I saw the sort-of Alien-prequel movie Prometheus last night. Well, it’s more of a prequel-to-a-prequel.
My Thoughts Overall
Ridley Scott has said that the movie will be in the same ‘universe’ as the Alien franchise, but won’t link directly. And that is exactly what it is. I described it to a friend as a chapter book, where Prometheus is chapter one, and the first Alien movie is chapter three. They could link up with each other, but there is something else missing in between.
I was waaaaay too excited about the movie, so as a natural consequence it couldn’t blow my mind as much as I wanted. Having said that, it still blew my mind. The plot tackles some deep existential questions, the visuals are stunning, and of course it is suspenseful.
If there is any way that I could be disappointed in this movie it’s that it focused more on the sci-fi aspects and less on the horror aspects. I really wanted to feel trapped and terrified while watching it (like the first two Alien movies), and while I did feel that way at some parts, it wasn’t to the intensity level that I would have preferred.
Existentialism and Spoilers
Let’s get right down to it- this movie is deeper than it first appears. It’s the kind of film where you leave thinking “Okay, that was rad. I get it.” Then the questions come. And they keep coming. You realize that scenes and dialogue that appeared innocuous during the film were actually loaded with content. If you want a full breakdown of the movie, look somewhere else- I simply want to illuminate the themes I find appealing.
The main question the movie tackles is “Where do we come from?”
In the beginning of the movie so see a figure sacrificing himself in a river (on what appears to be Earth) which ultimately seeds the planet with the DNA so that humans may evolve. This is the metaphorical Prometheus of the movie, bringing fire (life) to Earth from the gods (the Engineers). It looks to be like a quasi-religious ceremony as well given that the figure (or Engineer) was in a hooded cloak.
Throughout the movie the team of the Weyland Corp. space craft Prometheus are trying to find their way back to the home planet of the Engineers to figure out why they made us. Mr. Weyland, who is old and dying, is also aboard the ship-likely trying find a way to avoid death by appealing to the intellectually superior Engineers. The ship’s crew are a mix of religious and scientific minded people, and it is clear that they are seeking the answer to where we come from for different reasons.
At one point the android, David, is having a talk with a scientist on board. The scientist is borderline obsessed with finding the Engineers to ask them why humans exist. David asks “Why did humans make me?” And the scientist replies “Because we can.” To this David retorts “Imagine how disappointed you would be to receive the same answer from your creator.” This is important because it implies that humanity’s existence is essentially meaningless, a theme that occurs throughout the movie.
Also, later in the movie, as Mr. Weyland is dying he utters “There is nothing.” David replies “I know, Mr. Weyland. Have a good journey.” This further implies that humanity is accidental, that there is no driving force, or no afterlife to look forward to.
David himself is also evidence of this nothingness, blurring the line of where life ends and begins. He is human like, watches movies, recites lines from his favorite films, and even has favorites. Also, throughout the movie, he tries to understand the human drive to know about their existence. I think the act of understanding itself is very human, further blurring the line between life and technology.
This theme of nothingness is juxtaposed throughout with religious faith. It is purposeful that the only individual who believes in religion survives, and continues on the search for why humans were created. Also, that the creation of life on Earth is also done in a quasi-religious ceremony further highlights the interplay between religion and nothingness in the movie. On the one hand humanity is only a copy of something else, a counterfeit. On the other, we exist at all due to possible religious devotion, which in a more philosophical way implies that we are religious beings, or at least the fruit of religion.
There a many other themes in the movie, including relationships, the dangers of genetic engineering, the dangers of having weapons of mass destruction, and the blurring of where technology becomes life itself (David). Also, there are various tie-ins to the alien franchise (even the implication that the existence of the xenomorph from the Alien movie is accidental itself).
These could all be stand-alone posts themselves, so I won’t cover them here. Besides, for Alien nerds like me those conversations are best left face-to-face. Or face-hugger to face-hugger.