“ There’s a man sitting with you today. His name is David. And he is the closest thing to a son I will ever have. Unfortunately, he is not human. He will never grow old and he will never die. And yet he is unable to appreciate these remarkable gifts for that would require the one thing that David will never have. A soul.”
– Peter Weyland ,Prometheus (2011)
Where someone sees plot holes, other see mystery. In Prometheus (2011) I saw both.
So now, when Prometheus 2 has been announced, and time has passed from the first film, I want to reflect on the movie´s good sides and bad sides. Of all movies I have seen, I think Prometheus is one of the movies I have been most ambivalent about. I kind of love it and I kind of hate it. The reasons, as with the meaning of this film, I will reflect on now.
I expect that the reader of this entry have already watched the movie as I will talk about spoilers. Also this is more of an analysis of the movie and not a “review” where I value it by giving thumps up or down. You can decide that yourself.
Also if you are thinking; “Its just a movie” I refer you to some weed smoking, the hand book “Being a dullard for dummies” and will beg you please not to talk to me again.
This is the Space Jokey as seen in the movie Alien from 1979. Although a very small piece of the original movie it created alot of mystery about it and fans have speculated loudly about what it was and what it did out in space.
I remember when I heard that Ridley Scott was going to make a prequel to Alien (1979) where the genesis of the “Space Jokey” was going to be explored. It blew my mind. This very alien thing, that played a very minor role in the original Alien movie, has fascinated many and been inspiration for many sci-fi nerds like me to speculate as to what it exactly was and what it was doing on that dead planet. I waited with great anticipation in a way I havent done since christmas as a child. The POSSIBILITIES!!! The endless possibilities!
Then came the trailer for the movie and it blew my mind again.
Look at that great trailer! “They came looking for our beginning, what they found could be our end.” The tag line still gives me goosebumps and the trailer is still awesome. When the movie got released I refused to read anything about the movie and went on the premiere alone to watch this movie. I never go to the movies alone, but I just had to watch it! I couldn’t wait a day for any friends to be able.
My initial response:
After watching the movie I felt I had watched a great extension of the alien franchise. I knew it would not be another alien movie and didnt expect more of it and what I got had just the right dose of xenomorphs-ishness to make me feel it was a spin-off and not a completely new movie series.
I loved the BIG questions the movie had asked. I loved how they treated religion and science. The character of Elizabeth Shaw is a sympathetic representation of at least how I as a Christian view sciences. And like most good movies it kept lingering on in my mind for days after watching it. I kept thinking about the different ideas it had presented and how the movie´s plot had developed.
It wasnt all that good, was it? Although when I walked out of the cinema I was very impressed, for the next days my pondering turned into nagging. The flaws I may have ignored at first became more and more apparent. This movie wasn’t very good. In fact it was kind of awful!
My secondary response:
Good or bad? I just don´t know. Pretty though. No doubt of that.
As the days went passed I did something I hadn´t done in a long while. I started using my IMDB account again and started to read the Prometheus threads there. Reading the different views and trying to understand what to make of this movie. Was it a good movie or was it downright awful? I just couldn’t make up my mind.
Soo I watched the movie again when it came out on DVD and yet again I am not sure. I have not yet watched the extended cut of the movie (where “all questions would be answered”) although I have seen some of the scenes on youtube. Its been 3 years since the movie came out and I am still not sure what to make of it.
A holograpic point presentation. Anything else is soooo… 2050.
Prometheus tells the story of a crew of scientist who travel to a distant planet after discovering clues and signs in different locations of earth all pointing towards that particular set of plantes. Their theory is that the planet they are going to will answer the biggest question of all: Why are we here?
As the story progresses the crew realizes that they were not prepared for what they could meet and different interest by different characters slowly sabotages the expedition leading to a big showdown where reasons and motivations are left ambiguous. The very end leaves most of the crew dead, answers left unexplained, problems left unresolved and Elizabeth Shaw leaving the planet with the android David to find another planet (and another sequel) where answers may or may not be given.
The Good sides to this movie:
“It dares to ask questions!”, as Randy Marsh from South Park may have said. This movie, although not the first movie in history, ask the question “why are we here?”. The questions that arrises about creation or abiogenesis (from dead to alive).
To quote the character Peter Weyland from the movie
“ I have spent my entire lifetime contemplating the questions: Where do we come from? What is our purpose? What happens when we die? And I have finally found two people who convinced me they’re on the verge of answering them.”
Which Star Trek episode is this from?
Big question and Prometheus uses the fringe theory of Ancient Astronauts as a way to explore and play around with this problems. The ancient astronauts in Prometheus are the “space jokey” men who it is implied came to earth and created us for some reason left unexplained in the movie.
This question is so big that any clear explanation will often be seen as too on the nose. I guess the blue men could have said “We created you to take care of the environment!” or “To love each other!” or some other simplistic view like that, but fortunately they leave that vague. Unfortunately they leave it so vague that we are not even given clues and food for thought. But complaints come later.
Prometheus also explores the relationship between religion and science. This mostly through the christian character Elizabeth Shaw, which I think is one of the more interesting aspects of the movie. The dialogue is not filled with ridicule of people believing in mythology and still does not seem anti-science either. My interpretation of this, is that it shares the same view as me, that one thing does not negate an other and all roads may lead to the truth as long as we keep seeking the truth and keep believing there is such things as the “truth”.
There is also many ways of interpreting “God” in this movie. God as in a ultimate “God” of beginning and end. He is only mentioned as the Christian God through Elizabeth Shaw, but could of course be any kind of ultimate being. Then it is the gods of creation, which is the blue men for humans, and humans for androids and everyone seems to hate each other.
The question is if the blue men have again been created by the some entity in the sphere seen at the beginning of the film or if that is just another space craft for the “space jokeys” and that they have spontaneously been created trough random events.
Most of the movie is us interpreting the characters motivations and listening to them interpret the aliens motivations. And the entire movie is like mixed bag of stupidity and brilliance. Like the extraordinary interesting dialogue between David and the bi-polar (?) scientist Charlie Holloway.
Charlie Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers. To get answers. Why they even made us in the first place.
David (an android): Why do you think your people made me?
Charlie Holloway: We made you because we could.
David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
“Why are we here?”, Scott asks us. “To have painful abortions of alien creatures of course”, he quickly continues.
Then David tries to “impregnate” Charlie in the same scene, and the grotesque aftermath of that. It feels more like body-horror shock piece than anything. The problem then is that Ridley Scott doesnt seem to know wether to make a philosophical piece about why we are here or to make another Alien movie with zombies and alien squids. These things come in contrast throughout the movie as its not scary enough to be a new alien and its not deep enough to be really good sci-fi adventure. It is somewhat entertaining though. The squid thing is nasty and the abortion scene couldnt be more disturbing.
The plot holes and the mysteries.
I have never been much for a nitpicker, although I have noticed that many people online likes to do nothing but. To point out any work of arts flaws, be it how Mona Lisa smiles or how ridiculously strong Jason Vorhees is, seem to be a great past time for some.
I guess it makes them feel better about themselves? Idunno. Myself, I try to watch a movie and accept premises of a movie if it is coherent with the story being told. Nitpicking, like being a grammar nazi, distract us from the point; The message, the meaning and the ideas that art and entertainment tries to give.
In Prometheus there are things I can accept and thing that I can´t. Somethings I agree with the criticism of and something I do not.
Alien Parasite in my eye? No worries or doctor needed.
Take for instance how the planet was discovered in the beginning of the movie. A bunch of cavepaintings having the same stellar alignments and iconography. This I can accept. Of course it could have been elaborated on a bit, I guess, but how they got there is not the focus of the film. I can accept the premise of ancient civilizations having great knowledge of space as I can accept that the maya calendar ending means the world is ending or ancient astronauts creating us. Its an idea. Its a “what if”? Prometheus isnt and wasnt suppose to be a documentary. But a work of art or entertainment.
Alien controls kind of look like a child´s toy.
Some people seem to think that art should be slave to a sense of realness, but art isnt bound by rigorous logic (although coherent plot is nice) and sci-fi isnt science. Fiction is speculation, dreams and ideas, free from the shackles of what is. Like a unicorn is not a horse, or a goldmountain has yet to be discovered. They are concepts meant for food for thought, not dissecting for how much in sync it is with contemporary knowledge.
Good sci-fi ask questions that can´t be answered and tries to look beyond the curve of what we now know. Its not a tool for education as some seem to believe. Its about plausibility, not facts. And I for one, can accept the idea in this film that ancient cultures knew something that they could only explain trough mythology and signs.
Another thing that has been criticized is how the alien holograms look like. Even I found that stupid. On rewatching the movie now it appears to me that it may not be holograms at all but “particalogram”. They seem to be partially physical. They cause wind to rush and can press buttons. That isnt stupid, that is brilliant.
Many things in this movie can be both seen as plot-holes or mysteries. Stuff left unexplained for us to pounder on. This especially comes to the motivation of certain characters like David, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) etc. But other things, especially outcomes of certain events and natural human responses to threat seem often far fetched and/or annoying.
“Remember me as a mysterious woman who had daddy issues!”
One thing especially that annoyed me was the “mysterious” Meredith Vickers who walks in the shadows and just observes everything. Then when push comes to shove they crush her by the spaceship cuz the movie needs to end and no character can live cuz that would be a loose thread.
If I were a Prometheus apologetic I could perhaps argue that the character was established as a very calculated woman who always thought more about her own safety and gain than other people and that when one unforeseen thing happened she got killed. But this is not thoroughly explored before hand, and the “mystery” of this character is not either thoroughly explained as no real pay-off was told. So when she finally get crushed at the end it just feels anti-climatic and pointless.
This scene was interesting. I kept wondering if it was all a big misunderstanding or if the alien got angry that humans had created life as well or if it was just fear of the pandemic.
The same goes with Peter Weyland who also gets killed off rather fast and anti-climatic. This scene is arguably better though cuz it leaves the question of the Space-jockeys view and relationship to us unclear but clearly threatening. But two mysterious characters being killed off, without any real interesting pay-off by any of them makes some parts of Prometheus a real slap in the face.
Its fine to leave questions open, and its fine to have mystery, but then you can´t kill the characters off, as that ends the mystery. Death is the end, also to plot.
Some mysteries are also solved too quickly, as they seem to be just a nuisance for getting the plot along. David discovers and uncover stuff quickly for no reason. It seems that the “space-jokey” technology is fool proof and pressing random buttons makes everything work. Yes, David is an android and is very smart, but pressing random buttons and trial and error does demand SOME error.
And the Darwin award for 2093 goes to: Stupid guy who think he can pet strange alien thing.
Then it is the scenes with the crew members lost behind on the alien station that discover a pile of dead aliens and gets report of “something alive” only to get killed off while the captain was off with Theron, and no other crew member seemed to give a damn either. It just get so frustratingly annoying and stupid.
All in all Prometheus balances between what can be accepted in suspension of disbelief and then threads over with gusto. Its just too many big and small stupidities, many of them pointed out other places on the interweb. And when mystery is mixed with stupidity one tends to stop wondering cuz the answer may be just as dumb as some of these characters and events.
Peter Weyland: There’s nothing.
David: I Know. Have a good journey, Mr. Weyland.
Prometheus II – Burnt child fears fire.
Like a burnt child, I fear to look forward to Prometheus II, but I do have dreams. I dream that Ridley Scott acknowledges that Prometheus had many flaws and tries to correct them somewhat in the sequel by some magic trick. I do not know how and its a feat I do not even think he has. How can one retcon so many flaws? Well, if its not going to correct the flaws of the first one, at least I hope it will not make so many more.
I still am looking forward to Prometheus II, cuz I am more like a burnt child with teaching disabilities.
Blog 2.0 – Not 4 Dullards
Dullard for dummies have a special chapter on pointing out spelling and grammar errors when you have nothing to add to the argument. Also there is a chapter called: “TL;DR- Best comeback ever!“