Saturday, June 23, 2012
Prometheus’ Ambition A Godly Venture
Posted by Courtney Small
God, evolution, and the reason for our existence has been analyzed and discussed for centuries although you would not know judging from the rampant internet chatter about the film Prometheus. To be fair, when you name your film after a titan from Greek mythology who was punished by the gods for stealing their fire and giving it to mankind, you are bound for some heated discussions. It is rather refreshing to see a summer blockbuster generate such widespread intellectual debate online. While a prequel to Alien, though the creators will tell you different, the film actually works best when looking at it as its own separate entity. The film is ambitious in scope and works best when it is not focusing on aligning itself with the lore of the previous Alien films.
(warning spoilers occur after this point)
Prometheus is a film that poses many questions about what, if any, is purpose of mankind’s existence. The film takes an interesting approach in regards to the act of creation. The ability to create, and sustain, life is something that mankind has been obsessed with for centuries. However, Prometheus takes the stance that the ability to create life is curse that leads to an endless cycle of destruction and discontent. This is nicely exemplified in the various levels of disappointment in the film by the creators and those who have been created.
No one seems to be more disappointed than the father figures in the film. The God-like alien beings, known as “Engineers”, planted the seeds that created life on earth. Unfortunately, mankind evolved into something far more destructive than they anticipated which left the Engineers with no other choice but to plot to wipe out humans all together. On a human level, this disappointment is conveyed through the character of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the billionaire founder and CEO of Weyland Corp. Although Weyland’s biological daughter, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), is on the Prometheus ship, it is the android David (Michael Fassbender) who is more respected in Weyland’s eyes. This leads to a rather interesting sibling rivalry of sorts between Vickers and David. Though both are resentful of Weyland, they each wish for his death for different reasons.
Vickers is clearly ready to take Weyland industries in a new direction and prove that she can surpass her father’s legacy. She spends most of her time on the Prometheus ship trying to overcompensate for her lack of true authority by projecting her perceived dominance on the crew. The scene in which she refuses to let an infected Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) back on the ship was a nice testosterone infused nod to a similar scene Sigourney Weaver had in Alien. The only individual who can see through Vickers’ tough facade, and her desire to see the mission fail, is David.
David is the obedient son who is the twinkle of his father’s eye. However, all David wants is his freedom. His comment about all children “wanting to kill their parents” is the embodiment of everything he and Vickers feel towards Weyland. In many ways David comes across as more in tune with the flaws of mankind than the humans on the ship. Fassbender is fantastic in the role and nearly steals the entire film. His interpretation of David provides a nice contrast to Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, who serves as the heart in the film.
Shaw’s conflict between her religious beliefs and her scientific quest for answers is fascinating to watch. Even after enduring a self-imposed surgical procedure that found her in close confines with a deadly creature, easily the most intense scene of the entire film, Shaw’s quest for answers compels her to push forward. The fact that she ends up on the ship with David is a perfect commentary on the flaws and strengths of mankind. David knows that there is no answers to the question Weyland and the crew seek. However, Shaw’s desire for answers and meaning is what keeps her going. It is the main thing that separates humans from androids and Engineers.
While I enjoyed Prometheus, I am itching to see it again as I had several issues with the film and wonder if they will be as noticeable upon second viewing. For example, the film has too many convenient, and at times downright silly, moments that serve no other purpose but to further the plot. Normally this would be fine for a mindless action film, but Prometheus is a film that is too smart, and too ambitious, to have to resort to such pedestrian tricks. Characters frequently make decisions that completely go against everything the audience has seen up to that point. The annoying thing about these moments is that try too hard to link Prometheus to the first Alien film.
Prometheus spends so much time establishing itself as a unique experience the last act feel like a completely different film. To be honest, the film could have worked extremely well without several of the elements in the latter half. The last act played more like a long intro to the final shot, which is the” money shot” for Alien fans. Despite the quibbles I had with the film, Prometheus is a cinematic experience that I will not soon forget. The overall questions the film raised, the strong performances, and the glorious visuals will have me revisiting Prometheus on several more occasions.