(Spoilers lie ahead. Beware ye all who enter here)
When Ridley Scott made Alien in 1979, he effectively rewrote the form book for space sci-fi thrillers forever. Audiences packed cinemas, completely blind to the journey they were about to be taken on – a mysterious signal, creepy eggs, a weird-ass giant skeleton and the infamous Alien that would creep through the shadows of their own ship, killing them one-by-one. Everything was clouded in mystery and suspense: what the hell was going on? What happened to John Hurt? Why is Ash such a creepy dude?
So the real story of Prometheus is what Ridley Scott would bring us over thirty years after his first foray into the Alien universe. I say this is the real story because Christ only knows what the actual story of Prometheus was. Despite being a skeptic, I go into films and TV shows with a healthy dose of disbelief-suspension. I blanket my natural tendency to question things that don’t make any sense at all and try and enjoy the entertaining trip the film makers have prepared for me. Thus, I came out of Prometheus happy and entertained. But the more I think about it, the more I find myself saying, “wait a minute…”
Let’s start with the good, shall we? It’s an excellently made film – it’s pretty as hell, creepy and tense when it needs to be, and full of mystery horror. The very first scene, with the giant bald dude downing a shot of that Black Oil from The X Files and consequently dissolving his own DNA into the early Earth made me excited. ‘What is this crazy shit all about?’ I wondered. ‘I can’t wait to find out!’ Yeah, well, I’m still wondering.
The thing is, Prometheus is chock-full of intriguing mysteries and weird surprises that never seem to get explained. What exactly is going on in the opening scene? The black oil stuff only vaguely gets explained, as a guess from the ship’s Captain, but we don’t leave the film with any real understanding. Why does David infect Dr Holloway and then refuse to help Elizabeth when she gets impregnated with Alien horror? At first, primed with the plot of Aliens, you think it’s because the Weyland Corporation are on a mission to harvest alien life for profit. However, when you learn that David and Weyland actually have completely different plans, we have nothing to fall back on except that David is a dick? A robot programmed to be a massive dick. For some reason. In fact, here’s a list of things I want answers to:
And here’s the most important question for me: Why did the Space Jockey leave his chair to chase down Elizabeth? Now, plot-wise, this is obvious – he wanted to steal her ship. But the whole genesis of this film was Ridley Scott’s dream to explore the history of the Space Jockeys and once we saw the Jockey get into his seat, just as the Nostromo crew find him in Alien, I thought, ‘Ah! Ridley Scott has completed the cycle, just as he planned!’ But then the damn Jockey gets out of the seat and dies elsewhere. Then who the hell is the original Space Jockey!?
And don’t get me started on the science. Oops, too late. The entire expedition to the mystery moon is funded on a trillion dollar cheque by the Weyland Corporation based on the fact that so-called scientist, Elizabeth, really, really wishes that the biological engineers of the human race live there. She admits that she’s got fuck-all evidence but ‘it’s what [she] chooses to believe”. This comes as a disappointment to the rest of the crew, most of whom are far too unstable to have qualified for a two-year trip across space to a distant moon. There must have been plenty of blow jobs given to Mr Weyland to score this gig, is all I’m saying. Here’s some more science coming atcha: why do the Space Jockeys and humans have identical DNA if they looked totally fucking different? This isn’t tricky biology, you guys. More science? Okay, what the hell were the weird dots in cave paintings all about? If they were stars, why did they say the system ‘has a star’ in it? If not stars then… what? Let’s not forget that 10,000 years is plenty of time for star systems to move. What about the fact that Elizabeth is happy to run about like an action hero immediately after some rather traumatic abortion surgery? What about that Elizabeth simultaneously holds onto her Christian faith and the Panspermia belief, despite the fact that they completely contradict each other? And why did the Jockey head explode?
But I suppose, the real question is: what was the film about? After all, I can suspend my disbelief at the idiotic characters and anti-science, but I’m not sure what the story was. It wasn’t a horror/thriller about hiding from and fighting hostile aliens, despite having a bit of this in the finale. It wasn’t a mystery thriller because none of the mysterious elements were really answered. It wasn’t an exploration of the origins of humankind, because there wasn’t any closure on this idea, despite them arguing about it through the whole film. It tried to be a story about Elizabeth’s struggle to find the answers she so desperately craved, but this idea kept getting sidetracked by the many, many random threads woven into this film with no resolution. I don’t even like Elizabeth. She’s an idiot. That she’s the only survivor is a huge disappointment. The only person that talks any sense is Charlize Theron’s Vickers – and we’re meant to dislike her for being a huge bitch. But someone has to take charge – the Captain clearly doesn’t give a shit about anything.
Ultimately, I’m just disappointed that the damn Space Jockey left his seat. It’s like making a prequel to Titanic in which they build the Titanic but then it blows up before it can reach Southampton. Or making a prequel to Lethal Weapon in which Riggs never applies to be a cop. Or a prequel to Terminator in which Sarah Connor has a hysterectomy. Don’t ruin the whole fucking reason you made the film in the first place.
But it’s a fun watch, I guess.