Some thoughts on Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’

Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s ‘is it’ / ‘isn’t it’ prequel to Alien has been on my radar for about 18 months now. So when a rare opportunity arrived to escape from parenting a 10 week old child, I hooked off to see it with a sci-fi pal.

I’m a huge fan of the original Alien film and although Alien 3 was fairly passable and destroyed James Cameron’s wonderful sequel to the original film within the first 5 minutes, I kept going back for more. That said, I do wish I hadn’t as Alien Resurrection and the Alien vs Predator films have been thoroughly abysmal and, like George Lucas’ dire Star Wars prequels have somewhat tinged their classic originals. However, with Ridley Scott returning to the director’s chair and the premise that this new film was more about the original Space Jockey alien and not the chest-busting Xenomorph, Prometheus promised a lot.

Unfortunately Prometheus left me with far more questions than it answered. The most obvious one being “Is this actually supposed to be an Alien prequel or not?”

Let’s be under no doubt that the human crew of the spaceship Prometheus (operated by a certain Weyland corporation) do visit a derelict space craft that is a bob-on replica of the one encountered by the crew of the Nostromo in Alien and said craft is obviously piloted by creatures that are identical to Alien’s Space Jockey creature. However, early on in the mission the Prometheus crew tell us that the planet they are visiting is LV223 whereas in both Alien and Aliens, the planet is called LV426. Perhaps someone made a script typo I thought and so the mission continued.

From that point on, Prometheus seemed to all intents and purposes to be an Alien prequel with an incorrectly numbered planetoid. It made some interesting revelations; the Space Jockeys are humanoids (in funky elephant-like space suits), they created the earth, they now want to destroy the earth (no reason given) and that, despite their immense technical knowledge they’d rather use a highly dangerous organism with a convoluted reproductive procedure to do the destroying for them. Hello, nukes would do the job for you and they don’t have a nasty habit of eating their owners but I digress.

The dangerous organism that I mention is similar to but not the same as the Xenomorph that we know and love. It starts life in a canister (not an egg). It seems to need to be ingested (rather than humping your face). It can work it’s way through a human system seemingly via any channels it wishes (olfactory, blood stream and seminal fluid to name but a few) and finally, when it’s fully grown it looks like a 2metre tall octopus. How did we get from H.R Giger’s stunning Xenomorph to something from Day of the Tentacle?

Along with this, there is an altogether new alien cobra-like thing that appears to swim in puddles and slips down people’s throats easier than a pint of Aspall on a sunny day. It then turns its host into a pathological killer with the general appearance of a zombie.

Finally, a Xenomorph type creature does make an appearance (in the usual chest-bursting way) towards the end of the film but we’re not shown or told how it got into its host (a Space Jockey). Design-wise it’s a pale comparison of the original beast but then if it’s supposed to be a pre-cursor then I guess we can let it off.

The film ends with more confusion. It seems like all is being set up nicely – Space Jockey is in situ in his penis / telescope / control seat, he takes off, then his craft crashes etc, etc. All nicely setup for Alien (just with a different alien in the cargo hold and on the wrong planet…) but then next thing we know the Jockey is out of his crashed craft and trying to kill the film’s main protagonist Dr. Shaw with again, no reason given. These Space Jockey’s really don’t like us human’s even though they created us in the first place.

Finally, in an almost verbatim speech to Ripley’s at the end of Alien, Shaw appears to leave a warning message at the alien crash site telling anyone who receives it to steer well clear. Presumably this is what the Nostromo then picks up at the start of Alien but then why would they mistake it for a distress call when it’s clearly in audible English?

So, how do we conclude this film? Well, in the words of Louis Walsh, I liked it. The visuals are spectacular with LV426, I mean LV223 looking marvellously desolate. The production design is stunning too with some wonderful ideas, equipment and alien artifacts. I particularly liked the scanning bee’s that the crew use to map the alien space craft and the Space Jockey’s star charts reminded me of childhood trips to the London Planetarium. Michael Fassbender is staggeringly good as the android David in this film. Definitely the best depiction of an android that the Alien franchise has ever seen.

However, as it is, the film asks more questions than it answers. I like thought-provoking films but if I have to visit more than 3 websites after the credits have finished to tie up the loose ends, then surely something in the storytelling has gone awry.

Some characters are pointless, others seem poorly chosen. Charlize Theron’s character Meredith Vickers does nothing throughout the film except reveal herself to be Weyland’s daughter – meh, sorry love, we don’t care. 114 year-old Weyland is a difficult character to understand. He’s funding the entire Prometheus mission himself on the wild speculation that the Space Jockey’s might be able to give him some way of living longer. At no point is he given any reason to believe this except that Dr. Shaw “chooses to believe” that it is so. Weyland doesn’t tell any of the crew (except for Fassbender’s android) that he is aboard the ship with them. Why not? What difference does it make? Weyland’s character is played (pretty poorly) by Guy Pearce in heavy, heavy makeup. Why not just use an elderly actor? Heck, why not use any actor but Guy Pearce? The only hint is the cryptic message at the end of the credits (hate it when film makers do that) stating that Weyland Corportation have been “building better worlds since 10.11.12″. A quick Google points you to this website: which suggests that maybe there could be more to come – a prequel to the prequel that isn’t actually a prequel perhaps!

Final summary – an enjoyable film that will leave you confused, especially if you think of it as anyway related to the Alien story. Once you’ve seen the film, you’ll probably want to take a look at the Q&A section on IMDB, this interesting article from io9 and maybe the Gizmodo article on the cryptic 10.11.12 message.

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