Having just returned from Prometheus first let me give you the short version. It’s bad. I did not enjoy the movie. And it’s bad in the most disappointing way possible because you have the ingredients for a good movie. Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace, Chalize Theron, these people have all done good work. But the characters keep doing things no sane person, much less a scientist going to a new planet would do.
The crew of this ship is 17 people. I realize that might be what’s needed for a ship this size on a scientific mission, but from my perspective, it’s too many characters to work with. I don’t remember any of these characters’ names. But years later, everyone remembers Bowski, Vasquez, and Apone. You spend time with maybe half the crew. Where the hell is everybody? Some of them die, but nowhere near the full 17.
I realized we were in trouble with the basic setup. Multiple ancient civilizations all have a recurring image of a star system that, according to our satellites, as a sun and the potential for life. Based on this, our heroes take off into the black. You know the movie’s got a problem when the premise was already used in Aliens vs. Predator. But I was willing to give them a pass on that. Consider it a warning sign.
So after some obvious foreshadowing about Charlize Theron living in a lifeboat and the atmosphere, the ship settles outside a dome like structure. Could be natural, but it looks like manufactured natural. No sweep of the planet for a larger settlement of any kind? Whatever. I still have hope.
We go into the dome where the landing party (7 people, leaving 4 on the bridge, 6 presumed redshirts onboard) discovers the dome has breathable oxygen. A more cynical person would say this is so they don’t have to act through their helmets. Whatever, Clarke’s Third Law. A less cynical person would worry about a scientist who after a trillion dollar expedition two years out into space gleefully removes his helmet to test the breathable air. I really get that acting through the helmets wasn’t an option. But the premise is just so flimsy and naked.
One character I liked (for a minute) was Sean Harris as the Geologist, Fifield. It was nice to see a scientist doing science-ey things.
At the discovery of Dead Space Jockeys, Fifield and his buddy decide they’ve done their job, discovered life, now they’re leaving. A few minutes later, we’re told there’s a storm coming and the team needs to get back to the ship. Upon arriving, we find out that Fifield and his buddy aren’t back. Cut back to them, they’re lost. This is where the movie lost me. They got lost. No flares, no bread crumbs, no way of finding their way back other than winging it? In Aliens, Ellen Ripley remembered to bring flares to find her way out and she was running into an exploding facility to rescue someone with twenty minutes on the clock.
The big flaw here is the lack of radio contact and oversight this crew has with each other. After five minutes, Sean Harris doesn’t radio in and say, hey where’s the fucking door? We’re told it takes the landing team 15 minutes to get from where they are in the pyramid (yes it’s a pyramid, another holdover from AVP) and in that time no one checks on Sean Harris?
Sean Harris has these cool little orbs that float around and map the pyramid. They write themselves into a corner with these because the bridge of the ship has this gorgeous map of the entire pyramid and the landing party shows up on this in real time with cameras showing feeds to the bridge. No one tells them they’re going the wrong way, no one walks them out. But they do get stuck in the pyramid while the storm is going. Two people cut off on an alien world, and no one’s minding the radio to tell them it’s going to be okay? No one is monitoring their feed? Idris Elba goes to get laid, he doesn’t say, hey I’m leaving the bridge, SOMEONE ELSE HAS TO WATCH THE BRIDGE. You have a crew of 15 on board, WHERE IS EVERYONE?? So they die. One guy gets hit with a facehugger precursor, I don’t know what the fuck happens to Sean Harris. He comes back later to kill all the redshirts as some kind of berserker zombie. No explanation given.
We also see holograms of the Space Jockeys trying to run into the rooms with big human heads. Why were the Space Jockeys trying to get into those rooms? What were they running from? I ask because what they could have been running from (Facehugger precursors) were in the rooms they were running to. And what purpose did these rooms serve? Backup cargo holds?
So later for no apparent reason, David the Android poisons Holloway with whatever the black gunk is coming out of the cylinders littering the pyramid. This gives him a fatal illness which Charlize Theron kills him for rather than letting him on the ship. In the original Alien, Ripley states the quarantine procedure very calmly. She’s a Space Trucker. In this movie, a crew of scientists cannot WAIT to bring the sick man on board the ship. No one is concerned that the entire crew may have been exposed. Least of all David the Android who gave him the thing (I think it’s a parasite) in the first place.
At this time, David sees to Noomi Rapace, our Ripley surrogate, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. They believe her contaminated with something. David confirms she has some kind of embryo in her uterus passed on by Dr. Holloway the previous night. After pushing two people out of the way, she runs to the Auto-Surgeon Machine to get it out. At no point does she see anyone who tries to stop her. Charlize Theron isn’t sitting in her office. No one even notices afterward that she’s cut open her stomach to rip something out of her uterus despite the massive staples.
In a bit of foreshadowing, the Auto-Surgeon apparently is calibrated only to work with men. Why…? I realize it’s to foreshadow that Guy Pearce in old person makeup is on the ship. But you’re saying they built ONLY 12 of these extremely expensive tubes for automatic surgery and they only work with one sex? I know why they made only 12, apparently they can’t administer anything beyond local anesthetic as evidenced by Noomi Rapace repeatedly shooting up with painkillers before surgery. Someone asked the machine to take out a tumor and screamed to death.
When she comes to, Idris Elba (in a horrific southern accent of some kind; why can’t he just be British?) informs Noomi Rapace of the plot. The Space Jockeys made the Aliens (presumably these guys and the Xenomorphs) as biological weapons and this is their weapons depot. How does he know that? It comes out of nowhere and it’s the final nail in this movie’s coffin. The pilot, a man stated to have no interest in the mission beyond flying the ship, has figured out everything before the mission’s primary scientist figured things out.
Still, Guy Pearce in old makeup wants to meet the Space Jockeys, who it’s revealed are humans in really good shape. Apparently the Space Jockeys are dicks. Not that they say this. Presumably they want to fly their ship of alien precursors to Earth to kill everyone. Why is never explained.
So Idris Elba crashes Prometheus into the Space Jockey ship to prevent Earth’s destruction. The Space Jockey ship crashes. Noomi Rapace moves four feet to the left and dodges the falling spaceship. Charlize Theron keeps running in a straight line and is crushed to death. This is very stupid. Noomi Rapace finds an axe for some reason gets the Space Jockey into the room with the auto-surgeon where the parasite it took out of her is now a massive vagina monster. She collects David the Androids head, they find a different Space Jockey Ship, and go to find more Space Jockeys to ask them why they’re dicks. After this, a familiar looking precursor xenomorph pops out of the Space Jockey.
The movie is gorgeous and I wanted to like the performances. That’s the best I can do for you. It just wasn’t very good. I wanted to like it, but the characters made stupid choices and I lost interest. It felt like they were trying to do too much. The Alien movies, despite the hours of time they spent working on the sexual imagery (on full display here) are pretty basic. People we like are trapped in a confined space with something that wants to kill them, they try to survive. That’s it. This movie fails to follow that basic but effective formula that served the franchise very well the first two movies.