I've been reflecting on this for several days as I'm still not sure how to write it up. I know that ambiguity is a vital component if viewers are to be invited to use their imagination in making meaning of a narrative they engage with. However, for me, this film has too much ambiguity, leaves too much unexplained and contains too many lucky coincidences. Half the time I was thinking 'this is a really intelligent and realistic "prequel" to Alien' and the other half of the time I felt 'I was being suckered in to something that simply wants to keep the franchise running'.
From all the pre-release hype through to the way the title of the film appears on the screen in direct homage to Alien this is a a film that stands within the Alien family of movies. The extensive (and excellent) use of Giger's artwork for the Space Jockey's spacecraft and world tie the film visually into Alien. The fact that the film does not end with John Hurt walking into a field of Alien eggs means that its conclusion takes the narrative into another direction. If by prequel you expect a storyline that tells you how we got to the start of Alien, then this will probably leave you a little disappointed. If you are open to an exploration of the world of the Alien and its possible creator, then you will find this a hit!
WARNING: THE FROM HERE ON THERE ARE A FEW SPOILERS - WHICH MIGHT HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE FILM AS YOU WATCH IT.
In its own right, as much as any story contains flaws and ambiguity, Prometheus is a worthwhile film. The cast is strong and the performances are good - although Michael Fassbender's David is more like a synthesis of every android you've ever seen, wrapped up with the intonation and all the charm of HAL from 2001! Yes, there is a chest-bursting Alien emergence. Yes, it does have molecular acid for blood. However, the film also introduces us to Calamari on steroids and a life-cycle for the Alien that defies rational explanation.
Where the film does score big is in the way it sets out a series of metaphysical questions and then leaves them gently unresolved. I understand that Scott was toying with the idea of calling this film Paradise but that the name has been held-over for the sequel to Prometheus (if there is one). The film explores the origins of humanity and the journey the USS Prometheus makes is understood to be in response to an invitation to a distant planet. When they arrive, they happen to enter the atmosphere right on top of a massive domed structure which they enter and inside which they discover holographic ghost-like images, Space Jockeys in stasis and, unbeknown to them, thousands of Alien eggs which they somehow manage to activate into the next stage of their black gunk-oozing life-cycle.
The biology is certainly beyond my understanding - but that is where Sci-Fi comes into its own - it wouldn't be fiction otherwise! But quite how Dr Shaw (Noomi Rapace) manages to self-perform a Caesarian and then run off down the corridor, only doubling up in agony every 100 yards, eludes me - even with large self-administered doses of anaesthetic. A scene towards the end where she and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) are trying to out-run catastrophe is more Keystone Cops slapstick that 21st Century Sci-Fi at its best! Yet, Dr Shaw's character has more than an echo of a certain Ellen Ripley about her.
The questions still remain:
- How did David learn the Space Jockey language?
- How did he know they were planning to destroy earth?
- Why was the Space Jockey so violent and aggressive - wasn't he meant to be a higher life-form (even though his DNA matches human DNA 100%), or is aggression and violence where evolution is taking us?
- What's with the Calamari on steroids?
- Why did Vicker's allow Janek to push her buttons so thoroughly?
It's good to come away with questions - and I'm sure the ones I've raised simply demonstrate my own slow mind. However, this is a film worth seeing - I'll give it 7.5/10.