I’ve now seen Prometheus twice so I’d like to tell y’all my spoiler-filled thoughts. I’ve read a lot of reviews and opinions seem generally mixed: the visuals are spectacular but the plot, science, and character motivations are weak. I see what these reviews are saying but I give Prometheus some leeway just because there are so few big budget, big idea sf movies. For example, I find the ideas in Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods to be complete fantasy. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the mythic resonance of Jack Kirby’s The Eternals and it doesn’t stop me from digging Prometheus. And like The The Eternals, Prometheus is showing us our place in the cosmos by investigating the myth of the Titans.
The beginning sequence of Prometheus shows the Earth being seeded with life. An Engineer is transformed into the primordial soup of DNA strands. Why would the Engineers seed the earth with life, come back and check on it after millions of years, and then try to destroy it? Maybe it was because they could, the same answer that Charlie gives David for why humanity would create synthetic people with artificial intelligence. Or maybe the answer’s more sinister and the Engineers created humanity to provide the Engineers with test subjects for their weapons of mass destruction.
I dig Prometheus because it plays with ideas as large as a planet and as old as life. Throw in body horror, deadly impregnations, and highly sexualized monster designs that approach Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit and I’m sold. It’s not as good as Alien but hardly any movie can match that spare masterpiece.
Even after seeing all of the riffs on the xenomorph in Prometheus, the original xenomorph remains my favorite sf creature. It’s ruthless, it’s terrifying, it has no eyes but it knows exactly where you are. It’ll impregnate you with its young and destroy you. We have no idea how intelligent they are. In the Alien quadrilogy, they are a force of nature. Does it spoil my appreciation of the xenomorph to know that they are purposefully created weapons? No. In the other Alien movies, we get hints that Weyland-Yutani wants specimens to use as templates for biological weaponry. With its metal teeth, acid blood, and shiny reflective carapace, the xenomorph already inhabits a weird limbo between machine and animal. And I love the idea of the mutagenic ur-Alien ooze that the Prometheus crew encounters in the skull-topped pyramid. We see so many varieties of effects and creatures that I can only assume that the ooze delivers individualized destruction.
I can forgive the rushed, reckless investigation of the Prometheus crew by thinking of Elizabeth and Charlie as religious zealots on a quest instead of rational scientists. Shaw’s faith in particular is unshakeable. Even when our creators want to wipe us out she still clings to her cross. It reminds me of Philip K Dick’s gnostic outlook: our world is a place of evil, therefore the being who created the cosmos is evil; but Christ delivers salvation from outside the evil material world. Or maybe that faith is a delusion and it’s just more massive, more implacable, and more evil giants all the way up to the source of the universe.
If the Prometheus sequels get made they could definitely ruin my enjoyment by providing too many unsatisfying explanations and not enough mysteries. I’m not really interested in seeing exactly how we get from the last scene of Prometheus to the crashed spaceship the crew of the Nostromo finds on Alien.