SPOILER ALERT! –If you haven’t seen the film and are hoping to maintain some pretense of suspense, stop reading now. Or not.
I wanted to like this film. I really did. I even saw it twice just to make sure I hadn’t missed some critical element in the script that tied it all together. Turns out I didn’t miss anything.
The film opens with some Aryan ET dissolving himself into goo, presumably on Earth. The implication I took away was that he was the progenitor of DNA-based life on the planet. Sucks to be you, prions. That assumption means that the Earth has been their little science fair project for the last couple of billion years. Towards the end they were even holding block parties with Paleolithic humans, leaving invitations to come by and visit the next time we’re in the neighborhood. Then I guess the grant money ran out.
We’re introduced to Drs. Charlie Holloway and Elizabeth Shaw excavating a Pleistocene cave site on the
Isle of Skye late in the twenty-first century. At least Lisbeth is excavating it, Charlie is nowhere around the actual site. We find out the reason for that later on.
Now we switch to the scientific exploration vessel Prometheus. The ship’s crew is seventeen people including at least one android that is a big Peter O’Toole fan. The android, David, is spending his spare time learning how to swear in over six million languages, including Bocce.
We meet Meredith Vickers, played to perfection by Charlize Theron. An autocratic corporate type from the ninth circle of Hell. By far the iciest personality on the ship, ironically she is also the first to awaken from the two-year cryo-sleep.
The ship has a captain, who is at best third in command. Actual command is fuzzy, but seems to rotate between Lisbeth, Charlie, and Vickers, who has the vehicle title to the ship.
An all-staff meeting ensues. At this point I begin to suspect that Meredith Vickers hired this crew in a cantina at the Mos Eisley spaceport. The Visigoth geologist who earlier brushed off
Millburn the Jeff Goldblum-esque biologist now teams up with him to form a comedy act that will last for the next day or so.
Weyland, The Old Man of the Company pops up in a hologram and explains that Lisbeth and the man-child are following a star map of ice-age cave art that led them to this planet, believed to be the homeworld of the Engineers who created all humanity. Pass the sweet potatoes and keep an eye out for Pak Protectors.
The Prometheus descends into the clouds. Screw lidar and radar mapping from orbit! They’re going to just fly around randomly and pray that whatever orbital defenses the Engineers may have left behind don’t shoot them down. The man-child spots straight lines, which he solemnly informs the rest of the crew Mother Nature never uses. It’s a road, leading to a huge dome!
Surely now we’ll take the time to survey the site properly? Nope, we’re gonna land a multi-megaton, VTOL starship right on the front lawn! And now we begin to understand why the man-child is kept away from archaeological sites.
Frifield the Visigoth geologist has a couple of neat survey drones that transmit all kinds of mapping data, but not video, because he doesn’t want to exceed the data limit on his phone plan. Since there’s clearly no point in waiting for the drones to do their work without any risk to life or limb the team trudges on.
The man-child notices that all of the carbon dioxide has been somehow filtered from the atmosphere inside the dome and removes his helmet. That’s right. At this point I’m wishing the rest of the team will just sever his Achilles tendons for the good of the scientific community. Since he hasn’t keeled over in seconds the others decide to ignore the helmet laws too. Maybe they can all play cards during the month-long quarantine their idiotic decisions earned them.
David finds some slime on the wall and is so impressed that he doesn’t say a word. He starts pushing on random hieroglyphics and manages to activate the EVP web-cam system built into the structure. We are treated to a grainy hologram of big alien space jockeys like the one in the first Alien film running down the corridor. One trips and is decapitated by a door. They find the headless cadaver lying in front of the door.
At this point Frifield’s necrophobia kicks into gear and he panics. He manages to affect
Millburn the biologist and they both transform from presumably the best scientists Vickers could get for this once-in-a-lifetime expedition into Shaggy and Scooby-Doo.
David the android arbitrarily decides to open a sealed door. Shaggy and Scooby run away. Lisbeth makes a pro forma protest but the man-child is totally cool with it. Nobody bothers to put their helmets back on since the air in a sealed chamber is sure to be good after two thousand years, right?
Now things get interesting. David begins poking the alien goo, Lisbeth bags the Engineer head for her mantle back home and the man-child mopes that nobody was there to tell him, “Klatoo varada nikto”.
Uh oh, big sandstorm coming! Maybe if they had bothered to survey from orbit that might have been noticed before now. Everybody back to the ship! Right now!
Except for Scooby and Shaggy. They’re lost in the dome. Never mind that Shaggy was the one controlling the drones that were mapping the structure. The pair is stumbling around finding Engineer cadavers all over the place. The captain tries to convince them to go investigate an intermittent life form reading that one of the drones is registering. But he fails to offer them a Scooby snack so they take off in the other direction.
The Captain and Vickers flirt a little bit and then the captain abandons the bridge watch to go get laid. During the flirting we learn that the voyage has been “half a billion miles” in length. That works out to forty-four light minutes which puts this moon near Jupiter. Who knew?
While the captain is getting busy Shaggy and Scooby return to the chamber they were too terrified to enter before. Now it’s full of melting goo. True to form, Shaggy figures out how to smoke a joint in his helmet. All that university was good for something after all! Scooby spots an alien life form that looks distressingly like a giant penis until it changes to look like a cobra. Scooby decides to pet it. He gets what he deserves. Then Shaggy gets his turn with the alien worms.
Back onboard ship David decides to see what happens if he exposes one of the human crew to the black goo. He doesn’t want to endanger the mission so he picks the most expendable person aboard; Charlie.
In the medlab the three ladies on the crew are investigating the severed head that Lisbeth brought back. The outside is sterile. Thank the gods because we wouldn’t want to break quarantine would we? They figure out that the skull is really a helmet. When David takes the helmet off we discover that the elephantine space jockeys are really more of the Aryan Nation ET’s we saw in the beginning.
Now Lisbeth goes all Mary Shelley and decides to stick an electrode into the ET’s two thousand-year-old brain. They turn up the juice and the skull makes likes a Jiffy-Pop bag. Good thing the helmet was sterile.
Lisbeth discovers that the Jiffy Dude’s DNA is identical to hers! Separated at birth?
Charlie gets all depressed that he won’t meet his maker after all (wait for it!) and gets drunk. At last some behavior consistent with a background in archaeology! David slips him the sea monkey goo. Charlie and Lisbeth get all philosophical even though Fifield was the only one getting stoned. We learn that Lisbeth is sterile. Yeah, just like the helmet. My foreshadowing sense is tingling. Lisbeth had better grab a condom…too late!
The next morning Charlie discovers that there are alien worms living inside his eyes. But he decides not to tell Lisbeth because she’s still pissed about that Chlamydia thing last year. What’s the worst that can happen?
Back to the dome! They find Shaggy and Scooby dead on the slimy floor. A penis monster jumps out of Scooby’s esophagus. Charlie is really having a bad time with the whole “alien worms in my brain” thing. Back to the ship!
“Charlie’s sick, please let us in!” “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin” says Vickers the Ice Queen. She decides to resolve the whole leadership issue by burning Charlie alive in his environmental suit. Who wants lobster?
Lisbeth wakes up on the same slab that the head of Jiffy Dude once inhabited under the tender care of David the android. Bad news; her boyfriend’s dead and there’s gonna be trouble, hey-na, hey-na. Good news; she’s three months pregnant! Bad news; it’s hardly what David would call a “standard pregnancy”.
Lisbeth heads for the robotic Doc In a Box that Vickers just happened to keep in the lifeboat she uses as a cabin. She requests an emergency C-section. The Robodoc tells her that it is only programmed to cut open men. At that point we learn that Old Man Weyland was a Republican and Vickers isn’t as smart as we assumed. Unless this is like that film “The Crying Game”.
Lisbeth finally gets the right combination to get that operation. What follows is completely, unnecessary, gratuitous, unadulterated nastiness. The Robodoc delivers a bouncing baby Cthulhu. Lisbeth gets all stapled up and leaves it in the lifeboat, which is kind of like a hospital I suppose.
Lisbeth wanders from Vicker’s quarters into the super-secret part of the ship. It’s Old Man Weyland! He’s alive, mostly, and here on the ship. He wants ET to give him more life. I seem to recall this theme from another Ridley Scott film. I’m sure this time it will turn out better.
David tells everyone that he has found an iced Aryan in the dome and the guy is waking up! Let’s go see him! Because of the wonderful things he does. David will ask for a heart, Weyland will ask for a factory rebuild and Lisbeth will ask for some better pain meds.
Oh yeah, Weyland had a daughter and she grew up into Vickers. I’d leave Earth, too.
Weyland straps on a powered exoskeleton for his lower body. To walk, you perverts!
They wake up Mighty Whitey the Aryan ET and he is pissed! I think David told him how much the bounty hunter wanted for the Wookiee. Whitey rips off David’s head and beats Weyland to death. Lisbeth runs away.
That’s no dome, it’s a spaceship! Whitey plays “The Final Countdown” on his iPod and sets course for Earth.
Ships crash together, Vickers gets squashed by Auntie Em’s house and Lisbeth returns to the lifeboat. Baby Cthulhu’s awake, and he’s hungry. It’s a good thing that Junior likes white meat, because Mighty Whitey shows up to use harsh language on Lisbeth. If Junior wants a hug, Junior gets a hug.
The film made no sense! The allegation is that the goo was some sort of biological weapon that was supposed to be used to exterminate all life on Earth. But it could just as easily been an alien form of beer yeast that they were getting ready to distribute from the microbrewery onboard the ship. We'll never know because Ridley didn't bother to explain.