REVIEW: Prometheus

My initial spoiler free thoughts after my first viewing of Prometheus:

1. Yes, I said “first viewing.” This is a movie that encourages multiple viewings. I do not know if I will go and see this in the theater again (maybe a dollar theater) but I do plan to watch it again. Possibly a couple times.

2. Ridley Scott said this was not a prequel to Alien. He was telling the truth. Mostly.

It IS a prequel, in that it takes place in the same universe and takes place before the events in Alien. But it is not like the recent prequel to Jonh Carpenter’s The Thing. You know, that movie called The Thing? That whole movie was all about telling the story leading up to the original, explaining how certain things were placed in certain places. Prometheus does not lead up to Alien, although it does answer some questions about certain mysteries in Alien. And I felt like it did so nicely. But if you are going in hoping to find out why the alien astronaut was sitting where he was in the beginning of Alien, this is not the movie you wanted to see. If you wanted to know what that chair was that he was sitting in, it is.

3. That said, on a thematic level this movie is not about answers. It is about questions. The biggest question is “why?” Why are we here? Why can’t we live forever? And beyond those universal questions, the movie itself asks a lot of “why’s”. There are some big twists and changes in what the characters understand that lead to a lot of questions, and I am still curious what some of those answers are. Finally, there are some head scratching moments where I found myself asking “why did that just happen?” and “why did they just do that?”

Doesn't it just look like Serenity's older brother who works out a lot?

4. Overall, the movie is amazingly crafted. It harkens back to old school pulp sci-fi, it asks Big Idea questions, it is interesting and mysterious and tense.

Imagine if Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey were spliced together, with the technical wizardry of Transformers for the effects. That’s the kind of movie this is. Obviously, Alien is an influence on this movie. There are many nods in storytelling style and the world’s design to Alien. H.R. Giger’s creature designs are used, but I was also reminded of some Moebius designs, especially some designs by Moebius I saw in an old book for a Dune movie that never happened.

The ship Prometheus looked cool, and reminded me of Firefly’s Serenity. That ship could be Serenity’s older brother or something.

5. The cast is fantastic. Idris Elba, Heimdal from Thor, plays the captain of the ship and fits into the roll perfectly. Michael Fassbender is the “robot” (unlike every other Alien film, in this one the robot’s identity is not meant to be a surprise or secret) and is alternatively creepy, threatening, and sympathetic. Fassbender was a highlight of X-Men: First Class for me, and here he pulls off an even more nuanced performance. The other members of the cast were good as well, but these two were the highlights for me.

6. From a spiritual perspective, Prometheus delivers a lot of potential food for thought. “If you could meet your creator, would you? What would you say? How far would you go to meet your creator?” Questions of faith and purpose vs. fate and nihilism are brought up in a surprisingly sophisticated way. And without spoiling things, a character who does have faith in something more suffers a crisis of faith that ends up making that character stronger.

Of course, it should be said that all of this talk about faith comes against the backdrop of super advanced alien creatures, and not all of it applies to real life. But the broad strokes are thought provoking. This movie was not, to my knowledge, written by a Christian, and I know it was not written for Christians, but it does engage the viewer with questions about these things.

Again, questions. Not answers. But these questions could lead to discussions about these questions.

See what I mean about the old-school vibe from the spacesuits?

7. Finally, if you are a fan of sci-fi, this is the movie you have been waiting for this year. If you want to see Star Wars or Alien, this isn’t the movie for you. But as I watched, I ticked off things I saw in the movie that i like about sci-fi. Big ideas? Check. Cool tech? Check. Thought provoking? Check. Mystery? Check. Cool space suits? Check. Plot twists? Check. Good soundtrack? Check. (Those familiar with Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien score will be pleased to hear a couple of the cues!) Taking time to create atmosphere? Check.

It is rated R for “sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language” and while not a hard R, it earns the rating. (The people sitting behind me brought an nine-year-old girl. Who brings an nine-year-old to a midnight show of an R-rated movie?) it’s not for the squeamish, but while it did have me squirming a bit (the whole movie had me on edge because I jus didn’t know where things were going) it not from gore or extreme violence.

~ Ben

Prometheus copyright 20th Century Fox

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