterile, she also knows she must remove it. You. Will. Squirm. The silliest sequence is so badly directed that it should only appear in a film entitled Things to Never do in a Movie. It’s so bad, you’ll see it coming and you’ll know. And you’ll be disappointed that such a big production could contain such a small-minded moment. Just remember kids, when something is rolling after you from behind, run to the side – not in the same direction as the rolling object. Not even Wyle E. Coyote would have fallen for that.
The ending allows for both a sequel and to announce itself as a prequel to Alien. In the final shot of the film you’ll know what I mean, and I’ll just leave it at that. Then you’ll look back at previous moments in which one of the crew is attacked by something, and you’ll say, “I think I’ve seen that before.” At first, I was bothered that the creature attack was so similar to Alien and thought, “Why couldn’t you think up something new?” But then I later realized that this movie is directly connected to Alien, so that allows me to view it as continuity instead of copying. You can decide for yourself though. For me, it’s like the Circle of Life, or maybe the Circle of Death.
My rating system goes like this: worth seeing, worth seeing more than once, not worth seeing at all. This one is worth seeing, especially on a large screen, but many people I know have gone back to see it again.
49 thoughts on “#prometheus – or, how i met your other mother”
Excellent review. Made me chuckle a few times. I must see this movie NOW!
You took away from this movie so much more than I did. LOL
What a thorough review,and at the same time containing a bit of humor. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t enjoy the movie,and some say this movie isn’t a prequel to “Alien”, this is an Alien prequel no matter how you look at it.
thanks, and yes, no matter how you look at it. especially when you see the creature at the end.
I love your reviews of films. But on the other hand, I have to disagree with you on the issue of, “but it’s worth seeing it again”. Thanks.
maybe i should have clarified. i didn’t mean it was worth seeing the movie twice. i mean i liked seeing something that was a clue or connection to another movie because i did not know there was going to be a connection to “alien.” thanks for pointing out that i probably did not write that well.
Only saw the first Alien movie – so I doubt if we will partake – although your description of Charlene Theron is a temptation. It seems that Prometheus didn’t take a stand regarding the DH, but FYI – and a common misconception – “survival of the fittest” is Herbert Spencer quote.
good to know. thanks. i saw the first two alien films and thought the premise of the third sounded silly so i skipped it.
edited. thanks again.
I saw Prometheus on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I am both a Ridley Scott fan and an Alien fan. I am also capable of suspending disbelief at the movies and sometimes in real life. I also liked that David was a Lawrence of Arabia fan. Just one small correction, though. Bishop was the android in Aliens, Ash was the android with a hidden agenda in the first film in the series, Alien. And as we all know, in space, no one can hear you scream.
Believe it or not, I’ve never seen any of the Alien movies the whole way through. I should probably fix that, but I’m too lazy to run to the video store then make time to watch it. So I’ll revert to my standard phrase- maybe tomorrow. I really should remove that phrase from my vocabulary. It causes nothing but trouble and laziness.
as clint eastwood said, “a man’s gotta know his limitations.”
so when will this debate over the dh being taking place?
it’s raging on – here:
the hell with that. i’ll start up my own, but thanks anyway.
end interleague play, so the national league snobs can sing their anti-abortion song in like minded circle jerk.
what ever happened to friction?
that purist nonsense where everyone runs around with signs agreeing with everyone else. yeh, yeh. let’s kill the enemy because they’re so stupid and wrong.
i guess it could be an anti abortion rally or any rally and i guess i’m a blatant hypocrite because i would march for anything for the exercise and screaming and other fringe benefits that always cost nothing,
but i’m way the hell off topic.
you write a good review here.
thanks for the compliment. i thought you were somehow connecting the anti abortion song with the baseball comment. my bad.
You are gifted in movie reviews…very complete…and you made me laugh aloud a few times. 🙂 I think I’d like to go see this with the hubby this Friday. Thanks for the treat. 🙂 Sam
those are some very kind words, miss. thanks.
i learned a lot about reviews from roger ebert. one thing specifically is to keep yourself out of the review. it’s not supposed to be an anecdote about yourself and your viewing experience. it’s about the movie, but it’s okay to drop one or two things that connect.
🙂 Well great job you did! 🙂
Good review and very accurate – I sat through the film today and wished I hadn’t bothered. So many cliches, far too many references to the Alien franchise and not enough real new movie or indeed philosophical ideas to sustain the premise of the film. Apart from Michael Fassbaender not a decent actor among them. Some good special effects, but otherwise I could not recommend it, script was just too badly written. That irritating young woman was a cheap substitute for the wonderful Sigourney Weaver, a girl with enough power to wipe out a whole army of Alien critters.
looking back at my review, i think i wrote more positively than i really felt. i think you helped me realize that. thanks.
You’re welcome. Just like you I utterly cringed at the squid baby scene. How could they put that in? Argh.
My husband and I watched this movie on the weekend and actually really enjoyed it. for me as a girl it was a little bit ewww but my husband who is a filmmaker and really likes Ridley Scott loved it and thought it was very well done. I really want to know what happens next though!!
When I first saw the title for this film, I thought it was about the greek god Prometheus, I was rather disappointed to find out it wasn’t, yet your review has changed my mind about it. I’ve still got a movie voucher which is bound to expire soon, I might go see it.
Great write-up! I’ve got my review on the backburner here but I’m struggling on how to write it. I spent the week after seeing the film thinking about it and I think I should see it again sometime soon. Seems a lot of people were put off by the more philosophical thinking points of the film instead of getting concrete answers, but I thought that added a huge sense of mystique to the Alien universe (as well as ours).
thanks. in looking back at my review, i think i made it sound more positive than i actually felt about the movie. i’ll have to re-read and maybe edit it. i wasn’t thrilled, but it was good.
I don’t think the tone of the post was overly positive, it was realistic.
good. less work for me. thanks.
he did……they should……evolution
i’ll read the rest later if that’s ok
you do whatever works for your world, and not need to see if it’s “ok” with anyone except who is in the mirror.
my god what a handsome chap….he must be stupid
the one in the mirror…..my mirror….my work’s mirror……..there is no mirror…
fill the sink. shine a light from below when it’s dark. mirror.
you’ve gotta be pretty desperate to see yourself to go to those kind of lengths……it’ll happen tomorrow, i just know it
or hit the nearest gas station restroom
you don’t wanna bend over the sink in the dark in one of those places
oh, no way.
i found a rabid vole in the last place i did that…i nearly lost an ear
glad you’re looking at the positives.
think positive and stuff will happen that’s good….or something….there’s a book about it somewhere….
i think the review is probably better
The “gift shop” made me burst out laughing. Have had bad reports of this film from Sci-Fi fanatics who hated it. The acting was particularly criticized.
yes. seemed like stock characters to me.
and i was kinda proud of the “gift shop” part.