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Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof, Dan O’Bannon
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron
Release Date: June 8, 2012
Run time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
As a spacecraft departs a planet, a humanoid alien drinks a liquid, causing its body to dissolve. Its remains cascade into a waterfall and the alien’s DNA falls apart and recombines.
In 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map in Scotland that matches others from several unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners, the “Engineers”. Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds an expedition, aboard the scientific vessel Prometheus, to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223. The ship’s crew travels in stasis while the android David monitors their voyage. They arrive in December 2093.
The Prometheus lands on the barren, mountainous surface near a large, artificial structure, which the team explores. Inside, they find stone cylinders, a monolithic statue of a humanoid head, and the decapitated corpse of a large alien, thought to be an Engineer; Shaw recovers its head. The crew finds other bodies, leading them to surmise that the species is extinct. Crew members Millburn and Fifield grow uncomfortable with the discoveries and attempt to return to Prometheus, but get lost in the structure. The expedition is cut short when a storm forces the crew to return to the ship. David secretly takes a cylinder with him, while the remaining ones begin leaking a dark liquid. In the ship’s lab, the Engineer’s DNA is found to match that of humans. David investigates the cylinder and the liquid inside. He intentionally taints a drink with the liquid and gives it to the unsuspecting Holloway, who had stated he would do anything for answers. Shortly after, Shaw and Holloway have sex.
Inside the structure, a snake-like creature kills Millburn and sprays a corrosive fluid that melts Fifield’s helmet. Fifield falls face-first into a puddle of dark liquid. When the crew returns, they find Millburn’s corpse. David separately discovers a control room containing a surviving Engineer in stasis and a holographic star map highlighting Earth. Meanwhile, Holloway sickens rapidly. He is rushed back to Prometheus, but mission-director Meredith Vickers refuses to let him aboard. At his urging, she burns him to death with a flamethrower. Later, a medical scan reveals that Shaw, despite being previously infertile, is now in advanced pregnancy. Fearing the worst, she uses an automated surgery table to extract a squid-like creature from her abdomen. Shaw then discovers that Weyland has been in stasis aboard Prometheus. He explains that he wants to ask the Engineers how to not die from old age. Vickers addresses him as “Father”.
A monstrous, mutated Fifield returns to the Prometheus and kills several people before being killed. The captain of Prometheus, Janek, speculates that the structure was an Engineer military base that lost control of a virulent biological weapon, the dark liquid. The structure also houses a spacecraft. Weyland and the team return to the structure, accompanied by Shaw. David wakes the Engineer from stasis and speaks to him in Proto-Indo-European to try to explain what Weyland wants. The Engineer responds by decapitating David and killing Weyland and his team, before reactivating the spacecraft. Shaw flees and warns Janek that the Engineer is planning to release the liquid on Earth, convincing him to stop the spacecraft. Janek and the remaining crew sacrifice themselves by ramming the Prometheus into the alien craft, ejecting the lifeboat in the process. The Engineer’s disabled spacecraft crashes onto the ground, causing the death of Vickers. Shaw goes to the lifeboat and finds her alien offspring is alive and has grown to gigantic size. The Engineer forces open the lifeboat’s airlock and attacks Shaw, who releases her alien offspring onto him. It thrusts an ovipositor down the Engineer’s throat, subduing him. Shaw recovers David’s remains and, with his help, launches another Engineer spacecraft. She intends to reach the Engineers’ homeworld in an attempt to understand why they wanted to destroy humanity.
In the lifeboat, an alien creature bursts out of the Engineer’s chest.
Prometheus is the 2012 science-fiction / horror prequel to the Alien franchise. Unfortunately, it does not live up to the high bar of the original Alien movie from 1979. The plot of the film is confusing, character development is lacking almost across the board, and the conclusion is not particularly satisfying. On the plus side though, the film is beautiful, the special effects are incredibly well done, and the idea behind the film is fascinating even if its execution is lacking.
My biggest gripe with the movie – and this is a common complaint of mine when viewing science-fiction that devolves into horror more broadly – is that futuristic people make really avoidable and dumb decisions throughout for no other obvious reason than the need to advance the plot. On a foreign planet, in the presence of what appears to be a civilization that had abruptly died, the crew of the Prometheus takes their equipment off, two of them venture off on their own, and nearly everyone disregards contagion protocols. In another scene, the captain of the crew, as well as the owner of the ship, abandon their posts to have sex – despite knowing two astronauts are alone outside the ship and after having detected a lifeform on the planet with those two crew members. Not surprisingly, wile the captain and ship owner are doing the deed, the two astronauts outside the vessel are attacked and killed, and the crew of the Prometheus does not know it happened. Thus, the next day they return back to the planet as carelessly as they did upon arrival. Is this really how humanity would act in the face of confirming that life exists on other planets and that the life they have just found created us? Perhaps. But I wanted to see more professionalism on-screen.
The movie ends with Dr. Elizabeth “El” Shaw, the one surviving true believer from among the crew that they’d find life on this trip, improbably surviving and setting off for the home planet of the Engineers, in one of their abandoned ships, with the head of her android, David, alive in a duffle bag providing assistance. This should have been exciting, but due to the story that preceded it, I felt more annoyed than anything else. Her survival felt unearned. We do not learn that there are other ships still on the planet until David tells her about them as the movie is ending. Our lone encounter with an Engineer did not engender in me a desire for more questions and did not convince me that El should have had more to ask, either. Her stated motivation seems to be “why did you change your mind about wiping out humanity” but it does not seem to occur to her that visiting these entities – based on her own interactions with them – might be highly dangerous to humanity.)
As I said though, this is not an entirely bad film. The special effects are well-done and inspire the same feeling of ick and horror that I remember from the original Alien film. The standout scene, on that front, is Dr. Shaw’s self-performed futuristic cesarean surgery to remove the alien from her uterus. As you might expect, viewing something like this is not for the faint of heart. It was tense, and graphic, and the scene worked. If only the visuals had been paired with a better story, Prometheus might have been a great addition to the franchise.
The premise of the films is interesting. In short, Dr. Shaw and her partner discover ancient artifacts on earth which seem to provide planetary coordinates. Ancient ruins seem to indicate that extra-terrestrial giants once walked the earth and that they created mankind (think beardless Anunnaki.) The team views the ancient depiction of stars and planets, created at various sites and times across the globe, as an invitation to come visit, from humanity’s creators. Thus the story’s premise combines elements of ancient astronaut theory with real world myths and legends from various real-life cultures across the globe (one can find “sky people” stories, and giant stories, in all corners of the globe.)
The Greek myth surrounding Prometheus the Titan – who gave humanity knowledge and was punished for doing so – has often been conflated in history with Satan, or the story of the Watchers from the Bible’s book of Genesis and the Book of Enoch. Prometheus the Titan of Greek myth also seems to have roots in the Sumerian religion with the story of Enlil and Enki and the gift of knowledge to mankind. The Greek, Sumerian, and Jewish people all apparently share Proto Indo European ancestry – based on their languages, anyway. Not coincidentally, the film tells us that the Engineers spoke Proto Indo European. The point here is that there is a lot of potential within the premise of the story, in real world events, if the writers had done a better job crafting the script.
The film also – as it ends – gives us our first depiction of a Xenomorph from the original franchise, too, after the death of the final Engineer. While it is unclear that this was the first ever creation of a Xenomorph, it was nevertheless gratifying as a fan of the original franchise to see the origin of the species on the screen. Given that this is a prequel, showing the audience a Xenomorph seemed like an important requirement of the film, and that bit at least delivered.
Overall, if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise, this is something you should watch, but you should keep your expectations relatively low. For everyone else, it is forgettable and I do not really recommend it.