Thursday, July 19, 2012

Prometheus Review


I went to see Prometheus a few weeks ago, caught it while it was still in the theaters, and I'd been meaning to circle back and put up a brief review.

The first thing to do if you see it is to check your expectations.  I wouldn't consider Prometheus a horror movie, or a prequel to the original Alien.  It's more like a science fiction movie, with a dose of horror on the side, and it only happens to share some similar themes to Alien.  It's a movie that takes place in the same universe as Alien.

Thematically, I felt that Prometheus had more in common with a pure sci-fi masterpiece, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, than a space slasher movie.  (In fact, there are quite a few visual cues to 2001 during the film).  It’s all about big questions and big ideas - ancient astronaut theories, the source of terrestrial life, myths of the war in heaven, the role of faith in a materialistic universe, allusions to Mary Shelley's work, the relationship of a created being to the creator.  The horror scenes with alien things tend to be incidental to the story themes.  The lingering horror is the many questions left unanswered by the film - why did "they" do this to "us"?

There are some flaws; I found myself a bit irritated at times by some of the unintelligent choices made by the scientists… like the xenobiologist that tries to pet a revolting wormy thing that emerged from a slime pool, "here, wormy wormy wormy".  Munch.  It goes badly for him.  It’s easy to discount horror scenes when people make stupid choices; I much prefer horror scenes where the protagonist 'does everything right' and it still goes wrong for them.

But it was well worth seeing; the visuals are stunning, and it's one of the few films I'm looking forward to getting on DVD; I'd love to see it again, especially if there's a director's cut.  The door is left wide open for a sequel, so I hope it was commercially successful and a sequel indeed finds its way to the cinema.

Inspirations for Gaming
This is a gaming blog, after all, so I can't leave you without some ideas.  The obvious one to borrow from something like Prometheus (and the original Alien, for that matter), is that of mistaken identity; misreading the prophecy or misinterpreting the signs.  "It wasn't a distress signal that lured us to the planet, it was a warning beacon".  "This place isn't a temple, it's a weapons dump.  No, wait, it's not a weapon's dump, it's a space ship…" You get the idea.  "This isn't the tomb of Karlyle, it's the prison of Karlyle - and the ancient vampire is still trapped in here.  And now we're trapped with him!"

Prometheus has a clever idea around biological weapons; stores of substances that generate new life forms and infect intruders so that they become their own monsters.  I have a similar idea in place in the Black City game (rage worm infection) but it's not nearly as squirmy and tentacled as the kinds of things that burst out of people in Prometheus.  I should probably amp up the ick-factor.  Heck, the whole movie of Prometheus could be inspirational for something like the Black City, an ancient ruin built by aliens.  I just need to get HR Giger to do the art.  Maybe one of the dungeon levels should lead seamlessly into a buried starship.  Quick - I'm off to pen a new sublevel!