I saw it, and I enjoyed it. I’m not saying it was a great movie; it was a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.
What follows is my entirely spoilerific rambly take on Prometheus. You’ve been warned.
The first thing to mention is, I’m sure to no one’s surprise, the role of women in the film. I thought it started well with one of the lead archaeologists being a woman, and indeed the one to make the final discovery that locks the whole ‘they’re inviting us to go visit them’ into place. And then the apparent leader of the spaceship is a woman, too, so that was cool, and one of the crew too, seemingly the one with med training. So… three out of 17. Well, ok, it’s only 2093, so maybe things haven’t changed a whole lot? Anyway, things progress, and then I got cranky… because Holloway, the male archaeologist, is talking about how amazing it is that life is ubiquitous and that it can be created anywhere, and Shaw – the woman – gets all teary because she can’t have children. Now, I understand that this is indeed a very painful thing for many women; and I understand that it sets up the tension for later in the film when – spoilers! – she appears to be pregnant, but… seriously? What it felt like was someone, somewhere, thinking “hmm, we really must account for this young woman having a spectacular career and going off in a spaceship while not worrying about her toddlers at home. I know! Make her infertile!” And it made me angry. Especially – especially – when teamed with the attitude towards Vickers, nominal head of the spaceship.
Because it really is nominal: in his introductory speech, Weyland appears to make the archaeologists the leaders of the expedition; and Janek is the captain of the ship, so he has significant power too. Fine, whatever, a confused power structure; this is nothing new, and interesting for plot tensions. It still sucks. Then there are a few lewd comments about lap dances with Vickers and suchlike… ok, grunts make fun of their commander, I can kinda see that. But then there’s a conversation between Janek and Vickers where the former says she should just say she’s looking to get laid, rather than pretending to be interested in something vital to the success of the mission. Vickers laughs this off quite successfully, and I thought it would be left there as an example of adult banter between people who respect each other. But then Janek asks whether she’s a robot, and Vickers’ response? “My room, ten minutes.” And at that point I got pretty cranky. Because of course, a woman resisting a man’s advances is clearly inhuman. And a woman already struggling with clear chains of command is clearly going to sleep with a subordinate just to prove she can! So. Dumb.
Oh, and the medic gets very few lines and dies horribly, but this was the case for most of the male red-shirts too, so that didn’t fuss me much.
And then there’s the mystical pregnancy. Oh yes, ladies and gentleman, there is one. I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when you realise that yes, Ridley, this is an Alien prequel (more on that below). Shaw is told, by David, that she is pregnant… about three months’ pregnant, which is impossible unless we’re to accept that pregnancy is halted by cryosleep, which I guess it might be. Of course the other option is that actually this is from the sex 10 hours ago, which is also impossible… but the TRUTH! Yeh, it’s an alien. And it leads to a very graphic attempt at a caesarian, which is only possible after Shaw tricks the automatic surgery unit that it must do abdominal surgery on her, which it has to be tricked into because it’s configured for a male and therefore can’t do a caesarian. WTH? A gender-specific automatic surgery unit? Are you for real? So, a few issues in that little plot device then.
Now that I have that out of my system, what else is there to say? Oh, I thought Michael Fassbender was generally excellent as David, especially for the first half of the film. I think I picked him as an android in the first two seconds of seeing him walk; I really liked being introduced to him walking around the spaceship alone, checking up on things – and his fascination with Lawrence of Arabia was awesome and gave me all sorts of expectations (not all of which were fulfilled) for his role throughout. It does, of course, poignantly contrast with the utter callousness directed towards him by Weyland and, especially, Holloway, later in the film. This callousness from Holloway was one of the things that struck an off-note for me, because otherwise he is shown to be a generally sympathetic and empathetic character. I know it’s possible for someone to be perfectly nice to ‘like’ people and evil towards the ‘unlike’; but it still felt off. And sadly, David goes seriously off piste in the second half of the film, and it was just another bit that didn’t make sense. Why was he so determined to bring back samples that he infected Holloway? From Ash, in Alien, and from Carter in Aliens it makes sense – it’s part of their instructions. But with David, all we know is that Weyland wants to meet the creators; are we seriously expected to think that David hopes that infection will somehow turn Holloway into one? It just seemed like yet another way to draw a parallel between this and Alien – because make no mistake, this is absolutely the Alien/Aliens story all over again, and basically a direct prequel.
Shaw IS Ripley, in many respects. The four Alien movies are in many ways the evolution of Ellen Ripley, from somewhat naive spacefarer with a dislike for violence through to a demi-monster for whom violence threatens become the be-all. Shaw can be seen as the stage before this: she rarely uses violence, and indeed in fighting the alien at the end who threatens to kill her does not personally actually fight him: she lures him into a fight with the alien thing that had previously been in her stomach (which has, in a matter of hours, grown to epic proportions). And at the end (I did say there were spoilers!) she wants to go off and find the aliens’ home planet, if she can, not to deliver the ship-load of biological weapons she has at her disposal, but to ask them what humanity did wrong. No “get away from her you bitch” lines there (but hey, she’s not a mum, so what can you expect?).
Look, there are dozens of other plot holes that I could happily drive a semi-trailer through. I know they’ve been picked over by many people on the internet – and heck, the stuff I’ve ranted about above has been too. But you know what? I don’t count it a waste of my two hours. Terminators 3? That was a gigantic waste of my time, and I wanted a scrubbing brush to clean my brain with afterwards. Prometheus, by contrast, I thoroughly (well, mostly) enjoyed at the time, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about it afterwards. Would I stop someone from going to see it? Only if I thought they would have series trigger issues. Will I watch it again? Almost certainly not. And that’s ok.