Prometheus (2012), directed by Ridley Scott
I have so much to say about Prometheus, and yet, at the same time, really I have no idea what to say.
Let’s start with the experience of seeing it. This is the first film I have ever seen in IMAX 3D. There is only one word for it: intense. I saw Piranha 3DD in Real 3D last week and even though I realize they are two vastly different films in terms of budget and care and attention, I thought Piranha looked like hell. Prometheus on the other hand looked amazing and almost (almost) made we want to take back everything I’ve ever questioned about 3D.
It just sucks you in. Everything is so clear, and so…well, three dimensional. Normally I avoid the 3D because I find most modern action films chaotic and sensory assaultive enough without the added stimulation of 3D. I know, I know, my friends call me Old Man Wells for a reason. But for Prometheus, which is well paced, thoughtful and yet still packed with incredible special effects, the 3D really blew me away.
I came to Prometheus a mid-level Alien franchise fan. I have seen them all (except the vs. Predator films because…come on) but Aliens more than any other, and not for many years in the case of Alien. I re-watched it after seeing Prometheus though (it’s amazing). I adore the first two films, and Ridley Scott as a sci-fi director in general (Blade Runner ftw), and was incredibly excited about Prometheus for both reasons.
For those who didn’t follow it, they (the Hollywood gods) have been talking about doing another Alien film for years. Both Scott and Aliens director James Cameron worked on ideas. Eventually Scott got the green light for this one but the question was, how related to Alien would it be? Would we see a xenomorph (a fan name for the alien)? Would Ripley be mentioned in it? Does it tell the story of the “space jockey” found in Alien? Dammit Ridley, tell us!
Well now we have it and now we know. Sort of. This will inevitably have spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want it ruined, don’t read past the sentence after this one. Just know that it is a hell of a watch and even though it’s imperfect, I really have to say what an intense and amazing experience it was to watch.
Moving on, the film, although definitely related, is incredibly different than the other Alien films. I mean, on one hand it’s not, because it’s about a spacecraft full of people who go to check something out on a far away planet and end up getting in over there heads with extraterrestrial life forms that want to kill them. So that’s familiar territory. But Prometheus goes so much further.
While Alien is probably the best haunted house movie ever made, and Aliens is easily the best sci-fi action film ever made, Prometheus shoots for a more theological, philosophical highroad, making it far more complex and rich, but also a little more convoluted in purpose. While certainly no B-movie, I like the kind of fundamental storytelling approach of the original two films. They’re pretty clear in what they’re out to accomplish, and they do so incredibly well.
Prometheus is a little more murky and at times too ambitious for it’s own good. It has that same kind of need to explain everything to the power of whatever that ruined Cabin in the Woods. Prometheus is about gods and man and evolution and creationism and the meaning of life. While Alien hinted at that stuff, especially with Ash’s speech on the xenomorph being a perfect life-form (“unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality”), Prometheus takes it straight on, complete with religious imagery and big-picture questions.
It’s also a little busy and complicated for its own good, and creates a great more many questions than answers.
Even just in terms of logistics. I mean, you have the oil ooze stuff, which evolves into facehugger like creatures, but at the same time, when ingested, takes over the host entirely and has the potential to make a person into a rampaging zombie. I didn’t quite get that. And how did he impregnate Shaw with a facehugger without her getting sick like he did? How did it get in his semen but not in her blood? I didn’t understand the physiology of that one.
And why did Shaw give birth to a facehugger? Don’t they come from eggs? And how come it grew so big? Or was it an evolving queen? It seemed like a two step process (egg to facehugger to xenomorph) got turned into a three step process (oil to impregnation to facehugger to xenomorph). I’m sure this is all stuff that Alien nerds (which I am apparently becoming one of) can debate endlessly. I’d welcome any thoughts from y’all. Is Shaw acting as the egg? Maybe that’s it.
Also it raises a bunch of questions about the origin of mankind. You know. That stuff.
Its complexity, and even confusion, though attests to its intention, which is to create a sci-fi epic that inspires what space has always inspired in us: questions of the origins of life and our place in the universe. And of course, terror. After all, in space no one can hear you scream. At times magnificent, at others terrifying and bleak, Prometheus is an incredible film to behold, even if difficult to fully understand. I felt as I left the theatre that I had had an experience, rather than just watched a movie.
And hey, do go back and watch the original Alien films, or at least the first two. I mean, good Lord are they ever good.
Prometheus is in theatres now.