Many Questions, Few Answers

Director Ridley Scott is returning to his science fiction roots.  Long before winning his only Oscar for the swords-and-sandals epic Gladiator, Scott first made his name with the sci-fi hits Alien and Blade Runner.  With his new film, Prometheus, the director not only returns to the genre, but also to the universe he first created in 1979’s Alien.  Leading up to its release, many have wondered if Prometheus would in fact be a prequel to Scott’s previous classic.  Although the end result proves not to be a direct prequel, audiences will recognize many familiar elements as Scott essentially lays out the DNA—figuratively and literally—for the entire Alien universe.

After a cool yet mysterious dawn-of-time opening, the movie flashes forward to 2089 Scotland where two archeologists are on the verge of making a tremendous discovery.  This discovery leads them to be part of a team that is sent to the far reaches of space at the expense of the Weyland Corporation; a company name that attentive Alien fans will surely recognize.  They believe they have discovered an ancient alien civilization and that it is that civilization that is responsible for all life on Earth.  Landing on what they believe to be the home planet of these so-called “engineers” (“What did they engineer?” “Us.”), they hope to actually meet their makers, and hopefully get some answers to those age-old questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here?

Ridley Scott, director of PrometheusWhen they arrive, they find miles of endless, “man”-made caverns, but no sign of the creators expect for a strange recording.  Following the visions in the recording, they find what they originally believe to be some kind of altar, but that actually turns out to be a cemetery.  Which leads to a new question: what killed the engineers?  The answer may lie in the mysterious black liquid that slowly begins oozing out of the strange containers that fill the room; a liquid that the android David takes a special interest in.  Alien fans should have some idea where this is going.

That said, one thing Alien fans should not do is try to connect the dots between this movie and that classic.  Although the dots are certainly there, Scott does not connect them, and any attempt to do so will drive a person crazy—trust me, I’ve tried it.  In fact, trying to analyze the content of Prometheus alone can drive a person crazy.  Unlike Alien—essentially a slasher movie set in space—Prometheus asks a lot of questions; too many, maybe.  “It doesn’t make any sense,” one filmgoer announced upon exiting the theater.  A persons overall enjoyment of Prometheus may rely on whether they enjoy movies that have you still thinking about and discussing the movie a full week later, because that is exactly what will happen.

As such, it is very difficult to form a final opinion of Prometheus after only one viewing, but one thing that can be said is that it is quite entertaining.  The opening act is especially enjoyable, filling the audience with a sense of wonder and mystery as only great science fiction can.  As the titular spaceship and its crew seek land on a distant planet that shows signs of intelligent life, we find ourselves highly curious about just what they are going to find there. The answer, not surprisingly, is something very scary.

What is somewhat surprising is that the movie weakens somewhat at the point when the movie’s alien creatures begin showing up.  Again, it is difficult to truly judge them on just one viewing as it is practically impossible not to compare these new creatures to the Face Huggers and Xenomorphs of the original Alien, but they just seemed to lack any kind of personality.  One of the key creatures is essentially just a squid—at first glance, anyway, because later it will start to look somewhat familiar.

With the sci-fi horror genre not as novel as it was in 1979, the slasher aspects of the movie are also a bit weaker than we would expect or hope them to be.  Nevertheless, the movie makes up for it with some terrific special effects that look fantastic on a giant IMAX screen.

Although Prometheus fails to deliver the answers to many of the questions that it poses, while also not quite tying-in to Alien as solidly as fans might hope, it is an engrossing and entertaining flick that will leave audiences wanting to go back for more.  Except maybe that “birth” scene—that was pretty gross.

Prometheus is rated R for “sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language.”  There is a lot of scary stuff going on here.  Basically, if you don’t want to watch, or let your kids watch, Alien, then don’t watch this one.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Prometheus.