Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel tells the story of two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw and her husband Charlie Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green), who find an ancient pictograph in a cave of an alien lifeform pointing to the stars. Interpreting the image as a an invitation from a powerful alien race, the archaeologists along with a large team of explorers and mercenaries lead by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) trek across the universe to a distant plant looking for the origins of human life. They believe these aliens, which they call Engineers, are responsible for their existence. When they get to the planet though, they discover a much darker truth, as the Engineer’s various genetic experiments begin to attack the crew in true Ridely Scott sci-fi horror fashion.
I was looking forward to this film for a while. Not so much as an “Alien prequel” but just as a potentially great movie. The trailers made it look intense and fascinating, like this was going to be the next in a long line of sci-fi movies to change and define what we expect from the genre. I suppose given that those were my expectations, it was inevitable that I would be disappointed, but we’ll get to that.
Let’s start with the good things about Prometheus, as they are many. First of all, I think it’s a gorgeous film. One of the most visually stunning pieces of cinema I’ve seen thus far, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to get this on Blu-ray rather than DVD. If you really want to experience the film, then HD is the only way to go. Though be warned, part of being “visually stunning” is that the film is effectively and relentlessly disturbing. It’s ability to create tension is probably it’s greatest asset. The scene where two scientists are attacked by alien snakes in the Engineer temple, and the scene where Shaw tries to extract an alien from her body are among the most visceral things I’ve ever witnessed.
My other favorite thing about Prometheus is Michael Fassbender’s performance. Fassbender keeps popping up in various roles ranging from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds to X-Men: First Class and now this. His portrayal of the android David is fantastic. He remains absolutely robotic throughout, but with a natural curiosity about life and humanity that’s both cold and mechanical, and deeply human.
Now, my huge problem with Prometheus is that nothing is ever really explained. Now, I don’t need to know how inter-stellar space flight works in this world, but it would be nice to know why an all-powerful race of alien Engineers would (apparently on a whim) decide to destroy humanity. At least in the original Alien, this wasn’t a problem because it was accepted that the alien was a mindless killing machine; an animal that wanted to feed and breed and spread. But the Engineers are an actual, sentient life-form, so their random decision to destroy the earth is frustratingly confusing. Maybe this will be explained in the planned Prometheus sequel, but for now, the only reason seems to be that aliens are jerks.
Special features include deleted and extended scenes (including an alternate beginning and ending), commentaries, “The Peter Weyland Files,” and the ability to download an app on your smart phone or tablet and interact with the movie.
Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.