One thing people should be aware of going in is to not expect either logic or common sense from the characters. This is a traditional, shut your brain off and eat popcorn sci-fi movie, not a science fiction film like I had hoped. Sure, in the first two films it made sense that the characters were idiots that died stupidly because they were just freighter workers and low-ranking military grunts. In this film, though, most of the cannon fodder is supposedly brilliant scientists who would have been the very best that a trillion dollar expedition would have been able to employ. The fact that (for instance) one of them sees an obviously menacing snake-like creature and starts talking baby talk to it as he reaches his hand out to pet it is just laughably absurd.
What the film does feature is extended discussions on the nature of creation and trying to “find God”. It is done at three levels. The first is Noomi Rapace’s character of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. She is a cross-wearing Christian who is there to meet her maker – literally. She believes that evidence she has found on Earth shows that an alien race (not the Alien race) seeded Earth with their DNA, eventually leading to the human race. Her research shows that this solar system, in which only one moon is habitable, is the one that these Creators came from.
The second level that this works at is with Michael Fassbender’s character of the artificial human David. He was also created, in this case by Weyland Corporation founder Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). The third level that this works at is with the name of the ship and the movie – Prometheus. If you know your Greek mythology you already get the reference. If you don’t, then in brief: Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man in order to help them. As a result he was severely punished by the gods. In addition, fire proved to be both a blessing and a curse for man. In many ways this film parallels this myth.
There are other sources for this movie. I don’t think you can call it stealing if you take from yourself. Scott uses major pieces of his earlier films Alien and Blade Runner to put together the story for this one. For the readers out there, he also borrows heavily from H.P Lovecraft’s story At the Mountains of Madness, and to a lesser extent from Robert Silverberg’s novel
. Tower of Glass
I also believe there are deliberate references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, although I’d understand if people think I am stretching for this one. The artificial human’s manner and speech are quite similar to that of the computer Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition, this being is named David, which is the name of the key astronaut dealing with Hal 9000 in that film. Of course, at a high level both films are about humans on a space expedition to find their origins.
In addition to Rapace and Fassbender, the other key character is Charlize Theron’s Weyland Corporation rep Meredith Vickers. She is appropriately shifty, in the tradition of the other Alien films. There are other faces in the cast that you will probably recognize, but as I mentioned above, they are basically there to be cannon fodder. Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) has a cameo as Rapace’s character’s father in a flashback.
The plot of the film is quite similar to other movies in the alien franchise. Humans discover an alien cache, disrupt it or in some way wake it up, and then suffer the consequences. Yes, there are plot holes (one quite large involving the ability of a person to do action hero stuff after having all their abdominal muscles severed), but the film is well-shot and the main actors do good jobs with their parts. I do have to say that I liked the very end of the film quite a bit. While it obviously sets things up for a sequel, I do feel that it was definitely the right way to go. Sometimes films do really artificial things at the end to try to generate interest in a sequel. In this case the action was both logical, and in keeping with the nature of the character making the decision.
If you love the Alien films then you should probably see this. Just don’t be disappointed by not seeing any familiar aliens. For those people who don’t like sci-fi with horror elements, then you will probably want to skip this film. For everyone else, I recommend you give this film a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars