With Alien: Covenant right around the corner what better time than now to revisit 2012’s Prometheus? Prior to its release the now former 20th Century Fox CEO Tom Rothman and director Ridley Scott distanced the film as much as possible from the Alien franchise, selling it as an entirely original movie with mere traces of the Alien prequel it was once conceptualised as. Of course, there was more than a few tangible links to the Alien series resulting in a bit of an identity crisis for the movie when it hit screens. Five years has now passed and as part of a special screening commemorating the Alien franchise last month, I had a chance to re-evaluate the movie through a new perspective.
So, Is It Any Good?
In 2093 the spaceship Prometheus and its voyagers arrive at a planet called LV-223. Leading the expedition are scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who conclude the planet is in fact the home of our makers after they discovered various cave paintings around the world, depicting the faraway planet as an invitation to seek the answers of mankind’s origins. Our bunch of space travellers get more than they bargained for however when they discover life’s biggest questions lead to horror and… vases full of black goo.
Back in the day I was one of those fans who felt my world had been turned upside down when it was announced Ridley Scott’s big return to Science Fiction after nearly three decades out of the playing field, was not to be a direct prequel to my most cherished film Alien, but in fact a brand new tale taking on galaxy-sized questions such as who created us and why? Being a downtrodden fanboy at the time maybe I didn’t appreciate the literal enormity of the subject; but in all honesty my own misgivings were never aimed at the concept or even the removal of familiar tropes such as eggs, facehuggers, chestbursters and xenomorphs (thank you Mr Damon Lindleof), it was the glass half-empty/glass half-full approach and questions the movie raises that lingered without answers.
Prometheus can feel so non-committal toward both its own interesting ideas and that of whether it’s really tied to the Alien franchise it’s infuriating. The big, pale, albino dudes referred to as the Engineers are interesting. They’re absent for much of the movie and it’s not until the third act we’re introduced to one. We’re tantalised with the prospect of man meeting creator and the tension is palpable upon the big chap being awoken from his long sleep. And then bam. It turns out the Engineer is nothing but a mindless thug as he rips off Michael Fassbender’s head and launches Kate Dickie 20 feet across the room with a thunderous shove. So much for grace and intellect.
It’s by the third act the movie has clunkily shifted gears and it becomes evident the thought-provoking questions of the first act are going to remain firmly shrouded in ambiguity; the best example of the glass half-empty/glass half-full approach is the last 10 minutes when someone must have started to bottle it behind-the-scenes (take ya pick) and thought better give the ol’ Alien fanboys a tease. We get a chestbursting following an icky impregnation scene between Shaw’s aborted squid baby and the Engineer, but what erupts is just a facepalm of an Alien interpretation. There is no way that goofy horse-mouthed motherfucker is passing off as an acceptable iteration of the xenomorph. Even more so with Alien: Covenant’s imminent release, it kind of demonstrates Prometheus’ back-and-forth relationship with the Alien franchise. It’s now all in when back in the day no one was really sure.
By no means is this a bad movie though. I genuinely enjoyed this viewing more than any other time. I appreciated Logan Marshall-Green’s character a hell of lot more this time around, and his dynamic with Fassbender’s David was fascinating and had some of the audience in stitches. When Charlie tells David “We made you because we could”, in reference to the robot’s existence (they prefer the term artificial person themselves), Fassbender’s delivery of “Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?” is just fantastic. Though character’s decisions are questionable in this film, lay that with the script-writer, because mostly the acting is brilliant. The film still looks and sounds gorgeous too. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears. I can’t commend it fully on solely being an improved experience from five years ago, but maybe there is a renaissance to be found in repeat viewings and the passing of time. Maybe its full potential will be realised in a back-to-back showing with Alien: Covenant, until then it remains a head-scratcher for a 50/50 split of good and bad reasons.
Let us know what you think in the comments below, and if you disagree with my thoughts let’s hear it!