Stephen West




I finally got to see Prometheus a little while ago, and the experience has been stewing away in my brain long enough for me to want to write about it. I’ve also been absorbing some of the reviews I studiously ignored before seeing the film, as spoilers are my great hate, and their mixed nature is quite interesting to me. It’s clear that many people had vast and varied expectations of this film, so it’s not surprising that it failed to live up to all of them.

I suppose I should lay out my own expectations, which were fairly simple: I was looking forward to going on a journey with Ridley Scott, and seeing the things he wanted to show me. I knew from the trailer that there were some amazing things to be seen. I think it should have been obvious to anyone who has followed Ridley’s career that he is anything but predictable. Blade Runner was nothing like Alien, apart from being two of the most highly regarded science fiction films ever made. But the rest of his oeuvre, from Thelma & Louise to Gladiator and Black Hawk Down via GI Jane is notable mostly by its free movement from genre to genre. Like Alan Parker, Ridley seems obsessed with doing a completely different movie every time.

Although nominally an Alien prequel, I had little expectation that Prometheus would cover any of the same ground, apart from the much-trailed revisit to the Space Jockey. I didn’t see how it could: if the crew of the Nostromo had stumbled across a previously unknown creature on a world humans had never been to before, how could Prometheus do the same thing, earlier in time?

A word of warning if you are going to continue reading: I intend to discuss the plot in some detail, so if you are concerned about spoilers, please go and see the movie first! To give you a bit of a break in the text at this point, I’m going to discuss my own hatred of spoilers, and the best and most spoiler-free movie experience I ever had.

I find the most annoying thing, spoiler-wise, to be the trailer. Prometheus is no exception in this regard, unfortunately, but I once got to see a movie that I was heavily anticipating, without seeing any trailers. My father used to work in the advertising industry, and he would sometimes get invitations to agency events and promotions. It so happened that an agency arranged for an advanced screening of a movie, at least a couple of months before general distribution, and my father managed to get me and my sisters invited to it as well. We were told the name of the movie, but obviously some screw-up forced a last-minute change, because when the lights went down, and the title sequence started, I knew we weren’t going to see the movie we had been expecting.

I watched the credits with mounting excitement, as an inkling of possibility grew into certainty when the title finally impacted on the screen: it was Blade Runner! I got to see the movie completely fresh, without having seen a single frame of it in a trailer, absorbing it in one mainline rush. Unfortunately an all-too-rare experience.

Back to Prometheus. As I said, I wasn’t expecting a full-on Alien prequel. And I certainly wasn’t expecting Ridley to answer every question and neatly tie everything up into a nice little package. I was simply expecting the full Ridley Scott experience: painstaking attention to detail, absorbing and inspiring production design, and an unflinching and carefully crafted voyage to the extremes of human experience. So I was very happy with what I got.

So many things stand out in my mind: