Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris and Rafe Spall.
Searching for clues as to the origins of mankind, a team of explorers get more than they bargained for when they arrive on a remote planet with hopes of meeting their creators.
I have a confession to make, and it’s not a pretty one. I am almost completely unfamiliar with the Alien series. I know. Shoot me now. I’ve seen them – it was just a long time ago and it’s fuzzy in my memory. It’s not that I don’t like them, don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed them. I understand the gravity of being a film critic, or even a human being, and to not have seen or appreciated the Alien films. I think it was mainly because my dad tried to force them on me at too young an age, and now I’ve become mildly traumatised from watching that much grotesque-ness and goo as an 8-year-old. Shame on me.
Either way, as a result of my lack of familiarity with Alien, unlike other critics, I was able to watch Prometheus with a sense of objectivity and a lack of comparison to the other movies. Yes, I have seen what critics have said about Prometheus in relation to Alien, but I am here to talk about Prometheus the film, not Prometheus the Alien prequel.
The most extraordinary thing about Prometheus for me was the sheer scale of the production. Being a fan already of the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, I was pleased to see his designs reprised in the film. The design of the creatures, and the structures of the alien planet, were both terrifying and magnificent. The movement of the story within its setting is enshrouded by a blue haze which gives the impression of suffocation but innovation. The metallic structures are complimented by a shrieking score of haunting melodies and fallacies, composed by Marc Streitenfeld. The score gives moments of atmospheric and claustrophobic tension, coupled with instances of extreme fear and peril, summing up the two key consistent emotions of this movie. All of this is encompassed by the sheer magnitude of the production design and set, estimated at costing around $120 million. Worth it? I think so. I have never seen a modern film pull off an alien planet so well. It felt like the screen was going to swallow me whole.
In terms of plot and story, my lack of knowledge of Alien means that I cannot corroborate the opinions that Prometheus is a bit too parallel with Alien. For me, underlying themes of religious and ethical ambiguity, along with the appropriate images of maternity, motherhood and birth throughout were extremely fitting. We see a number of clever overlaps throughout the movie – for example, the premise of the film is that scientists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway are travelling to the alien planet to “meet their makers”; essentially, to find those who created the human race – their parents, if you will – thus making this planet their mother planet. Elizabeth herself, played by Noomi Rapace, is infertile and cannot have children, making her own relationship with a the parent race a more complex and tenuous one. Without giving away spoilers, this state is further intensified when Elizabeth’s own ideals of motherhood and humanity come into question in a very specific and fantastically gruesome manner. Elsewhere, images of reproduction and genitalia are rife, especially amongst the alien creatures. At first I was slightly alluded as to the specific purpose of this imagery, but an understanding of the other imagery present within the film makes these allegories all the more appropriate. Supposedly, this prequel signifies the birth of the Alien saga, and it is therefore complimentary that we see various births within the film – the birth of the human race, specifically, as well as other physical births, including the birth of the pre-Alien, for me the most foreboding and terrifying moment of the movie.
The flip-side of seeing the “Engineers”, as they are called, as parents, is that one can see them as God. Elizabeth’s faith is challenged as she sees the true nature of the aliens, but also their likeness to human form. The themes of birth and death are intermingled until they are almost unrecognisable. Guy Pearce’s character, Peter Weyland, funds the expedition so that he may “meet his maker”, and perhaps be granted immortality. His conviction is so strong that he sees no manoeuvre for failure, and the image of an angry and unforgiving God is manifested in the aliens’ reactions to his requests.
An interesting motive is that of David, played by Michael Fassbender. He is an android, created by humans. His “father”, or engineer, in fact is Weyland. In the expedition, it could be said that he is seeking his grandparents. Whilst David is supposedly unable to feel emotion, his moments of humanity, or rather lack thereof, which are subtle interspersed throughout the film, ask us to question his role, which remains thoroughly ambiguous. As a logical being, David should not have faith, but appears to do so. His obedience is to humanity, but his roles and allegiances flicker and change rapidly. We see him both helping and sabotaging his teammates and the audience is left not knowing how to approach or understand him. This moral ambiguity is presented beautifully by Fassbender, who demonstrates David’s internal conflicts, masked by his emotionless exterior, to the point where we are not sure where android David ends and human David begins. Easily the best performance of the film.
So within an alien planet epic, Ridley Scott has successfully managed to deepen the underlying meanings to include moral and ethical conflicts, and questions of faith and the very beginnings of the human race, all encased in breathtaking scenery and horrifying alien life forms. Scott’s Prometheus is not a basic movie, by any count. For me he has unified the great unanswered questions of humanity and provided his own extraordinary interpretation. And of course, he has proven that need to be a fan of Alien to understand or enjoy this movie, but I’m sure it helps.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★