With “Alien: Covenant” coming out this weekend I decided to give “Prometheus” another shot as I had seen it once, years ago when it had come out on one of the cable movie channels. At the time, I remember not wanting to like it because of all the negative hype around it and so, I came away not liking it and not really understanding what it was trying to achieve. So when I ran across a Blu-ray copy of “Prometheus” at my local big box store for $8, which included a $7.50 credit towards an “Alien: Covenant” ticket, I decided it was time to give this much maligned prequel(?) another shot. While I will say that I liked it better this time, “Prometheus” still isn’t a great movie but has good things going for it at times.
*SPOILER WARNING* – I will be talking full spoilers for this movie.
“Prometheus” follows a group of scientists on a mission to deep space as they try to track down the Engineers, an alien race that they believe to be responsible for life on earth. Upon reaching the planet that they determined to be the home of the Engineers from a series of cave paintings and artifacts from all over the globe, the group sets out to explore an ancient structure, and that’s where stuff starts to go sideways. Parts of this film play out pretty similarly to “Alien” as the explorers do a little too much exploring for their own good. As a storm rolls in, two team members are left behind and are forced to stay the night inside the structure. While they are there, they come across a snake like alien that has similar features to the original xenomorph creatures we know and love as it looks sort of like a cross between the Face Hugger and the Chest Burster.
While in the structure, they also trigger a holographic replay of several Engineers seemingly running away from something and, after following the hologram, the find the remains of an Engineer who has been decapitated by a door. Also while in the structure, the team comes across a room filled with vases or vessels filled with some sort of black goo. The movie’s resident android, David (played amazingly by Michael Fassbender), takes one of the vases unbeknownst to the rest of the crew. Back on the ship, it is starting to become clear that David has a hidden agenda, as he opens and investigates the stolen vase on his own and even goes so far as to poison one of the crew with some of the black goo from inside. For me, that’s kind of the beginning of the end for this movie – “Big things have small beginnings” as David says. While we later find out what David’s secret is, it still doesn’t really explain why he felt he had to poison a crew member past the plot requiring him to.
I actually really enjoyed the first half of “Prometheus”, it’s a solid sci-fi adventure following humans wanting to know where they came from but then at some point it starts to try to be a prequel to “Alien”. “Prometheus” is very much the product of too many ideas and two movies crammed into one run time. The first movie, the one about humans wanting to meet their creators, is actually really well put together. We follow our group of scientists from finding evidence of extraterrestrial life on Earth, to following that evidence to the stars, to finding the remnants of our creators, to finding out that our creators aren’t exactly as benevolent as they seem. That plot thread, in and of itself, has the makings of a great sci-fi film that does what sci-fi does best. Challenge what we know about ourselves and challenge the things we take for granted. Even the twist of Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland being secretly along for the trip so he can try to stave off death works well in that film. But again, the problem is that “Prometheus” is really two films jumbled up together.
The second film is the one that kind of, sort of, maybe wants to be an “Alien” prequel. All of the set design inside the structure is incredibly reminiscent of Giger’s original designs from “Alien” and the infamous Space Jockey from the crashed ship in “Alien” actually turns out to be an Engineer in their version of a space suit. It is also heavily implied that the black substance in the vases is some sort of biological weapon created by the Engineers, that will eventually beget the xenomorphs as we know them. All of that is very cool and, as a lover of the “Alien” franchise, I am pretty on board with those decisions.
Keeping in line with showing us a precursor to the original xenomorph, the crew member that David poisons with the black goo, actually impregnates another crew member with something like a chest burster. That leads to a scene where David attempts to keep her from aborting the alien creature by sedating her and the rest of the crew trying to get her back in to cryo-sleep, presumably without knowing what is inside of her. She gets away and manages to climb into a Medical Pod that she tricks into giving her a C-Section to remove the alien from her womb. That scene in and of itself is fantastic, I loved it. It’s the kind of body and creature horror that we’ve come to expect from “Alien” movies. However, after it happens, it’s completely glossed over for most of the rest of the film. No one seems to give two hot shits that the resident android tried to force this woman to carry an alien horror inside of her, or that she managed to cut it out of herself, or that the alien itself is left in the Medical Pod. This probably my biggest issue with this film, that this extremely impactful scene seems to have no impact on the film until the end and even that impact is marginal at best.
At the end of the film, after the Engineer tries to take off in his ship to go to Earth to wipe it clean of life with the payload of biological weapons it has on board (the movie gives no reasonable explanation for why the Engineer wants to do this and it is really just assumed to be the case by the crew) but is thwarted when the captain of the Prometheus rams into him, the Engineer gets into the lifeboat that was ejected off the Prometheus before the crash where the alien creature is still alive and has grown into mammoth proportions. The Engineer and the now giant alien, looking very much like a Face Hugger, get into a fight that ends with the Not-Face Hugger doing the Face Hugger thing and impregnating the Engineer with a Not Chest Burster that we see do the Chest Burster thing at the very end of the movie, giving birth to a Not Xenomorph that does the Xenomorph double mouth thing…. for a movie that didn’t really want to be an “Alien” prequel, this half of the movie sure feels like an “Alien” prequel but an “Alien” prequel that tries to shy away from truly being an “Alien” prequel….. *sigh*
Story and plotting aside “Prometheus” has a great cast – the aforementioned Michael Fassbender and Guy Pearce are joined by Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba. If I’m being honest, I forgot Theron and Elba were in this movie until I saw their names in the opening credits. It’s not that they give bad performances, it’s that they have solid performances in a somewhat forgettable movie. The real stand out in the cast has to be Fassbender’s performance as David. Every “Alien” movie has had at least one android in it and while Ash, Bishop, and Call, have all been very human, David is very much an android wearing a human facade. Fassbender does an amazing job of portraying David as just slightly off human and using that in-humanness to make certain scenes really unnerving.
In the end, “Prometheus” gets off to a great start but devolves into a hot mess in the second half as it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be – a sci-fi movie that explores the origins of the human race or a prequel to the “Alien” franchise, and its that indecision that hurts the movie the most. As I said previously, I love the “Alien” franchise and this movie did not turn out to be the prequel we were promised or at least thought we were promised. Hopefully “Alien: Covenant” can bridge the gap between “Prometheus” and “Alien” and be the film the brings this franchise back to prominence because the franchise deserves better than its current state.
Be sure to come back to WildeBeard Reviews for my review of “Alien: Covenant” on Sunday night and be sure to like, follow, and subscribe on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and YouTube!
Until next time, Thank You for reading and…
SEE YOU AT THE CINEMA!