Tracing Our Beginnings: Prometheus

Ridley Scott, at this point in time, have solidified himself as one of the cinematic greats, a pioneer and challenger of the cinematic medium, playing a critical role in the development of modern Science Fiction. Scott’s first opus, Alien, acted as a blender of genres, the horror-slasher and science fiction, embracing the two that creates a comforting balance that would prove to be his most influential, one that would brith a franchise and penetrate the deep seeded fears of his audiences since its release and for subsequent audiences to come. Blade Runner would become the sleeper that have blossomed the cinematic fabrics of modern filmmaking, constantly a source of inspirations of storytellers and visual innovators, its slice of uncompromising science fiction existentialism would become the blueprint of thoughtful filmmaking for the genre. It is a film that would slowly creep underneath your skin, the more it is allowed to swim around one’s mind.

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Prometheus seems to aspire to both sides of the science-fiction spectrum, attaining to that exploratory and horror-inspired aesthetic that defined the Alien franchise, whilst dabbling on the ambitious existentialism that recalls the heart of Blade Runner. It is a blend that allows itself to differentiate and create a unique — and enjoyable — enough experience that as we sit and allow it to unfold, only sporadically does its inspired elements enter into our minds, although primarily towards the Alien franchise than Blade Runner. It built upon a hype upon its release that unfortunately could not have been contained, and would most likely plague the minds of every viewer that entered it during its theatrical release, thus leaving it with a general lukewarm response that proclaims its inability to match the ambitious elements it is trying to capture.

Indeed, Prometheus could have easily allowed itself to replicate the essence of the connected franchise, but in doing so with simply add on to the many sequels — or in this case prequel — attached to the original film. The Alien franchise have passed itself down with film after film to expand upon the life of Ripley, a woman constantly in the need to survive, tackling upon a repeated threat that would seemingly haunt her forever, and it is evident through Scott’s chosen direction for Prometheus, that he is tired with such a concept, motivated instead to expand upon the world of its franchise, tackling now ideas that would finally provide a sense of meaning to the franchise; an approach that is certainly controversial, but undoubtedly the positive step towards something timeless. Despite the familiarity in its themes, it will be evident that Prometheus would be looked upon with welcoming responses in the future, representing the film as a standalone piece from the Alien franchise, examining it as a spawn of his profoundly thematic, Blade Runner.

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The crew of the venturing ship, Prometheus, comprising of scientists, pilots, soldiers, and supervisors, have their sights on a moon, LV-223, located in a galaxy far from our own, viewing upon the synonymous clues found on Earth as invitations from supreme beings, whom our protagonists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) as Engineers. Such a theory is proven true through the small prologue that Scott provides, displaying the connections between our species and theirs, one that refuses to provide all the answers, left with only enough to stimulate our minds and hone our attentions. It is answers they search, facts that would resolve the endless theories of humanity’s existence, one that would finally instil true meaning of this life. Questions of the same vein linger through the conversations between members of the crew, particularly when involving or in discussion of David’s (Michael Fassbender) existence and the deep motivations within Charlie. David and Charlie possess that back and forth banter that may seemingly be viewed as individual segments for isolated character development, but in fact their discussion of the rationale and process of creation add further to the film’s larger questions; queries that Scott would refuse to provide answers for by its explosive and ultimately tragic ending.

Their search for the extension of their species had led them to a field of death, one that would surface the harmful agenda of these so-called Engineers, carrying aboard in their ships, are weapons of mass destruction, canisters of viscous liquid, whose effects on our species would cause great physical harm, a toxicity that emphasises our fright of the foreign, a horror that constantly remains, sourced by the ambiguity of it all, recalling the elements of the original franchise. Prometheus retains the spirit of the Alien franchise, with thrills to expose as the plot gradually thickens, but such becomes trivial in the film’s grand scheme of things, with Prometheus through reflection would be remembered for its dilated outlook of a familiar universe, and confront its characters and the audience with questions that have been ultimately left on hold by its resolution, a process that is familiar in the concept of life, where such cannot be provided answers to unless we confront our makers. Since Scott has allowed them to physically exist and within our reach, the metaphorical has now become the literal, where life’s hypotheticals would finally manifest itself — mediated by the filmmaker’s vision and intentions — for its audience to engross themselves in and visually absorb. There is something spectacular and captivating of Shaw’s journey to the unknown, to have stored such great questions and finally been given the opportunity to relieve herself of them — which although Scott temporarily withholds, intending to further expand her tale with an upcoming sequel.

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A high quality production is expected from a film of such grandeur, and from a commercial filmmaker like Ridley Scott, one would only expect the most optimal quality of visual effects to be graced upon us on screen. Unlike the essence of Alien’s set design, Prometheus takes on a more operatic feel to its construction, highlighting the innovations of our technology through the interactive aspects of the character’s props and surroundings, polished with a dazzling sheen that would engage and transport the mind of even the most passive of audiences; far are we from the earthy roots of Alien’s tools, but it retains that practical essence that pulsated in the technology of Ridley Scott’s franchise opener. It may mark itself as a visual upgrade, but it is far from intrusive to the film’s narrative, effective the film is in incorporating its technological advancements into progression of the story, justifying their presence and amaze us in the process – a true example of this is the utilisation of the Med Pod, a piece of equipment that plants our curiosity from the moment we lay our eyes on moment, and conveys its true purpose and potential during a moment of great urgency and suspense.

Prometheus is certainly a conflicting feature, it pleads for profoundness while it streamlines in traditional storytelling, anchored in an atmospheric and tonal blend that may or may not work — depending on your personal tastes, and the confusing notion of having Guy Pearce’s self-preserving Peter Weyland be played by a younger actor in old makeup rather than to have it naturally performed by someone fitting of its age. It is a film that struck me through its larger questions that surprisingly refuses for an easy resolution; it is clearly an introductory piece of something expansive, but carries enough weight on its own to mark itself as a worthy standalone piece — a possible preparation from Scott in the case that the film would fail to return at the box office. The announcement of its sequel would surely provide us with the answers that we have long craved, a sequel that would further emphasise the unspoken or ambiguous intentions of the original film.

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