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Let’s Talk About Prometheus

June 11th, 2012 by | Tags: , , ,

I saw and liked Prometheus (directed by Ridley Scott, written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof). I found a lot of meat on its bones, so I spent a lot of the weekend having discussions with friends about the quality of the movie, some of the script choices, and generally everything about the flick, save for maybe how great all the posing that Rafe Spall’s Millburn was doing for the first half of the movie. (Seriously, go back and look at that guy and his dumb hoodie. Great body language.) Anyway, here’s another loose collection of thoughts masquerading as blog content. Maybe half of these were written the night I saw the movie, and the other half came about over the last couple days. These are cleaned up (hopefully) from what I sent my friends, so let me apologize to them in advance for forcing them to read this twice (or else we are no longer friends). Let’s talk it out:

-The major theme of Prometheus is parenthood. There are several living fathers in the movie (Weyland, the Engineers, Shaw’s father, Charlie, maybe one or two more if you’re willing to stretch), but only one living mother: Shaw. The balance is interesting. It pushes the focus entirely onto the men, but Shaw becomes even more significant, being the only mother, because of that focus.

-Probably goes without saying, but Ellen Ripley/Elizabeth Shaw. ER->ES. Probably nothing, but it’s cute. There’s also probably an interesting contrast to be found between Ripley’s underclothes (t-shirt and panties, no adina howard) and Shaw’s underclothes (more of a medical wrap kind of thing, and bloodstained by the end). Ripley’s represented her safe feeling (which makes the Alien into the intruder in the night, breaker of peace). What’s Shaw’s represent?

-Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw goes through the traditional fears/horrors of pregnancy in fast motion. She has an actual alien parasite, not a technical one, inside her. It will definitely kill her dead unless she acts to save herself. Later on, her progeny attempts to impregnate (and thereby kill) her.

- There’s this running theme of parenthood being a savage, thankless existence wrought with pain. For mothers, it ends in death (see also Shaw’s mother and her unexplained death). For fathers, they deal out the savagery. Other than Shaw’s father, who falls to disease, all the other fathers are corrupt. The Engineers want their children dead for whatever reason.

-There’s an explicit Christian (I’m not sure which specific sect, in part because I can’t place Shaw’s cross, which might just be a regular generic cross with a weird hook) riff in Prometheus. The engineers killed themselves 2000 years ago from 2093,which was the time of Jesus, give or take 60 years. I think Doctor Shaw even says “give or take” during the scene where she dates the corpse.

-Two thousand years prior to Prometheus was also close to the death of John of Patmos, writer of Revelation. “Apocalypse” didn’t always mean “end of the world.” It meant “unveiling,” as in the unveiling of truths, the unveiling of glory, and so on.

-The Engineers created their children and then decided that the children were… corrupt? Fallen? Which leads to another idea: Engineers as Angels? Shaw asks “Who created them?” at one point during the movie. There’s always a higher power. Anyway: the Engineers hate their progeny and abandoned it, which is basically the worst thing for fathers to do.

-The Engineers-as-Angels remark, when combined with the fact that the Engineer DNA “pre-dates” ours, makes me wonder if the Engineers aren’t just intermediaries. God creates the angels, some angels rebel, and then God creates humans. Though I don’t think there’s anything about angels being Humans v1.0 in the Bible, which makes this line of thought partially moot.

-Back on the corrupt fatherhood train: Weyland is a father who sets his children against one another while simultaneously planning for his own immortality. He doesn’t recognize Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers at all (Vickers, last name meaning son of the vicar) and he openly mocks David (David, “beloved,” notoriously selfish but still righteous king who also wrote half the Psalms and played music, he also won his kingdom through the death of the rulers by another actor, rather than being born to it) as being less than human, but still the closest thing he has to a son. Weyland rejects his children, both of them, in favor of himself, and for him, “there is nothing.”

-Logan Marshall-Green’s Charlie Holloway, after being infected, is delusional and off-center. I haven’t quite figured him out yet, but he’s got poisonous seed and he’s keeping secrets when he shouldn’t be. He looks before he leaps, but not out of any malicious intent. He wants to know the truth, he desperately wants to believe.

-The last Engineer rejects humanity and is later infected by a giant facehugger–a product of his own creation. Hoist by his own petard, impregnated by his own bastard child.

-David says, “Who doesn’t want to kill their father?” (or something to that effect) to Shaw. Shaw replies, paraphrased, “I didn’t.”

-Shaw consciously rejects fire very early in the movie. “This is a scientific expedition, not a military one,” she says. Metaphorical fire represents knowledge, doubly so in the story of Prometheus, and here it is realized in the form of protection, more specifically, a weapon.

-I’m not sure about the rest of the cast, particularly Janek (a twist on the Hebrew John meaning: God is Good). Janek is assuredly righteous, as he refuses to let the Earth be destroyed no matter the cost, and he attempts to protect his crew/children when he can. He only screws up when he sleeps with Vickers and two of his crew die. He was a cool cat though. Playful father? I dunno. Maybe a reach.

-Meredith Vickers is cold, standoffish, and distant. She’s mirroring her father’s reaction to her. She’s becoming the old man on several different levels, and it’s all because she wants his throne.

-The caesarian section is used when natural childbirth would put the mother or child’s life at risk. Natural here, of course, is the squid bursting through her stomach and destroying her body. It’s also used in certain types of abortions. At first I thought she didn’t destroy the squid, but the contaminant process is almost definitely intended to destroy organic life. She’s broken and in danger and terrified, and man, Rapace sold that scene so well. She got across the fact that fight-or-flight was pinging hard on flight and not at all on fight.

-The Engineers using music as user interface: Lucifer was the angel of music, and angels spend most of their time singing hymns to and about God. Music, to David, is just another language.

-Shaw said the cave paintings were an invitation. They clearly weren’t, so what were they? A warning? Simple homage? Something else? I honestly don’t know. But leaping to an invitation seems very… optimistic? It might’ve just been a family album.

-My first thought was that the 3D didn’t seem that big a deal to me? There were some cool bits, but it was sorta like Tintin where it was so prevalent and well done it didn’t really add to the experience in a noticeable way like it does in more gimmicky movies, if that makes sense/isn’t stupid. But in thinking about it deeper, the 3D was spot-on. It was exactly how 3D should be done. It wasn’t a gimmick, and they did some pretty great depth of field effects with it, on top of all the UI pop-ups. The video streams looked especially good.

-I don’t get the first scene. I’ve seen people suggest that it’s an Engineer seeding life on Earth, but in looking at it, that doesn’t quite track. The black fluid destroyed the Engineer, to the point that it decreated him at the DNA level. He isn’t creating humanity or life at all. He’s killing himself, and I’m not sure why. His very DNA unravels as his body decays, leaving nothing behind, but the fade from the DNA destruction to cell division (death to life, for the record) makes me unsure exactly what happened.

-The black fluid always has a vile effect on organic life. It destroyed the Engineer early on. When the worms in the tomb full of murder urns encountered the liquid, they transformed into aggressive, anti-life variations on their own original form. Fifield did the same after being exposed, actually. He turned ape-like and savage. That beating in the hangar was right out of 2001.

-What causes the black fluid to react? One urn reacts to David, while another doesn’t. Is it proximity to organic life? The worms didn’t activate the leaking, so it takes more than just being alive. My thought is that it has to do with the temperature. The ship was minus 12º inside, and maybe that was for preservation. Therefore, the humans coming in there breathing all hot warmed up the fluid, causing it to leak? I think that tracks. David even freezes a canister to preserve it with no leakage. I liked that two different people were told to not touch the stuff.

-When David sits in the throne-like pilot’s chair, he grins like a child. It’s shot from kind of a distance, but I’m 99% sure I saw that. Then, when the playback begins, he hurriedly gets out of the way like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. David pretends to be cold and emotionless, but he definitely, definitely has emotions.

-The lifeboat, Vickers’s room, is Weyland’s. Vickers is just using it, once again emulating her father and desiring his things. Weyland is just as selfish as she is, since the medical device is set for men only.

-The jokes, and most of the situational humor, are almost all gallows or sarcastic humor, and most of them come from David. “I didn’t know you had it in you.” The way he announced the pregnancy. The dialogue with Charlie Holloway at the pool table. He’s cruel, and he definitely showers humans in scorn. I loved the bit where Millburn and Fifield were like “nah, we’re finna go back to the ship.”

-The only people with real jokes are Charlie (sorta, but I can’t remember what exactly), Janek, Chance, and Ravel. They remind me of Yaphet Kotto as Parker and Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien, in that they were both voices of reason and sources of entertainment, casual dialogue, and the voice of the audience.

-I really liked Rafe Spall’s Millburn, no matter how little screen time he had. There was something about his body language that was unbelievably interesting. He came across as kind of a socially awkward dude who doesn’t think he’s awkward, he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and the most charming, too. He really sold his role. The fidgeting with the hoodie, the crossed legs and tilt whenever he sits down, that goofy grin… I’m hoping there’s a bunch of deleted scenes with him. “Ship would be good right now” or whatever inside the dome was pretty good, as was the decision to go east instead of west.

-Sean Harris’s Fifield was a nice twist on the usual thing in these flicks, where the rugged looking soldier dude is just another rude jerk. The only actual soldier-type guy we see is Jackson, and he just looks like a regular dude.

-David watching other people’s dreams is super messed up. There’s something very important lurking around there that I can’t quite put my finger on. He’s definitely a malevolent entity in the context of the movie, acting against the wishes of the people we want to stay alive and for the wishes of a selfish old man. Watching someone sleep or resting your hand on their bed is a parental thing to do, but when David does it, it’s like he’s feeding off their dreams.

-The biggest question for me is that yes, a military installation was destroyed by some mysterious factor. But who did it? And more than that, why did no one check up on the Engineers and then go ahead and destroy Earth anyway? That suggests a third party to me, some type of invasion or regime change.

-Best performances in order: Michael Fassbender as David, Rafe Spall as Millburn, Noomi Rapace as Shaw, Charlize Theron as Vickers, Idris Elba as Janek + his two crewdudes, and then Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway. Theron really surprised me, because I didn’t particularly rate her before, but she kills. So distant but still sypmathetic. Fassbender’s motions were just awkward and mechanical enough to sell that he was a really, really advanced android, but also contemptuous of humans. Something about the precision with which he picked up that mote of dust early in the film…

-And, seriously man, look at Millburn’s posture and body language during that first briefing with Weyland. I don’t know why he tickled me so much, but he did. Rafe Spall is so great. You should watch Shadow Line.


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42 comments to “Let’s Talk About Prometheus”

  1. “Probably goes without saying, but Ellen Ripley/Elizabeth Shaw. ER->ES. Probably nothing, but it’s cute”
    Elizabeth Shaw is likely something, but not so much an intentional connection to Ripley, I think.

    “I don’t get the first scene. I’ve seen people suggest that it’s an Engineer seeding life on Earth, but in looking at it, that doesn’t quite track.”

    I think the idea with the Engineer killing himself is a less direct creation of life. We’ve seen that the black goo basically forces some kind of creation and I took his sacrifice to be seeding the younger Earth with their DNA to guide the eventual evolution into humans. It doesn’t feel right to me either, especially because sharing DNA seemed like a really ridiculous plot point, but that was the closest I got to having an explanation for it.

    “Watching someone sleep or resting your hand on their bed is a parental thing to do, but when David does it, it’s like he’s feeding off their dreams.”

    I’m pretty sure he’s doing it because he seems to be trying really hard to be more human or to at least understand them better. I agree that he certainly has emotions and noticed his glee at sitting on in the seat/throne, so what else of humanity can he envy but our dreams?

    Great thoughts. I enjoyed watching the movie, but I feel like a lot of it went south for me after around the halfway point. It was still fun, but there felt like a deviation from an exploratory sci-fi film I was enjoying to a somewhat predictable monster/chase film. Which isn’t bad, but when coupled with the way some of the characters were behaving, that there were characters there basically just to be thrown away (like the copilots), it left me feeling a bit disappointed.

    The biggest problem I have with it, though, came from something a friend expressed after we got out of the theater: this is a sci-fi movie that, at every step of the way, embraces the theme of punishing curiosity.

    I’d need to watch Aliens again, but despite it all, I think this is my second favorite film in the franchise (Scott would’ve had to do something spectacular to dethrone the original).


  2. Man, I just realized I managed to repeat basically what I quoted of yours regarding the opening scene. It felt weird, I agree, I guess that’s just all I could take from it.

    Wish there were an edit option here so I looked less dumb


  3. No, I have a master plan in place to ensure that I am the only person allowed to look even remotely smart here. Sorry. :c00l:

    But nah, you’re fine. All that makes sense, and if you agree with me, you must be right.

    I didn’t even think of David as emulating humanity by viewing our dreams, I guess because the only thing he does with the info he saw is weaponize it and use it to hurt Shaw. But even then, he suggests that he hopes that robots aren’t “too close” to humanity. I think he’s playing very coy with his emotions. I think he feels a lot of things.

    You’re right about the monster/chase stuff, too, I think. I didn’t have as many problems with the motivations as a lot of other people (the more I think about it, the more I like the copilots), but I totally see why you say that. Also the other lady doctor, Ford? She was pretty empty. I wonder if she had a broader role in the deleted scenes.


  4. http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html This person’s post/review on Prometheus is the most interesting I’ve come across, because it’s pretty crazy and makes a few leaps of logic, but has some quite strong points as well. Basically he expands on the Jesus/aliens death/life themes.

    I think aside from it’s poorly done ending most people’s problem with it is that it does give the message that curiosity is punished. Which is fine for me, I love cosmic horror type stuff.


  5. http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html This person’s post/review on Prometheus is the most interesting I’ve come across, because it’s pretty crazy and makes a few leaps of logic, but has some quite strong points as well. Basically he expands on the Jesus/aliens death/life themes that you picked up on.

    I think aside from it’s poorly done ending most people’s problem with it is that it does give the message that curiosity is punished. Which is fine for me, I love cosmic horror type stuff.


  6. I’m glad i read this because i was ready to snap after watching Prometheus and it shed new light on some concepts (missed how central the fatherhood theme was and i especially like the music concept). My biggest problems with the movie were the black goo, more questions than answers, and silly action movie things.

    The black goo ability seemed to change whatever it needed to fit what the plot called for it. The Engineer in the beginning drinks it and immediately falls apart but Fifield turns into a zombie ghoul attacking living things (for whatever reason), charlie gets deathly sick to create a emotional situation, and the worms basically have the only positive change by evolving into next level pre-pre-facehugger shit. I guess it could be explained that the black goo wasnt refined when the Engineer took it but wasn’t the point in that then? Why would you test a non completed experiment thats results in death?

    Too many questions that didn’t provide any answers. How did humans fail? What was the chaos all the Enginners were running from during the installation’s last days? Whats the purpose of the black goo, was it made to create life or to be used as a weapon or both? What was the point of David poisoning Charlie? If the Engineers felt humanity had failed why go through elobrate research and development to create the black goo when the Engineers could have just blown up Earth with their obvious vastly superior technology? Which leads me to wonder are humans a failure or simply lab rats to be used by the Engineers whose main focus all along was the development of the black goo?

    The last thing is petty but its things like this that take me out of a movie. After having MAJOR surgery dr shaw is still proven to be quite the athlete jumping and running around the planet surface, maybe those were healing shots she was taking i took them as pain killers. When the Engineer ship is rolling on its side why didn’t Vickers run left or right when it was shown that two rolls to the left would take you out of harms way, Shaw survived Vicks is crushed. How did the Engineer know where Shaw was at the end of the movie? Why wouldnt his first thought be that she was the one that crashed the ship into his ship after seeing what his plans were?

    An ok movie all in all but left me sincerely disappointed. Falls third in my list. Aliens, alien, prometheus


  7. @Dylan: Agreed. Major surgery that was concluded with the same kind of staples I’ve seen in my office. Yet, somehow she’s athletic.

    The Wile E Coyote silly way of running along the train tracks hoping that the train doesn’t hit you, instead of stepping off the tracks, was absolutely ridiculous. However, it mirrored the other very very stupid things done by supposedly very very smart people in this movie.

    I don’t know if David had full contemptt for humanity or that he loves some of them or what. There wasn’t enough data to be conclusive. And that’s problematic because that was one whole complete movie, supposedly. It was never clear why he infected that scientist. He didn’t seem to be moved one way or the other by what happened to the scientist. It didn’t seem to be due to the insult that the scientist tossed at him. And he didn’t seem to be moved one way or the other by the result of the “experiment.”

    David wanted to force the female scientist to have her baby despite the risks to her. Then, he seemed unmoved when she showed up, apparently having aborted the creature. What the hell were we supposed to think about this android?

    Probably the same as this inconsistent, incomplete, sadly predictable, but rather pretty movie. Not much.

    The best review I have heard was “Lower your expectations.”


  8. I saw the opening scene as the Engineer basically “locking the door”, if we believe Elba’s character saying the planet is a military base. I thought he was the last Engineer not in hyper-sleep, and his goo death caused the storms and CO2 levels, since they weren’t shown in the opening scene. But then again, that only works if that first scene doesn’t take place on Earth, like some people say, so who knows?

    I loved the interaction between Shaw and David when David asks “Why did you create me, then?” and Shaw replies “Because we could”. That’s basically the answer they’re looking for, but also the one that they’ll never accept.

    Another thing I liked is that David asks permission to poison Shaw, sort of. He asks what he would do to meet his creators (word choice!), and only then poisons him. He’s definitely creepy, but sticking to his programming.

    I liked the Moebius strip of Engineer->Humans->David. David basically kills his father, although not quite how he expected. Shaw kills her creator with her creation, which I thought wrapped that up nicely.

    Last thought, I liked that they were called Engineers specifically, rather than any other name. What do you think they called the people that built David?

    I might not have loved all the movie, but it’s definitely one that lends itself easily to analysis, and I’ve been digging discussing it, which is an accomplishment in itself.


  9. I don’t think the engineers wanted to wipe out humanity. I think they worshipped the Xeno(see the murals on the walls) and were trying to find a way to create their gods for whatever reason(to control? to surpass?)–and humans were the bridge to Xeno, biologically. Or this type of Xeno anyways. I think the plan was to take all of the black goo to earth and seed the planet with xeno-gods. To what end it’s hard to tell–but it does seem like there’s a religious component being lost in simmply calling that place a “military base”. I think it was a holy place too. Plus if the engineers are trying to meet their makers too, that meshes well with what the humans are doing trying to meet the engineers.

    All creations want to meet their creators, in this world, so they can kill them after they have judged them lacking. We saw this in spades with Blade Runner when Roy comes back and gouges out the eyes of his creator(an extremely loaded metaphor).

    I also see David as the father of this particular strain of xeno, and rapace to be the mother. The union of the technology, faith, surivival instincts, and murderous hate.

    I wonder if there are other forms of xeno that act much differently, and created the engineers for some sort of purpose?

    The Xeno’s are essentially living death gods in their manifest form. So are the engineers that we see part of a death cult? That would explain the one committing suicide drinking the black goo.


  10. I think the black goo was how they created life. An Engineer would have to sacrifice himself in order for the goo to get their DNA to bond with the elements of whatever planet they’re working with.
    I think the Engineers routinely came to Earth and pointed out where their base of operations was located, the moon. I think the Engineers had many teams that went out, seeded a planet, and track the progress of the lifeforms created. They weren’t angels as much as scientists. But the last time they showed up, some aspect of humans caused their goo to create monsters. They may not have known of the effect until they got back to their base and were too late to keep it contained, which is why they sealed themselves off. The last Engineers of that base had to wait until the monsters died off before they could go home. I think the last Engineer blamed the humans for his crew dying and was going for revenge, but it was just the stance of a lone survivor. I don’t think the rest of the Engineers know what happened at that base.


  11. To me I loved the movie because it takes all that layering of mythology and the divine and strips it away as the movie continues to reveal the biological, pragmatic, terror at the core of it. Which the movie delivers in spades.

    Also much like the Titan the ship is named after, hubris and reaching past ones depth are big parts of this film and the punishment for those acts by beings whose morality and beliefs are incomprehensible to us.


  12. David just likes this movie because it has a handsome dude named David in it.


  13. I didn’t like the movie as much as you did—I felt like the movie touched on a lot of these themes but didn’t adequately address them with the story, just sprinkled them over the top. But did you notice that all the characters are named after musicians?


  14. Also, to hammer home the faith business, Janek was playing “Adeste Fideles” on his concertina.


  15. Nice article.

    This io9 thing is good: http://io9.com/5917448/all-of-your-lingering-prometheus-questions-answered
    Basically a round-up of all the stuff that Lindelof (and a few others) have said in interviews.

    There’s also this particularly telling point:

    QUESTION: When David communicates with one of the Engineers late in the film, what the hell does he say to get them so angry? Did you actually script what that dialogue would have been in our language?

    LINDELOF: Yes. David’s dialogue with the Engineer has an English translation, but Ridley felt very strongly about not subtitling it. I spoke at length about this on my DVD commentary.

    Think this is what I enjoyed so much about the film is that it cuts so much out and leaves so much unsaid (That guy right at the start, what are those cave paintings about, why were those engineers running about and what happened to kill them off etc etc etc) that it leaves so much room for people to come in and make up their own meanings. Like that link with the guy going on about the Jesus/aliens death/life themes definitely seems to be on to something (and the io9 thing shows that’s where the people who made the film were coming from to): but I took the film as actually being quite big on the whole “everything is meaningless” vibe. David’s conversation with Holloway “because we could” etc and Shaw’s dream at the start: “Why do we believe in Heaven?” “Because – hey – it’s nice.” And that final “that’s because you’re a robot and I’m a human.” – hell – judging from all the stuff that happened in film (spoiler: everyone dies) i think I’d rather be a robot thank you very much.


  16. And after reading all the things Damon and Ridley have said – I’d like to refer to the old mantra about books/films/whatever being smarter than their authors.


  17. @Mendez: Great spot!


  18. Oh – and did anyone else notice that they re-used HR Giger’s concept art from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune?
    Namely this: http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/File:Giger-dune-ii-medium.jpg
    And this: http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/File:Hr_giger_dune_v.jpg

    (Made me cheer a little when I saw it).


  19. DISCLAIMER: I’ve been reading lots of stuff after seeing the movie, so am cherry-picking other people’s thoughts for my conclusions, and claim no credit for anything perceptive.

    - I was not a fan of Rafe Spall’s accent work (or Idris Elba’s, or Patrick Wilson’s. Noomi Rapace gets a pass, but not a good movie for accents). It drove me up the wall when Millburn returns Fifield’s two-finger salute and adds a “belm“, which is an exclusively British sophomorism, right?

    - Re: the opening, Ridley Scott’s confirmed the Engineer is seeding life on that planet – it’s not necessarily Earth at the start, but it illustrates the process.

    - Scott’s confirmation of Space Jesus unlocks a whole heckload of Christ imagery, including the revelation of an impossible pregnancy, the washing of Weyland’s (super-young looking) feet, and Janek sacrificing himself, flanked by dudes positioned slightly lower down.

    -The black fluid is psychomorphic, so it takes more than being alive, it takes sentience (or a “soul”, in spiritual terminology), which David and the worms lack. The urn doesn’t react to David, it reacts to everyone else in the room: “we’ve changed the atmosphere”.

    -Once active, though, it appears able to transform any organic life, including soulless worms. Which is maybe (presumably) how you get the creature (egg-hugger-burster, doesn’t matter which is first) from Alien (see next bullet). The best description of the stuff I’ve seen is “weaponised Primordial Soup“, which, if it is psychomorphic, accounts for how it can seed life on a planet when ingested by a higher being with pure intent, but result in penis-gina beasts once fallen, Freudian humans are on the scene. Or a “perfect organism” if a military Engineer wants to make bio-weapons (which Ridley Scott has always said he thought the eggs were).

    -Regarding the mural, then (which features the creature from the final shot, as well as the familiar Facehugger and Alien Queen), I think they’ve already made the creature from Alien(s), explaining the ship and Engineer pilot on LV426, which must be long dead by the time of this movie’s events.

    -Prometheus takes place on LV223. Leviticus 22:3: “Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.” Pretty much sums up the surviving Engineer’s reaction to David & co.

    -I hate the creatures in this movie – they totally dilute cinema’s greatest monster.


  20. I’ve heard mixed things about Prometheus. As I understand it, the chief criticism is that it is overly/unnecessarily ‘mysterious’ and I blame Linedelof for that. It was a hallmark of his on Lost, and after that bullshit I’m not trusting his word about any forthcoming explanations or the like. I’ll judge it all for myself when I see it tomorrow.

    And yeah, people should watch the Shadow Line. Grim, but good.


  21. Someone mentioned how David basically, though dickishly, asked for permission before poisoning ol’ boy. Mm. But what he did not do was ask permission of anyone else who suffered, as a result – certainly not the new Space Eve who had to carry that … baby.

    That’s why I can’t even give the film, characters, or creators THAT kind of credit because even these moments are inconsistent.


  22. I think the movie’s chief problem is that it was written as a direct Alien prequel by John Spaihts, and then backpedalled to an indirect one (read: no eggs, no hugs, no bursts) by Damon Lindelof. And the seams show.

    It does have some trademark Lindelof flaws, such as underdeveloped/non-existent character motivations, and convenient character stupidity/incuriousity. Often in the service of “mystery”, I suppose, but mostly just to serve the plot in general.


  23. @Timothy T: That guy misinterprets a bunch of stuff and makes up others, I dunno. I at least admitted my terrible stretches.

    @zebrazygotes: This is at least 97.9% true, yes.

    @West: The surgery took like 60 seconds instead of several hours. I don’t think it’s too much to assume that the recovery process was a little more involved than “Throw some staples in it, we’re through.” She was clearly in pain for the rest of the movie and shooting up. I didn’t have any problem with that aftermath.

    @Ziah Grace: That’s a great point about “because we could.” I was really stunned by the cruelty of the line, but that’s good.

    @Jon Hex Brooks: The goo never creates life in the movie, though. It just changes it. Life already existed on the planet the Engineer killed himself on, and everything else the goo touches was changed into a predator. I don’t think there was ever a change in the goo at all. It just affects every organism differently.

    @Mendez: No, I didn’t! That’s awesome. Thanks for noticing.

    @Islington Comic Forum: Yeah, I read somewhere they brought in Giger to help reverse engineer the xenomorph into new forms.

    @Sarah Velez: I didn’t see anything in the movie that suggested a death cult, honestly. There was nothing particularly worshipful about where the fluid was stored. It was just storage. The murals read as warnings, not praise, to me. There was no majesty or anything like that, even for the organic tech the Engineers were using.

    @James W: This movie dilutes the greatest monster, and not Alien 4/AvP/AvP2? Really?

    Also, why are we assuming the Engineers had pure intent, when that is clearly not the case? Their actions are horrific and capricious.

    @Henry: Prometheus is 100% understandable based on what is available in the movie itself.

    @West: Well, I don’t think David was asking permission at all. He was gauging Charlie’s dedication, like he was testing humanity. He was going to poison Charlie regardless, and there’s nothing in David’s programming about not hurting people. Weyland told him to try harder, so he’s going to force an experiment. When he asked that question, he was just observing humanity and being a dick again.

    @James W: What seams, specifically?


  24. @david brothers: Oh no, for sure Alien 4/AvP/AvP2 dilute it! I’d even add Alien 3 and (whisper it) Aliens to that list. (Yes, it’s a great movie and the Queen is a brilliant part of it, but ultimately it moves the creature away from Ash’s “perfect organism” to “big, scary ant”.) It’s just that this movie carries all that “Ridley Scott returns to the genre he defined!” weight, where the other movies are pretty easy to ignore.

    By “pure intent” I just mean (in this thesis) the Engineer is deliberately using the black fluid and its psycho-reactive properties to “create life” (others have pointed out how scientifically nonsensical this is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not what’s happening in the story). Certainly they are horrific and capricious in the movie – partly that’s from a human perspective and partly I think it’s down to unfortunate acting choices. (It doesn’t seem right for the “gardener in space” to look shocked about what’s happening to him, or for the Engineer at the end to snarl and stomp around like a pro-wrestler.)

    In terms of seams… it’s all speculative, obviously, but I’d be surprised if the original incarnation didn’t take place on LV426. You have elements that make sense in that setting – the reveal and then crashing of the “Bone Ship”; general Creature Action; portentously-framed shots of a Space Jockey at his Telescope and a double-jawed, chest-bursting creature – that don’t really go anywhere in the final film, because it’s not the same planet, not the same creatures, not the same Jockey. I think they would have been better off ejecting the Alien references entirely, rather than massaging them to be less closely related to that movie.


  25. @James W: Regarding the shocked look when the “gardener” Engineer is being torn apart, I think it’s a look of pain. Maybe shock is appropriate because he IS shocked and realize being torn apart at a genetic level was going to hurt this much. :)

    And who are we to say that the Engineer didn’t ask David “Whatcha gonna do, brother?” before running wild on him?

    I’m sorry to only jump in with some mild smart-assery, but really enjoying everyone’s thoughtful approach to the film rather than the “Blurrgh, Lindelof’s a hack and LOST sucked” that I’ve been reading across the internet. I even had a coworker describe anything he didn’t like in the film as “fuck yous” from Scott to the audience. So, David, James and everyone, thank you for being cool folks.


  26. I’m struggling a lot with this film because it seems something that I want to like, but some missteps here and there, and the general reaction to it by other people, causes me to doubt my feelings about it. In my head, there’s this ideal version of it that tackles the bigger themes it sets out to address minus the whole problem with people and their actions thing going on. Most of my problems was with how the people acted, but the rest of the film and its world building is fascinating to me.

    My take on the what the engineers were doing in creating us comes from this deleted scene shown in some storyboards where the Engineer in the beginning of the film is seen being given some of the primordial ooze by a
    different Higher Being. Seen here http://www.prometheusforum.net/discussion/1646/

    It’s not about creating life because we can (well it is) but it could be more of spreading life where we can.

    The storyboarded scene could be way life is seeded across the universe where Higher Beings ingested the primordial goo and gave birth to the Engineers. They oversaw the Engineers progress and when they would be ready, the Engineers would go on to seed the universe by ingesting the goo giving birth to humans. The time would come when Humans would have to seed life across the galaxy, (this could be why the Engineers were “inviting” us with the paintings and visits.) when they learn space travel in order to spread life across the universe.

    The Higher Beings oversaw that the Engineers would have to do a ritualistic self sacrifice in order for the goop to work and create newer pure beings like humanity, say having to be on a planet where life could thrive rather than in an enclosed storage room in a spaceship which leads to what the worms and Fifeld zombie, whereas if the goop was ingested by someone without that intent, it leads to Xenos. The murals in the storage room could be a warning of the black goop’s effects if not used for spreading life.

    Why LV-226 was ruined and destroyed could come from just an accident happening.

    So with that, the purpose of Life is to continue creating life that the Higher Beings could have derived from even Higher Forms of Life and it goes on forever. Seeding Life across the universe through this means because it seems to be organic permutations. The reason the Engineer was angry and killed all of them was that he saw synthetic life in David which could be a thematic clash between the organic and the synthetic. Humanity did it wrong so the Engineer followed a protocol for it where he would take the goop and use it to destroy Earth.

    That and the whole space Jesus thing that could have happened where an Engineer visited Earth. When it came a time when the Engineers could go check up on Humanity’s progress, that one guy got killed and crucified by our monkey planet instead of peacefully leaving the invitation like previous visits. This whole incident could have pissed off a bunch of Engineers, but then that incident happened on LV 226 where everyone died.

    That;s my take on it anyway. Yeah. Might be completely off on this.


  27. Sorry, that should read “didn’t realize being torn apart at a genetic level was going to hurt this much”


  28. Oh. And David definitely was the highlight of the film for me.


  29. @Rob Cham: I like the Russian doll theory of life begetting life begetting life… (look how placid the disintegrating Engineer is in that storyboard!) Kind of has a dark mirror in the Egg which contains a Facehugger which contains a Chestburster which contains an Egg…

    Yep, Fassbender walks away with the movie, no question.

    @Paul DeKams: It just won’t do. Guy that big? Needs to be STOIC :)


  30. Really interesting post. I thought that the movie was flawed but worth seeing, though some of my friends saw it with absolutely hated it.

    Its interesting that you liked Millburn so much–some of my friends biggest complaints were about how terrible his character was (he’s biologist with very little curiosity about finding a new species, he acts like an idiot and gets himself killed with the big worm thing, etc). I argued that he was pretty consistently shown to be kind of an idiot who isn’t necessarily good at his job, but they didn’t agree. I know you say that you “don’t know why he tickled you so much,” but do you think it was just his performance you enjoyed, or was there something about the character that really clicked for you too? Or are the two things inseparable?

    A couple random thoughts of my own.

    I just sort of assumed that the reason the Engineers wanted us dead, is they see us the same way that we see all the awful things that come out of us when we’re exposed to that goo. Shaw’s reaction to giving birth to a terrible squid thing could mirror their reaction to giving birth to us. Its apparently (from the opening scene) also a pretty awful experience. As far as the Engineers are concerned we’re just as vile as chestbursters/squid babies/whathaveyou.

    And speaking of Shaw’s c-section scene, that was the largest part of the movie that didn’t really work for me. I felt like that whole scene should be the central point of the movie, or that it was at least being built up to be. It was such a terrible, traumatic, god-awful moment that it felt like everything after should follow it, or proceed from it. Its like scene in Alien, where the creature bursts from Kane’s chest. Its so damn horrific and traumatizing, that everything after is directly linked.

    This scene in Prometheus though…they just sort of forget about it, only to come back at the very end as a deus ex machina to kill the bad guy. The scene gets so much focus and build up. It is way, way too traumatic to just show how tough Shaw is, and yet that seems to be its only purpose, as Scott just throws it away afterwards. It almost makes me feel like there was supposed to be more about it, but all these cuts that have been talked about sapped it of its strength.


  31. @Rob Cham: i hear what your saying, and really what everyone else is saying but i really do think this stems from a major flaw from the movie in that this all has to be explained and told to us afterwards by Ridley and Damon instead of shooting something that mattered. Do we KNOW thats why the Engineer tried to David at the end? According to just what the movie tells us the Engineers hate humanity seeing it as such a shameful failure that the develop the black goo as a way of erasing humanity from existence. In that regard we can see the opening scene of the Engineer ingesting the goo knowing full well that it will destory him as an act of rebellion against the Engineers. If i wasn’t a mental patient and cared for these movies as i do I would have never known that Ridley tells us that was suppose to be an act of creating life or whatever. Fifielf zombie man still makes my brain hurt

    @david brothers: Right and maybe we’re dissecting a sci fi movie to closely but it is silly to have her running around after major surgery like nothing happened doped up or not. If they had medicine on board that precise that could block neurological pain receptors that effectively without making her a vegetable why wouldn’t Vickers let Charlie on board even when he’s in an unbreached containment suit and instead throws fire at him without even giving him a looky loo is puzzling. i understand it adds to her character as a reserved paranoid person but she shows she has humanity and the need for compassion by sleeping with Stringer Bell so wtf? I still think making Shaw stumble around fighting for steps and conscienceness would have made the ending so much more tense and stressful instead of the standard run and gun monster movie ending.


  32. I think the death cult idea is pretty intriguing. Why did you think the murals were explicitly warnings David? I thought that myself going into the movie, but presumably the engineers developing the black goop would be aware of dangers of the goop and since they were coming to kill us I can’t figure out a reason to put huge vague warning murals up for themselves. Specifically because they are warnings about Alien-style Xenomorphs and that mural is the only indication that such creatures exist aside from the thing at the end.


  33. The part I loved most was when the crew first survey the base. The hologram footage, David in the control room, and the discovery of the body, urns, and mural was like watching the perfect film version of At the Mountains of Madness. I kinda wish more of the movie was like that, just people trying to figure out what happened in this place, while the freaky monsters creeped in from the edges.

    Also, did anyone else think David was pulling a fast one and trying to get the Engineer to kill Weyland and the others (really curious about that translation)? Since he figures out that they were planning on wiping out Earth, maybe he kept thinking about his treatment the entire film at the hands of the crew, and was thinking the humans were going to do try and wipe out the robots eventually? On the other hand, it doesn’t gel with him warning Shaw the Engineer was coming for her. Still, seems like an angle that needed some examination.


  34. [...] this movie a lot, and I wanted to say more than one tweet about it for now. David Brothers has some cool words on the images of family present in the film. I’ll probably throw some more recommended links up [...]


  35. I think you are giving the movie way to much credit.

    Maddox splains it better and funnier than I could:

    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=prometheus_nutshell


  36. Just a couple drive-by comments:

    We don’t know that the black goo at the beginning of the movie is identical to the goo they find on LV226. It appears to work on similar principles, but it could easily be the nonweaponized form of this technology. It’s also dozens of milennia or more removed from the LV226 goo.

    Similarly, we don’t know how the society of the Engineers changed between the creation of the various paintings/carvings and the time of the deaths of most of the Engineers on LV226. It may have been an invitation at the time. Perhaps there was a schism in Engineer society and the winning regime said “F this, if those little hominids we seeded ever make it here we’re gonna wipe them out.” Perhaps they chose this remote moon (not their homeworld, remember) as a safe place to meet their potentially volatile creations; perhaps that same remoteness later made it a good place to develop bioweapons out of planet-seeding technology, some of which were earmarked to wipe out the various creations of the Old Way.

    Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit. In any case, I liked the movie, except for the too-numerous bits where characters wandered around with the idiot ball.


  37. My read on the ‘reason’ we were created with matching DNA and all that jazz has to do with the very first scene and why we made androids. To seed life on a world, the engineer had to sacrifice himself. It’s a painful procedure from the look of it. One you’d do only because you had to. Why do they have to? Because they have the DNA code that allows their bodies to act as a well spring for new life. Now, what if they decided they didn’t want to sacrifice themselves any more? The solution, create new life that’s purpose is to be sacrificed in their place. Namely, create ‘inferior’ engineers to be used as life incubators. Namely, humans. That’s why we have matching DNA but are in most respects inferior to them. We were designed to be disposable guinea pigs. We were never going to be destroyed, we were going to be harvested. The Engineer decided to kill the crew because he thought the crew had discovered this, and saw that knowledge as a threat to the plan (maybe, this is the weakest part of my theory).

    Now David at one point asks why ‘he’ was created, and the smug dick said it was ‘because they could’. But that isn’t true, robots were made to do all the jobs mankind couldn’t or didn’t want to do. As slaves to be used for a purpose. Purely disposable. Man was made with the same purpose, to fulfil a task the Engineers no longer wanted to do themselves. (Namely, to serve as sacrifice for creating new life) And just as David couldn’t understand Shaw at the end of the film because of what he is, the humans couldn’t understand the Engineers for the very same reason.

    The callous treatment of human life from the Engineers perfectly mimics the callous treatment of robot life from the humans. Neither makes an effort to understand their creation, they are designed for a purpose and any independent thought or action they might have is completely irrelevant to them.

    And just as David, realising what he was conspired to kill his human masters, so did the humans seem to turn on the Engineers. Or at the very least I think that’s what David told the Engineer. ‘They are here to kill you’ or something along those lines, which drove it to murder all the humans.

    I have other thoughts, and over all enjoyed the movie. A few characters ran on horror movie logic, which I felt dragged the film down a little. Vickers death seemed straight out of a standard horror film. The bad girl dies, the good girl is the sole survivor is a tired cliche. Likewise the two guys getting lost in the caves for the purpose of plot even though it made very little sense considering the tech on display. It’s all elevated some what with David continuing on as something of an oracular head, guiding Shaw similar to an old myth about the god-king Bran the Blessed. (Celtic mythology is interesting stuff, check it out)


  38. The dumbest thing is that Prometheus has all this slick tablet hologram technology and the Nostromo is still running on vacuum tubes and MS-DOS. WHAT THE EFF, Ridley Scott?!?!?


  39. @Jesse Post: Think of it two ways:

    -a rich dude building a trillion dollar ship to save his life is going to load it up with all types of whiz bang features, the best of the best, that a crappy little transport ship probably wouldn’t have, even twenty years later

    -believability is more important than minor continuity. If I saw a sci-fi film today that had tech like Alien and was set in the “future,” I wouldn’t believe a frame of it. Alien (and others from back then) gets grandfathered in because it’s from 1979.


  40. I was just joshin’, but yes to both points. :)


  41. @Jesse Post: My second point also means that there’s a cut of Alien in my head with all types of awesome high-tech HUDs and Mother as some type of wrist-bound Dick Tracy device, and they all still get killed!


  42. Y’know I really don’t buy the pyscho-active goo. The goo that infects everyone on LV 266 seems to mutant any biological things it comes in contact with into monstrous things that seem to want to kill/spread infection. The two mutations we see start to resemble Xenomorph-like creatures so that gels on how there are warning murals everywhere. So it works like this(my theory of course) – Engineers goo-bomb earth. Any survivors are exterminated by the mutants as a result of the first wave. The mutants have a short lifespan, explaining why there is no trace of them on LV 266 – the mutants/goo-monsters are not designed to have a reproductive system or a life cycle, they infect, kill, and die and we have a planet with no life. What happened at the end of Prometheus is very similar to Alien Resurrection, the goo mutation being introduced to a human life cycle resulted in the creation of the Xeno-species. So the Xenomorph at the end of Prometheus could be the very first Queen or even just the very first Xenomorph with the ability to reproduce?