humour, review

Prometheus, a film review

I finally watched Prometheus this weekend. I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages!

When it came out, I was completely up for it, but as you know, life happens and you get busy, and distracted. Suddenly, you realise that the film is not in cinemas anymore, and there are many other films out there to watch (read: many other films you want to watch, but will also miss, because it’s you and you’re a mess when it comes to cinema).

Before I write anything else, let me warn you that there are many spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched Prometheus yet, stop reading right now.

You’ve been warned.

Very generally speaking, Prometheus is a film about aliens, set in the future. Every time I watch a film that happens in a spaceship, I always know it’s never going to be a smooth journey. It’s never just a love story, is it? It’s always bad news. Script writers out there, I want to watch a romantic comedy in a spaceship. No drama, other than why the girl/boy is not interested in the main character and doesn’t call them back.

OK, back to the actual film…

In the beginning, there’s a spaceship, not unlike the one from Independence Day, floating above the ground, and then flying away into the distance. We don’t know where we are, but there’s a cloaked fella. When he removes his hood, we see he’s not human at all. He drinks some black fluid from a cup and pretty much disintegrates himself into a river. We see his DNA and all that, and then new DNA being formed or something.

Of course, I didn’t understand what was going on, I wasn’t supposed to, since we had only seen like a minute of the movie, but still, it was weird.

Later on, this hot couple of doctors discover some cave paintings, and that’s about it for now.

Cue the inside of a spaceship. I’m telling you, problems… There was already an alien-looking guy in the film, and he already died. Not good.

There’s this guy, Fassbender (real actor’s name), who walks and behaves in a disconcerting stiff manner. He appears to be alone in the ship, because everything is uber quiet. He mainly watches a film (I later found out it was Lawrence of Arabia) and dyes his hair roots blonde.

Everything is still too quiet and since David (character’s name) has no one to talk to, well, there’s no conversation or anything. At first, it’s amusing, but then I began to feel a bit restless on the sofa.

It seems someone has woken up from their cryostasis, which basically means that you’re suspended in some sort sleep/coma/freezing state for travelling in space, since it takes so long. We meet Vickers (Charlize Theron), who is doing push ups. The first few seconds of interaction with David basically shows us that she’s an angry person. She’s mean, like really mean. There isn’t much more to her so far. She’s also a bit harsh to David. Ah well…

When a meeting is called, we finally learn the purpose of the trip, and meet the crew. We can see the hot doctors from the beginning in that group, so we figure out this has something to do with the caves. Cookie points for the cool hologram technology, by the way. Also, to hologram-Weyland for pointing accurately at the places where the doctors were going to be sitting down. Was that planned? Did they have assigned seats?

It seems that, upon finding the cave paintings, the doctors decided it was an invitation for tea and a chat, so they embarked on an intergalactic trip to follow what they think is actually a map in the stars that will lead them to these god-like creatures that supposedly created us, the Engineers. OK, that makes sense, I guess.

Cue the stereotyped cast.

There’s Fifield, who is the typical clever guy, who is a bit unhinged and not entirely happy with the mission (and makes sure you know it). He of course, doesn’t believe the doctors’ theory and sort of mocks them a bit.

He’s paired with the other guy, Milburn, I think, and they become the usual pair of guys, who are a bit humorous and many times get killed. I think they mention something about a bet, not sure if here, but definitely later on.

Janek, the captain, a wise man who is smoking and setting up a Christmas tree as soon as he wakes up. A cool dude, mainly because he’s Idris Elba.

An array of somewhat predictable characters are displayed. Most of them mock the general mission and think nothing of the two doctors.

I have the feeling that nothing happens for most of the film. They just go about having pretty empty conversations, arguing about who is in charge, which by the way is pretty clear that, as in every other film, whoever pays is in charge. Vickers is more than happy to remind us that her company paid a trillion (give or take) dollars to fund that field trip, so don’t you go around thinking you give orders here, or anything like that. Vodka (no please and no thank-you).

The whole crew go to a cave that seems to be a bunch of connected tunnels (hint: it’s not) and they decided to map the place with these cute floating robots that scan the area while travelling around. That is cool.

They see these sort of holograms or ghosts of Engineers past (I still don’t understand much where they came from, or how they’re being seen) that are running away and one of them gets killed by a door that closes, a failed Temple of Doom wannabe. He was, indeed, decapitated.

David is being a bit unruly, and decides to just go and open the door by pressing some symbols. I can’t help of think of that game, Simon in which you need to match the pattern in which the colours light up. David is not worried about what may lurk behind that door, he just wants to learn/see. That’s being a robot for you.

That room has a massive head sculpture, but we don’t know what it is or what it means; it’s also full of urns, which start sort of sweating some black goo. None of the humans seem particularly happy about the room, and they decide to grab the Engineer’s head and leave. David, sneaky as he is, decides to hide one of the urns, you know, for a rainy day. I guess…

Back in the ship, we finally get to see an Engineer properly. It looks mighty and a bit weird. I can’t help but see some similarities with the Ood, from Doctor Who. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a suit with a helmet, which is disappointing. They decide to experiment with the nervous system of the Engineer’s dead head and of course, poking around dead stuff can only lead to bad things happening. They manage to contain a goo explosion just in time and in the process find out that human DNA and Engineers’ DNA match exactly. Here’s when you can begin to connect dots (or maybe just me, am I a bit slow?) and link that first scene to an Engineer dying, which was the origin of our species. That makes me wonder whether the Engineer created our DNA directly or if he became the little amoeba that transforms into a fish and then leaves the water, etc. I might have to watch it again to understand, but I guess the DNA would have changed since we were created, no? I mean, even if just a bit, maybe?

David, the android, is nasty. Not nasty as Vickers, but more as in he has no morals to keep him in check and has a curious mind. For this reason, he contaminates Holloway (male hot doctor) with the dark liquid while they hold a conversation discussing the different motives one would have to create life. He does this just to see what happens. When David points out what a disappointing answer the reason why he was created was (because [they/humans] could), Holloway remarks that is a good thing the android cannot feel disappointment. Ouch. Right below the belt. No wonder David has no remorse experimenting on him.

Afterwards, Shaw (female hot doctor) and Holloway are talking in their room. From what it looked like completely out of the blue to me, she suddenly starts crying, I believe because she cannot have children. You have no clue where that came from, or why, but it seems the only possible answer Holloway can think of is to have sex with her, at which point you realise that she’s totally getting pregnant from daddy-black-slime. I got that one pretty easily!

In the meantime, the comic duo (Fifield and Milburn) had managed to get lost in the maze. OK, not really in the meantime, but you know what I mean. They had decided to leave when they saw the dead holograms back at the not-really-a-cave, and never made it back. This is actually funny, or weird, or… Well, I’m not happy about it. See, Fifield is the one in charge of the mapping drones. Wouldn’t he have some way of seeing what the drones were doing or how? Wouldn’t it make sense that he would have some device with maybe a low-res map? Everyone has a GPS in their phones nowadays, and in the year… what was it? 2093 or so, they get people on the field, with mapping drones, which send the data back to the ship and then this data is relied back to the people on the ground. By radio. It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Of course, someone has to die first, and who better than the comic duo, the ones who didn’t believe in the mission and even mocked the doctors? Since there’s also a storm around, and they’re losing radio signal with the main ship… the rest becomes quite obvious.

They get a ping that something is alive out there and, even though they make a point of explaining they’re going to try to go in the opposite direction of where the ping came from, they bump into this sort of snake-like alien (back at the sculpture room, which they were trying to get away in the first place… I mean, who sent these guys on that mission, with such a lack of orientation?). Of course, they decide to touch the alien and play with it. Now, if we have learnt something by watching Hollywood films is:

If you meet any kind of living creature that you didn’t expect to meet, it’s likely going to try to kill you. Don’t bloody touch it. End of story.

Once it’s safe to do so, the crew returns to the not-really-a-cave, and of course, find the comic duo in a pretty bad condition: dead. They decide it’s not worth it, and get the heck out of there. It’s worth mentioning that Fifield, I think, was not really dead, he just looked terribly. Well, it wasn’t him anymore, so when he tried to kill everyone back at the ship, we cannot really blame him, even though he didn’t like the doctors or the mission much at first…

Before they leave, David, who is still pretty much doing whatever he pleases (whoever programmed him did a poop of a job on that respect, by the way…) finds a control room. He plays around a bit and this amazing holographic constellation appears. Earth is there too (I can see my home from here!). It’s pretty, but it makes you wonder why. What does it mean? Why is Earth there, all highlighted? How is that functioning? David also discovers an Engineer in cryostasis. Awesome.

Anyway, they all go back to the main ship.

Unfortunately, Holloway is very sick now, and he doesn’t want to contaminate everyone (it seems he’s the only one who has watched this type of movie before) and begs Vickers to kill him with fire. She had her finger already on the trigger, mean that she is, so she doesn’t hesitate to comply.

One Holloway less now, Shaw decides she doesn’t want to be a single mum. She probably realises that her being sterile and getting pregnant in space, especially from her decomposing and now dead hot boyfriend, is probably not a good idea. We have this crazy fight against the clock to get a C-section (of course, the surgery pod is designed for males only, it would be too easy otherwise…) so she has to improvise by removing a foreign object from the abdomen. I wondered if the machine would also remove her womb, as that would be a foreign object in a male body. Unfortunately, the machine is clever and, seeing what Shaw was trying to do, it only removes the… Congratulations, it’s a squid! Yes, the alien is a squid. She staples herself shut and runs for her life, not before locking the baby-squid down, so it cannot cause any harm.

From then on, I spent the rest of the film wondering how Shaw could run around with her whole abdomen full of stitches, and why she didn’t just bleed to death from an open wound. That lady is definitely tough, it seems; I scream my lungs out if I get as much as a paper cut, which means I would probably had died of an alien bursting through my body.

We discover Weyland wasn’t dead at all (oh, what a surprising twist!), and he wants to be immortal (I totally didn’t expect that either). Of course, there was one living Engineer in one of those sleep pods, so the logical thing to do is to go back to the cave-that-is-not-a-cave to chat with him.

Unfortunately for everyone, the Engineer isn’t very happy about it, and starts killing people. It’s really cool to see how he rips David’s head off, but because David’s a robot, it doesn’t really matters. He kills Weyland for being greedy and gets very angry in the process.

They decide that this lonely dude is going to destroy Earth with a spaceship. Wait, spaceship? What spaces-? Right, it wasn’t a cave after all (told you…), it was actually a spaceship. Shaw convinces Janek to destroy the bad guy’s ride and since they don’t have any weapons, he chooses to fly into it (pretty much like in Independence Day). Guess what? Vickers is having none of it and escapes in a smaller ship.

Both (big) ships collide and Vickers dies a stupid death, crushed by the ship-formerly-known-as-cave. Everyone is dead, it seems, except Shaw. And the Engineer. Seriously, what are those two made of? He tries to kill Shaw, who has had about enough already, and she runs to Vickers’ emergency ship, which happens to be where Squiddy was locked. Look, Squiddy is all grown up now (everyone, aww). She allows the now giant kraken to impale the Engineer, while she gets away.

When Shaw is having a breakdown, David gets in touch with her through the radio and asks for her help to rebuild him, arguing that she needs him to get out of that planet. Then, Shaw claims she’s entitled to an answer from the Engineers, she needs to know who made them, why they changed their mind about humanity, etc. I wonder why she thinks she deserves it, but ok, we need a sequel, so why not.

In all honesty, the most interesting part of the whole film for me was David, and figuring out whether Vickers was also a robot (quite out of the blue her conversation with Janek about whether she’s a robot or not, by the way, which ends in her inviting him to her room. Guys, don’t try that at home, I’m pretty sure it only works if you’re Idris Elba and are travelling through space with Charlize Theron, or something like that).

The last scene from the film, provoked a massive facepalm for me. I had completely forgotten that Prometheus was some sort of prequel to Alien, as in, I saw the alien-like dude appear (Shaw’s grandkid, really, or rather, grand-alien) I said out loud: Wait, so this is related to the Alien films??, to which my brother replied er, d’oh!.

Side note here: am I the only one who thought about the Jaws’ main theme when the Engineer’s abdomen was cut open by the alien’s head, which looked like a shark’s fin??

I actually had known the connection with the Alien franchise all along, but had forgotten. I guess that’s the best part of watching a film about 2 years after it was released, you forget about all the hype and all the spoilers. Score!

So, in summary, the whole film left me feeling a bit meh. True, the photography is awesome but… Half of it was boring and the other half was predictable (except the twist at the end, but that’s because of my faulty memory).

So yeah, the Engineers are made as superior beings, clearly based on sculptures of Greco-Roman influence, chiseled bodies and strong jaws. They’re a bit on the caricature side to my taste, but what do I know about gods.

The whole first half of the story feels a bit like filling the time to me. The only interesting bits are the scenes of David alone in the ship, and those also run a bit long after certain point.

In terms of characters, I believe they are are exaggerated, and some of them feel flat. Even Noomi Rapace, whom I loved in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, feels boring at times in her role, like a diluted version of the character that could have been.

The most compelling part of the whole film for me is, once again, David. He’s an android that has superior intelligence to his human creators, yet he suffers a constant stream of derogatory comments reminding him that he’s just a robot, and he has no soul. I imagine this must be quite frustrating for him, or would be, if he could feel emotions.

I want to give him a reason to experiment on his creators, to not care about them, but then again he’s a robot, so it’s definitely not revenge or anything of the sort. It’s a different view on the whole robots over humans. In this case, he doesn’t rebel against us, but he is so far removed from us, absolutely zero emotions, that he truly cannot discern that what he’s doing is morally wrong. He is the ultimate psychopath. He understands human emotions and can mimic them if needed (same as when he wears the helmet so the crew feels more comfortable in his presence) but has no need for them. It made me think of how a completely logical mind is quite dangerous. During the whole film, I had this nagging feeling at the back of my head that was making me feel uncomfortable, and it was simply that David’s mannerisms, him completely devoid of emotions and his soldier-like posture reminded me of a German soldier during the World War II. At the end of the film, I couldn’t help but draw a connection with the experiments made on the prisoners of the camps. I’m not saying that these soldiers didn’t have any emotions, but how they’ve been portrayed in films, and from the poses on the archive photos available, I can’t help but see similarities.

I know it’s far fetched, and this sort of parallelism probably never crossed Ridley Scott’s mind.

Androids have always worried me because of the threat they pose to humanity. I hear about nano-technology used to cure disease and it worries me that we’re programming these robots to decide what cells are correct and which ones to destroy or repair. Would they be able to distinguish between a broken cell infected with a virus or any other disease, and an ageing cell, for example? I don’t know, I’m guessing they would only act within the limits of their code, but we are still failing in creating error-free computers, radars, and mobile phones, and every software we use keeps needing to be updated to fix bugs and stuff like that. I know it’s a type of technology that in theory doesn’t cause any harm, but when phone batteries explode or cars catch fire, it’s a real threat. What would then the implications of having to debug a nano-robot be? What would the implications of creating a David be?

Going back to Prometheus, I am looking forward to the next film. Hopefully it will clarify the story, and we can only hope it answers the many questions the first film has prompted.

I am aware that many critics gave good reviews of the film, and I agree that the film is skilled and photographically compelling, but I didn’t think it was wow.

Did you watch Prometheus? What did you think of it? Are you looking forward to the second part?