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**Total spoilers for the film, this is NOT a review but the best synopsis I can provide at this time. I intend to see this again so will update as and when I can – please excuse me as I may get some of the events in the wrong sequence or miss out others**
As the opening credits roll the camera flies over an earth like planet of rivers and waterfalls. We finally come to rest upon a humanoid creature, approximately 7 or 8 feet tall, with pure white skin, wet black eyes and exceptionally toned abs. As we watch, this creature drinks a cup of black – almost metallic – liquid. His body then begins to disintegrate, at a cellular level, spiralling like ash into the water where it appears to regenerate as separate pieces of genetic code.
Then we jump to, the Isle of Skye where archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered a pictogram of a very tall man pointing to a series of stars. The two archaeologists are clearly very excited and believe the man depicted is an extra-terrestrial and that the image is intended as an invitation to the humans to come and find them.
Skip forward a couple of years to the research vessel Prometheus.
Here we meet the android David (Michael Fassbender) who is taking care of the crew who are all in stasis-pods for the journey. We see David immersing himself in Elizabeth’s dreams, learning languages, cycling, playing basketball and watching his favourite movie – Lawrence of Arabia. Something about this film clearly touches David and it seems he bases his own personality and mannerisms on Peter O’Toole in the titular role.
The Prometheus arrives at its destination and the crew wake up. Next we meet Meredith Vickers – the company woman, doing press-ups just moments after waking up and demanding to know if any of the passengers have died during transit. She is characterised as a cold-hard bitch. We also meet the rest of the expedition, the surly geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), the nerdy biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall), the ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba), the Scottish Medic Ford (Kate Dickie) and the ship’s crew Chance (Emun Elliott) and Ravel (Benedict Wong).
After the crew have got to know one another a little better they assemble to watch a video from the long dead Peter Weyland who has funded this voyage. The two archaeologists explain that they have found the same pictogram in various places all over the world, from civilisations separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles all depicting the same star map. Weyland’s people have found the only constellation which fits the map – a sun much like our own with an earth like planet. Shaw believes that this is an invitation from the aliens who created us to come and find them. She has no proof of this – but this is what she chooses to believe. She expects to meet the extra-terrestrials who created us on the planet – and calls them the Engineers.
Meredith Vickers takes the opportunity to throw her weight around and we learn a little more about her. She invites the two archaeologists to her quarters, which are essentially a very luxurious life boat – equipped with an automated medical chamber and separate oxygen supply. She is in charge and the two archaeologists are only present because Weyland was a superstitious man. If any aliens are found they are not to engage with them – they are only to report back to her. The archaeologists are considerably miffed.
Then we land on the planet. Having spotted an artificial valley they set the Prometheus down near an interesting looking structure, the ‘temple’ and the scientists head out to investigate. They take along some nifty kit – including some floating balls which shoot out red lazer beams to map the surrounding area – nicknamed ‘pups’. They discover a chamber which they believe is evidence of the alien race’s ability to terraform planets as there air is breathable and the temperature comfortable for humans.
David discovers some goo on a carving in the wall which glimmers with a blue sparkle. He doesn’t show this to anyone. During the Prometheus’ long voyage he has taught himself some ancient languages and uses this knowledge to read the carvings. He operates a switch by entering a code and sets off what appears to be a holographic image of a group of extra-terrestrials (Space Jockeys) running along the corridor. These ‘holograms’ are made up of a sparkling blue substance that hangs in the air and appears to have some physical mass.
The group follows the hologram and sees it come to a halt at a doorway. They discover the body of the creature from the hologram lying on the floor – its head decapitated by the sealed door. Shaw carries out a test and finds the body to be 2000 years old. Horrified by the discoveries Millburn and Fifield break away from the group with the intention of returning to the ship. David – again acting alone – deciphers the text around the door and opens it, sarcastically implying that this action was accidental.
Within the group find a giant stone humanoid head surrounded by mysterious ‘vases’. The two archaeologists are far more interested in the decapitated head of the ancient creature than the contents of the room. Shaw instructs that no one touch anything but David immediately begins to tamper with one of the vases. We see some small worm like creatures wriggling on the floor but none of the group notices. One of the carvings on the wall is very familiar:
As David touches the substance the room immediately begins to change and a storm suddenly erupts outside. The chamber begins to change, the intricate designs on the walls seeming to swirl and merge. Shaw partly afraid that their presence has detrimentally interfered with the atmospheric pressures in the room – but also anxious of the storm – insists that they must take the head and leave. David is more concerned with removing one of the ‘vases’. A frantic race ensues during which the group only just outrun a violent storm which throws chunks of metal that could lacerate someone to the bone. Shaw drops the head and in her attempts to retrieve it has to be rescued by David and Holloway. Once inside they scan the head.
It transpires that the familiar ‘Space Jockey’ face is just a helmet which, once removed, proves to conceal the humanoid face of one of the Engineers we first saw at the beginning of the film (and also represented by the giant stone head we saw in the vase chamber). Cells on top of the head appear to be ‘alive’ and Shaw decides to introduce some stimulus to the ancient mouldy head and inserts a probe. The result is irreversible as the head seemingly comes alive, only to start ‘bleeding’ and swelling and eventually to explode, but only once it has been safely sealed within a glass cabinet. Shaw decides to carry out some tests on the tissue.
We see David skulking around the stasis pods seemingly watching someone’s dreams but also communicating with them. He is then confronted by Vickers who demands to know what ‘he’ said, it is clear at this point that Peter Weyland is not dead and is aboard the ship in a stasis pod. After some threats David is forced to tell Vickers that ‘he’ is not happy and that they must ‘try harder.’
At around this time we discover that Fifield and Millburn did not make it back to the ship but became lost inside the tunnels. Due to the storm communications are sporadic and rescue impossible. The pair wander around the structure as the ‘pups’ continue to map the area. They discover a pile of bodies like the headless one previously uncovered, but stacked against the wall as though trying to escape from something. Back on the ship Janek informs them that they have picked up a life form, this quickly disappears again and is dismissed by the captain as a glitch, but the two still choose to head in the opposite direction.
Back on board David is examining the contents of the black vase. It contains some jelly like pods and the black liquid. He then engages the depressed Holloway. The archaeologist is dispirited because the Engineers are long dead and he never got to talk to them. He slips a drop of the black liquid from the vase into Holloway’s drink. He heads back to the room he shares with Shaw and she reveals that the human and alien DNA match – we are descended from them. We learn that Shaw is unable to have children and the two have sex.
Meanwhile in the ‘temple’ Fifield and Millburn have arrived back at the vase/egg chamber and the vases are over flowing with black goo. A strange snake like creature attacks Millburn and snaps his arm, as Fifield attempts to cut the creature off it sprays acid into his visor which melts and he lands face down in the black liquid. The snake then lurches down Millburn’s throat.
The next morning Holloway is sick and he notices that there is something peculiar wriggling around in his eye but the storm has died away and the scientists head back to the structure to retrieve Fifield and Millburn. Instead they discover Millburn’s dead body, the snake creature leaping from his throat. Holloway collapses as his illness rapidly becomes worse and they have to return him to the ship. David is exploring the structure and discovers a control room, having triggered another hologram he discovers that one of the Engineers is still alive and that they had intended to travel to Earth.
The group hurry to get Holloway back to the ship, he is clearly infected with something and beginning to transform. His skin is sweaty, his veins are standing out against his skin and he is going grey. He is in a great deal of pain. When they reach the ship Vicker’s refuses to allow him on board because he is infected and threatens him with a flame thrower. Janek and Shaw try to convince Vickers to let him on the ship but Holloway asks her to kill him and she does. Shaw is so distressed that they sedate her.
At some point around this time Fifield returns to the ship but he is clearly badly infected, his head is bloated and he is very violent toward the crew – he attempts to kill them and displays immense strength but Janek manages to kill him.
When Shaw wakes up in the infirmary David is taking care of her. He asks if she and Holloway had recently had sex to determine whether she is at risk of contamination. A scan reveals that not only is Holloway pregnant but that she is three months pregnant – and with something very unpleasant. She demands that David remove it, he refuses and sedates her, intending to place her in stasis. When Ford comes to help Shaw to the stasis pod she attacks her and makes a dash to the automated surgical booth in Vickers’ cabin. She operates it to remove the creature inside her. Once removed we can see that it looks remarkably like a facehugger. Shaw then seals it inside the pod for decontamination and destruction.
Once the operation is complete she stumbles through the ship and finds Peter Weyland just revived from his stasis pod. He is going in to the temple to meet the last surviving Engineer – he doesn’t want answers, he simply hopes they will be able to save him from the death of old age. Shaw argues that she was mistaken in thinking that the Engineers were extending an invitation to us, believing now that they only wish us harm. They now know that the temple contains a ship which was headed for Earth and she believes the cannisters inside are a biological weapon intended for us. He manages to convince Shaw to make one last trip into the temple, to take the only opportunity she will have to talk to one of the engineers. At this point Vickers has a confrontation with Weyland during which we discover she is his daughter. It is clear that she thinks it is time for him to die.
When they reach the stasis chamber on the alien ship David revives the last surviving engineer. Shaw is now convinced that this race that created us race now wants us dead and demands to know “what did we do wrong?” David speaks to the creature in its own language and at first it seems to react warmly, reaching out to embrace David. But then it rips his head from his body and discards him before turning on the others, killing Weyland. He then climbs into the pilot’s chair, clearly intending to head for Earth.
Shaw races outside to warn the Prometheus that they have to do whatever it takes to prevent the Engineer leaving – as this would herald Earth’s destruction. Janek, Chance and Ravel sacrifice their lives and the ship to disable the horse-shoe craft. Vickers takes the escape pod and jettisons from the doomed Prometheus. Her escape is short lived however as once back on the planet she and Shaw race to escape from the descent of the Engineer ship – but Vickers is, it would seem, crushed and killed. Shaw struggles to reach Vickers’ escape pod just before her oxygen runs out but once inside she realises she is not alone – the creature she cut from her womb is still alive. More than that, it has grown to gigantic size. Then a voice – David – comes through her radio informing her that ‘he is coming’. The engineer arrives at the ship intending to kill Shaw but she opens the door to the giant facehugger and it seizes him, inserting its proboscis in his throat and smothering him.
Shaw flees the ship and strikes a deal with David. He reveals there are other ships and that he can pilot one if she will take him with her. She retrieves David but instead of returning to Earth insists that she wants to find the home world of the engineers.
In the final scene we see a creature bursting from the chest of the Engineer – familiar but not quite something we have seen before.