Prometheus – my thoughts and theories
I saw Prometheus yesterday. It’s definitely a film that needs to be properly digested.
Below my thoughts on what I liked, what I didn’t like, and some theories about events in the film and possible answers to some of the questions arising from the film’s plot.
SPOILER ALERT. If you have not yet seen Prometheus, don’t read any further.
What I liked about Prometheus:
- Visually gorgeous. The film boasts an sense of epic scale, where humanity’s presence is miniscule. The special effects are jaw-droppingly good.
- Great cast with some terrific acting, especially from Michael Fassbender. His role alone makes the whole film worth watching. Noomi Rapace is also terrific.
- A film that’s unafraid to ask the difficult questions, and equally unafraid to not answer them. I like ambiguity in films, if it’s done right.
- David. An artificial creature accompanies its human creators on an exploration to find humanity’s creators. David’s subtle commentary on the futility of this endeavour, as emerging from the questions he asks his human crewmates, is sublime. Not in the least because the ironies of his queries and of the answers he receives are entirely lost on the human crew.
In short, nearly all the good things in the film emerge from great acting and Ridley Scott’s expertise as a director. The man knows how to do science-fiction properly. He makes far too few genre pictures, if you ask me.
What I didn’t like:
- ‘This is what I choose to believe.‘ Probably the dumbest shit any scientist could ever say. People can believe whatever they want, but when it comes to science there is no such luxury. Science doesn’t require any belief, it merely requires reason. Scientists go where the evidence points them. A scientist that does not follow the evidence is not a scientist but a delusional dogmatic.
- Muddled plot. The broad sweeping lines of the tale are epic, but I felt it could have been detailed much more elegantly with a much less convoluted plot. Some scenes felt bolted on instead of an integral part of the narrative (Shaw’s hurried pregnancy & abortion for example) and there were too many throwaway characters that served quite literally no purpose. There were also some core characters like Weyland and Vickers whose storylines, while promising, were shoddily executed. Also, there were far too many plotholes for the sake of narrative expedience.
- Ambiguity for the sake of it. As I said, I enjoy ambiguity in cinema. Not everything needs to be explained. But ambiguity requires a film that poses the right questions. Prometheus does to an extent, but there are a few too many questions asked for the sake of asking them, rather than questions that emerge organically (pun intended) from the plot. The ambiguity feels articifial at times (more pun intended), while it could readily be made an inherent property of the entire cinema experience Prometheus provides (as was the case with Inception).
In short, nearly all that sucked about Prometheus was due to a poor script from Damon Lindehof. He may have worked on Lost, but in this case his input was nothing short of disastrous. It’s a credit to Ridley Scott that he managed to salvage what he could to make Prometheus in to the very watchable epic it is.
Some of my theories:
- The Engineers are themselves an artificial species. I believe they are identical clones, genetically engineered for a specific purpose. Perhaps they’re purpose-bred soldiers, not actually responsible for creating the alien bioweapons but merely tasked with deployment.
- Earth was a test site. That’s why the Engineers seeded and nurtured (human) life: so that they could test bioweapons on us for perfection and, eventually, deployment in real wars. Maybe that’s why they changed their mind about deploying the bioweapons on earth – the war that warranted their development came to an end.
- The xenomorph we see emerging from the Engineer in the final scene is a first iteration of the species we come to know as Aliens. It’s obviously different in many ways, but has hallmarks of the alien xenomorphs as we know them. There will be multiple iterations of this creature before the version we all know and love, with I imagine increasing levels of lethality. This meshes well with the concept of genetic malleability explored by some of the Alien films and expanded material (books & comics) where the Alien takes on different characteristics depending on its host creature. (Also, in case you were wondering, the crashed Engineer ship in Prometheus is NOT the same Engineer ship from Alien. Different planet, different ship, different Engineer corpse, and different xenomorph – though likely the latter is a rapid (perhaps assisted) evolutionary result of the xenomorph we see in Prometheus’s closing scene.)
- The ‘black ooze’ is a self-adapting potent bioweapon. Not only does it give rise to evolving xenomorphs that become ever deadlier with every generation, it also mutates existing organisms, turning them to destructive purposes. It changed an earth worm in to a throat-invading serpent and a human in to a zombified super-strong hulk. It also likely caused the death of many Engineers when it somehow contaminated the facility 2000 years ago. Lord knows what else it could do.
- Speaking of 2000 years ago, the film implies that around that time the Engineers decided to kill off their creation – the human race – but that they changed their minds. Several questions emerge from this: why did they decide to kill humanity in the first place, and what made then change their minds? The first is likely to be tied to the crucifixion of Jesus, as evident from the crucifix symbology that pops up occassionally in the film. The second is likely the pivotal question of a potential sequel.
All in all there’s plenty more material to explore in future sequels. But they need to get a better script writer, and not try too hard to provide all the answers.
There’s a very real danger that the franchise could be thoroughly ruined with crap plots and over-eagerness to please an intellectually lazy audience. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
What did you think of Prometheus?
Update 18 June 2012:
In many other published analyses of Prometheus a recurring point is the motivation – or lack thereof – of David when he infects Charlie with the black goo. However I think this is perfectly explained in the film.
David gets his orders from a dying Weyland (still in cryo at this stage and communicating with David through the yellow-visored helmet we saw the android use to spy on Shaw’s dreams), who urges him to ‘try harder’, probably referring to finding a solution for Weyland’s problem (death). David does exactly that by short-cutting years of research and infecting Charlie with the goo to see what happens. It obviously turns out to be not the solution Weyland was hoping for.
Filed under: film, sci-fi