When I first watched Alien, I was damn near petrified when I saw my first xenomorph. Let me back up – make that before I saw my first xenomorph. The crew of the Nostromo, including soon heroine to be Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), followed a distress signal to an alien spacecraft. It was a foolish move to say the least since the Nostromo contained a simple commercial towing crew. These weren’t the military vets of Aliens, just ordinary workers.
Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt), and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) followed the beacon. It was a horror movie no, no. Never follow the beacon. Duh. The group discovered the remains of a large alien carcass, which had been ripped apart from the inside. Sadly, that didn’t signal a big fat “turn around, runnn.” Then, Kane discovered an egg plantation. Right away, I remember my brain screaming an unheard “holy crap.” Next, an egg popped open and some tentacle having creature latched onto Kane’s face. Soon after, when the crew returned back to their ship, a baby alien tore itself out of Kane’s stomach. I don’t think I went near an egg carton for a month after that.
Ridley Scott’s Alien fostered a feeling of utter claustrophobia at every turn. Trapped aboard a ship, with no other way of getting back to Earth, what do you do when an Alien is ready to tear your body apart?
Prometheus, billed as a prequel to the Alien series, is a completely different kind of movie – though it comes from the same director. There is rarely a sense of fear or some dire threat that the crew is trying to escape at every turn. The threat doesn’t actually show up until much later in the movie and even it hardly becomes the most memorable part of the film. The film primarily takes place in three locations: in the Prometheus ship, on the planet’s surface, and in the caves. The ship, named the Prometheus, is more Star Trek than Nostromo. Although it’s not a war ship, the crew has ample room to stretch their legs and get some alone time. You get this feeling in the caves as well as on the planet’s surface. There’s a lot of room to run, which stands at a stark opposite to Alien.
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That doesn’t make Prometheus a bad movie. It just made the film different – in fact, very different from its predecessors.
Writers Jon Spaihts and Lost scribe Damon Lindelof didn’t try to make another Alien movie with Prometheus, rather they tried to give some added substance to the lore. This isn’t a movie that is designed to scare you; it’s a movie that’s intended to make you think.
Like most science fiction, thinking often involves religion, creation theory and the ability to debunk both. Lindelof and Spaihts Alien origin is vaguely reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica. The plot sits a top two all-powerful questions. Where do we come from? And, why are we here?
The whole xenomorph angle is merely there to set the stage for the sequel, Prometheus 2, which is already in the works.
This is a multi-tiered film, with several nuances. Unfortunately, due to time and pacing, you’ll wonder why most of those nuances don’t get the attention they deserve. At one point the film shifts into straight action-movie mode and casts off the confines of philosophy and big business manipulation. Aside from David, the cyborg played by Michael Fassbender, the characters fall to the wayside just when they start to develop their personalities.
Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) leads the crew in the name of big businessman Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are the scientists looking for the answer to creation, while Captain Janek (Idris Elba) just flies the ship. Each of these characters starts to develop more dynamic personalities just before the action hits. They also open up new themes and questions to explore. However, soon enough, everything is sidelined for flamethrowers and explosions.
It’s a sad shift because the film starts out trying to be an exploratory origin tale and then shifts its momentum to action, leaving several potentially great plot threads dangling.
The Blu-ray bonus features include several deleted scenes, which have a commentary track from the film’s editor. It’s here where you’ll get a better picture of the movie. There are actually several scenes that open up the characters to more introspective moments, but were cut out for time or production re-shot the scene all together.
The bonus features also include “The Peter Weyland Files,” which offers a lengthy featurette on all of the main characters aboard the Prometheus in a documentary format. You’ll get to see Peter Weyland as a young man, or just as Guy Pierce, delivering a speech on why his company is making the shift to artificial life.
These two features add depth and clarification to the movie on several levels and are a definite boon to the home video release. “The Peter Weyland Files” alone is reason enough to buy this release. It’s great that Scott created a whole featurette to serve as a prequel to the origin story that viewers saw in theaters. Some of the character bios fill in blanks missing from the movie. If you saw the movie already, it’s best to watch this first and then watch the movie again.
Prometheus revamps the Alien franchise for a new era of filmmaking, one that’s rich in special effects. Although there are some hollow points, it’s a great starting point that leaves the franchise open for a broader mythos and deeper stories.