REVIEW: Prometheus [2012]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 124 minutes | Release Date: June 8th, 2012 (USA)
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Writer(s): Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof / Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett (elements)

“How far are you willing to go?”

**Potential thematic spoilers**

The age-old question has always been an unanswerable, “What is the meaning of life?” It’s a query that could easily be solved on an individual basis as far as wealth, family, success, fame, etc., yet so many desire the all encompassing knowledge we were possibly never meant to have. Gods are created and worshiped to give us purpose—be they deities, idols, or even ourselves. We all strive for more and hope to accomplish whatever it takes to reach whatever form of enlightenment we believe in. But what if the true key to unlocking every unsolved mystery concerning our origins existed? What if we could speak to God and ask why he deemed us worthy of life? What if his response revealed that in the end we weren’t?

There is a wonderful moment in Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus where android David (Michael Fassbender) is told man created him because they could. Unable to feel emotion, there’s still a look of pained understanding given in response to the naively malicious jab towards what Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) never sees as more than a thing. Dealing a pithy barb of his own, David turns the table by asking how Holloway would feel if his maker said the same. After traveling 205.8 trillion miles (thanks for clearing that up, Neil deGrasse Tyson) in order to discover the grand plans behind humanity’s grace, this scientific crew bet large that the trip would validate their pride. Only a synthetic being capable of rational thought and complete objectivism could cut through the sin of vanity and acknowledge how small we are in comparison to the vastness of space.

Returning to the series he began over three decades ago, Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have done one of the greatest thrillers in cinematic history and the sci-fi genre itself immense justice with this reverse engineered prequel. Read all you want about the third act faltering in an inability to live up to the detail and suspense of the first two. I would concede to this opinion being correct if the story ended once the credits rolled. Doing so forgets the crucial fact that, like it or not, the Nostromo’s adventure in Alien is the true epic conclusion to Prometheus. Unquestionably an origin story to one of mankind’s most formidable creations, this film becomes a stunning example of how mythologies can and should evolve. And honestly, seeing props and locales from that seminal 1979 piece recreated here is worth the price of admission alone.

After a prologue depicting either the demise of our ‘engineers’, the beginning of our existence, or our end, this journey into the unknown starts like any other with science at the wheel. Drs. Holloway and Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discover another ancient civilization possessing an artistic representation of a constellation so far away that only a visitor from afar could have brought knowledge of its existence. No longer seen as coincidence, the two find financial support from an aging Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) and form a team to traverse 35 light years of space and meet the beings that visited us millenniums ago. If you remember the Weyland Corporation of previous Alien films, however, you’ll know their influence is never without selfish designs. So, when company crony Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) begins to throw her weight around, the quest for technological advancement is threatened.

The acting is superb, coexisting with a gorgeous landscape of futuristic machinery. Rapace outshines everyone with a vulnerability undercutting her never-wavering conviction to keep humanity safe. Like Sigourney Weaver‘s Ripley before her, she alone understands the stakes at play. But there is something about Shaw’s humanity that propels her beyond a character Aliens quickly turned into little more than an action hero. What Ridley Scott did and continues doing so well is rooting these characters in an authenticity despite situation. Even Fassbender’s uncanny David—perhaps especially him—lets us comprehend how far our arrogance can grow. A programmed machine, his actions are those of a curiously innocent boy discovering new things at the behest of a false idol. Extinction therefore isn’t made possible by outside interference; our own teachings passed through generations is what gradually extinguishes the light we once possessed.

To give too many plot details would be a disservice to theatre-going audiences like myself who have waited with baited breath to see what Prometheus would bring. So I’ll refrain from such spoilers. The bottom-line is that the film is not a standalone entity fully appreciated without knowledge of the franchise’s canon, so at least rewatch Alien to appreciate the aesthetic and thematic Easter eggs littered throughout. Beneath this connective story tissue, however, also lies a spiritual tome centering on humanity’s propensity for evil and the long-standing notion of voluntarily destroying innocence whenever possible. Our entire existence has been a quest for expansion and power—the space program too—and Weyland is the next generation conquistador. Our first trip outside the atmosphere could have been a declaration of war; our disregard for the wellbeing of strangers as anything but objects for exploitation the signature on our death warrant.

In this case, Nostromo’s stumbling upon H.R. Giger‘s horrific xenomorph was a long time coming. So, what Prometheus serves to prove is just how intertwined our two species are. Through ancient relics both here and there, humanity discovers a power beyond their control yet never powerful enough to extinguish our propensity to keep trying. We’ll always reach too far, burning into oblivion as more worthy life endures. Because for every Elizabeth Shaw understanding limitation, humility, and the strength of evil blackening our souls, there will be hundreds of Weylands seeing failure as weakness and an impossibility. The universe is ours to conquer. We may have been created on the basis of love and charity, but like with the Garden of Eden we never could learn to listen or obey. Earth, once the isolated glimmer of hope inside Pandora’s Box of sin and death, failed to sustain its glow.

And thus a geologist (Sean Harris‘ Fifield), biologist (Rafe Spall‘s Millburn), and crew of more scientists (Kate Dickie‘s Ford) and hired help (Idris Elba‘s Captain Janek) to represent our wealth of progress is left helpless against an unexplainable foe. We can manifest God into personified beings or leave him to less tangential ideas and beliefs, but at the end of the day fate will bring us face to face with our hubristic nature lacking the compassion necessary for forgiveness. We believe we are the most evolved species alive and assume greater powers will save us from ourselves, never fathoming they may look upon our demise as a necessity. Like Noah saving life with his ark after God purged our land for a new beginning, perhaps we’ve run past the allotted demarcation set for another reboot. Maybe Prometheus is meant to show how we must first learn to survive at home.

[1] Aboard an alien vessel, David (Michael Fassbender) makes a discovery that could have world-changing consequences.
[2] Charlize Theron and Idris Elba on the bridge of the ship Prometheus.
[3] Noomi Rapace (left) and Kate Dickie (with Michael Fassbender in the background) explore the Ampule room.
courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. TM and © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

3 Thoughts to “REVIEW: Prometheus [2012]”

  1. Jeff Kovach

    “What if”? We have those answers! The questions you pose in your first paragraph ARE answerable…
    And IDOLS are created (giving us a FLEETING sense of purpose and value, not real), but GOD is not created. WE were created- human beings, and WE were given purpose and meaning. God created us in His image AND has given us the keys to unlocking our purpose on earth in the Scripture. I am disappointed, Jared!

    1. and this is one of the great things about this film. its star is a believer alongside a machine who himself was created by man and can never buy into anything but scientific fact. there are multiple events that occur which should shake Shaw’s devotion and yet she continuously holds on to the belief there must be something else always above whomever she finds to be a creator.

      i am not, nor ever was a religious man. and while i believe in a superior being, i don’t make myself attach to any one ‘God’ above the others. every culture/religion has a deity in their name and image, so the idea is universal if not the actual representation. this is why i will always say ‘God’ is a construct of man. sorry, Jeff, but i will. the basis to this omnipresent entity might not have been created, but the many different forms we use were.

      but before this gets into a huge theological discussion that the two of us will never end up anywhere other than where we are now, i’d love to hear your thoughts on the film as a man of God if you see it. i wonder how your belief will affect your like or dislike and what you feel about its take on creation. it is definitely the kind of film that begs discussion and i appreciate you commenting. hope all is well with you and the family.

  2. Jeff Kovach

    I think there are answers to the questions you are posing, and yes, obviously we would have to disagree… But on a different note, I (was) totally excited about this movie, and now I am not so sure. I have some friends who wanted to walk out on the film because they thought it was dumb… I probably won’t watch it in the theatre, but I will definitely watch it at some point (maybe a rental?). Movies like this tend to fascinate me. If I remember, I will definitely post a comment after I do (sorry, forgetfulness is one of the side effects to having two small children, a church, working too many hours… and age) I hope all is well with you too! From all the “openings” happening, it is exciting to see everyone “back in business”!

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