When Scott decided to take on an a new Alien project he first had to contend with the franchise itself. The Alien property has been one of the most fiercely guarded and at the same time poorly used of the past four decades, with Fox eager to keep the license active but by showing no trust in the abilities of the directors, producers, or other creators to whom they lend it. Scott avoided the issue rather than confront it. Prometheus doesn’t use the exact language or visuals of the other films, creating a prequel with enough of its own style that it can reference the other Alien properties without being directly controlled by them. Concepts based on the work of Dan O’ Bannon and visual inspired by the work of H. R. Giger will be familiar to any fan of the franchise are in the film but with enough changes to avoid legal entanglement.
Prometheus is a story of grand sci-fi concepts from its very beginning. The story covers the existential topics of creation, evolution, identity, ancestry, religious faith, and parentage. Concepts that were subtext in Alien or part of the unwinding narrative of Blade Runner are front and center, the big issues that motivate our protagonists. This is a change from the other films, which dealt with the same ideas but in a less grandiose and more common way, starting from the ground level of the common man . The space ship is still the home of a crew of working stiffs and the company is still a callous organization but the protagonists are explorers and investigators looking for answers to the questions of life and existence from the start. Stumbling across monsters and struggling to survive will come later.
Michael Fassbender steals the show with his incredible performance as the android David. David’s very existence is a complicated web of contradictions. A machine told to act human despite the inability to be human and to carry out strict directives despite common sense or even possibility. It is a very difficult role, requiring a great deal of prowess to tie together all of the strange conflicts that make him a friend and companion in one second and an unfeeling pawn seconds later. Fassbender communicates David in a way that always implies that he knows more, or wants more than he is allowed to say and this enigmatic nature keeps him compelling even when other characters become more basic as the situation turns against them.
Most of the horror sequences in the film begin the second act as the situation turns against the explorers and the things that they have tampered with begin to tamper with them. In these scenes the creatures and people turn on one another and monsters stalk the survivors who are forced into more violent and dangerous actions to survive. The third act is where the struggle bursts out to become more action oriented, with chases and fights and the nobility of sacrifice bringing the film to its conclusion.
In Summary: It’s great to see how Scott was able to expand the ideas of the Alien universe outside the limitations of the previous films. Answering questions about the origin of the series as much as the “origin of the species.” Overall, it’s a fabulous film.
I do have a complaint in that the transition to the third act had me scratching my head a little. After some violent and exciting scenes and the big reveal of the Weyland mission, the characters seem to immediately forget those events, refusing to acknowledge the carnage and plunging right in to the oncoming disaster.