Some More Thoughts on ‘Prometheus’ – A Quasi-Review

Since I managed to be the last geek on the internet to see Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s much debated prequel to his sci-fi/horror classic Alien, instead of going with the all out review I’ll be taking a different angle on this review by addressing a few questions before getting down the nitty gritty of it.

And because I’m the last person on the internet to see it, I can go ahead and spoil this sucker as much as I please. So let’s get it out of the way…

If you don’t want to see spoilers, avoid looking at this picture.

The first question that must be asked of Prometheus is thus: why is it set in the Alien universe?

Over the course of Alien franchise we’ve established the biology of the xenomorphs, which is one of the most fascinating and horrifying life cycles in the history of science fiction. It’s a concept that has captured the imagination of geeks the world over. Instantly familiar it has spread out from the world of cinema into comics, video games, cross-over franchises and fan fiction. It is one of the most popular and respected franchises in modern popular culture. So why is Prometheus a part of this?

One might suggest that it created a narrative shorthand that allows director to assume a given amount of knowledge of the target audience. Without needing to spend time of exposition on the structure of the ships, the concept of infecting a host with an embryo or what the threat is to the human race, Scott can focus on telling the story and exploring the themes that the movie puts forward. Each of the questions about the origins of the alien race raised in the movie would never have needed to be addressed if they hadn’t been posed in this film.

By making this story part of the Alien franchise you’ve created a double edged sword. Now it carries with it certain expectations for the audience, but you have half you’re marketing done for you. The movie is just as enjoyable and thought provoking regardless, but it’s interesting to think of how it might’ve been viewed as a stand alone sci-fi.

Question the Second: what was the purpose of the ‘messages’ left by the Engineers on Earth?

At the beginning of the movie Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) discovers another in a series of cave paintings depicting a group of humans worshiping a larger humanoid creature who is pointing to a constellation. Her interpretation of this is that the aliens shown to be pointing at the stars is extending an invitation to the human race to come and find them. Upon arriving at the destination Shaw and the highly dubious group of ‘experts’ find an outpost set up by the Engineers whose sole purpose is to create a biological weapon that they were in the process of shipping to Earth before someone dropped a beaker of the stuff and it killed them all.

Assuming that the cave paintings do depict an invitation, or even just a map, this is kinda a dickish move. We don’t know the motivation for the Engineers want to dump the xenomorph weapon on Earth. Perhaps they were horrified with how their creation turned out, maybe the purpose of the human race was to create a planet of hosts for the weapon or they were doing it as part of an experiment. Either way they put up the map pretty early on in Earth history, and it depicts a path to their weapons factory and not their home world. Perhaps this was a portent of things to come, an interstellar taunt from our creators. It may have been a fail safe, in case the Engineers can’t get their weapon to Earth they’ve left instructions for the humans to come and find it – which makes them the biggest trolls, like, ever. If Shaw is correct with her initial assumption that it is an invitation then the Engineers left bad directions because they’ve essential left the kids with the keys to the medicine cabinet.

Question the Third: what is the relationship between the Deacon (the name Scott gave to the creation seen at the end) and the xenomorphs we already know?

Given what has come before and the resemblance between the two creatures there is clearly a relationship between the established aliens and this new creature. But what exactly is it? As we already know that this film takes place prior to the events in Alien one might assume from the outset that this is a precursor to the Queen Alien that will lay the eggs found by John Hurt later, or perhaps the difference comes only from the host. We’ve already seen in Alien 3 that the alien’s shape will be in part dictated by the host, but it’s already been established that the Engineers share a very similar DNA to the human race.

The most likely theory is that this creature exists tangentially alongside the ones that we’ve already seen. The Deacon and the Xenomorph both come about from similar origins with some event in the life cycle sending them in different directions. One image that strongly supports this notion is that a clear image of the Xenomorph as it is seen in Alien is visible in the ‘tomb’ room that the crew of Prometheus find first. Either these Engineers knew what the outcome of this experiment would be or had already seen it, and the event of Prometheus cause the variation that is the Deacon.

Final question: does the events depicted in Prometheus cancel out the Alien vs Predator movies.

Yes, thank fuck.

Fuck you.


Prometheus is more of a science fiction movie than anything else the ‘Alien’ franchise has served up thus far. The original film is more of a horror narrative and Cameron’s sequel is an actioner with a sci-fi setting. This new entry explores theological and philosophical questions with the horror and the action aspects of the movie only serving to build the narrative that frames these concepts. For those in the right frame of mind this is a great movie. The ideas is has and the way it unfolds is fascinating to watch. With this higher concepts some fans of the series may find themselves disappointed by the change in tack after all these years. As evidenced above the movie gives the viewer plenty to consider in relation to what we’ve just seen and how it fits into the larger universe. If you prefer your science-fiction thought-provoking instead of exploding than this will be a very welcome experience.

If there’s one thing that holds the film back it’s the character work. Performance wise everyone is at the top of their game, especially Michael Fassbender being the most convincing artificial human since we realized that Arhnuld wasn’t actually acting. The problem is that characters just do things that don’t make sense. One recurring oddity in all the ‘Alien’ movies is that everyone signs up for these years-long missions into the depths of space without stopping to ask what they’ve signed up for, only being given a briefing when they’ve been asleep for years. As we get further into the movie characters start pulling out knowledge they couldn’t have, do things that make sense to no-one and act like BFFs to people they’ve barely spoken to. This comes to a head at the end when a couple of characters need next to know convincing to commit suicide in a violent manner with no real evidence as to why they should.

It feels very much like the characters and dialogue were written as an afterthought, as the creative process was directed to exploring the possibilities afforded by the biology already established in the ‘Alien’ franchise. The movie plays to its strengths in this respect (although good character work would’ve augmented an already brilliant film) and those looking for a damn good slice of sci-fi won’t need to look much further.

Score: NINE outta TEN