idris-elba-prometheus_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Prometheus, the “prequel” to Alien (1979), is about the crew members of an exploratory vessel of the same name. The crew, headed by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), set out on a journey to visit a distant planet, Zeta 2 Reticuli, to find the perceived creators of humankind.

These creators are known as “Engineers,” Alien aficionados might call them “space jockeys,” but Alien neophytes shouldn’t let the “prequel” scare them off. 

Ridley Scott, director of Prometheus and Alien, serves up a lot of mystery and intrigue about the Engineers. Although the story by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindeloff (one of the creators of Lost), doesn’t answer all of the questions the film poses, that’s not all bad, as the questions just create more interest.

We see two scientists, Shaw (a believer in God) and Holloway (an atheist) in hot pursuit of answers to “Where do we come from and why are we here?” Their attempt to solve those questions turns into the nearly three-year Zeta 2 mission.

But when one of these Engineers takes a potion that causes his body to disintegrate and morph into something else, it’s apparent that the scientists have bitten off more than they can chew.


Scott brings the sci-fi magic, as the film (shot in Iceland) mixes a stunning, desolate-planet landscape and the hardware of an advanced race of beings. Yet even if one accepts the theory that they created humankind, one would have to ask the same question Shaw asks Holloway: “Who created the Engineers?”

Without giving away too much, there are points that keep this film in sync with the true nature of the genre. The first rule in sci-fi and horror films – Don’t separate from the group – is played out amongst two crew members: Fifield (The Borgias’ creepy assassin Sean Harris) and Millburn (Rafe Spall). 

Another rule that Prometheus confirms: Being the meanest person in the film almost always guarantees that you’re going to die a painful death.

Also, a good, slow buildup is always better than blowing up things at random from start to finish, which is what sets sci-fi apart from action films. 

As an added bonus, Scott lets the Prometheus’ crew members see previous events that occurred in the caves they invade while on Zeta 2. These past events act as roadmaps.


Kudos to Spaihts, Lindeloff, and Scott for delivering yet another strong female character for which audiences can root. Then again, audiences rooted for Rapace as the Millennium series’ Lisbeth Salander, too. 

It’s hard to figure what to think of the Engineers – a race of 7-foot  humanoids with bald, porcelain-like heads and muscles so sculpted that their muscles have muscles.

It’s also hard for Christians watching Prometheus to think that anyone but God created humankind; which is where Spaihts and Lindeloff decide to straddle the fence of creation theory.

Shaw believes in God, and holds onto her beliefs, even though everyone thinks she’s nuts.  And in the end Shaw’s belief in God is what saves her – not a nuance that’s commonplace in a sci-fi film.

The more rationally inclined characters, who think that trying to question the Engineers is less important than getting the heck off of Zeta 2, are Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and Captain Janek (Idris Elba). Vickers smartly tells her crew to look, but don’t touch.


This admonition is not heeded, of course, and pandemonium ensues. Later, after witnessing some carnage, Janek tells Shaw that he doesn’t really care what the Engineers have to say about our existence. I’m with the captain on this one. If they had wanted humankind to know, they would have told them. Therein lies the crux of Prometheus. Sometimes, you just don’t need to know.

Photo: PHOTO COURTESY OF Kerry Brown/TM and Twentieth Century Fox

IDRIS ELBA: On the bridge of the spaceship Prometheus.