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Review: ‘Prometheus’ Delivers but Don’t Expect a Concrete ‘Alien’ Tie-in

After watching what seemed like 5,000 trailers and featurettes for Prometheus, I finally got to see the full film yesterday in IMAX 3D.  This format is absolutely amazing as far as the sound and visuals go, and it reaffirmed that IMAX 3D is my favorite way to watch a sci-fi movie.  Now while the 3D effect and presentation of Prometheus is top notch, I wasn’t so thrilled with the story.  I think I fully understand what was shown to me, but I’m not sure I enjoyed how the plot played out.  At times I felt like some scenes progressed too fast and conveniently, while others left me asking, “Why?” far too often.

Spoilers in bound if you haven’t seen this movie yet.  Proceed at your own risk. 

Prometheus is a movie, to me at least, where I truly didn’t know if I liked it or not after walking out of the theater.  That’s not a good thing for the movie’s creators.  I literally had to scour some forums and message boards to see how other viewers received the film’s plot before I could come to a resolution on how I felt about Prometheus myself.  I, nor any movie goer should have to do something like that to determine if a movie’s story is solid or not.  I don’t think I’m the only geek who had to do this either.  You should read this post if you want to explore some far out ideas that Prometheus may or may not be imparting.

I was entertained for sure, but I was hoping for a little more explanation in regards to the whole Alien universe, which may have been why I wasn’t blown away by Prometheus.  I know the likes of Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof said that this film isn’t a prequel, but it’s kind of hard not to think of it that way when you see the Engineers (think of the Space Jockey from Alien) and their spaceships, which are directly referenced in Alien.  There is most definitely a relationship between this movie and the traditional Alien franchise, and I wish it was tied together more coherently.

Look familiar anyone?

Prometheus is essentially about the human desire to find out why we were ever created in the first place.  Doctors Shaw and Holloway think they know why, so an expedition is sent to a star system that has been represented in all sorts of ancient cave drawings on Earth.  Of course the ominous Weyland corporation is involved complete with an android named David, so once again fans are reminded of this film’s Alien lineage.  That’s one of the reasons I wonder why the film’s creators are so apt to avoid calling Prometheus an Alien prequel. It is dammit!

Once the expedition team lands on planet LV-223 we get to learn more about the Engineers (the opening scene depicts that these beings can create life by ingesting some black goo, which is later found out to be some sort of possible weapon), and what they were up to on this installation, but it is never entirely clear as to why they were doing what they were doing.  I would have liked more explanation in the movie itself, and not from other critics who took it upon themselves to fill in some blanks.  I love thinking about the ideas set forth in a sci-fi movie, especially when it comes to the creation of humans, but I don’t enjoy when I have to reaffirm my thoughts on something by reading opinion pieces, because the project itself couldn’t perfectly relate the source material to me.

The creator of life on Earth?

The science team in Prometheus end up finding a pyramid of sorts that they believe to house the Engineers, who they also believe to be the creators of mankind (again the opening scene of Prometheus more or less confirms this).  The team eventually finds out that Shaw and Holloway were right, the Engineers did create humans, but they also found out that they wanted to wipe us out of the galaxy for some unknown reason.  They were going to accomplish this by flying to Earth in one of their horseshoe shaped space ships full of the curious black goo that seemingly can create new life, and/or mutate existing life i.e. the worms turning into phallic looking super worms, and the scientist who becomes a monster.

This is a plot point that I wish was better explained in the movie.  I wanted to know why the Engineers began to hate humans, and I also wanted to know why they were almost wiped out themselves on their LV-223 installation where it seems like they stored and produced this magical black goo of theirs.  Sure we can speculate that maybe they were being eradicated by something mutated from the black goo, because we do get to see them running for their lives in a holographic living memory of sorts, but the “why” is never really answered.

Holloway, Shaw, and David – The indirect creators of the Xenos?

Some fans may like the notion of creating their own ideas to help explain loose reference material, but when it comes to a movie like Prometheus, which is tied to a long standing movie franchise in Alien, I would have liked a few more concrete details as to what exactly was going on between the Engineers, their human creations, and the mystical black goo that seemingly can create new life forms through ingestion, or insemination.  There’s just too many fill-in-the-blank moments for me that cause the Prometheus plot to not be as tight as I expected.  I love Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott, but I just feel like they left too much up to the audience in regards to figuring out exactly what is taking place in Prometheus.

This belief of mine is further supported by some of the actions that David, the android played by Michael Fassbender, takes in Prometheus.  Just like Ash from the original Alien movie it’s plain to see that David may have some dubious programming from his creators at Weyland, but it is never made clear why he does some of the things he did to the crew.  Did he know of the black goo before hand?  It seemed so because he was the only one interested in the canisters of it while exploring the pyramid, and he even had the idea of infecting Holloway with the goo for some reason.  Did he know what would happen?  Did he want to create the tentacled alien baby that came as a result of Holloway being infected and then banging the sterile Dr. Shaw?

David’s motivations were never entirely clear

I never felt like David’s motivations for doing what he was doing to be clear, so once again I kept asking myself “why” while watching Prometheus.  Not good.  Was Weyland, who looked ridiculously old by the way, privy to some information that was never shared with the audience in regards to the goo and its strange abilities?  Did he program David to utilize it to possibly find a way to reverse his aging process?  I don’t know, and that’s because it’s never fully explained in the film.

My curiosity into the black goo’s power was heightened again while watching the whole alien C-section scene involving Dr. Shaw and her tentacle having alien baby.  Why did the goo which was passed to her through semen produce a fast growing alien spawn with tentacles that sort of resembled the face hugger physiology from the Alien films?  I don’t know, I wish Prometheus could have related that concept to me more efficiently.  Why did this alien baby seemingly grow into a full sized monster that looked like a squid crossed with a face hugger, and why when it overpowered the living Engineer did it produce a Xenomorph looking alien that could have quite possibly been the very first Queen of its kind?

Dr. Shaw playing with her oversized face hugger baby and their Engineer friend

Do you see the whole “why” trend that Prometheus has created?  Like I said I don’t need my sci-fi to be dumbed down for me to understand its concepts, but I would like a little more help from the creators of said projects to flesh out a few more critical plot details.  I would rather not have to read other moviegoer opinions to see if my own were in line with theirs.  Curiosity is a good thing, but not when it is the dominant reaction to watching a rather good sci-fi concept that just didn’t seemed perfectly executed.  This has lead to all sorts of rabid debates on what Prometheus is about, so as I wrap this review I’ll take a stab at what I got from the film’s plot to add to the cadre of opinions on what exactly took place in this movie.  You can read my synopsis after the break.

In the end I do think I enjoyed Prometheus, but I would have liked to not have had to blindly guess at its major plot points.  Visually it’s an amazing experience with some of the best 3D I’ve seen since the likes of Avatar.  Audibly it’s just as impressive, and the IMAX version’s sound profile will melt your ear drums in a good way.  The overall story definitely feels rooted in the lore of the Alien franchise, but I just didn’t feel that it was executed in the best possible manner.  For this I give Prometheus a 7.5 out of 10 Buddhas, which is a high rating.

Like I said I was entertained by the film, which is really all you can ask from a movie, but as a geek I wanted to clearly know what was happening in Prometheus.  Unfortunately I felt like too many of the answers were in the vein of, “here’s a few details, we know what the movie is about in our heads, but we filmed it in a way so you won’t entirely get it, and will be forced to read speculation from other fans who didn’t entirely get our movie’s story either”.  Some people may like that type of storytelling, and I usually do, but I felt like there were too many important plot points in Prometheus that were never fully answered for me for its tale to be considered great.  Let us know what you thought about the movie, and my plot synopsis by leaving some feedback in the comments section below.  You’ve been feeling the same way about this movie…

My take on the Prometheus plot

In Prometheus we are introduced to a new race of humanoids called Engineers.  At the very beginning one of these beings drinks some black goo that breaks down his DNA to create what seems like new life giving DNA, which is then spread throughout what could be Earth’s water supply (could be another planet as well).  If you take the scene literally this Engineer sacrificed himself so new life could be made on the planet he was on.  So we see that these humanoids did indeed create human life.

This ultimately leads to early humans believing these Engineers to be Gods, which in turn leads Dr. Shaw and Holloway to discover cave drawings that point to a star system where these life givers may come from.  Naturally they have questions and lead an expedition to the planet LV-223.  On the planet they quickly find out that the Engineers did in fact create the human race, but they also find out that they were on this planet to launch an attack on Earth to eradicate their creation for some reason.  If you really want to stretch with me it is revealed that these apocalypse bringing Engineers died 2000 years before the science team found them, so if you match that up to Earth time it would have been around the time of a guy named Jesus.  This concept is explained more fully in a post by a writer named Cavalorn here, but if you think about it he may have a point.

Maybe the Engineers got mad at us, their creation, because we crucified their emissary after we started to evolve into the conflict loving society that has been prevalent in human history since the earliest records of mankind.  To punish us they were amassing a fleet on some planets, which were carrying massive amounts of the life giving/destroying black goo to put us to bed once and for all.  Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong on LV-223 which lead to the decimation of the Engineer forces on that staging planet.  Maybe the goo infected something which lead to their deaths, or maybe they were experimenting with it on humans and saw the horrible things that the goo spawned in them.  I don’t really know what happened, but they got jacked up quick before they could destroy human life on Earth.

Fast forward to the year 2093 a team of scientists lands on this Engineer installation, and all hell breaks loose.  The humans get exposed to the black goo in different forms, and each one has a unique result.  Holloway ingests it and begins to be mutated from it, while Shaw gets impregnated by it.  Her ordeal leads to the overnight growth of an alien baby in her stomach that looks like a little squid, but not too far off from a Xeno face hugger either.  Basically, the team is doomed to die in one form or another from this black goo, but it seems that they’re indirectly responsible for the creation of the Xenomorph aliens that we are all familiar with from the Alien franchise.

Shaw’s squid baby grows up into a tentacle having monster that looks eerily familiar to an oversized face hugger, which in turn overpowers an Engineer and lays it’s fetus in his gut.  Through all of this cross breeding and mutations, the final creature to spawn from the Engineer and Shaw-baby’s hook up at the end of the film looks to be some sort of proto-xeno, which could be the first of its kind, or maybe a new species.  Remember that the Engineers may have tried this experiment before on humans only to find out that the black goo mixed with their DNA yielded a nearly unstopple force of mutated killing machines, which is why they wanted to eradicate us in the first place.

To me personally I look at the happenings in Prometheus to be the genesis of the Xenomorph alien race.  (Humans + black Engineer goo + sex = tentacle human black goo babies) * (Engineer DNA mixed with human tentacle alien baby DNA via stomach incubation) = the Xenomorph aliens that we all know and fear.  I think through the goo, and the cross pollination between species is what lead to creation of the acid blood having aliens that gave Ripley so many problems in the original Alien based films.  The alien at the end of Prometheus could have very well been the alien that started it all.  Who knows, that’s why I have such a hard time saying that the plot in this film was strong.  Anyway pick apart my analysis and let me know what you took out of your Prometheus screening by using the comment section below.

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Tags : AlienImpressionsPlot SynopsisPrometheus
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he's not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB's Star Wars Time podcast show.