Prometheus is one of those films that people will either love or hate. It returns to the universe of the Alien film series, only this time the film doesn’t build off of action scenes pitting soldiers against Xenomorphs, but rather favors a philosophic approach allowing audiences to ponder the question of how the Xenomorphs got involved with human beings to begin with.
The plot of Prometheus is pretty simple. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) has a research team of explorers and archeologists that includes her boyfriend Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Green) and an android named David (Michael Fassbender). The entire team is searching a ship to try to determine who created human beings and if human life can be extended by working with our ancestors, if any living versions of them exist. Prometheus asks these two questions throughout the film, but fails to give us anything resembling concrete answers. Director Ridley Scott, instead, offers us basic tropes of sci-fi horror in that the explorers investigate the ship and discover biological weapons that they test and dissect. The biological weapons turn out to be organic life forms that can injure or kill people, and those life forms slowly kill members of the research team in various ways.
The major problem with Prometheus involves Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. Once people begin dying from her team, she still finds it absolutely necessary to learn where human beings come from and how they came to exist. If I were leading such an expensive space expedition, funded by the Waylan corporation referenced in later Aliens films, I would have had the presence of mind to leave the ship I was exploring and the planet it is on as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the film’s screenwriters, Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, do not share my point of view. I would have enjoyed this film a lot more had the writers considered the question of what it means to be human and what other small things we hope to learn as a result of speaking with our ancestors.
Prometheus relies heavily on visual effects to enchant the audience and, for the most part, it works. I saw the film in 3D and it was a feast of visuals for my eyes. But I had a problem with the fact that suspense is cranked up every time things seem a bit too quiet and then of course someone is attacked. In the original Alien film, suspense and silence were used as a fake out to make you think something was going to attack people. I miss that style of filmmaking in Prometheus.
Ultimately, Prometheus is not a prequel, but rather a movie about the origins of human life set in the Alien universe. Had Ridley Scott focused more on answering those humanity questions, this movie would have been more than just mediocre summer sci-fi fare.