Director Ridley Scott’s Alien was a groundbreaking sci-fi/horror thriller when it debuted back in 1979. Filled with suspense and identifiable characters, the original film in the franchise scared the life out of audiences. It spawned 3 sequels (not including the Alien vs. Predator films) and made the Alien creature one of the most recognizable and feared villains in movie history. The first and really only good sequel, Aliens (directed by James Cameron) amplified what Scott did and was, in my opinion, the most entertaining film of the series. Let’s just try to forget about Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. So, what is Prometheus really about? According to Ridley Scott, it’s not a direct prequel to Alien and it does hold its own as a standalone sci-fi thriller. However, anyone familiar with the Alien history, or the timeline per se, will recognize key images and details shown throughout Prometheus. The film revolves around one main question – Where do we come from? The origins of mankind…faith vs. evolution…God vs. science. Our unfazed determination in finding the answers to the question will ultimately lead to our demise. High hopes which lead to epic failure.
Like Alien, Prometheus does take a while to build up to what we all know is coming. And also, like that film, the anticipation is what makes the film a joy to watch. Character development is a key element to any film and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have given us a handful of them to either hate, sympathize with, or become incredibly curious about. The story revolves around a crew that has been hired by Peter Weyland to try to discover the origins of mankind on Earth. They are hired because of the pictograms they found on cave walls that appear to be invitations or maps from their creators. There journey leads them to the darkest corners of the universe, where they are put in a battle to try and save the human race. The expedition is led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) who is eager to discover the answers to the big question of ‘where did we come from?’, but also is the only one in the group who also struggles with the idea of ‘faith’ versus ‘evolution’. She wears a cross around her neck and this object is the only piece that represents ‘God’ in the film. It is an important piece though and plays a major role in Shaw’s chance for survival. Shaw’s boyfriend, Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) is by her side pretty much throughout the film, and although he doesn’t share her same beliefs about faith, he does share her eagerness as to finding out where mankind originated from.
The lady in charge of the ship itself, Meredith Vickers (played nastily by Charlize Theron), is really only a business suit here. She has little interest in the mission at hand, other than the fact that her boss and father Peter Weyland, gave orders for her to bring the ship to that particular planet…which is named Zeus. Idris Elba provides a bit of comic relief in the film as it’s pilot, Janek. The real standout here is Michael Fassbender, as the android David. His character is by far the most interesting of all of them simply because you don’t know what his motives really are. Is he malfunctioning? Or is he just following the orders of his creator, Peter Weyland? Either way, he becomes a real nemesis to the mission and actually plays a major role in what becomes the downfall of the entire crew. David is a complex character at times, but somewhat simplistic as well. Fassbender is perfectly cast in the role. He displays a sense of wonder, while also conveying a cold, dark side. It’ s fun to watch the transition. Guy Pearce portrays trillionaire Peter Weyland, who is the reason all of this is taking place to begin with. He is so eager to find the origins of mankind with the hope of perhaps finding a way to live forever. Weyland is extremely old in this film and not in the best physical shape. Pearce does well with the role and he is unrecognizable behind the old age makeup.
Prometheus is probably the film that has the most curiosity surrounding it this year. How would it compare to Alien? Will it be a solid standalone sci-fi flick on it’s own? Let me answer the first question by saying that it is a very different film than Alien. Of course, the new film is far more stunning visually due to better technology and the use of IMAX and 3D. Also, Alien is a much more darker film…not only to look at, but in tone as well. Taking the setting out of the darkness of space and putting it onto a planet is the main reason for this, but the characters are also more relatable here. Elizabeth Shaw’s flaws and questions of faith…Meredith Vickers strong determination to just get the mission done…and Peter Weyland’s undeterred quest to find answers to life’s biggest questions, all represent human will and curiosity. There is a lot of ineptitude displayed by the humans in Prometheus and that’s also realistic in that we are very flawed, mistake prone beings. The best parts of the film, in my opinion, are watching these intelligent people let their curiosities take them over and eventually lead to their demise. Some of the dialogue is…well, meh…but overall, we get a good understanding of each character, which is important in a film like this. My one biggest complaint about Alien was that a lot of the characters were underdeveloped, which made you not really invest any real ‘care’ as to what happens to them. That does happen here with a couple of them, but this film does a better job giving the characters more, well…character.
The final 30 minutes of Prometheus is incredible. When things go downhill…they go downhill fast! As with Alien, there is some sick stuff within Prometheus. Some scenes will make you cringe…others will make you long for more. Ridley Scott gives us a very cool shot at the end of the film which let’s you know that ‘this really is an Alien prequel’. I’m not going to get into the plot points of the film here, other than to say that yes, there are unanswered questions that will lead to much debate. I have no problem with this. In fact, a film that leaves you asking questions after seeing it is more of a positive than a negative. Hopefully, Scott will make another entry in the series to fill in some of the plot holes…but if he doesn’t, then the extreme fanboys can give us their best assumptions. At the end of the day, Scott and Co. have created another exciting entry in the sci-fi film universe. It’s not as scary as Alien or Aliens, but in some ways it is a better film overall. Those films may make more of an impression on you due to the ‘scare’ factor, but Prometheus is a well thought out, visually stunning film that puts the Alien franchise back on the right track and because of it, I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this series.
Alien 3 Rating:
Alien: Resurrection Rating: