There goes the neighborhood!
A mother ship looms over a lone Promethean paleface on a desolate primordial Earth as he stoically imbibes black goo from a sealed container. Potent stuff that; his body quickly disintegrates, falls into a waterfall, and populates the pond below with a jumble of globules carrying strands of his DNA.
Turn a page of the geological clock and it's the year 2089. On the remote Scottish Isle of Skye, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) unearth a pictograph showing primitive people pointing up to a six-star constellation. They believe it corresponds to other cave paintings worldwide indicating an astral genesis of Earth life. Ha, ha.
Octogenarian Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), CEO of the Weyland Corp., puts together a fools' mission of scientists to go to that system where he hopes to meet our “Engineers” in a desperate attempt to extend his natural life (“A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable.”) The crew is a bunch of misfits, mostly temps hired on for the money and who won't be briefed until they arrive and emerge from stasis some 2½ years hence. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) goes to supervise them and prove something—who knows what? The (mediocre) archaeologists round out the group as “true believers.” Their captain “can't fly worth a damn.” Lastly, there's David an artificial humanoid. Weyland's engineers haven't yet perfected his design. This one has a bit too much curiosity of the kind that killed the cat. Darwin won't miss this lot if they vanish. Theirs is the bottom of the gene pool or ballast bucket as the case may be.
We should, however, acknowledge that the group's composition does fit the psychologist's recommendation, according to sci-fi author Michael Crichton, for engaging unknown life forms (ULF):
He found that fear responses were minimized when the group was small; when group
members knew each other well, when group members could see each other and were not
isolated; when they shared defined group goals and fixed time limits; when groups were
mixed age and mixed gender; and when group members had high … athletic fitness. (19)
On planet LV-223 they go out to explore an artificial structure. They carry no arms because they are on a scientific mission. Their android is a diplomat having mastered primitive Proto-languages. Guess what? Their assumptions were wrong (“This place isn't what we thought it was.”
Science or religion?
Their science, but mostly their frightful experiences, determines that the several structures line up as places of genetic experimentation, having something to do with origins of Earth life, true, but were in more recent times used for development of biological weapons ranging from microbes to worms to serpents to cephalopods to movie aliens. The engineers used this isolated planet to be abandoned as a hot zone when things went awry. A holograph recorder displays what happened, like the camera atop a cop car at a stop. The engineers were “mortal, after all” and a DNA analysis of some of their preserved tissue shows a match to humans (“It's us, it's everything”) as well as to “all life on our planet [being] the same. Every living creature, from algae to human beings, is basically built on the same plan, from the same DNA” (Crichton 23).
These scientists date the stopping of a planned biological weapon test on our Earth at 2,000 years ago. Since they use a formal dating reference to “the year of our Lord, 20xx” and observe Christmas (birth of our lord) and wear crosses (death of our lord), it is suggested what that event was that elevated Earth's status to render it off limits to the engineers' testing, but it's left unsaid. There's an almost obsessive mention, though, of missing parents, but its significance is not explained either. An historian Paul Johnson can perhaps enlighten us:
Luke  presents the … prodigal son tale, … which … has attracted more comment [see,
for example, my review of The Faithgirlz! Bible], and has been the subject of more illus-
trations by artists than any other parable. The younger son of a wealthy man demands his
portion, receives it, then wastes it on “riotous living” in a “far country.” A famine comes
and he falls into want. He becomes a swineherd, “and he would fain have filled his belly
with the husks that the swine did eat.” He repents, concludes he has sinned against God
and his father, and decides to return home in humility to his father, “[I] am no more
worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Instead, when his
father sees him “when he was yet a great way off,” he receives his son with open arms
and kills the fatted calf for a feast of thanksgiving. The well-behaved elder son protests
[to his father] in the name of justice. [“Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither trans-
gressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might
make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured
thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”] But his father tells him,
“[T]hou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make
merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again, was lost and is found.” (112)
The younger son would be that paleface Titan at the beginning who went native to a far country (Earth) where he (his DNA) lived as slime until he came to his senses, his planet of origins beckoning him. “When he was yet a great way off,” on our first moon trip, taking “One small step for man”—quoted in the movie—, our Titan progenitors took an interest in our progress. The fatted calf gratuitously killed would be the introduction of the alien technology of a cybernetic individual, David in the 8th generation of it, which invention was not mothered by necessity but, “We made ya 'cause we could.” (The Greek god namesake of this movie, Prometheus, you may recall, introduced the gods' technology of fire to the Earth.) When the Titan elder brother is awakened from stasis by his troglodyte younger brother who “was dead, and is alive again,” will the elder say the intro to the song, “Well, well, well, look who's here. I haven't seen you in many a year,” and break out singing, “If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake,” or like the brother in the parable, never having had a robot servant for himself, will he go about delivering that cake to Earth, nobody having told him the invasion was called off?
“Prometheus” was directed and produced by Ridley Scott. She used high lighting levels necessary for 3D and later in post-production achieved a darkly shaded atmosphere through grading processes. “Prometheus” unfolds on planet LV-223 not on LV-426 where “Alien” was set. The spaceship where the Titan is deep-sleeping is of the same design as the ships in “Alien” and “Aliens.”
The crew walks around helmeted on the surface of the planet to look suitably out-worldly, but once inside the domes, they remove their helmets to breathe the terra-farmed air, and we can see their faces. The acting was as believable as one could hope for in a film that probably took some liberties with science. It was cut some in length, but I don't think making it longer would have helped; one can't allow too many inconsistencies to build up.
The reason we have a female voice, not male, in our electronics (such as navigation) devices is that the computer HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey” spooked the consumer. David in “Prometheus” does not rehabilitate his reputation any.
I never saw “Alien” (1979), but I did read the Alien paperback. After I saw the sequel “Aliens” I tried taking deep breaths to settle my nerves, and finally went for a walk in the woods. Big mistake! I had one frightening adventure, and after leading my pursuers on a merry chase, I made it back home to fall asleep exhausted. I still seem to live on the edge of the woods but have learned better than to take a midnight stroll. After getting home from “Prometheus” and settling in for the night, there was a bump on the roof. “Prometheus” is not the kind of movie to see if you worry about things that go bump in the night.
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Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.
Al Hoffman, Bob Merrill, and Clem Watts. "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake." 1950. WEB.
Crichton, Michael. Sphere. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988. Print.
Johnson, Paul. Jesus: A Biography from a Believer. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
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Movie Mood: Scary Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: A few glitches, but mostly complete.
Worst Part of this Film: Plot