My expectations going into this film were not high. The Alien franchise (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien vs. Predator, AvP: Requiem) has been on a steady decline over the years since Ridley Scott's original Alien concept. Prometheus was advertised as a prequel of sorts, to show the origin of the Alien species. I expected a high budget CG thriller packed with screeching, acid-spitting, banana-headed mutations. The result however was much deeper.
It's been mentioned in prior movies that the aliens were "perfect" in their aggressive behavior and defense mechanisms, eluding to a grander design. Thus Prometheus serves as an introduction to the designers; a race of hyper intelligent proto-men called the Engineers, who stand roughly eight feet tall, have translucent white skin and rodent black eyes, and are built like bald wrestlers.
From the opening scene we are led to believe them the creators of life. One Engineer stands on a cliff side by a waterfall; his mothership in the background taking off, abandoning him on the desolate planet. In a ceremonial Sepukku fashion he drinks a mysterious ooze that looks like it came from a Tool music video, and while his body decomposes, falls over the cliff side into the water. We watch his DNA blacken, unzip, recombine, and begin a new chain of events. One man to fill a world with life.
A team of scientists find clues to the location of these Engineers by matching paintings and hieroglyphs of giant men pointing toward a star constellation, dug out of caves and tombs from all over the world. Lacking the funds to hire a ship and crew to investigate, they bring their findings to the most trustworthy corporation in the galaxy; Wayland Yutani.
As the team uncovers strange relics left behind on a faraway moon, it becomes evident that H.R. Giger's fantasy designs for the first Alien movie still carry a lot of weight. The ancient caverns are gray, with rounded organic shapes, like ribs and bones. The statues are are vaguely humanoid with strange, unsettling aberrations. And the alien creatures that are spawned from the black ooze resemble fleshy genitalia. Slight similarities to the human form give the aliens an added level of grotesque fascination, which is a decided improvement over leggy women with exoskeletons and fangs (some of Giger's early works depicted Aliens with mammaries and sex organs)
But the visual depth of Prometheus doesn't stop at the visceral, gut-wrenching reaction of seeing a vagina with teeth. Or a Cesarian section being performed on a woman giving birth to a squid. There is symbolism abound in Prometheus, with references to mythology (Prometheus stealing fire. Zeus's head cracking open, giving life to Athena, organ/primordial jars, Pandora's Box) as well as major religious overtones. After all, the question they hope to ask of the life-giving Engineers is; Why?
No Man Needs Nothing
My conclusion is simply this; go see Prometheus. While it is a Rated-R thriller/horror, the level of gore isn't astoundingly disturbing. Yet, as I mentioned, the suggestive form of the creatures and the way they infect their hosts can be cringe-inducing. I also believe it was tastefully done.
I would also like to praise the characters, especially David, if not for their depth than for their interesting quirks, which far surpass any other Alien movie. But anything more than a brief nod would reveal too much about the film. My only complaint about Prometheus seems to be it's convoluted evolutionary chain and how the black ooze functions. My example;
*SPOILER* *SPOILER* *SPOILER*
If the black goo melts DNA and recombines it, like primordial ooze, then why the hell does this create an Alien over a few generations of infectious reproduction? If Maggot + Ooze = Vicious Eyeless Anaconda, then why does Human + Ooze = Alien? Is the movie stating that zerglings are the final evolutionary form of man? This may be true in Korea, but I always assumed the rest of mankind would reach a shape resembling the "Grays" from Close Encounters.
Or I may be misunderstanding the black ooze and its function. It could simply be a miracle muck, spawning whatever the hell it wants. Or it could be mysterious plot-moving soup. But if it's simply a device to justify the existence of the aliens, it's a clever one, because it still has me scratching my head.