Posted on June 15, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli
Available at Amazon.com
I went into this movie as someone who was familiar with the Alien franchise (which began in 1979!) but who hasn’t read the comics or seen the films in some time. I had also heard a lot about this film from the wildly mixed reactions as seen in my social media feeds. (Note to self: when excited about a film, shut down the internet until I’ve had the chance to watch it.) I think it’s important you know all this because whenever I go to a movie, I ask myself two questions as a gut check: “Can I describe what this movie was about? Who is the movie for?” Even bad movies have an audience (or so says the eternal optimist in me…)
***SPOILERS BELOW***YOU’VE BEEN WARNED***SPOILERS BELOW***YOU’VE BEEN WARNED***SPOILERS BELOW***
Plot and Structure
So let’s handle the first question: Can I describe what this movie was about? If I had to sum up Prometheus as a stand-alone movie (and not an Alien prequel) I would say that it’s about a scientific mission to an alien planet searching for the meaning of life and, unfortunately, they get more than they bargain for. In this, the primary plot is resolved very quickly. This wasn’t one movie, in my mind, but several. An anthology of scenes knotted together like pearls on a string. There are a lot of epic, sweeping moments that hearken back to the days of 2001: A Space Odyssey. You will find glorious landscapes, beautiful awe-inspiring cinematography, and great use of color. There are layers upon layers upon layers of symbolism and social commentary here that dive into science fiction on a societal level. Microplots are introduced and conclude very quickly. Some stories are longer than others but, as a whole, the metaplot (e.g. Alien prequel) is the one that is not resolved.
In many ways, I felt that the anthology-style structure was like Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. (The work has been on my mind, quite literally, as I have been listening to the dramatization once again.) There, the metaplot is: “Humans on Mars.” Prometheus‘s metaplot is: “Humans vs. Aliens.” Really, this is where I feel the fulcrum of the movie is. How do we, as humans, deal with the notion that our origin may have nothing to do with God or any deity imaginable, but that we were created for a more sinister purpose? What we’re talking about here, is a very contemporary look at this question through different social and religious spheres.
This, this is where I can see why people didn’t like how Prometheus was constructed because it didn’t feel like a character-driven story to me. There were simply too many characters for a singular plot to emerge and not enough screen time to allow them all to develop. They were unique characters, sure, but I didn’t feel the weight of death — I expected it to occur and happen very quickly.
For me, the three that emerged were David (Michael Fassbender), Elisabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). David, by far, was the strongest character in the entirety of the film. The performance spotless, there were allusions to I, Robot, The Time Machine, and A.I. here. Throughout the film, we see his personality develop independently of what he was created for. He is android, yes, but there’s a lot of weight placed on his shoulders to leverage the goals of his creator and himself. David also serves as counterpoint to Elisabeth’s faith as “true believer.” Her character is extraordinarily representative of the religious arm of society today. I would not say that she is an extremist, in the sense that she is a canonical Christian, but there is a composition to her character that allows religious horror to come to the fore which we haven’t really seen in a while. Meredith, in many ways, is Elisabeth’s counterpoint. She’s rational, strong-willed, corporate, and cares deeply about her own survival. Those three levels of the film say a great deal about how Scott deals with the question of space exploration. In some ways, I felt he said: “Why bother? Don’t we have enough here on Earth?”
Time to answer the second question: “Who was this movie for?” This is where it gets interesting because I was at the theatre with three very different film goers: someone who had never seen any of the Alien movies before, myself who I’d consider a casual Alien fan, and someone who was more well-versed in the franchise than I was.
The first moviegoer really enjoyed the film and agreed with me that it was an anthology movie. This led to my desire to see this done more like Four Rooms or with sharper screen breaks to hammer that point home. When I commented that I felt all the plots were resolved, the last attendee mentioned that there were a lot of questions introduced here and details I must have missed that tied back into the original movies. In this, I felt that Prometheus was created for Alien fans and new moviegoers. You don’t have to know anything about Alien to enjoy it; but you’ll get more out of the film if you do.
If you have seen the movie, check out these Prometheus links for a few Easter Eggs: