I’m ready to have a serious discussion about Prometheus. The movie has been out long enough that I won’t beat around any spoilers, either.
I’ve seen Prometheus three times. Opening weekend, I saw it with the knowledge this was a movie in the same universe as the Alien series, pre-dating those. A week later, I saw it with the Cavalorn “Space Jesus” theory fresh in my mind. This week, I managed to see it for $1.50 at the cheap-o theater that never shows movies on opening weekends.
From a perspective of interesting characters, dynamic visuals, and some sci-fi horror tropes, I like the movie. As a narrative of how life was “evolutionized” across the cosmos, not so much. There’s just too many holes in the script & character motivations for me, which is disappointing as I think this is the only movie I was truly excited to watch this summer.
I think the association with the Alien series ruins Prometheus, in a way. That first viewing, I was left disapppointed. The movie wants to follow an Alien flow and spook you out with each reveal. In that sense, the movie is what my father called “un-relenting” in its violence and suspense. The moment Fifield & Millburn are confronted with a life-form that has touched the black goo(ugh, black oil? black stuff? I’ll touch this later), you know nothing will be the same for the rest of the movie and that here’s where people will start to die.
The movie also wants you to know from the start that David is a robot and that robots cannot be trusted. The movie actually uses this as premise – knowledge you should understand as you see David for the first few scenes(VERY inspiring BTW – Fassbender is hypnotic as this Pinocchio construct). There wasn’t even a revelation of this fact, as opposed to Aliens where you meet Lance Henrikson’s Bishop and see some awesome knife-play before the reveal that he’s a robot.
Character motivations also eluded me in several instances. The so-called scientists of this expedition are complete jokes of their supposed professions. From the get-go, I should have expected this as Shaw & Holloway are more concerned with the questions they will be asking the Engineers than the discovery of them. I liked the Vickers character so much more with each viewing as I felt she, as one of the few non-scientific characters, added some scientific logic and reason to the credibility of the Prometheus’ expedition. After Shaw finds the first Engineer’s head, she’s so overwhelmed by the possibility of speaking with one of them that they put a current of electricity through the thing’s brain to “trick” it into thinking it’s alive and blow it up in the process. Read that sentence again. She’s worse than Dr. Frankenstein, not a scientist.
The Cesarean scene’s totally wrenching. If that doesn’t make you squirm in a seat, nothing short of the after-effects of an alien impregnation will. Given that, shouldn’t that scene have a little more weight to Elizabeth Shaw’s character? She knows she’s barren – and this a character of convictions – but shouldn’t she have some sort of suspicion about David & the plans of the Weyland Corp after that? She doesn’t, though. She’s still in the pursuit of her Engineers and the chance to get her questions answered, which is more important than understanding why the robot son of a dying man has infected her significant other with an alien substance (which he didn’t know the consequences of admittedly, but was still quite malicious), allowed her to be impregnated with this hybrid sperm (where she could never be impregnated before), and wanted her to put her back to sleep with this “untraditional fetus” still intact. I think there should have been a little more mistrust & paranoia there.
Let’s get to the black goo, now. This substance, which never gets a real name or title, is the real catalyst of the entire story and never gets a defined mechanic of what it is and how it works. The chamber all the stuff is stored in has some daunting art of human-like physique, but the back of this chamber has a sculpture that REALLY resembles the Xenomorphs of Aliens. It’s contained within these pewter-like vases, yet seems to be also the material these vases are made of – that’s right. Is there a difference between the black goo that melts off the top of the vases and the black goo contained within the vases? Look at the events:
To open the movie, an Engineer swallows a cup of it and begins to immediately decompose, falls into a river where his DNA breaks down, and new life eventually rises up from this event(OK, that’s event 1).
When worms on the world they land on come into contact with the black goo, they quickly evolve into the pale-white snake things that attack Millburn and totally look like the face-huggers of the Alien series(Event 2).
David takes a drop – a pen-tip’s amount – of the black goo and allows Holloway to ingest it, which makes him start to decompose like the Engineer of the opening and Holloway allows himself to be killed so as to prevent infection(Event 3).
An injured Fifield, having been burned by the acid-blood of the pale-white snake and then ingesting the black goo, shows up at the Prometheus horribly mutated and blood-thirsty with uncontrollable strength and astounding resilience to gun-fire, actual fire, and the poisonous atmosphere of the world(Event 4).
OK – I agree with Janek(my favorite character & actor of late, Idris Elba), this substance is a weapon gone wrong and cannot go back to the Earth. But what is it? Is it a poison? Is it the essence of life? Is it a broken-down version of the Xenomorph DNA?
Is it a sentient alien substance that can infect humans, control their mind, and also protect them from radiation which it can unleash – oh wait that’s the X-Files.
THIS substance is the crux of the movie and possibly the whole franchise of futuristic Ridley Scott movies, yet it gets a complete glossing over.
I like thinking the black goo is more akin to being a broken-down version of the Xenomorph’s DNA, this theory holds together better, but not well. Supposing that’s true, then the combination of Xenomorph & Engineer is where humans come from, it mutated the worms into becoming hybrid-like Face-huggers, and also explains better how Holloway’s corrupted seed becomes a mutant squid inside Shaw and then gives birth at the end of the movie to a proto-Xenomorph. I have no ideas on how it affects Fifield and leads to that series of events, however. This theory (or the entire movie, come to think of it) also doesn’t explain what happened to the Engineers 2000 years ago that they either abandoned or died out on this world – since there are no Xenomorphs yet and every beaker and flask of the black goo seems contained when humans arrive.
So, there’s already rumors of a sequel that will just provide answers to the many questions Prometheus leaves its audience. I don’t know what to think of that yet, but Xenomorphs and the Predators should be involved, don’tcha think?
I may not have stated this before, but I like Prometheus. The movie is entertaining and thought-provoking. The things it draw from – 2001: Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia, the Alien movies – and the characters are superb. The story is just so incomplete I feel like I got Ridley Scott’s notepad he left on a Denny’s counter instead of a finished script.
Oh – and minus Guy Pierce. He was shit in the film.