While Sir Ridley Scott has been enjoying a pretty prolific and varied career, delivering a series of mostly epic and visually stunning works for over 3 decades, he is also the author of two of the most influential sci-fi films, Alien and Blade Runner. Hitting the screens respectively in 1979 and 1982, these two pieces have been landmarks redefining the way movies envision the future.

In Alien, he portrayed space as a virgin territory too dangerous to be conquered. In the process, he created a horror subgenre which centers on a small group of humans being chased by some creature in a claustrophobic environment. He also brought female empowerment onscreen, giving the leading role to a strong woman (Sigourney Weaver as Ripley).

In one of my all-time favorite films, Blade Runner, he envisioned cities of the future as dark, polluted megalopolises, where all races cohabit and where advertising is omnipresent.  Also, he covered a couple themes that interest us here:  creators trying to destroy their own work and questioning our origins.

Mr. Scott was right to warn us that while Prometheus was linked to the Alien saga, it also was its own universe. If, from the beginning, spectators familiar with Alien can easily figure out that this new entry works as a prequel to the 1979 film, Prometheus is an ambitious work closer to Blade Runner and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey  than it is to the Alien template.

Prometheus is a strange and stand-alone piece, which probably won’t satisfy spectators just looking for cat-and-mouse thrills in space. On the other hand, fans of brainy sci-fi movies such as 2001 and Andrei Tarkovskiy’s Solaris might be annoyed by its entertainment value and some clichés.  You however need to accept that this picture cannot be as groundbreaking as Mr. Scott’s first two sic-fi entries and that concessions had to be made to guarantee a budget that could breathe life into that spectacular world.  Personally, I find that Prometheus is exactly where it’s supposed to be. I was totally absorbed by Mr. Scott’s visual majesty, got some thrills and enjoyed the philosophical dimension of the story.

Several philosophical themes can be found here. Some are obvious, being expressed by the characters while others are suggested by the filmmaker through metaphors.

The most prominent theme centers on the origins of humans, which is reminiscent of 2001. From the beginning of the movie, we know that the purpose of this mission is to find our origins. This is one the theories you might have read about if you are into UFO’s and that kind of stuff, the film using ancient civilizations to make its point.  I’m not saying here that the filmmakers are trying to embrace this theory but it certainly makes an appealing point when it comes to sci-fi storyline arks. On the other hand, religion is described here as human’s need to believe there is something good after death.

Another – more surprising – theme  is the assimilation of sex to death. What we are shown here is that by giving birth, we are bringing our own death, which is a way of saying that humans are their own enemy and will be the catalyst of their own end. There are several references to this in the story. First, there is a sequence where two couples are having sex while two characters are getting slaughtered. Second, you might notice that the creatures killing the first two characters look like both male and female genitals. And of course, there is the alien pregnancy affecting a woman who couldn’t have children.

Bringing Prometheus close to Blade Runner or even Frankenstein, the film shows creators wanting to destroy their creations.  In Blade Runner, the Dr. Tyrell who is responsible for the creations of clones (replicants) sends bounty hunters to exterminate them. Here, we find out that our ancestors might have somewhat created aliens to destroy life on earth. While we won’t get to know why – and this might be the subject for another movie – this might bring us back to the idea that humans might become too dangerous and advanced for their own good – the alien would symbolize a weapon of mass destruction.

Finally, once again, Mr. Scott emphasizes the strength and importance of women. The two strongest characters here are women: one is a an improvised survivor (Elizabeth – Noomi Rapace), while the other one is an icy and powerful robot-like figure played by Charlize Theron.  The film is a true homage to female characters, acknowledging its own involvement and the evolution that has happened since 1979.

Of course, the Elizabeth character is a reiteration of the Ripley character from Alien. While she might not have soldier-like body like Ripley, she certainly finds the mental strength and surviving skills needed to make it out of here. The filmmakers however do not just pat themselves on the back. They show us how female characters have evolved onscreen by casting Ms. Rapace in the title role. She pretty much has the same name as in the trilogy that made her famous and created a new milestone for strong female characters, Millenium (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

As for filmmaking, we knew what to expect from Mr. Scott and we don’t get disappointed. It looks grandiose and the 3D blends in, enhancing the visuals rather than showing off. The ensemble is supported by a strong cast and, despite the fact that two brave actresses fill the screen, this is Mr. Fassbender’s moment, thanks to a subtle but vicious performance as an android.

The movie ends on a – much anticipated – exciting note and offers two directions: exploring space onscreen to answer some questions or to find adventure. For two hours, Mr. Scott’s mission was to keep us at a crossroad, showing us that both paths could cross in one single movie. After that, it’s up to you to decide, which route you prefer to follow – mine will always swirl between those two.

Director: Ridley Scott – Actors: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender – Running Time: 2:04 – Year: 2012 – Country: USA

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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.