Much like Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein (which was subtitled 'The Modern Prometheus'), Ridley Scott's film also attempts to deal with themes of the over-reaching of man into dangerous areas of knowledge. Dr Frankenstein's role is filled by Peter Weyland, founder of a scientific corporation whose inventions have allowed man to terraform other planets and, more importantly, create synthetic life. His 'son' David is a robot designed to act like an, albeit emotionless, human, while self aware enough to realise he can never truly achieve that which has been asked of him. Weyland has a daughter too, who it is playfully suggested may also be synthetic, but, unlike her brother, unaware that she is not human. Weyland's creation of man by new means reflects the same innovative work of the Greek Titan Prometheus in creating humans. Now an old man, prolonging his final hours in a cryochamber, all of Weyland's amazing achievements, however, have yet to produce the one thing he strives for. Like Roy Batty, from Ridley's Blade Runner, Weyland tracks down his creator in the pursuit of more life. Upon reaching his Holy Grail, Weyland discovers a knight frozen in time guarding that which he seeks, but the only answer he gets to the question of eternal life is death, as the gods punish him for what he has done. It's an interesting mix of source material that feels like it belongs more in Philip K. Dick's universe than that of Alien.
Yet this is very much the world of Alien. Its iconography is everywhere, from the strange derelict spacecraft and its fossilised inhabitant, to unused concept art from its surrealist designer H.R. Giger. It's all beautifully created in immersive 3D and safe to say Ridley has produced one of the best looking Science Fiction films to date. Unfortunately the use of this world and its assets comes at a price, with the Prometheus myth being the setup for, what one can only presume to be, a series of Alien prequels intent on demystifying the original. I love Alien, but don't hold it in such high regard that I wasn't open to a film set in the same universe. What I didn't want was a film with an appalling script, a story riddled with plot holes and a bunch of idiotic characters running around like infants.
But sadly this is the reality of Prometheus. For all its lofty ideas about science vs religion, it boils down to a very shoddy creature feature that makes little sense most of the time as it awkwardly tries to shoehorn in these concepts. For example, I enjoyed the moment that David took off Shaw's cross and placed it into a specimen jar. Yes, the reasoning that it may be contaminated was a little weak, but the symbolism was strong enough to allow it. Shaw's demand that it be returned to her later in the film when they were both in a completely different environment was one thing, but for David to have it with him just so she could triumphantly put it back on was ridiculous. There are so many of these moments that just don't work that once you start thinking back over the events of the film it unravels to leave just one question - how can something that looks this good be this bad?