Prometheus may not be a satisfying prequel, but it more than makes up for it by being a fascinating sci fi film to unpack.
You know, the more alien movies I see, the more I am convinced that we don’t need to know whether we are alone in the universe.
Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus is a prequel to the sci fi horror classic Alien series. It follows a team of scientists including Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and their android assistant David (Michael Fassbender) who discover a mysterious message seemingly from the creators of humanity. Now, any sensible person would be very cautious about trusting an alien (heh) invitation out of nowhere, but this is a horror movie and we got a body count to fill.
In the first Alien, there was a giant spaceship with the skeleton of some large humanoid and housing countless xenomorph eggs. No one knew or explained just how they got there, so this led to a lot of theorizing. However, Ridley Scott stepped up with Prometheus to answer this question once and for all… is what the promotional materials told you.
See, despite what the trailers and posters say, I don’t believe that Ridley Scott meant for Prometheus to be a straightforward prequel to Alien. The alien spaceship in the first movie ultimately didn’t matter to the main plot revolving around humanity getting a closer look at the xenomorph life cycle than they would have preferred. That element of unknown didn’t take anything away, and in fact contributed to the horror.
So, making a prequel solely dedicated to that would be like making a solo movie explaining what’s in the glowing suitcase from Pulp Fiction. I mean, what sort of answer would be wholly satisfying? No matter what, the chances of a majority of the fandom going “Wait, that’s how the xenomorphs came to be? So underwhelming,” is higher than the likelihood that sticking your face in front of an alien egg would result in forced impregnation.
I think that is something to keep in mind when going into this film, and also why Prometheus wasn’t quite well received by audiences. It is highly likely the promise of answers to the huge alien mystery the fandom built up by themselves resulted in expectations that would have been unfulfilled no matter what. It is also why, when you look past those expectations, I actually find this film very interesting.
What Ridley Scott did here is he took the question of the alien spaceship and then expanded it into an entirely new sci fi story with new worldbuilding. It’s no longer really about xenomorphs and alien crabs deepthroating people, but rather about a new alien race and how they are connected to humans. From this, we also get some engaging themes mainly about the relationship between the creator and the creation. What sort of opinions would the creation have towards their creator depending on different circumstances? For what reasons did the creator create?
This is backed up by a solid main character. And I actually don’t mean Shaw here, although she is perfectly fine. The main star of this movie is the android David. He is a creation that already knows his creator, and arguably surpasses them in his capabilities. What would something like that do then? While we only see the beginnings of his development in this movie, it sets up a fascinating character to follow. This is in no small part thanks to Michael Fassbender’s performance.
But if you have read some of my previous reviews, you’d know that I think great themes don’t make a movie as much as a solid plot does. Which is where Prometheus unfortunately stumbles. Now, I don’t expect every character to act with 200 iq, especially in a horror movie, but even then some of the choices these characters make are too illogical for me to be fully immersed in the story.
When you are going out to explore an alien planet, you’d think carrying weapons or being wary of any viral infection would be natural. Yet the characters do neither of those things. (Though on the second part, considering how the covid pandemic started, maybe it’s more realistic than I thought.) When a character sees something is wrong with their body – and not the “I have a sore throat” kind, more the “there’s something tiny moving inside my eyeball” kind – they just shrug it off and not draw further attention to it.
Again, characters are allowed to make mistakes in movies, but in order for that to be acceptable, you have to either make the mistakes logically understandable, or expand the character’s personality to show why they would make that mistake. And unfortunately, Prometheus does neither quite right. Not all of the character choices are to the point of breaking my immersion, but it’s like a small but persistent itch on my back. I am not losing sleep over it, but I also would prefer if I wasn’t itchy at all.
But despite that, I still can’t consider Prometheus a bad movie. It has its ups and downs, but the themes, worldbuilding, and visuals are enough to make up for momentary lapses in characters’ neurons. It also made me excited to see how the next film would expand upon this world further, and perhaps start answering some of the questions it set up. There is no way the sequel would blow the load on that front, right?
Prometheus is now available to watch on digital and on demand. Read our review of Alien: Covenant.