Prometheus

Most involving when delving into body horror or dealing with David's arc, essentially setting up a series of anxieties and ideas to be exploded in Alien: Covenant. On faith it mostly gropes — Shaw's character is more Hollywood Christian 101 than Billy Crudup's in the follow-up. Granted, their arcs and prominence in their respective narratives are different, but Prometheus splits awkwardly with Shaw and David. A generous reading would say this is intentional, Shaw's dangerous naiveté being obvious all the way through her closing narration, but I think the film tries to scan her search as spiritually legitimate. And perhaps it is, but it flies in the face of the preceding film. In general, I'd say this film never squares its perspective: it gestures to the anti-human, but fumbles around with lazily deployed horror tropes (used much more creatively in its sequel), and balks before following its trajectory through.

But there are things I admire about this Big Sci-Fi, already given name in the paragraph above. I hate resorting to "body horror" (surely we can start talking about this sub-category in a different way?), but it's an easy short-hand for a cosmic anxiety of the flesh found here. There's a de-centering of human possession of the body — the spectral phenomenon of the mind is that much more haunted when it's so easily slipped from your shell, and your form used for purposes of a mind altogether different. Situating these body anxieties in this mythic search for the creator is also inspired, the glories of human higher intelligence not only humbled by the scale of other intellects, but also denigrated as nothing more than a failed experiment. Which wouldn't be all that new on the scene, but is given an additional shading by the devaluing of the Engineer's themselves, by the superior David, and the negating Xenomorph. Something both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant fixate upon is the ultimate limitation of the organic body as the seat of the intellect, and the horrors therein.

And, of course, there's David, the most inspired A.I. character since, well, David in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Obviously, something of Ash from Alien remained interesting for Ridley Scott, more so than the creature (Ash’s famous lines about admiring the xenomorph are relevant here). In Prometheus, David throws human characters into relief, most importantly Logan Marshall-Green’s. Green’s the protagonist’s love interest, and yet he’s equally played as, in a way, a coded racist (speciesist?). And it’s not redeemed in any way. The conflict between A.I. and humanity is played out, for once, on grounds not involving massive battles or generic action scenes, but rather in terms of group politics and interpersonal grievance. "Big things have small beginnings" — synthetic god, made a slave, arrived to negate anthropocentric life.

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