(Spoilers contained within this review)
(Spoilers contained within this review)
Prometheus is a film about life and death. It is about harmonious coequals. Think about Yin and Yang. Think about positive and negative. Think about entropy and enthalpy. And here we get the full presentation - in the beginning we witness the formation of life. It starts when an alien (called an "Engineer") drinks from a vial of something that is essentially analogous to death. The engineer and potion of death mix (the engineer becomes very ill) and the result breaks apart the Engineer - splicing apart the smallest divisible pieces of him and then new systems of life flourish and evolve in his wake.
Later in the movie we see the engineers and the death fluid again. The starship that the engineers are on contains tons of the death fluid. We also witness how the death fluid affects humans - effectively it kills them and potentially spawns killing machine like monsters. The Engineers are a "Superior Race," per David the androids assessment and I speculate that perhaps they come from some infinite future or at least a longer timeline of natural progression than the Humans living on Earth.
After watching all this I realized that life cannot exist without death. These engineers must have perfected some forumla of death that when combined with themselves creates the perfect balance between life and death and thus allows the evolution of and creation of new life forms. Engineers = Yin and potion of death = Yang.
Evolution is a big theme here: cells are shown and they begin to divide and multiply. There are single celled organisms and then multi-cellular organisms. This is not to say that we are without divine intervention (as pointed out so eloquently by Shaw (who made the makers?)) Also there is a striking resemblance that the Engineers have with the humans. Many thematic elements were brought into contention regarding worldview. I, as the reviewer, think my role is to make sure I can stay objective in writing and not let my accepted belief of how the universe works change my perspective on the film. But, because this is a controversial topic it might be important to note that I am basically agnostic. And in my opinion, the ideas on the creation of humanity as presented here are perfectly plausible.
Seamlessly mixed in to all the speculation and debate is engrossing entertainment and I salivated through every minute of it. I loved how two-faced Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender's characters were. Of course these characters have their own agenda and rest assured there is more going on than what you can see from the get-go. Fassbender takes this film to the next level and delivers what I believe is an Oscar-worthy performance. He is very interested in perseverance - in keeping everyone alive and in staying interested in how everyone is doing. But he is also taking orders from Weyland himself and this eventually interferes with the care and attention he gives to everyone else. The audience is conflicted with the morality of David's actions when he infects Charlie Holloway with the fluid. We are again conflicted with the morality of his actions when he realizes Shaw has an alien embryo growing inside her but will not perform the surgery to remove it. He is following orders and had to put on hold his ethical subroutines. And he is programmed to follow orders. I liked David very much - even when he was being bad. He was a model of efficiency. There were other machines with what seemed to be moral and ethical (and possibly Weyland Company implemented) boundaries. When Shaw asks the medical pod to give her a cesarean it tells her no. When Shaw asks the medical pod for removal of a foreign object (I believe she said debris) her request is of course granted. We are told early on that the pod is calibrated for men and this also might be why Shaw's cesarean request is denied but I do, however, find it hard to believe that the pod would be completely oblivious to human female anatomy since it seems to know all that there is to know about male human anatomy.
I read many reviews from critics that were having a hard time with the content in this movie - saying that a lot of things go unexplained and a lot of things are left "open ended." In my opinion, if all things were completely provable and explicable - things like religion would lose their value and meaning not to mention the universe would be without its mysticism and its "greater unknown." Such questions parallel asking a religious person, "How does God work in terms of miracles he performs and when he elects to perform them?" In parallel to other films, "Why is the Rain Main a high functioning autistic savant?" "Why does Hal from 2001 feel threatened by being deactivated? Is he indeed sentient?" The greater unknown is what makes sci-fi as well as other genres great; it is what makes exploration an adventure and it is what encourages us to excel at finding truth in a universe full of the unknown.
I read several reviews that were baffled that Millburn and Fifield got lost when trying to go back to the ship. My wife was even upset with that (in our first screening together) and thought that no geologist could ever get lost. But I have several things to say in response to this. First, they were afraid. I do think that there was a certain degree of fear that these characters were feeling and it even seemed that there was a greater degree of fear with Fifield than with Millburn. I think that this may have caused some issues with their ability to make judgments. It was also an expedition that occured right after they had landed and I think these guys were lacking a certain degree of preparation. I think these two reasons alone could easily explain how they got lost, and while knowing nothing about how their computers or equipment works I have come to the conclusion that it might require some work on their part in order to find the correct way to go. The other thing I read too is that aparrently the people in this movie all make glaring mistakes and this is somehow part of the plot - so Fifield and Millburn getting lost, Weyland wanting to meet his maker and getting murdered in the process and even the crew - not paying attention to the situation at all times (thinking of the Captain Janek/Vickers interaction here) led to disasterous consequences. The Engineers never seem to make any mistakes and the lone survivor of the mission never seemed to make any mistakes either...
I read more reviews that seemed to indicate that there was an issue with the people that were brought on this journey. I guess something to keep in mind is that the scientists that were brought are traditionally terraforming planets and not doing explorative research like they potentially could have been doing here. But I don't think that the intention of the mission was to do much in the way of research anyway since Weyland is paying for it and his goal is to meet the maker of mankind - something that he knew was possible after getting Shaw and Charlies take on why they should come out to this place to begin with. The other thing too - I think several of the crew members had hidden agendas that we really don't find out about until Weyland is brought out of his stasis much later in the film. I think the usefulness quotient of the crew members can be measured by their level of utility to the guy that brought them there in the first place - Weyland himself.
I read somewhere that the scientific method was not properly employed in anything that any of the scientists had done. First of all let me tell you all what the scientific method is: It is a process by which you ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. More specifically:
Ask a Question
Do Background Research
Construct a Hypothesis
Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
Communicate Your Results
And nowhere in this movie did I see a scientist that was out of line in doing any of this. Why was Millburn being so playful with the alien snake that stuck its head out of the organic fluid? Because he was conducting a test! Does this life form react to physical stimulus? Let's test. His arm got broken and he was killed but in that process he did not violate the scientific method. Some of the best scientists in the world are willing to do the craziest things in order to progress their theories. This could have been an example of that. Also, unlike us (the audience) perhaps he was not very afraid as he thought his suit would protect him from a seemingly gentle creature (or so he may have thought in his head)
People had a problem with the notion of "Let's take our helmets off." I know that on the outside it seemed stupid but the air had been examined by Ford and she found that there were no contaminants (which she verbally said to EVERYONE) and further David said it was ok (atmospherically). The movie still acknowledges that this is a dumb idea (which I agree that it is) and Shaw clearly objects to it. But Charlie Holloway, being the cavalier ass that he is, insists on trying it and we find that it is indeed breathable. He had a hunch. So now we have to examine the character Charlie Holloway and determine why he has these random hunches and why he has to be a bit of a wild individual. Not enough information is provided to do such analysis, but I know for sure that there are scientists out there today that are absolutely insane and also extremely brilliant.
Also I think something should be said to the effect that the economics of the future could be somewhat different. It is clear that economics play a role for each of these characters and add to this the fact that these people work for a company that sends them out on terraforming assignments but does not tell them where they are going before-hand or why. When we hear Fifield say that he is there to get a paycheck I think it is safe to assume that he has a financial reason for doing what he is doing - and his abilities as a geologist might be better suited for terraforming projects. Also Weyland who owns this gigantic company that financed this mission should naturally be the man in charge of all the machines (David included) and they should all serve his interests and no one else's.
This movie does not try to be a crowd pleaser. Instead it engages your mind and makes you think - much in the same way 2001 presented various scenes and ideas that were not understood right away. The same can be said for Blade Runner. People needed to collaborate and share ideas in order to understand Prometheus - and in understanding many films (such as 2001) the understanding is more theoretical in nature. In my opinion this is a huge plus for the film.
I suppose this can also be a con, there is a lot to think about and mull over in your head. Some might be bored... The subject matter is complicated and for most of the questions raised - while not always answered (and for VERY good reason) - they are a means to a greater end story-wise.
Prometheus is an absolutely BRILLIANT motion picture, and while I have not put enough thought on where it goes in my all time favorites list I can definitely say that it will be on there after a bit more time goes by (and I can see this a few more times) I do think for sure this movie is better than 1979's Alien - for me there is no doubt on that.
This review has been based on four Prometheus 2D screenings and multiple views of all of the viral and trailer campaign materials.
**** out of ****