My “Prometheus” Movie Review (spoiler free)

Last night I saw Prometheus in 3D, on its second night of showing here in the UK. It doesn’t release in the States until June 8th (usually the other way round – us Brits often have to wait weeks after the Americans have seen movies!)

I was interested in seeing it because the film promised to deliver on both the themes of technology and spirituality.

In a nutshell, the movie is about this: “Set in the late 21st century, the story centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth civilizations. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.(Source)

As a massive fan of the Matrix, I was interested in Prometheus’ focus on ‘trying to discover where humanity came from’. The basis of the story was inspired by Swiss author Erich von Däniken and his theory about ancient astronauts coming from an alien planet, as described in his book Chariots of the Gods.

My only concern was that it might be too scary. The box office said it’s genre was ‘science fiction horror’ with ‘gore’. This almost stopped me from going as I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to anything scary or violent.

Here’s my review – with pretty much zero spoilers!

Positives:

Me with 3D glasses (it wasn’t really that scary)

  • The good news is, that it didn’t scare me at all. So on that basis, I doubt whether it would scare any adult! It’s definitely not suitable for kids though.
  • There are a few scenes of ‘gore’ but frankly they were pretty unbelievable and I just shut my eyes.
  • In 3D there are some beautiful moments related to seeing the solar system.
  • I really resonate with their quest to figure out the answers to our origins as humans. That for me, is a believable reason to travel across the universe and risk life and limb.
  • I love the idea that in the future, space travel will be easy. Some of the machinery on board the ship is amazing too – like a pod that can perform surgery on you, without needing any human to operate it.
  • I’m intrigued by the idea of cryogenically freezing people, then waking them up years later. I quite fancy that myself :)
  • One of the main reasons I saw it was because I’m interested in the idea of creating robotic people. One of the characters, David, is a robot (you know this from the start) and you see him looking sad when people make statements about him, like “he doesn’t have a soul” or “he can’t feel emotion”.
  • It’s amazing to see how talented and powerful robotic people could become; the human rely on him to decode ancient writing, speak to the ‘aliens’ and to look after their health and wellbeing. It’s easy to imagine that beings able to learn vastly more information than we can, via computer enhanced ‘brains’, who are much stronger physically than us (as we made them so), could actually be a threat to us in the end.
  • It was interesting to see the theme of Christian faith portrayed in the movie. The lead female, Dr Shaw, was shown to be a Christian, clutching a cross necklace at numerous moments. She spoke of having ‘strong faith’. That faith was deeply tested throughout the film, which I thought was honest and authentic. As the film nears it’s end, she reclaims her cross necklace (it had been taken away) and puts it back on to the surprise of her robotic colleague. Even in the face of all she endured, she was still sticking to her beliefs. Most movies are keen to show Christians losing their faith, so I thought it was fascinating to see her clinging on to her’s. When asked how she still believed in God in the face of the reality of these aliens, she simply says “well, someone has to have made THEM”. Good point.
  • Another powerful theme in the movie related to giving your life for something that matters. I was moved that people could be so quickly willing to do this.

Negatives:

  • The trailer makes the movie seem WAY scarier than it is; with the repeated human screams, and the image of the woman’s face looking so terrified. This is not a genuine summary of the film and seems like a tactic just to try and get people who like scary movies to go watch it!
  • In one scene someone undergoes serious surgery then is somehow able to run around fighting…not very believable!
  • The philosophical themes weren’t really explored in much depth. It’s an amazing concept though, to go on a quest to find your origins – and the end of the movie and the woman’s decision (won’t say any more, so not to spoil the story) prove just how strong that desire is.
  • If you’ve seen the movie “Alien” then you’ll already have seen these horrible creatures bursting out from inside people. That whole concept is pretty gross and I”m not a fan of it. Ewwwwww.
  • The movie felt a little long – I think it could have been a bit shorter and still included all the vital scenes. I wonder sometimes if movies choose to be 2 hours long just to ‘feel epic’?! I felt the same way about Avatar – brilliant movie but just too long.
  • I didn’t think the female lead character (Elizabeth Shaw) was strong enough…I didn’t believe some of her scenes, especially the emotional ones. Just found myself thinking back to Alien and concluding  ‘Sigourney Weaver was way better than this!’

Overall:

A good movie with lots of tension, action and some interesting technological and philosophical themes. I wouldn’t see it again but I enjoyed it. And it didn’t scare me – except for the gory part where I closed my eyes! If you’re interested in cyber stuff, I think you’d like it.

As one of the writers names Lindelof expressed:

“Blade Runner might not have done well [financially] when it first came out, but people are still talking about it because it was infused with all these big ideas. [Scott] was also talking about very big themes in Prometheus. It was being driven by people who wanted the answers to huge questions”. (Source)
It deals with amazing themes and some incredibly advanced technology. Worth watching for sure.
  • http://twitter.com/jantyannie Joanne Cowie

    Thanks for the review i’m amazed you managed to give so much information with no spoilers. Definitely one I’m going to see.

  • http://nickssanctuary.com/ Nick Payne

    I think I definitely plan to go now… your reassurances that the horror has been exaggerated have eased my chief concerns… everything else is something I’m keen to get my teeth into. That said I’m the guy who as a kid hid behind the sofa for several years when seeing Ben Kenobi get killed by Darth Vader… so I think you can guess how low my scare threshold is.

    Scott is supposed to be making a sequel to Blade Runner I believe.

    If you are interested in his philosophical films then a good one to watch may be Kingdom of Heaven (Directors Cut). Don’t make the mistake of watching the theatrical cut… at the studios request, the edits try and turn it into Gladiator (which it isn’t) and thrusting Orlando Bloom’s character to the very centre by diminishing the role of other characters puts strain on the film and makes it feel lacking. The directors cut is much greater in my opinion and is an ensemble that makes Balian (Bloom’s character), more of a mirror for the audience who reflects the thoughts and beliefs of the characters around him and acts as outr doorway into that world. One niggle in that film for me is that it portrays Jerusalem as a city on a plain (which it isn’t now and was even less so at the time of the Crusades). However the character of the Hospitaller is just AWESOME!

    I mentioned in a tweet to you earlier that I’m a sci fi nut and can highly recommend the much maligned 90′s space opera – Babylon 5 if you want to see a science fiction that asks serious philosophical questions (although in truth, hard science fiction as a genre pretty much exists for this very reason).

    I like the Matrix but feel there’s a need to be careful with it. On the surface there are some good Christian parallels… however when you look more deeply into it (especially in the sequels), you could argue it is a lot closer to Gnosticism. I also feel with the sequels that if they had been compressed into a single film, they would have worked better.

    As for the technology… whilst freezing us completely would at this point in time kill us, I believe I saw a report about a limited experimental form of the first steps towards this technology is already being used in the military – soldiers severely injured on the battlefield are put into a controlled kind of stasis that keeps them alive until they can be treated in a more appropriate environment with better facilities back home.

    Space travel? That’s the big one. The most popular forms of interstellar travel in science fiction tend to involve warping or folding space… or taking a short cut through another dimensional form of space to reduce distance. There’s no easy answer though

    Thanks for the spoiler free review and for allaying my nervous disposition. :)

  • RobPringle2003

    I’ve been following the build up for this for the last two months and I’m mega-excited about going to see it next week. Thanks for the lack of spoilers!

    My favourite bit of build-up they did was the faux-WeylandCorp website with all the tech specs on it, including a really cool video ‘advert’ summary of David. Michael Fassbender pulls of ‘synthetic’ really well!

    Actually really intrigued to hear that they made Shaw a Christian, I’ll be interested to see how they portray that. 3 days to go for me!!

  • Alex Sutton

    I watched the film last night too. Really enjoyed it.  There is the obvious Christian undertone in the film like Vicky said, but also the theme that if the engineers created humans… Who created the engineers?

    SPOILERS BELOW
    It also raises the question, why did the engineers create us and then want to destroy us. We are told that the ship was carbon dated at 2000 years old, and it’s full of a bacteria/weapons to kill us…. So what did we do 2000 years ago that could of made them change their mind? Kill the son of their creator?

    Maybe it’s tenuous… But I’ll leave that with you ;-) 

  • http://www.robstill.com Rob Still

    Hey Vicky thanks for the excellent review! I will see it based on your recommendation, but I’ll wait until it’s in the second run theaters. 

    By the way I really like your blog redesign (again!) and appreciate your writing. Sorry we didn’t meet in Nashville, I’ve got songs published with EMI-CMG too! 

  • http://nlfo.blogspot.com/ Gavin M

    Thanks for the review. Looking forward to seeing this myself in the next few days.

    Another good movie exploring these sort of themes is Surrogates (2009). The
    primary theme of the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series was about the
    nature of organic and artificial life (organic and mechanoid) and how
    it relates to religion. The Terminator TV show from a few years back was also quite
    interesting with an exploration of robotic self-perception. And the Mass
    Effect video game series is probably where most of these issues have
    been introduced to the largest sector of the public in recent years.

    R.e. the technology:

    - Easy space travel? Not any time soon for us organics. Our physical form is too needy to maintain out there and our best technology for doing so is stuck at the bottom of a giant gravity well – the Earth. Until we can start manufacturing what we need in space we stuck here. For mechanoids however space travel is definitely possible and would even be desirable for them.

    - Cryogenic stasis? Again no time soon if at all. Studies that colleagues of mine are involved in here in Edinburgh have shown that a short, slight cooling of the brain after injury (particularly stroke) can bring some benefits, but large scale protracted ‘freezing’ of humans? Unlikely to be very healthy! That said many mammals do hibernate without cryogenics and potential with some genetic tinkering that could be transferred to humans. Very speculative though.

    - Indistinguishable human-like robots? For sure in terms of appearance and apparent mannerisms. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them available in the next few decades. However making them independent intelligent agents (as in the one in Prometheus is from your account) is something more difficult. Personally I don’t see a problem with the idea of self arising out of electronics any more than we do out of biology, but there are many computer scientists, philosophers and theologians who would say no on principle. Time will tell… :-)

  • http://nickssanctuary.com/ Nick Payne

    The Pinocchio effect eh? The question as to whether God would bestow a soul on a human created self aware machine as an act of grace. (A bit like Tolkien’s dwarves).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VndRdVjOjRU This advert moves me to tears.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for the review. Will definitely not go see it now. Why? ‘Eye has not seen & ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.’  God’s reality is the best fantasy. Imagine, if you can try, the wonders the Lord has for us in eternity – space travel? Just fly there, or blink and you’ll arive – at the farthest galaxy. Not criticising the movie, or your opinion, I appreciate your insights. I hope it challenges people to think about their origins and destiny.

  • http://twitter.com/cpettifer Chris Pettifer

    I saw this on Saturday afternoon at the Giant Screen in Birmingham. I really liked it and think it will be one of the few films I try to see again at the cinema – although I will probably buy it too! I have really enjoyed the Alien universe and have followed the build up to the film quite closely, more so than most I suspect. So a few comments (trying not to spoil stuff), as promised.

    * It looked fabulous – 3D was good for once (I generally dislike 3D), partly because I don’t think they had any of that annoying popping out of the screen 3D, just a window view into another world kind of 3D. Totally agree about the star maps – they were great with 3D. You could imagine yourself as the character standing and looking around.
    * Real sets make such a difference – they built a set that ran the entire length of Pinewood (and extended it I believe) and this makes for a much more believable film than green screen, in my opinion.
    * You do get quite a bit of content of the film from the trailers and TV spots, but it doesn’t tell you everything about it like some have suggested. I’d seen a lot before I went and didn’t feel like I had been spoilt.
    * I found it interesting that it explored the topics of creation, death and after life (and associated topics) more than I thought it would. I sort of knew it would, but not to the same extent perhaps. I agree they didn’t delve into them too deeply, but that’s tricky to do when they were also covering so much more.
    * I didn’t think it too long. In fact I felt it could have been so much longer. I reckon this is because I’m a bit of a fan of the story though and could watch hours of it!
    * Character development wasn’t as good as it could have been, but then some characters were, as my friend who went with me put it, a bit like they red jersey guys from Star Trek… you know they are just making up the numbers and are probably for the chop at some stage! ;-)
    * It really isn’t a direct Alien prequel – it’s not even the same kind of film. Agree it’s not scary (although I wonder if I have become a little sanitised over the years), but also it is obviously not for kids. I’m not totally comfortable with some of the ideas though (tricky to say what doesn’t sit right without giving stuff away, but if you’ve seen it you may have the same feelings).

    I could write more, but have to head off to church; it feels a bit bizarre writing about this then having to go prepare myself to lead tonight!

  • Beth

    I’m aware robots exist and have real uses which are meaningful, such as deep sea trench and space exploration. I struggle to make the mind-bending jump to comprehending robots as beings whom exist as human outside their own contexts. I can understand that a lunar robot is a proxy astronaut and is contextualised by the work he or she (!!!) is designed to do. I’m less comfortable with the concept of robots as people who can champion, cheer-lead, enervate and respond to environmental stimuli as if they were human or animal, by producing dependant-variable responses.
     
    I enjoy films and novels which are based around visions of the future. I thought your movie review was well balanced and I’m hoping I can see the film myself at some point. I may have to wait till Prometheus comes to the small screen. I appreciate your taking the time to write up posts like these, that ask the big questions in an accessible way. Like you I believe the search for the origins of life is a plausible reason to take to the galaxy.
     
    Technology appears to provide a persuasive channel for widespread community, and to fragment. I wonder what kind of Utopian vision an advanced, empathetic robot would disperse and propagate.  

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks!

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Hope you enjoy it! And i’ll try and hunt out the director’s cut of that other movie.

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Hope you like it!
    I really enjoyed the build up stuff too…their work on that was really impressive.

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Great thoughts Alex!

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks Rob. Nice to meet another EMI writer :)

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks for your thoughts Gavin… People keep telling me to check out Battlestar Galactica – must watch it!

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks Nick…cool thought.

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    I was hoping that too – that people would be stirred to think about origins.

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks Chris! Really glad you got to see it and that you loved it!

  • http://vickybeeching.com/blog/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks Beth :)

  • Gavin M

    Definitely should!

    It gets itself a bit muddled about midway, but pulls itself together again by the end. Some very thought provoking ideas and writing throughout.

  • Gavin M

    Hopefully one where it wouldn’t matter what specific atoms composed people, but rather how they were viewed by God.

    Unfortunately I doubt we humans would ever let it get to that stage.

  • http://nickssanctuary.com/ Nick Payne

    I actually have the Definitive Edition but have a look around… you can get some pretty good deals on that DVD. My favourite scenes are when Balian is at a low points and encounters the Hospitaller (as well as King Baldwin’s advice to him early on). The Director’s Cut has a magical moment in a desert scene with a horse reacting to something that was caught on film accidentally and was serendipitously left in… it completes the scene brilliantly.

    Good hunting.

  • Alisonparker

    Hi Vicky. Thanks for your thorough and heart felt review. Sadly I don’t the film was either of these things.

    I have four main problem with it.

    1. It was never established why Shaw and the other Dr wanted to seek their origins; their own story wasn’t shared, and I had no emotional connection with them -or any of the characters – so wasn’t really bothered what the outcome was. Shaw reveals in the film a personal loss (which I won’t mention in case it is a spoiler) which I felt could have been referred to in her dream sequences to create a sense for us of why she wants to have this exploration.
    2, I also have problems with the Cross she wore. She didn’t seem to have a faith in Jesus, just a faith in belief that there is more than this, so why the religious image? Having said that, a film with someone heartfelt-ly seeking ‘more than this’ would be a good film, but as I felt this film was, like David, without soul, I didn’t think the writers pulled this off either.
    3. Another problem I had with the Cross was that I felt it was lazy writing to give the audience a clue that there was some kind of deeper meaning than selfish desire (link to another character but that would be spoiler so I won’t mention that character), but I felt it made her ‘faith’ ,if that is what it was, more like a superstition and an emotion link to her father.
    4. I went to see the film with 7 other people, non of whom are Christians, all of whom are smart people, and massive sci-fi geeks (and knew sooo much about so many other films, I just thought Alien was cool and pretty much there ends my sci-fi credentials!);We sat in the pub afterwards discussing Prometheus and all agreed that it was awful, every part of the story was pulled apart and dissected, all of the many plot failures debated. At one point I said that I love to explore the meaning of life, and I love to watch films and find links to my real faith, but this film didn’t ring true with any experience of God I have had. So I guess we can say that this film gave me opportunity to say that! Now I have had a few days to reflect more, I think I felt it didn’t ring true because I am in a relationship with a God who actively reveals Gods loving self to me within the daily hum drum of life – in this film the engineers of life were distant, hard to reach and without love.
    I just wish I thought to say this when we were in the pub!

    Thanks Vicky for your review which now has given me opportunity to say it!

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pauls-Geek-Shirts/157917521004541 Paul Childs

    Just got back from seeing it – enjoyed it immensely – I’m a big geek for the Alien films so it prompted an interesting discussion in the drive home over how it fitted in around the other films. Thanks for the warning about the surgery – I was able to hide Mrs Paul from that bit as she’s a bit squeamish.