An artist owes nothing to anyone. To themselves they owe only truth.
I live by these words. Many times, expectations, no wait, slash that, demands are thrust upon an artist by their “fans”. “You need to tell your story this way” or “you need to only make this kind of music”, etc., etc., etc. Now there is an argument for protecting a work from its creator (Like Star Wars for instance), but those are rare instances. Most of the time the artist is simply following the lead of the work itself and it’s not to a place we think it should go. That’s our problem, not theirs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again, people critique a film by what they want it to be, not on what the film is trying to be. With that in mind, let’s talk about Prometheus.
Let’s start off with Sir Ridley Scott’s own words shall we?
“PROMETHEUS IS NOT A PREQUEL TO ALIEN, BUT IT SHARES SOME OF ITS DNA!”
OK?!?! Now please, stop your bitching.
An alien being walks on a planet which may or may not be Earth. He drinks a container of black goo as part of some ritual. His body disintegrates into the water and his DNA “building blocks” are seeded throughout the area…Life will grow.
Millions of years later, a team of Scientists led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), discover a series of cave paintings detailing visitations by large humanoid beings pointing to a cluster of astral bodies. The scientists deduce that these must be the “Creator” or "Engineers" of human life pointing to their home world. The planetary formations depicted in the painting are identical and are able to be tracked to a planet designated LV- 223. The solar system also has one sun and one planet capable of supporting life. With faith and a destination, Shaw and Holloway are off and running.
Aboard the deep space vessel “Prometheus”, we are introduced to David, an artificial person, while he watches Lawrence of Arabia, mimicking Peter O’ Toole’s character in speech as well as by dying his hair blonde to match. It is a quiet beautiful sequence depicting the endless hours he spent alone learning, and possibly planning.
When the scientists awaken along with a team of expert geologists, geneticist and the like, we are introduced to the intriguing company woman of sorts, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). Vickers doesn't mince words. She lets the crew know right off the bat that she is there to make sure that they do their job and nothing more. She then turns the floor over to a holographic pre-recording of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), billionaire tycoon extraordinaire.
Weyland is old, not regular old, but “Dawn of the Mummy” old. It's a little creepy. After a cryptic greeting, he turns the floor over to Shaw and Holloway to explain the mission at hand: the search for our creators.
None of the crew seems to be too interested and why would they be? They have been hired to go on a deep space expedition and put to sleep for two years in a time when this is not common place. Furthermore, they have been told that they’re going to find “GOD”. It’s kind of like when someone tells you that they have spirits in their house or that they have seen a ghost. The usual response is “Oh, that’s nice”, because you don’t believe them or more likely, you have trouble processing a response. Same instance here, Shaw and Holloway are met with disbelief and cynicism. These crew members weren’t told why they are there until they arrive in orbit above LV-223 (probably for security reasons and the protection of the ultimate goal). The ship’s Captain, Janek (Idris Elba), for instance, doesn’t care enough to make it to the initial debriefing; he’s there to “fly” the ship.
The group gets down to the planet to find a huge dome -like structure, and begins mapping the place out using drones. These “Pups” use laser scans to create a three-dimensional map of the desired area and are quite cool. While David examines a control panel of some sort, he inadvertently plays a 3D video log which depicts the Engineers running from something. The group follows the images to a large door and a headless corpse. Behind the door, the group soon finds a large room (similar to the egg room in “Alien” where Kane sealed his fate) with strange cylindrical canisters filled with black goo. The discovery of the body along with the black goo changes the mission from being one of exploration and discovery into a fight for survival against a superior alien foe bent on our destruction.
This is a remarkable film. It is part high-concept jigsaw puzzle, part summer action flick with a heavy under current that explores religious themes. In short, it’s a film that you could and should discuss afterward. This film, much like Blade Runner, wants the viewer to think, to explore this world and find their own truths. The problem seems to come in with the fact that if Ridley Scott was dealing with lazy audiences in 1982, today’s movie-goer must be absolutely lethargic!
Most people want a cut and dry, three act popcorn experience, nothing more. That isn’t the film you get here. As I examined in my article; “A Cycle of Life and Death: Alien” (http://www.sinfulcelluloid.com/2012/06/cycle-of-life-and-death-alien-1979.html), a film made by a then 40 year old Ridley Scott, there is a lot of subtext embedded in the somewhat straight forward plot. The movie presents several themes on several levels, making it much richer than just a gothic horror set in space. This film does the same, but to an audience that has gotten so used to a film doing everything for them, they become frustrated on the slightest unmarked door they’re asked to walk through.
With so many pieces put into place over the course of two hours, it's a difficult film to talk about without discussing the spoilers hidden within.
So, this is your spoiler warning…they are coming.
Ridley Scott creates an amazingly rich and textured world over the course of two hours. It is a world we are familiar with, therefore comfortable, and Ridley uses that knowledge to his advantage by not spending time reintroducing you to it but rather exploring it.
Many people love this film, but even the ones that do have complaints and or questions of a varying variety. I believe that the film is pretty cut and dry in most aspects, though it does require you to do a little bit of thinking. The problem with a lot of film these days, not just science fiction, is that it spoon-feeds everything to the viewer, because a few suits at the executive level feel that if audience members don't get it they won't come and they'll tell their friends not to come. Yes, that is the sad state that we live in these days.
A Note on Casting
Though I can agree that most of the characters are underdeveloped, I feel that the casting was by design. Another common objection to the film is that it casts people like Oscar winner Charlize Theron and does very little with them. I feel this was a very smart move. Let me explain. Given the sheer scope of the film, Ridley was well aware that he wouldn’t have much time to waste on details that wouldn’t play into the goals of the overall narrative. How do you get around spending time with new characters? You cast people like Charlize and Idris, not A-list actors that would overpower the scenes that they’re in, but well-known actors that you feel something for. We immediately have a rapport with these people through their body of work and that translates to their characters.
Let’s take a look at some major objections.
Conventional Thinking is the Enemy
At the beginning of the film, we see an alien being disrobe and drink a container of black goo, disintegrating into the water, thus spreading his DNA throughout the land. People seem to have a problem with this scenario, why would he sacrifice himself to create life? Well, for starters, that objection is based on the beliefs of a human society, or even more specific, a western society. These are not humans; they may not feel it is a sacrifice, but a great honor. We apply our very conventional ideals on others even though those traits may not even exist in their “society”. We do it in religion all the time, GOD is good, Satan is evil; these are human concepts. The other problem comes from Darwinist complaining that the film discounts Darwinism. First of all, Darwinism is a theory and an opinion, so relax. Secondly, when the Engineer dissolved into the waters of the planet he spread his DNA all over the place. We don’t know what happened after that. As a matter of fact, this movie not only enforces Darwinism, it celebrates it. Darwin's basic theory presumes the development of life from non-life and stresses a purely naturalistic "descent with modification". In other words, complex creatures evolve from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time. As random genetic mutations occur within an organism's genetic code, the beneficial mutations are preserved because they aid survival (natural selection).These beneficial mutations are passed on to the next generation. Over time, beneficial mutations accumulate and this results in an entirely new organism. Are we really having this conversation? Moving on…
The Future is Now
Prometheus arrived at LV-223 around 80 years from now; taking into account the two years it took to travel there. Some people felt that it wasn't far enough in the future to allow for deep space travel.
Forget what we as a society have done in the past 100 years; let’s look at the past 30 years. Boom boxes to MP3 players, Thomas Guide books to voice navigation, nerve controlled limb replacements to a phone capable of conversing with you, and this is just the stuff we know about. Look how out of this world Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report” seemed until you watched the special features showing that most all the technology used in the film is factual and developed. There is more to our science and technology than we can buy at the mall.
Other People’s Money
Why would Peter Weyland fund a deep space mission based on faith and opinion? There are several reasons why Weyland would be involved.
Most great discoveries are based on little more than faith or a hunch. Besides, assuming his company developed the technologies needed for deep space flight, the financial return on investment would be limitless. People without money or vision tend be blind to the bigger picture.
As he stated in his speech at TED 2023, it is his personal mission to “…change the world”. You can’t change the world without venturing into unknown territories.
When you are dying and fighting to live, and have the means, you would be open to anything. Plus, Weyland has a science background and has dedicated his life and business to changing our lives. If that was me and I heard that a group of reasonably respectable scientists have possibly discovered GOD, then you better believe I’m onboard.
Lastly, Weyland was 33 years of age in 2023 which would make him about 99 years old by the time the ship arrives in orbit of LV-223. Sitting on that kind of wealth becomes a waste when you’re that old. After all, you can’t take it with you. This is another argument made by people that don’t have crazy money. Now granted, that’s most people, but if you want to argue an intelligent Sci-Fi film, please do it intelligently.
Religion vs. Science
There seems to be an issue with Shaw being a Christian woman and a scientist. Why? There is a popular belief that being a scientist makes you an atheist. Not only is that not true, but it’s a little ridiculous. Even if it wasn’t, she doesn’t debate the existence of God, simply the order in which we came into the picture, whether directly or in-directly.
Big Things Have Small Beginnings
What is the black goo? It is never explained, but, it is possible that the goo is the first stage in the evolution of what will eventually become the Xenomorph. This is theory, after all, we are never told much about the organism, but it is hinted at. Let’s look at these possible genetic timelines:
The black goo first encounters the worms after it is “awakened” by David. The goo flows onto the floor and comes into contact with the worms. Shortly after, it mutates into the large penis creatures (the Hammerpede) that Millburn and Fifield try to “pet “. The Hammerpede then attacks them, killing Millburn with acid (similar to the facehugger), and penetrating Fifield’s body through his mouth. The mutation stream ends with Fifield when he is killed.
When the goo is swallowed by Holloway, it doesn’t contain the additional DNA strand of the worm. He has a different mutation going on that never really blossoms since Vickers gets pyro on his ass; he is burned to death as the mutation begins to really take shape.
The third mutation of the goo happens within Shaw. Taking Darwinism into account, let’s break it down: The goo has been within Holloway and incorporated what it found useful for survival. In this case, it would be his male reproductive features. It transfers to Shaw through intercourse and not only incorporates her female reproductive traits; it runs through the cycle, perhaps to incorporate the natural and superior birthing process. A new human-alien organism is born carrying a complete set of reproductive DNA information, along with human pigmentation and four squid like limbs.
Finally, the birth organism, which has matured and resembles a sort of proto-face hugger, attaches itself to the aggressive Engineer. A new organism is born using the new reproductive system it has adapted from its human interaction. It has adapted a darker coloring and rough texture, resembling the organic suits worn by the Engineers, which may suggest that the suits and the Engineers are in some way organically connected.
This is a carefully thought out evolutionary timeline, but in the end, it’s just my personal theory. I may have hit the nail on the head…or they could just be what Captain Janek suggested, weapons of mass destruction.
There is another possibility though, concerning the Xenomorph itself. What if the Xenomorph is to the Engineers what the Engineers are to us? What I mean is, what if the Engineers went searching for their creators, just as we have, and what they found is the Xenomorph? The large room, also known as the “Big Head” room, features a large sculpture on one wall that clearly resembles the Alien Queen we all know and love in a Christ-like pose. Plus, David does find a gelatinous residue on the digital video playback control panel that resembles the residue left by the Xenomorphs all over the Alien films. Seeing that the Engineer’s suits and general architecture resembles the Xenomorph, what if the Engineers went searching for their creators and found that those creators were the Xenomorphs. The Xenomorph then turned on them, trying to destroy them and then the cycle continued. It’s a possibility in a film filled with possibilities.
Right under your nose
The reactions of Fifield and Millburn inside the structure have caused two points of contention since they freak out after seeing the fallen headless Engineer and decide that they’re going back to the ship. Remember, deep space travel and alien beings are not common place. This would scare anyone. There have been many asinine comments made about Fifield being a Geologist and not wanting to stick around since he is “doing what we assume he loves”. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but just because you do it for a living, don’t mean you’re in love with it. A lot of time we choose a profession based on the income potential. I’m willing to bet human lives that nobody works at Walmart because they love it! The second problem people have with their characters is that they ran scared but later want to pet the alien penis thing. Now, I’ve seen the film several times now. Did people not realize that they are FRICKIN’ HIGH? The tobacco scene is there for a reason and like everything else that’s in the film; they give you enough to tell you what’s going on without hitting you over the head with it.
The Black Box Theory
Why would there be a holographic playback of incidents like the murder of the Engineers and the control room or “Cockpit”? At first viewing, the digital “memory” seems like a lazy piece of exposition and the later flight preparation “memory” seems contrived. However, remember that the entire area explored is actually the ship! Yes, in which case, the holographic recordings, or ghosts as some critics have dubbed them, are actually flight recordings made by the ships computers. Once parts of the ship are “awakened”, it played back relative data to possible “investigators”. You can look at it many different ways, but bottom line, they’re incident recordings from onboard the vessel.
Not an Evil Bone in His Body
To what purpose does David poison Holloway? Is he evil? We must remember David’s main objective is to find a cure for Weyland. Upon discovering this organism, David may have wanted to simply test it on a living being to study it. However, he chose Holloway, who is rude, cocky, and mean spirited, which shows David does feel emotion. Holloway is constantly belittling him and we do see David react with a sense of arrogance and disdain. If the child is bullied long and harsh enough he will return to the playground with a rifle. Many have argued that David is not evil because he’s an android, I don’t think so. We clearly see emotion in David. Perhaps these emotions have been learned and maybe they were built in, lest we forget, David is an early model android.
More than Meets the Eye
Why would the escape pod surgical bay be calculated for only a male when it belongs to Vickers? This one was odd at first but should have made perfect sense after. The machine is for Weyland, though no one would know that since his presence aboard the ship is unknown.
We assumed from that magnificent shot in the trailer that we were going to see the crash of the “Derelict” spacecraft on LV-426. Alas, this is a different planet and not the same ship. This has enraged many fans who are crying foul due to the way the ship lands, claiming that it lands in exactly the same position as the other ship and that they’ve been duped. I may not be a shit-kicker, but I’ve played a game of “Horseshoes” or two in my day. When you throw one, it’s only gonna land in one of two positions, and they are very much the same. Now, the Engineer’s ship is shaped very much like a horseshoe so without “spoon-feeding” just where I’m going with this, I’ll just simply say: get over it.
But Everybody Loves Humans
When the Engineer awakens from hyper sleep and goes into a rage, people do not understand why, claiming that the scene makes “No Sense”…Um, that opinion, itself, makes no sense. Many feel that his (It’s) reaction is unwarranted. Let’s put ourselves in the place of the Engineer… You are a superior being in hyper sleep. A group of Humans, whom are lesser creatures than yourself, trespass onto your ship, and ask for things. If you were someone inferior, like say, I don’t know, a teenager, and you came into my house uninvited, woke me up and wanted me to do you a favor, I’d lose my mind! Think about it. Ridley Scott gave even more reason for the anger towards us in a recent interview with Movies.com (If the following information is new to you then you should probably sit down):
"If you look at it as an 'our children are misbehaving down there' scenario, there are moments where it looks like we've gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, 'Let's send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it.' Guess what? They crucified him." Yep, Jesus isn’t a zombie, he’s an Alien!
Is Vickers a Goddamn Robot?
Probably the hottest point of debate is whether or not Meredith Vickers is an android. Vickers is complicated. She behaves in a cold and calculated manner but has outbursts of emotion. She appears to share a little something something with David (biologically speaking), and that is a good argument for Vickers not being human at all. Let’s look at the clues:
Her over all demeanor is very calculated; while in a calm state, every move is made with precision.
She possesses enough strength to throw David against the wall, hold him there and face him without fear.
If she was truly Weyland’s daughter, he would have had to be in his 70’s when she was conceived; possible but unlikely.
She could be a first attempt at an artificial person. Perhaps he created a female (his “Eve”?) that had too much emotion and maybe that emotional core is what leads him to design and market a male instead. This would certainly explain the rift between the two.
However, there is another possibility. Wait for it…wait for it…
Vickers is a Replicant!
Replicants can be designed with no expiration date. They can love, feel, and have sexual intercourse with big black guys if they so choose. They have “Superhuman” strength and a heightened protectiveness of their own lives. Hell, by Ridley’s own admission, Dekkard is a Replicant. He’s not above playing with that idea and the two worlds of Blade Runner and Prometheus are very similar and could easily be one and the same. As Sir Ridley has taught us, the word “Father” can mean so many things.
A Strange Lost Connection…
One final observation I would like to point out and I know this connection is considered taboo. This connection goes all the way back to 1979 but I never noticed it before. When we get our first glimpse of the Space Jockey, sitting in his chair, chest bursted from the inside, we see the large phallic shaped control system pointing upward at a diagonal angle. Thought at first by fans to be some sort of cannon, it actually appears to be the controls for the entire ship. Regardless, has anyone ever noticed that this large phallic symbol pointing erect (I know, I know) resembles the shoulder cannon of the species we lovingly call…the Predators? Look at the similarities and tell me what you think.
Thank you for spending time with me on this in-depth look at Prometheus. Some of you may agree with me and others may not. Some of you hate this film with every fabric of your being and feel betrayed. Just remember one thing…
THE MOVIE WASN’T MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR YOU!
There seems to be an undercurrent of anger and betrayal with this film because it didn’t deliver what YOU wanted it to. No one promised you a rose garden…get over it. Besides, after over thirty years, nothing would ever live up to the incredibly high standards YOUR expectations have created.
So, what you should do with Prometheus is not think about it less, but think about it just a little bit more. It is a film to be pondered and discussed from now until the time depicted comes to pass. There are answers there if you want them, but there is no singular truth. Much like religion, everyone is free to find their own truth. Please take the time to watch the film on its own merits, not because it is less than those that came before it, but because it is more.