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Prometheus: I’m Still Thinking About It

June 27, 2012

Greetings CBC readers! I went out with a few friends and the hubs the other day and finally saw Prometheus, the Ridley Scott directed, Damon Lindelof co-written, not quite a prequel to the Alien franchise. I had set out over the next few days to write a really detailed, overly analytical post about the philosophical meanings, and various other allusions throughout the film. Kind of like a lot of my Lost posts on OMGWTFLOST. What I ended up doing these past couple of days is reading, reading and reading a lot of Prometheus stuff and getting all gobbedlygook in the brain. (Kind of like a lot of my Lost readings). So instead, what I’ve opted to do here today is…links…lots and lots of links. I’m basically going to throw down a bunch of links to other articles here that have already discussed all of these things here and address bits and pieces of them with my own responses and give you guys all sorts of theories. Which actually is also…a lot like what I did with my Lost blog, and something that I know my readers enjoy. So here goes!

All in all, I really liked this movie, and even more I LOVE the conversations it’s initiating. People are arguing all over the place about it. Some love it, some hate it. My homeboy Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars, while this guy from Forbes even called it a, “visually stunning, epic failure.” He’s taking the whole film WAY too literally. I like that this film is as divisive as it is. I liked that it asks questions that no one knows the answers to. It was well acted, it was gorgeous, and it had plenty of the scary-gross that the Alien franchise utilized. This is probably why I still enjoyed (despite 80% of the world hating) the ending to Lost, and will probably always enjoy Lindelof’s writing. Why does everything need to be so specific when you can make it more universal? Why should an allegory only apply to some? Why do you need every…little…detail spelled out for you?

Now, if you’re a little confused about the actual, represented plot, this Screen Rant article explains the whole film quite nicely and even clarified a few things for me. One being that the black ooze from the canisters is not inherently a weapon as it is more a mutagen with unknown consequences. I much like the idea that the Engineers were out to change rather than simply destroy (which in and of itself can be a result of change). Leading us also to assume that the ooze merely mutates what it comes in contact with. For example: Ooze contacts space mealy worms resulting in that gross snake that killed the Biologist Guy. Ooze is ingested by Charlie and mutates his sperm into crazy mutant sperm, which then gestates into the squid/giant facehugger. This would make total SENSE, since the facehuggers are ultimately tools of implantation/impregnation, just like a sperm. Ooze comes in contact with Geologist Guy, ultimately just turning him into a freak show and mutating the hell out of him until they kill him. So really the ooze found in these larger canisters, is the same as the ooze ingested by the Engineer from his small canister at the very beginning of the film, and acts as a catalyst for mutation.

Folks were a bit annoyed that Prometheus didn’t exactly lay the groundwork for the beginning of the Alien franchise. Yet another Screen Rant piece details “5 Simple Changes That Would Make Prometheus Better For Alien Fans”, which includes ideas such as making the derelict planet in Prometheus the same as in Alien, or having Prometheus end with the Space Jockey sitting in the big chair while the new xenomorph bursts from his chest. To these ideas I reiterate: do people really need stuff like that spelled out for you so literally?? Scott already declared numerous times that Prometheus was never going to be a direct prequel, but people still cannot seem to make the connections for themselves. They want Prometheus to be point A and Alien to be point B, when in reality it’s more like Prometheus is point A and Alien is Point D or beyond. We don’t know how exactly it’ll get there, but there are many ways and many possibilities (and I for one wouldn’t mind to see B and C in well-rumored sequels).  In the comments section of that piece, reader Bman believes most viewers are asking the wrong questions. Instead of , “Well how did that xenomorph get from that planet to the other planet?” Bman asks more interesting ones like, “What on earth happened to Dr Shaw and David? How many other ships where on the planet they escaped from? How many other engineer crews are still in cryo-sleep on that planet? What will happen when Shaw and David reach the home-world of the engineers? Why was the spaceship at the start of the film completely different [than] the derelict ship? Are the engineers at war with their own kind? Are humans a failed bio weapons experiment that needs to be erased? Are humans bred for the sole purpose of hosting chestbusters (like cattle)? What did David say to the engineer? [Do] David and Shaw ever return to earth? How come Weyland-Yutani and specifically Ash already know about the alien on LV-426? (he calls it a perfect organism) – My theory is it may take 1, 2 or even 3 more movies to answer all of these questions.”

To tackle the allegorical and referential elements of Prometheus, I direct you to a few places. Cavalorn on Live Journal (yes, Live Journal!) has put forth such a detailed analysis of the religious allusions in Prometheus that is a really fun an interesting to read. I especially love his theories on why the surviving Engineer reacted so poorly to David’s question from Weyland, and it’s ties to Leviticus 2.23 (referenceing the planet LV-223) which states, “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.” This is also addressed in Brad Brevet’s fantastic piece here.  He also ponders the motives of the Engineers and doesn’t believe, as I do, that they were heading out to destroy humanity. In discussing the Engineer’s murderous rage, he states, “What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be to the superman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment.[-Nietzsche]…First there are the Engineers (which I think we could easily compare to the “superman”), looking down on mankind as “apes”. We never hear what David whispers to the Engineer at the end of the film, but the way he reacts is almost as if he’s been insulted. How dare this “thing” approach me as an equal! What’s worse in David’s case is he’s an artificial construct of the “ape” he sees as an embarrassment and on top of that, not knowing what David actually said creates a scratch that must be itched, but we’ll get to that soon enough.” Ah but we DO sort of know what David said. From, “In Prometheus, a projection of Biltoo acts as David’s language tutor, and in real-life Biltoo worked as a consultant on the film. According to the doctor, the line of alien dialog David speaks in the film “serviceably” translates as ‘This man is here because he does not want to die. He believes you can give him more life.’ ” Hm, no wonder the Engineer got pissed. Brevet’s article includes all of the Viral Promotional videos which are fantastic, and goes more into David’s role as an android, the role of Vickers (Charlize Theron) as a potential female equal to David (referencing Genesis’ creation myth) and even into Frankenstein-type connections of a creation’s attempt to destroy its creator. Those two pieces are the best I’ve read so far at asking the big questions about the film.

Now, regarding David, I’ve got to say Michael Fassbender (yum!) gives one of the greatest performances of the year as this installment’s token android.  He’s cold, calculating, vengeful, and yet funny and touching all at the same time. I for one wouldn’t mind a Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender flying off to find the Engineers sequel. This review on io9 goes further into the idea of the android race in all of the Alien films. “David and the aliens [The Engineers] have something in common. They hate humanity, for more or less good reasons, and will do anything to destroy us. All the movies in the Alien franchise (save for the AvP flicks) have played with this idea, comparing and contrasting the motives of the aliens and the robots. But here in Prometheus this idea finally comes to fruition. David’s arc is so brilliant and compelling that I’m temped to say that this movie is about the consciousness of robots, and that fighting aliens is just the setting where a story about human-robot relations of the future takes place.” I also find it interesting that David fits into the already established tropes of the Alien franchise androids, yet take them even further. “Demeter and Persephone in Space”, an incredibly long but extremely interesting analysis of the feminist theories imbedded within the Alien movies, has a bit to say about androids that totally shaped David as a character. “Ash [from Alien] is a type of the “effete Englishman” in U.S. culture. The satirical regard for the figure, generally an implicit one in popular culture, has been increasingly visible in the past two decades, Witness, for example, the backlash against Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard as a tea-drinking effete who doesn’t go on away missions as opposed to the apparently more masculine Trek Captain, William Shatner’s James T. Kirk; the aged English queens played by Brit-stalwarts such as Ian McKellan (Gods and Monsters, 1998) and Nigel Hawthorne (The Object of My Affections, 1991); or Giles and especially Wesley of Buffy fame. Ripley’s increasingly heated opposition to and increasingly violent conflict with the English Ash has suggestive implications not only for this film but for the others that follow. In the United States, English and European masculinities have historically been associated with European “decadence,” artificiality, and effeminacy in contrast to the sturdy, manly “authenticity” of U.S. manhood. Though only intelligible within an U.S. context, the construction of English/European manhood as both effeminate and artificial finds a significant embodiment in Ash.” Aren’t these characteristics also relevant to David? His British accent. Touching up his blond roots. I’m not sure what the effeminate characteristics of the androids say about the similar goals of the androids in the franchise, but it’s an interesting observation. By the way, if you’re looking for an amazing feminist analysis of the franchise, read that whole piece.

Finally, and I know this whole entry has just been a mish mash of theories, ideas, and other articles, but in my opinion, movies like Prometheus, and shows like Lost, and other such pieces of art that only offer questions are a big part of the POINT of cinema and its purpose. The thing that I love about this film is that everyone leaves with their own ideas, their own theories, their own thoughts on creation and destruction and can be universally applied to one’s already established beliefs. Writer Damon Lindelof said it perfectly when discussing the character Deckard from Blade Runner, and whether or not that character was an android: “During this film, I found myself in the room with Ridley, literally the one person who can answers that question that I’ve been debating for 25 years. And honestly, I don’t want him to tell me. It might shatter my own theory, and having that theory, and that debate, that’s part of the fun of the film.”


More fun things to read about Prometheus:

Doc Jensen has a few thoughts Interview with Ridley Scott

Prometheus in 15 Minutes

More Feminism in the franchise

MORE feminism

Representations of the human body in the Alien movies

One Comment leave one →
  1. Steph permalink
    July 2, 2012 10:54 pm

    That “Demeter and Persephone in Space” hurt my brain — in a good way. Very cool stuff here!

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