Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers. If you do not want important plot elements revealed, please read after you watch Prometheus and feel free to offer your own opinions of the film.
While Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is most definitely a prequel to his film Alien, it is also its own distinct story. Yes, there are familiar elements from the Alien universe (aliens, android, and a strong female lead), but the film takes place many years before the events in Alien occur. Most of Prometheus takes place during 2093. The events in Alien take place during 2122. Also, Alien takes place on the planet LV_426, and Prometheus takes place on LV_223. So, if you’re expecting a direct link to the Alien universe, you’ll likely be disappointed by this film. That being said, it does explore some interesting topics.
There are a few over arching themes that surface throughout the movie. The most obvious – and one that is indicated by the title, is the origin of life, humanity in particular. This is explained during the first minutes of the film, and done so in an interesting and unique way; A superior race seeds Earth by using their own DNA as the ‘spark’ of life. Another way to view the role of the ship Prometheus is that, without it, and its crew, landing on the alien world the alien life that results would never have occurred. Not only did aliens create humanity, but we, in turn, created alien life.
The second theme that crops up frequently is the meaning, or arbitrariness, of life. This is particularly embodied by the character David (an android) when he asks why he was created and the answer he is given is “because we can;” An explanation of his existence completely devoid of meaning and purpose. It is further developed through the aliens that the exploration team are looking for. Though they are our creators (“Engineers,” as they are referred to in the movie), they seemingly want to destroy us for no explicable reason. Related to this subject is what we choose to believe in, and how it gives meaning to our lives. One character (Shaw) chooses faith as her vehicle to have a meaningful life, her love interest (Holloway) chooses logic and science yet they are in a romantic relationship. The implication is that both faith and science can coexist, at least to an extent…
Third, a theme that has been seen through all the Alien movies is the concept of violent penetration. Though, it seems to be much more pronounced, or at least, frequent, in Prometheus. There is the expected invasive alien lifeforms, but there is also a significant amount of syringe screen time. This is topped off with a (non-violent) sex scene that comes back to haunt the character Elizabeth Shaw, as well as the invasive surgery relating to the sex scene. Lastly, there is the alien version of slipping someone a mickey (ingestion), with disastrous results.
Another theme that is explicitly mentioned by David is that sometimes one must destroy in order to create. This is a reflection on the opening scene where the alien/Engineer who seeds Earth does so by sacrificing himself. Similarly, the aliens in this and later films must destroy their host in order to live.
Lastly, the Engineers encountered on LV_223 appear to have died as a result of their own technology turning on them. Of course, this is a warning for us as we continually increase our ability to destroy our enemies (whoever that might be at the time). In the process, we may be unwittingly developing our own demise.
The visual FX are spectacular, but not overdone. Though they are present to a large extent, they aren’t used as a vehicle for the film. I believe this goes back to the movie Alien, where visual FX were at a minimum. The film relied on a quality story and creative cinematography to awe the audience.
The acting is superb. Anyone who has seen the Swedish version of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy will be familiar with Noomie Rapace, whose emotion is a highlight of the movie. In stark contrast is Michael Fassbender’s character David, whose lack of emotion serves as a counterpoint. Seeing Fassbender’s portrayal of David, alone, is worth watching the movie.
Something I find disturbing is that the ancient civilizations have all, independently, drawn maps to LV_223. Why? If LV_223 isn’t the home world of the Engineers, why point the way to it? Was LV_223 even inhabited by the Engineers those many years ago? Then, there is the even more obvious question of, “How did the ancient civilizations know where it was?”
Prometheus ended with me wanting more. It doesn’t do the job of connecting the dots for the audience. You have to do that yourself. When the film ends and you ask, “So how does this fit with Alien and the movies that followed?” My theory is that Shaw takes the alien ship to LV_426 (all that is said in the movie is that she is taking the ship to the “Engineer’s” home world). Either misfortune meets her when she arrives, or there was an unexpected guest onboard the ship (an alien that makes its appearance at the end of the film). In either case, the ship is left intact and waiting to be investigated by the crew of the Nostromo in the movie Alien. This might explain why the eggs that are already present on LV_426, as they are the end result of Shaw succumbing to an alien. Alternatively, the ship the crew of the Nostromo searches is completely different from the ones seen in Prometheus and there is simply no relation.
If you have any thoughts on what happens to Shaw and how it relates to Alien, please share.