For those who are unfamiliar with the background of Prometheus, it is a science fiction film produced and directed by Ridley Scott (director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, to name just a few) and is considered a prequel of sorts to the original Alien movie. Prometheus (which is also the name of the spaceship the cast lives on) takes place in the year 2093 (Alien takes place in the year 2122), and follows a group of scientists who believe that aliens called Engineers seeded life on Earth, and who are in search of those aliens in deep space, on a moon called LV-223. Of course, as anyone familiar with the Alien movies would expect, things do not go according to plan, as the scientists find nothing but death on the moon (and boy, it’s going to be hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away…).
Okay, so let’s start by talking about the direction and cinematography in this movie, because it was BRILLIANT. The opening sequence is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in ages and ages. The camera pans through images of wild, almost-but-not-quite barren landscape: rocks, mountains, snow, waterfalls, etc. It’s like something out of the Planet Earth nature documentaries, in astounding high definition, with a powerful score building up around you. And then it focuses in on what is clearly an alien – mostly human in shape but with musculature that no human could possibly have, and a slightly different shape in the nose and forehead. The alien drinks something, and then starts to dissolve, his DNA literally breaking apart – one would assume, to seed the earth. The image of the alien dissolving is pretty cringe-worthy, but so well-shot and so fascinating and creepy. It was the perfect way to open the movie, that’s for sure.
Throughout the rest of the film, the cinematography is equally wonderful. Ridley Scott, the screen-writers, the set designer, and the cinematographer all took tremendous care with the visuals of the story. The visuals are highly important in this movie. The attention to detail, the atmospheric nature, the grand scale and immensity of everything, not to mention how CREEPY a lot of it is. And the camera captures all of it so beautifully. Seriously, if nothing else, go see it for the visual interest – it’s like a moving piece of art.
Then there are the actors. The casting for this movie was so well done. Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist, who along with her partner/boyfriend Charlie Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green), are the scientists pretty much in charge of the mission on the Prometheus. Noomi Rapace is really making a name for herself. She played Lisbeth Salander in the original film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and she was in the second Sherlock Holmes movie (and she only learned to speak English in time to film Sherlock Holmes!), and she is a very very good actress. She does such an amazing job in this movie, with a character who is incredibly smart, more than a little naïve, sympathetic, and tough.
Then there’s Charlize Theron. My GOD, she looks GOOD in this movie. It’s just not fair. And, as usual, she is phenomenal as the cold, calculating, self-serving corporate leader of the Prometheus mission, Meredith Vickers. This character walks that fine line between being emotionless and self-serving to the point of being almost-but-not-quite evil. She’s CREEPY, and she’s not even really a bad guy. Just kind of a bitch. And Charlize Theron plays it so well.
Last, but certainly not least among the main characters, there is Michael Fassbender as David, the android (like Ash, from the original Alien movie, though in Prometheus, everyone already knows he’s an android). This character was absolutely fascinating, a total enigma. And Michael Fassbender was EXCELLENT. Seriously excellent. David is an odd character – childlike in ways, sometimes sympathetic, but also with this weird underlying… I don’t know, jealousy? bitterness? arrogance?, because of the way the humans treat him.
No one pays much attention to him or is even mildly polite to him except for Shaw – and, of course, we should all know by now that is a BAD idea to mistreat a robot who is WAY stronger and smarter than any human. You get this weird sense that David wants people to acknowledge how smart he is, and feels superior to humans because of his strength and intelligence, but also wants to be human at the same time. He does some pretty despicable things in this movie (I’m trying very hard not to give away too much!), but you can’t quite hate him and you can’t really blame him, because the humans do NOT treat him well. And Michael Fassbender plays him with this kind of blankness, this vacancy in his face and movements, and yet with very subtle touches of expression, of tone, or movement, that hint at something lying just beneath the surface, as if David can feel more than he or anyone else imagines – despite the fact that androids purportedly have no emotions. Michael Fassbender’s light touch is just so well done, so balanced and subtle. It’s definitely impressive.
All of the other actors, including Idris Elba as the captain of the ship, do not get nearly as much screen time and are not nearly as important to the plot, but they still do a good job. They give the whole film a sense of realism and immediacy, a sense of real people in real crisis situations, that would not be believable with a less talented cast. All without overtaking the film, being too melodramatic, or stealing the scenes from the important characters (and Idris Elba’s interactions with Charlize Theron are pretty fun too).
As for the plot itself… It’s complex and it keeps you guessing, keeps you on your toes, without every getting so convoluted that it risks bogging itself down – at least not to me, others might disagree (after all, where I found Inception totally lucid, though complex, some people complained that it made no sense whatsoever – of course, I worry about people like that, but that’s beside the point). There is a LOT going on in this film. The first half-hour or so is a little slow-moving. It’s not a BAD thing to me, it’s not slow as in boring, more as in atmospheric. It’s like a slow crescendo at the beginning of symphony. Just because the music isn’t fast or frenetic doesn’t mean it’s not full of power and interest. And you know your patience will be well worth it anyway. So, yes, the opening is slow in pace, but it WORKS, at least for me. And then, once it picks up, OH BOY does it pick up. The last forty minutes or so? CRAZY INTENSE.
All of this is helped along quite liberally by a very well-written, beautiful, and intense score by Marc Streitenfeld. The music fits the movie so well: atmospheric, creepy, with slow build-ups and intense explosions of power and sound. I already mentioned how the score bolsters the opening sequence. The whole movie is like that. I’m definitely going to have buy the soundtrack later. There are few things I love more than a really good movie score.
Last, but certainly not least, is the long list of connections to the original Alien movie. Now, there is not a 1 for 1 correlation between things in this movie and things in Alien. It doesn’t quite work like that. But if you’re a fan of Alien and pay attention, it is a TON of fun to catch all the little references. I had to have my brother’s help with that. I love the first and second Alien movies, but I have trouble remembering as many of the little details as my brother does. Still, here are justa couple things to keep in mind.
First, Prometheus takes place on the moon LV-223, whereas Alien takes place on the moon LV-426 – so the ships the Prometheus finds and all the details in this movie do NOT correlate with actual scenes from Alien. The alien ship that the Nostromo finds in Alien is a DIFFERENT SHIP than the one that the crew of the Prometheus find. However, it is the same KIND of ship. And the Space Jockey from Alien? Yeah, some kind of alien as the main aliens in Prometheus.
Second, because Prometheus focuses on the Engineers, the humanoid-looking aliens who seeded the Earth (and who are the same kind of alien as the Space Jockey) you are NOT going to see the traditional black-skinned long-faced alien or the face-huggers and chest-bursters from Alien. However, because it is a prequel, it is easy to guess that the plot of Prometheus leads INTO the aliens from the Alien movies (and oh my god, I’m getting sick of typing the word “alien”).
For a more in-depth look into the connections between the movies, check out this explanation Screenrant: “Prometheus – Alien Connection Explained.”
I could probably go on and on if I really wanted to, but I think this covers all the big stuff, except for the ending. Without giving too much away, I will say that the ending is a bit cliff-hangery and you are left with WAY more questions than you had the beginning of the film, but I think this is intentional. My brother and I have been debating how many of the holes and questions are intentional for the purposes of leading into a sequel and how many are accidental due to holes in the writing itself. The only way to find out, of course, is to wait for a sequel, which we’re both PRETTY sure is in the offing.
The main thing you should get out of all of this is: if you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, YOU NEED TO. GO NOW. It is absolutely phenomenal. The intensity, the attention to detail, the beautiful cinematography, the excellent cast, the fun references to Alien… it all equals a movie that is WELL worth the money and the time. In fact, I recommend seeing it more than once. I’m hoping to go again soon and see how many small details I may have missed the first time.
Seriously, just go see it. You can thank me later.
Also, you should check out Andrew Kincaid’s rundown of the biology behind the film over on his blog.
AND, here’s the trailer again, too, just to cover all my bases: