Sunday, January 04, 2015

Prometheus (2012)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING:  I’m going to give away major details of the movie.  I’m not saying that it will completely ruin the experience, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to consider holding off on this review.  I recognize that not everyone likes spoilers.

It’s hard to expand on a movie if you weren’t originally planning on it.  Some movie series, like Lord of the Rings, were planned in advance.  In other cases, subsequent movies come across as a blatant attempt to cash in on the fame of the first movie.  When I saw the coming attractions for Prometheus, it seemed interesting.  A little research revealed that it was supposed to be a prequel to the Alien movies.  I had never been a big fan of the Alien movies.  I knew the basic concept, but I don’t usually watch action movies.  Still, Prometheus looked interesting.

The movie begins with an alien standing on Earth about to drink a black liquid.  Once he does, his body disintegrates and his remains fall into a stream.  The water carries his cells around the area, creating the seeds of life for our planet.  (At least, this is what I assume is going on.)

Countless years later, some archaeologists (Elisabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway) find the same pattern of circles drawn by civilizations all over the world.  They’re not only separated by distance, but by time as well.  There’s no way that they could have all had contact with each other.  So what does it mean?  It’s believed that it’s an invitation to meet what one of the archaeologists calls the Engineers, who may be responsible for designing us.

So, the Weyland Corporation builds a trillion-dollar ship to visit a planet that is most likely one of the circles in the formation.  Janek is the captain of the ship, but Weyland sends along Meredith Vickers to keep their investment safe.  There’s also David, the android.  He’s there to make sure everything’s running smoothly while the crew is in hibernation as well as potentially translate in case they meet the Engineers.

After a two-year journey, the ship makes it to the planet.  (Well, technically a moon, if I recall.)  The atmosphere is toxic to humans, but they find a series of caves that has a suitable atmosphere.  They can take off their masks and really look around.  What they find is a huge decapitated alien.  Aside from the alien being something like nine feet tall, it looks fairly human.  Upon further examination, it’s discovered that their DNA is an exact match for humans.

The crew realizes that this is most likely an outpost.  The Engineers were probably doing some sort of weapons research and didn’t want to risk contaminating their home world.  It’s likely that an experiment went horribly wrong, killing everyone.  (Well, almost everyone.)  It’s probably best to get the heck out, especially considering that David has deliberately poisoned Charlie and that there are little worm-like creatures that can do some serious damage.

But, no.  Turns out that their mission is to meet the Engineers in hopes of finding a cure for old age.  David wants to push on.  He eventually finds a ship with an Engineer in suspended animation.  If you’re thinking that waking him is a bad idea, you’re right.  There’s a hologram that shows the vastness of space.  It’s implied that the Engineers seeded tons of planets, including ours.  For some reason, our planet was slated for annihilation.  Why they held off, I don’t know, but I think this guy was supposed to be part of the crew that was to carry out the mission.

Long story short, there’s an epic battle and a lot of people bite the dust.  (In at least one case, literally.)  Not everyone, though, so there is a strong possibility of a sequel.  I’m not sure that this would be a good idea.  If there is a sequel released, I’ll probably go just to see what happens.  However, I think that with some movies, you may be better off not knowing what happens next.

If you’ve looked around the Internet, you may know that there are a few unanswered questions.  The first thing that I wondered about was the opening sequence.  We’re left to assume that the Engineer’s DNA seeded the planet.  If this is the case, how is it that humans have an exact DNA match?  Did the Engineer’s DNA really disintegrate and reform something that resulted in an exact match, even though they look a lot different from us?  What are the odds that millions of years of evolution would produce something in any way similar to them?

Another thing that got me wondering is why they would send us to an outpost.  My first thought was that they may not have wanted to reveal the location of their home planet.  It’s possible that they could have sent us to a system that they could monitor.  If we ever did make it to the planet, they could then judge us.  Then again, how did we even know about the system in the first place?  I realized that it was possible that we were visited and we somehow figured out that it was an outpost with weapons of mass destruction.  If the aliens really did want us dead, we could use these weapons against them.

Why want us dead?  Why not?  We always seem to assume that aliens will be nice to us.  I remember a Twilight Zone episode where aliens land and say that they’re disappointed in is.  The various nations make peace with each other.  When the alien emissary comes back to see how we’ve done, he reveals that his civilization made our race to breed warriors.  We went in the wrong direction and were punished.  It’s possible that this is the case here.  Maybe we weren’t making progress quickly enough.  Maybe it wasn’t their kind of progress.  If they did intervene in our development, maybe we were allowed a reprieve.

That brings me to another question.  Why hold off the plan to wipe out humans?  Most likely, the Engineers realized that their plan was overkill and had no way to tone it down.  We see what the Aliens did in other movies.   I’m thinking that the one Engineer put himself in suspended animation because his fellow Engineers didn’t feel safe letting him off the planet just yet.  They’d leave him there either to warn others or until it was safe to let him leave.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how David was able to figure out the Engineers’ language.  This has always been a pet peeve of mine.  David spent the two-year journey awake and “deconstructing” Earth’s languages.  I can understand maybe figuring out the text, or at least being able to make a good guess.  However, how was he so confident that he’d be understood when speaking?  Granted, the Engineer didn’t have a good reaction, but I’ve seen this in other movies and TV series.  I’ve never understood how it’s possible to speak a language you’ve never heard spoken.

Another thing that I often wonder about is why the aliens look the same as they did all those millions of years ago.  In however long a span of time, we went from DNA fragments to our current form.  How is it that their biological form stayed the same?  How did their language stay the same?

I’m not saying that this is a bad movie.  I’m just saying that I have a few issues with it.  Not having seen the other Alien movies, I’m not sure how many references I missed.  It looks to me like Prometheus could have been developed independently only to have the Alien references put in either to complete it or increase its odds of being produced.  You could easily have removed the Alien references and had a complete movie.

I don’t regret having rented this movie.  As I said, I may look into the sequel if they ever get around to making one.  However, I’ll be going in with no expectations. 

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