Prometheus has been in theatres for a few weeks now, which hopefully means I’m safe to write this without blowing any secrets or surprises. If you’ve been waiting to see the movie, I understand your delay. Despite being a massive fan of H.R. Giger and most of the Alien franchise, I waited for the crowds to thin and secured some mind-shatteringly awesome seats in the 3D Ultra AVX theatre before seeing the film.
Although Prometheus suffered from some plot issues, I can confidently say that not only has H.R. Giger’s original design been rightly glorified, but Ridley Scott has gotten his proper revenge.
Not sure what the hell I’m talking about? Well, there’s a little more to Prometheus than meets the eye…
For the most part, appreciation of Prometheus doesn’t require any hardcore insider Alien knowledge. The story is set in the near-future, and focuses on a deep space exploration team, funded by eccentric Peter Weyland. Driven by a shallow motive worthy of Ancient Aliens, the team of the ship Prometheus is basically following an expensive hunch; archeologist team Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) believe they have found a star map to the ‘engineers’ of mankind. And so a two-year, multi-trillion dollar mission has been mounted to see if they’re right. Riiiight.
Like so many other sci-fi movies, the plot seems to beg us to cut to the chase… but the reliance on Weyland’s eccentricity to explain the how and why is hard to overlook. Thank goodness Ridley Scott has the good sense to first lure us in with dramatic long shots, a initially cryptic scene featuring a ‘sacrificial engineer’, and an introduction to the film’s shining star: David (Michael Fassbender).
I knew the film would pay off as soon as I heard the computer voice of the Prometheus say, “Hello David.” The mechanical voice, like the first generation Hal, speaking to an aptly named android just delighted me. With this welcome return to great android characters in the Alien franchise, my bad memories of Winona are almost gone. So let’s all agree that first came David, then came Ash, then Bishop, and that’s it. And no, I am not being influenced by the fact that Fassbender has a huge penis (which he does…). If you happened to catch some of the Prometheus extras, I really enjoyed this particular one which helped to explain the relationship between David and his creator, Peter Weyland; this becomes especially poignant later in the film.
The most hyped role of the film of course, was Meredith Vickers (the super gorgeous Charlize Theron) and I was frankly surprised that it lived up to some of my expectations. She’s a fierce actress, and I think her character – which was re-written to add complexity on her suggestion! – could have used more screen time. Frankly, the pathetic focus on the weakly written Elizabeth Shaw hurt this movie… and ironically, the female archeologist was originally to be played by Theron.
The only drawback to Vickers was her “big” reveal – who cares if she’s Weyland’s daughter? In fact, she could have easily been a key stakeholder in Weyland Corp. who wanted to ‘insure’ the mission… that might have been more in line with the other films in this franchise. But part of re-writing Vickers included an effort to de-corporatize her; I guess that’s why sometimes hot actresses shouldn’t weigh in on their roles. But then Ridley Scott has a history of going on hunches he has around female actors; it got Sigourney in as Ripley, after all.
With a mission that progressively (and predictably) goes from bad to worse, I think I can now turn to what really excited me about the film… first, take a look at this very old, very early concept art by the legendary H.R. Giger for the Alien film:
“The pilot is conceived as one of my biomechanics, attached to the seat so as to form a single unit…” – H. R. Giger, 1978
Anyone familiar with the story behind H.R. Giger’s complete and total influence over the look and feel of Alien, and the EXTREME slight he was dealt when James Cameron took it upon himself to design (and take much of the credit for) the Queen in Aliens, will know that Prometheus has righted a great injustice. And maybe I’m just really passionate about Giger, but the story goes that he was ‘cut out’ of the Aliens creative process, returned in the third film to inspire the Dog Alien, and THEN was not given any credit in Fox’s Alien: Ressurection. This was corrected in subsequent home releases, but as a fan of this artist it has weighed heavily on my angry soul ever since.
Furthermore, Ridley Scott has always kept a chip on his shoulder thanks to being passed over for the sequel to his wildly successful film which really set the franchise in motion. “I was really pissed off, frankly,” he said in a recent interview and he’s made it well-known that Prometheus was intended to set things right. Though not a strict prequel, it does explain the origins of the biomechanoids and the ‘space jockey’ (aka pilot, from Giger’s original conception).
The rendering of ‘The Pilot’ was really stunning to see… especially when I went back and compared it to the original set in the Alien film. Prometheus helped to explain a previous plot issue, where the pilot was incredibly large as compared to the aliens encountered. Ridley Scott had originally used kids to play the astronauts on the set, further enhancing the pilot’s size. But, as revealed in Prometheus, a large exoskeletal suit surrounds the pilot and inside, we find the human-like engineers. I was very satisfied with this solution, as it fit nicely within Giger’s biomechanoid concept art.
And as a fan of Giger, you’ll have to forgive my extreme satisfaction at the movie’s R-rating, and vivd depictions of forced ingestion (ahem). This is pure biomechnoid art, and it is done beautifully in this film. Most renderings are extremely thoughtful and well-shot, with just enough ‘suggestivity’ to instill the creepy, horrific feelings that the original Alien film first inspired.
But yes, the movie has plenty of problems. The makeup job on Peter Weyland is ridiculous; the CGI Sutherland from FF Spirits Within looked more realistic. And I’m not sure what kind of anesthetic they have in the future, not to mention post-recovery drugs, but they must be pretty kick ass to have Elizabeth up and running around and surviving. My main critique is the decision to let her live, rather than have Vickers go through some sort of deep journey that made her want to pursue the engineers. Heck, it could have even led to Theron in the sequel (oh, yeah Ridley Scott has pretty much confirmed a sequel).
But instead, Vickers dies, Elizabeth flies away, and the ending is devoted to a big slap in the face to the weak links in the Alien franchise – which if you ask me, without naming any names/individuals, is well-deserved. So I have to recommend Prometheus to any fans of the Alien franchise, and here’s to a sequel that sees the return of Michael Fassbender. This is also one movie with promotional material that adds a lot of depth, and is worth checking out before you go see the film (again).