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Let’s Talk About Prometheus

June 11th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

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 12ยบ 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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