In consideration of the horrifyingly interesting trailer for the new Alien: Covenant, I decided to watch the previous movies of the franchise, excluding the predator ones. Out of the bunch, I chose to review Prometheus, as it is the newest, and it stands on its own without any characters from other movies (until Covenant comes out). In this review, I will be covering several factors of the film, including the story, acting, cinematography, and soundtrack. I will also be comparing the film to its precursors.
It’s almost inevitable that you will come across Alien references every once in awhile, and the iconic alien is known to most american movie audiences. I had never watched the Alien movies because I had seen other old horror movies before and many never seemed to fulfill their purpose. Many times you’d find suspenseful moments that would keep you biting your nails, but once the climax of horror is revealed, you can’t help but smile at the just how fake the monster’s puppet body looks. Once I watched Alien though, I was instantly proven wrong as Ellen Ripley’s endeavors to survive an alien embarked space ship were truly terrifying. Prometheus, a prequel to Alien set in the 90s of the 21st century, vaguely follows the origin of the aliens and the ship they were discovered on in the first movie. This crew on an exploration vessel venture to a planet that numerous cave paintings from varying places on Earth indicated of. Once they get there, they sure enough find hostile but primitive alien life forms that manage to live through the harsh environment. These aliens wreak havoc upon the ship crew during the movie but they also find remnants of a intelligent life form they call engineers, with striking resemblance to humans in both looks and DNA. This confirms the main character’s belief that the aliens here were the creators of humans. Once they find one last living engineer, they awaken it from cryosleep, and things go even more south as it slaughters a handful of the crew and sets off on a ship, of the same type as the one in Alien, to destroy Earth. The remaining crew stops it in a suicide mission and the main character, Elizabeth Shaw, is the last human survivor. At the end, we see her venturing out to find the home planet of the engineers with a robot friend, David, to look for answers. Not a very smart choice in my opinion, but I guess that the stressful torment she went through would prevent her from recovering back on Earth. The story itself was pretty unique, and definitely unpredictable, and I thought it was the perfect way to tie up some of the questions of Alien. However, there were small details I didn’t like here and there. For example, once some of the crew members journey to the alien fortress of tunnels, they take off their helmets because their suits tell them that the air outside is breathable. This was not believable, how people would travel through the galaxy to a hostile planet with aliens living on it, and just take off their helmets. It seemed forced, as a way to allow for future events, when one of the crew members inhales black tar-like sludge and becomes a zombie. Another example is when a fallen ship is about to collapse down like a domino upon two running characters.
However, instead of running to the side of the ship’s impact, they run in a straight line outwards from the ship, or domino. The main character finally realizes to run to the side, but the other character, whom the writers couldn’t figure out a better way to kill off keeps running in a straight line, and is crushed. Numerous times throughout the movie, different characters ask the main character if she’s retained her faith in God, since they’ve found out who really created humans. She says no every time and tells them that a god must have created the engineers. When the engineer goes on a killing rampage, it seems like the writers wanted to imply that she was right, since no God would be cruel like that, and that the search for God is never meaningless. I’m not being hateful here, I just didn’t like how the writers seemed to want to force their religious views down people’s throats, and have the search for god as a main theme of the story rather than just a character trait.
The acting in Prometheus was remarkable and had various roles done extremely well, from Michael Fassbender’s robot character to Noomi Rapace’s repeatedly terrorized character. The fright of the characters seemed real and their panic translates off the screen to the viewer, something that wasn’t really relied upon in previous movies. The tension in the room when the engineer is awakened and he towers up, alarming all the crew members to looks of complete unease, was acted perfectly, and viewers can’t help but feel the nervous anticipation of the engineer’s next move. Something that couldn’t happen without the realistic speechlessness and faces of the actors. I’ve seen lots of movies where a scary villain gets up surrounded by the good guys, and all the good guys just have these mad looks like they see the same thing every day. This was not the case for Prometheus. Also important, the actor for the engineer, hidden under layers of prosthetics and makeup was more bone-chilling than the iconic alien, but I think that’s mostly due to his design and not the acting itself. Nothing breathtaking in acting, most likely due to the lack of very in depth characters, but the movie gets the job done in a skillful way.
The cinematography in Prometheus didn’t strike resemblance to Alien, and I feel it’s what made this movie less scary. In Alien the focus was on the characters point of view as they’re put through sinister conditions. This was required of Alien, as there was no cheap, let alone good looking CGI, and the directors knew that puppets weren’t scary, so they would use suspense and project you into the character’s shoes at many times, by these long camera shots just following the character as they travel along corridors and tight spaces. You can only see the character, and their immediate area, so you relate to them. You don’t know if the alien will pop up around the corner and neither does the character. I feel Prometheus relied more on CGI monsters attacking characters face to face and general disturbing moments. While this was scary, it lacked the nerve racking suspense of Alien. It would be scary at first, but monsters would just go on a killing rampage of a bunch of extras and you’d just accept it. The scary parts were mostly before the monsters attacked. One of the only memorable scenes in Prometheus regarding cinematography was this scene where Elizabeth Shaw puts herself in this automated surgery tube, where a squid looking alien is extracted from her stomach, and the robotic arm dangles the squirming creature above Shaw as the tube’s doors take what seems like an eternity to open up. During this whole ordeal the camera is in the tube, looking closely down upon the squid and Shaw, allowing the viewer to relate with Shaw, also being in tight quarters with a terrifying alien.
The soundtrack of this film is nothing close to spectacular. I can’t even remember ever hearing it in the first place, but I’m sure it was there in some parts. They mostly seemed to rely on silence, and the bare sounds of the ordeals just like the first movies. This was completely the director’s choice, and I honestly couldn’t tell if Prometheus would work well with music. It worked in Aliens because the ambience was the soundtrack. There would be scenes where there was a loose head grabber alien in a calm ship room with soft beeps and printer esque sounds to scenes with a giant alien about and ship alarms going off with the overwhelming sound of fog machines. In Prometheus, all there really is is silence.
Prometheus, while a very insightful and creative prequel to Alien, has it’s shortcomings, especially when compared to Alien. The story is very interesting, and the acting couldn’t be done better, but the cinematography which made Alien has been cut down to two or three scenes, and the “look how scary this CGI alien is as it kills off people” scenes dominate the rest. For this reason, I give it a 7.5 out of 10. Yet, it is still a pleasing experience for all audiences. It offers an intriguing story to Alien fans, and a fright to people who can’t compare it to a masterpiece.