So what’s the deal with Prometheus?
We’ve all heard the story. A film with staggeringly high expectations, destined to be an instant classic in the genre. It would be a return to form for Ridley Scott’s gritty, mood-horror universe. It was going to make sci-fi scary again.
Well I suspect that’s the problem right there. Anticipation is a razor’s edge. All too often, opinions are split down the middle. Say what you will about the flick’s wonky literary values, hard to follow motivations, and flat characterization; Prometheus just couldn’t live up to the hype. In the business, this is what they call a nonstarter.
But wait, I hear you say. Didn’t some of the great cult classics of old start off clogged in negative reviews? John Carpenter is still haunted by the world’s initial reaction to The Thing. Hell, even Alien had to find its footing, way back. Won’t Prometheus follow suit?
No. I’d love to be proven wrong on this, but I’m not. I’m always right. End of story.
Why? One reason. The special effects are too good. Anyways —
A bunch of people I admire completely tore Prometheus apart. And you know what? I think it’s warranted. To an extent. Those’re some gaping plot holes you got there, movie. But at the same time, I’ll confess. Yes, I’m one of those people that took the movie up on its intrinsic entertainment value. I was happy to overlook a few weaker points supporting the ‘more or less’ derivative plot.
Was it the eye candy? The brilliant score (C’mon haters, you know it had good tunes)? The strangely prevailing leniency I have with these sorts of movies? Maybe it was some other magic ingredient that lifted Prometheus out of the mire. I don’t know. Just… let me come back to this.
I’ll throw all of that aside. There are better reviewers out there than me, and they’ve put forth some fine cutting-slash-insightful takes. I’ll share what stood out to me.
The aliens! What else? Moreover, the relationships of said aliens posited by this movie and how they connect with the canon of previous films. Holy crap. I sounded like a real reviewer just then! Back on track – Mr. Scott answered some long standing questions, and left a whole lot more unfulfilled. Ergo: insidious plot holes!
Such as: The Space Jockeys. Redubbed Engineers. Good or bad? To this, I can only shrug. So the elephant guys turned out to be strangely effeminate body builders. With melanin deficiencies. It’s safe to say these beings are a major point of contention. If you like your space gods decked out with proboscises… probosci? – you will probably dislike this film.
How do the Engineers stack up with the original film? Well, for one we learn what conniving jerks they are. They created us. And possibly all life on earth. They also guided humanity in its infancy, becoming a part of myth and legend. Alien astronauts anyone? It’s also revealed that the Engineers are spread throughout the galaxy err… at least two separate planets (Three if you count their presence on Earth… uh – four if you count their home world..). Prometheus takes place on LV-223, whereas the original involved LV-426. Engineers are predominantly genetic manipulators, so it’s safe to assume that most of the life appearing on screen was tweaked by these dudes.
Bringing us to phallic parasites and black ooze. Creepy, perverse, disturbing. It’s unclear whether these things are just elaborate WMD’s (as the characters assume) or part of some religious system. (Lots of alters, giant statues, fancy chambers. Seems religious to me.) It’s been suggested that the Engineers worship death, while their creations (humans) worship life. Are the creepy crawlies designed specifically for the purpose of destruction? Probably. How do they fit into the canon? Pretty well, though they are unlike our traditional facehuggers, you can still connect the dots. Maybe these Engineers engineered a different strain?
Do they prefer variety? Were the different Engineer ships on the different LV’s destined for the wholesale destruction of different worlds? Strains of xenomorphs tailored for each? What stopped them? Infighting? A change of heart? A civil war? Pro-Human Rebels? Or did they just lose control of their own weapons?
Here’s where I found the greatest divergence from the original canon. By original, I mean the first quadrilogy. It’s all about the birthing sequence. Scott wasn’t a fan of the Queen from Aliens. In fact, he’d planned for the xeno in the first film to have a completely self-contained life cycle. Prometheus does see a return to form in this respect. A newborn #in quotes# “Alien species” is introduced, completely divorced from the Queen aspect.
Meet the Deacon. He may not be pretty, and I’ll agree – he ain’t as cool as the traditional xeno, but he raises an interesting plot conundrum. What kind of wild divergence is the alien species capable of? Did the crew of the Nostromo stumble upon a “humanity killing” craft? Or did they mix into the gene pool by mistake? Were xenos bred to wipe out something even gnarlier than us? Did we in turn, produce a rogue strain?
Like introducing a virus to a human host, it needs to evolve or die. Maybe the Queen life cycle is just a fluke. In the end, did human tampering agitate the evolution of something greater than the sum of its parts?
Like I said, I don’t know. But herein lies the fact of the matter. It could be that I like asking these questions. Open-endedness, interpretation; the whole connect-the-dots motif. I like doing that. As an audience member, I like having my creativity challenged. Perhaps that’s why I tolerated Prometheus so well.
There is a sequel on the way, however; and I wholly expect Mr. Scott to ruin every bit of construction I just made. When he does, I’ll be with you guys. Keep a seat warm. I’ll make sure to practice some snide remarks about story logic.