Review: Prometheus

Prometheus marks legendary film maker Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise he launched.  Although it is connected to the original Alien story, it is much more than an Alien prequel.  It is arguably the most ambitious main stream science fiction movie made in years.  The fact that it ties in to Alien is almost besides the point.  Prometheus works best as a stand-alone story.

*Spoiler Warning*

The story centers on a team of scientists led by Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and her partner, Dr. Charlie Holloway.  They have located cave paintings from several time periods across the earth.  The paintings all depict a similar image of giant beings pointing to a far away solar system.  Dr. Shaw believes that these beings who she calls “The Engineers” created human life on earth.  Shaw convinces an elderly billionaire, Peter Weyland, to finance an expedition to this solar system on the chance to meet their creators and get nothing less than the secrets of life itself.

The mission doesn’t go as planned.  Several members of the ship’s crew seem to have hidden agendas.  What awaits the scientists on the planet surface raises more questions than answers.  Rather than being given the meaning of life by kindly benefactors, the scientists find themselves struggling with the horrors of creation.  It’s messy, violent and often ends with conflict between parent and off spring.

A lot of the elements of biological horror associated with the Alien films are present here.  There is transformation, impregnation and ultimately violent birth.  But while the elements are familiar, they are all presented in new ways.  If you strip away the trappings of the Alien franchise, what you are left with is a thoughtful, disturbing science fiction movie.

Scott is to be credited with creating a brand new look and feel for Prometheus.  Other films have been mining Scott’s original work for decades.  Scott has wisely moved on.  The world of Prometheus is every bit as visually stunning as the dark, drippy world of the original Alien.  But this world is much brighter and broader of scope.  But don’t let the brightness fool you.  At the center of the film is a dark secret that could lead to humanity’s doom.

The first half of the film in which Scott takes his time fleshing out this world works best.  The questions the movie raises are much more interesting than the answers that follow.  Those looking for a clear throughline to the events of Alien may be disappointed.  All we are left with is possible explanations and a lot more questions.  But as interesting as the world of Prometheus was, I would be interested in seeing those questions explored in a follow-up as long as it was of equal quality.

As an Alien tie-in, Prometheus doesn’t always work.  But as a science fiction thriller directed by a master of the genre, Prometheus has a lot to offer.  It’s a return to form for a great film-maker and a storied franchise.

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Posted on June 8, 2012, in Movies, reviews, sequels and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Finally saw this with the wife at a matinee the other day. It was a visually stunning movie (we watched the 2D version). Camera work, effects, lighting, graphics etc. all top notch. What else would you expect from Ridley Scott though correct? What you would not expect from him are some of the illogical plot holes and ludicrous character behavior.

    ie: woman has major abdominal surgery and then immediately engages in action-hero level activities, or fresh from surgery, blood stained woman stumbles into room full of people but no one says a word about her condition, or scientists with advanced mapping computer system gets lost, or lost scientists decide to ride out the storm in the very chamber they were terrified of a few moments earlier, or scientist who should know better treats nasty alien snake looking thing like it’s a furry puppy…and pays for it. These are just a few examples of ridiculous behavior that cannot be overlooked once they begin to stack up and are committed by supposedly one of the best directors HW has to offer. This movie wants to be and should be a smart sci fi flick but was undermined by all these idiotic script mistakes. The script should have been more carefully edited by a competent writer.

    That said I was captivated by the movie and did enjoy it. It left me pondering several questions for hours afterwards and if a movie can make me do that then it can’t be all bad. If you hit the blogosphere and read up on it, there are even statements from Scott that he included Christian mythology into the film (Jesus was an emissary sent by the Engineers to wise up the human race…and we killed him). Quite interesting. At the end of the day I give the film a B grade and have read this is meant to be a trilogy with the second part already being filmed. Here’s hoping the follow up movies improve upon this shaky start. There is a brilliant story in here somewhere.


    • I have been thinking about Prometheus since I saw it. Which is a good thing. But you’re right. There are a lot of things that are more messy than mysterious. And some just don’t make sense. You’ve done a good job cataloguing some of the more troublesome bits. Those are sloppy writing (Thanks Damon Lindelof!). But then are things that are intentionally not explained which may or may not make sense. For example, just about anything David does. We don’t know his motivations. But his actions seem contradictory. I can accept things that are unexplained. But when you have open ended questions on top of sloppy writing, it just makes the whole thing seem haphazard.

      The visuals and the questions raised are enough to carry me through. And I think a B grade is very fair. I respect Prometheus and look forward to a sequel if it happens. But I hope the second film (if it happens) builds on the strengths of Prometheus without suffering its weaknesses.


  2. Yes, I forgot to mention David. Easily the best part of the movie. A very good actor and portrayed as very ambivalent thoughout the story. David does not take sides it seems and may only be interested in the experimental aspect of the alien encounters. Not a good guy or a bad guy; just a force to be reckoned with. He should make the forthcoming sequels very watchable.

    Scott is definitely onto something with this series. I can tell he has something to say and the framework is there to make it quite engaging. This first outing just suffered from too many B movie, hack screenplay mistakes. Sharper writing is needed to carry it through. I wonder if he had this entire back story in mind when he first did Alien? Or if this is just a nifty retroactive take he has spun after years of life experience have come and gone? I’m looking forward to the next two should they get made.


    • If he had ANY of this in mind, I would be very surprised. I think the space jockey was just a neat visual. The backstory had to come later.

      Fasbender did steal the movie. Hopefully he will figure into sequels should they happen.

      I think we’re in agreement overall.


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