Sorry for the delay in posting; I’ve been busy these past few days, but I did find some time to watch Prometheus and thought it would be a nice change of pace to take a break from Pakistan and do a movie review instead. Fair warning; there be spoilers ahead!
I’ll admit to never having seen any of the Alien movies although I know the gist of the plot for the first movie; so I went into watching Prometheus without any sort of preconceptions.
I thought Prometheus was overall a good movie. It raised some interesting questions and it was nice that they continued the Alien movie’s traditions of a strong female lead, and all the supporting characters were well acted. The horror scenes were very well done and there were several moments that made me jump in my seat.
That being said I had gone in expecting Prometheus to be a Great film, one that would equal the original Alien movie in it’s cultural importance. I wasn’t disappointed in the film so much as I felt it could have been so much better. Like Avatar I felt that the biggest thing holding the movie back from achieving greatness was the writing. So I will focus below on the major problems with the plot as well as some of the things I really liked.
I think the single biggest flaw in the movie and it’s one shared by many other series is that when the ruins of a clearly highly advanced space faring alien civilization are discovered no one, not a single person stops to ask the obvious; what happened to them? Civilizations don’t just vanish especially not highly advanced ones. So the logical question to ask is, what horrible thing happened to wipe them out? What war, what plague, what enemy could have destroyed such a mighty civilization? Had someone on the Prometheus stopped to ask that question all their lives might have been saved.
The Engineers, or ”space jockey’s” as they were known in the Alien films were well fleshed out I think. There’s something very human-like about their creating and advancing our species and then deciding to obliterate us. I hope that there is a Prometheus sequel so we can find out precisely why the Engineers wanted to wipe us out. My theory is that our creation was meant as a test run for the creation of a slave race, almost a type of organic robots. I think this would create a neat parallel with the story of David the Android in the movie, he was originally thought of as an inferior species yet in the end he proved to be a great danger to the crew, perhaps the Engineers came to believe that humanity would one day pose a grave threat to them and decided to launch a pre-emptive strike.
That being said the very first scene in Prometheus in which an Engineer swallows a black fluid that disintegrates his body and spreads his DNA into the unnamed Planets environment suggests that perhaps the Engineers used their DNA to create other species as a way of strengthening their own gene pool. After a certain time they would destroy those species and re-harvest their now mutated DNA for useful genes. Either way I’m glad that Prometheus actually gave us questions to ponder, no matter how far off our answers may be. A quick side-note; the engineers helmets looked stupid and were clearly an attempt to retcon the back story of the space jockey from the original Alien movie.
The revelation that the ”Aliens” were originally bio-weapons was a savvy move on the part of the writers. The Aliens complex reproductive cycle is certainly not something that natural selection would tend towards. The evidence the movie provides suggests that the Engineers were tinkering with the black slime, to enhance it’s capability to separate DNA perhaps by experimenting on small worm like creatures found on the Moon where the Engineer base was located. The experiments were working until around 2000 years ago when just as the plans for the genocide of humanity were finalized something went horribly awry at the base as the slime/worms mutated and or evolved into prototype aliens which quickly killed all the engineers.
One question any sequel would definitely have to answer is where did the space jockey in the original Alien fly from? At the end of Prometheus we see the first what Wikipedia tells me are called Xenomorph Aliens, the sane kind found in the original Alien movies. So if that was the first, then how did the events of the original movies happen?
The discovery of the Star Map on the Isle of Skye and it’s linkage with later far flung cultures was very in vogue with our cultures recent ”ancient aliens” obsession. Still this is the beginning of another of the movie’s big narrative flaws. If we were created by the engineers and they gave us our ancestral language and had long term contact with us then there would be no evidence for the evolution of humanity, we would just suddenly appear in the fossil record as anatomically correct modern humans. This wouldn’t be a problem if Prometheus was set in a different Earth, but it’s made clear that it takes place in our future and specific reference is made to Darwin and his work. How could Darwin have popularized the theory of evolution without any evidence for human evolution?
A better way to have handled this would be for the movie to explicitly tell us that Darwin found plenty of evidence for evolution for the rest of the natural world but none for humans which caused scientists to spend centuries trying to figure out where we came from, and giving world religions a point with which they could battle science until finally the discovery of the Star Maps changed everything.
Although everyone on the crew of the Prometheus was well acted, the characters themselves were unbelievable. There’s no way an expedition of any sort would not have a clear chain of command. Either the Captain or Miss Vickers should have been in charge, but at any given point a half a dozen characters were acting like they were in control and that was before old man Weyland showed up to muddy the waters even further. It’s inconceivable that the expedition could be launched under secrecy and that the crew would agree to go on a mission with no clear objectives, destination, or return time. And how stupid were they to not send in their orb probes before entering the complex; again a logical action that could have saved all their lives, and I just sighed when they violated all procedures and removed their helmets without any regard for airborne pathogens.
Speaking of inconceivable it turns out that Shaw is infertile; to which I say bullshit. There’s absolutely no way that the highly advanced society of 2094 complete with androids and space ships has not found a treatment for infertility. And in what world would an advanced automated surgical chamber not be calibrated for both men and women? Still Shaw herself was a tough cookie and I can’t wait to see her hi-jinks with David in the next movie; I hope his murder of her boyfriend won’t make things awkward between them.
So who would have thought that the highly intelligent Android who looked like a SS Officer and was constantly derided for not being human would turn out to be bad news? Still even though his turn to the dark side was no surprise I still found David to be the most compelling character. His attempted emulation of Lawrence of Arabia and his creepy scanning of Shaws dreams ( who thought it would be a good idea to equip their cryo-chambers with a dream scanner?), showed an Android who was on the verge of discovering human emotions. That’s why I believe his murder of Holloway via alien prototype slime was motivated not by hate of Holloway but by his desire to replace Holloway in Shaw’s life. If a robot can learn how to hate then why not to love as well?
Hopefully the script for the Prometheus sequel does a better job with the narrative. I’ll leave you with one final question; do you think that Shaw and David are bringing the Alien prototypes to the Engineers home-world? Shaw made clear she wants answers and I also think at some level revenge as well, and what better way to achieve that then by unleashing the engineers own doomsday weapon upon them? Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll have my Jinnah bio up on Friday.