Prometheus finds director Ridley Scott revisiting the universe of Alien in a film that predates that franchise, whether as a prequel or something else. It stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pearce.
The story begins with two scientists – Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) – who have uncovered several prehistoric paintings and artifacts which all depict the same scene of a large deity-like figure pointing to a cluster of planets in the sky. The duo have determined that it’s possible evidence of the origin of man, and that these creatures who are depicted – called “Engineers” – may have seeded the Earth with life as we know it. These new-found planets, and the beings who live there, may therefore finally offer some answers to the how and why of creation, and the two scientists believe they have figured out where these planets are.
From this springs the voyage of the Prometheus, a ship loaded with scientists of various disciplines who can examine this region and gather evidence for later study. Upon landing on their primary target, the team quickly come across remains of an ancient civilization. This race seems to have died out, and the crew begin searching for clues to their disappearance, but in the process they also uncover some other life on the planet that soon turns out to be a more immediate threat. But even when they do start to unravel the mystery of these Engineers, what they discover isn’t quite what they expected to learn. And it does not bode well for them.
Your expectations of what Prometheus should be will probably flavor your reaction to it. If you’re a die-hard Alien franchise nerd, it might leave you frustrated that they’ve gone and toyed with the universe, referencing some things differently than before, and then not mentioning others at all. If you’re only casually familiar with a couple of the Alien films, you’ll probably be more aware of some of the insider references that pop up in the film and should enjoy it at least as much as your memories of the old guard. If you’re new to the whole thing, I think you might actually be the prime audience for this new iteration.
After seeing it several times, I keep coming back to the idea of Prometheus feeling like a franchise reboot rather than a proper prequel. It seems to borrow structure and grander themes from previous films more than it tries to directly sync up with them. The characters, the worlds, the antagonists, all get a makeover that cherry-picks traits from the past while forging a new path. I don’t think it’s news that the Alien films began to yield diminishing returns the more they were stretched. Add to that the fact that Prometheus sequels are already in the works, and the seeds of change have been implanted (and sure to pop out of someone’s chest at a later date).
Because of that it’s pretty easy to come to this film with fresh eyes and enjoy it for what it is: a big summer action/horror film with at least an interesting philoso-scientific premise. It starts off with big ideas and wild theories – which frankly just get sillier the more you think about them – but at some point it defaults back to the Alien action template, and things start going to hell precisely when they’re supposed to, with more or less the characters you would expect either biting the dust or turning on someone. There’s a Ripley character, there’s a robot character, there are gory creature kills, all on an isolated spaceship/planet. But they do seem to change the overall motivation and goal of some of these in the film, and that is what will either intrigue you or frustrate you; or if you’re new will pass you by altogether.