*This article is (obviously) spoiler heavy*
Just uttering the word Prometheus will send some into an uncontrollable rant about how Ridley Scott has lost his touch, slapped us all in the face and desecrated the Alien franchise (though to be fair, Fincher and Jeunet did a fine job of that years ago). There will be those who thoroughly enjoyed the movie and still hold Sir Ridley – as well as writer Damon Lindelof – in high regard. Finally, you’ll get the ‘meh’ crowd, who neither hated with a passion, nor found it hugely engrossing.
It’s the first film to divide audiences to such an extreme since last summer’s Tree of Life, but fortunately I’ve not heard of any walkouts in this instance. It’s also really split the ESLF staff, too, with a mixture of love, hate and ‘meh’ emanating from all corners.
Prometheus has landed
After my first viewing at the Friday 00.01 showing, I fell into the hugely disappointed, what has Ridley – but mainly writer Lindelof – done?! crowd. After such a strong and plentiful marketing campaign, building up to what had the potential to knock The Dark Knight Rises off the summit off my Film of the Year list. My review can be found here, if you’d like a little more clarity and detail on my thoughts.
However, to summarise, my initial reactions were:
- Aesthetically, the film is beautiful, with great concept art
- It includes some intriguing references to the world of Alien
- It’s a rather ambiguous science fiction that leaves more unanswered than answered
- Mostly weak performances, aside from the wonderful Michael Fassbender
- It has a weak script that feels muddled and unstructured
Overall, I still really liked the film rather than actually loved it, and whilst I wasn’t blown away, I did have the urge to re-watch it as soon as possible. So, five days later I confidently opted for an afternoon screening.
Prometheus has landed… Again
Upon exiting this time, I immediately felt more content and, dare I say it, liked it even more, for a number of reasons:
- Having reflected on an initial experience, seeing it without the built-up hype helps
- Having delved into many an online discussion board (mainly IMDb) things become a lot clearer
- Many discrepancies and possible plot holes appear justified or more logical in choice
- Characters (such as Theron’s Vickers and Elba’s Janek) feel more developed and valid
- Fassbender’s role as David feels even more accomplished and intriguing
- It works really well as a pre-prequel that never intends to answer, but instead poses more questions
- First and foremost, this is a science fiction film about exploration, and shouldn’t be mistaken for horror or action
So, those were my instant thoughts the second time around. And just remember people: these are merely my opinions mixed with some research and other views on the matter. So if you disagree, interpret them differently, or know some answers I don’t, please feel free to pop them in the comments below. I am only addressing some problems I/people have/had with Prometheus.
I found some plot discrepancies made more sense, as you can anticipate and take note of some of the more subtle/unclear things with the power of hindsight, and having read some convincing reasoning behind them. Below are burning questions I had and, as you’ll see, managed to logically theorise and answer many, but also leave a few very much unsolved:
- What did the opening scene signify?
It visualised part of the story of the God Prometheus and depicted him creating life on (presumably) Earth. He sacrifices himself as his DNA dissolves into the waterfall, thus starting the beginning of life. More info on this here.
- Why did the Engineers allow mankind to discover their location by leaving them a series of ancient planetary drawings?
Leading on from the prior bullet point, because the human race appears to have been created in defiance by a sole, renegade Engineer, the idea that humanity are intended to discover their makers and find a way to preserve themselves rather than suffer annihilation (as we learn Earth is (supposedly) the destination for the Engineer ships full of their bio-weapon cargo) therefore explains their purpose. So yes, in a way it was ‘an invitation’, as cited by Shaw. These pointers are also why their DNA is a match to that of humans and explanation why the cave drawings lead scientists to LV-223; for self preservation.
- What were David’s motives?
Many deemed him ‘evil’, but my initial theory was the android is merely inquisitive and curious by his very nature. A willingness to learn and discover could explain why he spikes Holloway’s drink with black goo, as he lacks the moral ethics and emotional dexterity to realise what he does is fundamentally wrong. However, the other, more probable theory is that he is simply following orders from Peter Weyland: spiking the drink; taking the alien canister; communicating with the Engineer, because of instruction.
- What were Peter Weyland’s motives?
His motives seemed to be that in his final days he was put into stasis to be woken for this very occasion, as he wanted to a) receive answers to why humanity exists, and b) discover the secret for immortality. One other theory I read is that Weyland is Prometheus, but hold that thought..
- How was Shaw not sedated and allowed to perform a self-caesarean?
Still unclear in my mind how she was sedated by David, yet somehow wasn’t when the two crew members came to prep her for hypersleep. The other thing: where was David during the moment she escaped? The second time around it was clear that he had left the lab, and indeed the area of the ship, in order to greet Weyland when he came out of hypersleep. However, as Shaw has incapacitated the two crew, she is allowed to wander into Vickers’ private quarters and perform a caesarean without interference. How the fallen crew didn’t track her down remains a mystery. Perhaps they simply didn’t know where she’d gone, and maybe only she and David knew about her pregnancy.
- Why is Shaw’s escape and actions pardoned when she stumbles into Weyland’s room?
To follow on from above, she stumbles into the room where Weyland is being treated and prepped to ‘meet’ the Engineer. David is there too, but says nothing about Shaw’s unexpected appearance. This implies to me that in fact David is the only one who knows about her pregnancy, as no one else seems worried or bothers to ask what has happened concerning her bloodied torso. Adhering to the idea that Weyland is Prometheus, to have Shaw ‘give birth’ was perhaps the actual intention, thus it was not dwelled upon.
- Was Vickers an android?
She appears to be offended when Janek asks her, and seeing as she invites him to her private quarters, only the pair of them would know for sure. It’s worth assuming she is human, succumbing to the urge to engage with Janek. Were she not human, he doesn’t mention so at any point or express regret. When Vickers burns Holloway though, she barely hesitates, hinting at a possible lack of human emotion, implying she has none and might indeed be an android, or simply a cold-hearted bitch. Either way, it leaves the possibility of her artificiality open, especially with the revelation she’s Weyland’s daughter.
- What did David say to the Engineer?
Another one that still remains unclear, but the fact that the Engineer strokes his head says something in itself. Combine this with the smile David offers, and it seems the pair have a mutual, pleasant exchange before all hell breaks loose and he literally loses his head.
- What were the intentions of the Engineer?
As touched upon in the first points, the Engineers appeared to be heading to Earth to wipe out humanity with their bio-weaponry and start a fresh. We see a hologram that clearly depicts a planet very similar to Earth, and the fact David states this is their intention pretty much cements that one. But then again, if you are a sceptic, you’ll surely question David’s intent and truthfulness.
- How did Shaw not starve to death after blasting off in search of Engineers?
A point some have found implausible. How can she leave LV-223 in search of the Engineers, for who knows how long, with no food or water? It was only on the second watch that I noticed her grabbing supplies as she boarded Vickers’ escape pod, which – as stated in the film – had a two year stock of food and drink on board.
- What happened in regards to the crashed ship and Engineer (‘Space Jockey’) we see in Alien?
Simply, the crashed Engineer ship that the Nostromo crew in Alien discover is on a planet called LV-426. Prometheus is set on LV-223. So completely different parts of the solar system, let alone planet. The confusion seems to be that the set up on LV-223 and conclusion to Prometheus is similar to how Alien begins, but on closer inspection, is indirectly related.
Rarely do I feel inclined to visit a film twice at the cinema. It’s only happened one other time and that was due to a (free) coincidence for Rise of the Planet of the Apes last August. Prometheus intrigued me so much that it demanded a re-watch as well as a rethink. Yes, it might be in the same universe as Alien, but when you think about it, it is actually a totally different kind of film. It wasn’t as isolated and claustrophobic as Alien, nor was it as scary or really part of the horror genre. Prometheus is a film about characters that seek answers; answers to the biggest question mankind could pose: why are we here?
Granted, it doesn’t have a narrative structure in a traditional sense, that 95% of great films have. But what it did have were a lose string of connected events that take place, and somehow seem more justified and resolute upon a repeat watch.
I’m not usually one to approve of prior ‘recommended reading’ to understand and appreciate a film more, but the rich, mythological beast that is Prometheus is something I’d suggest looking into before a first or second watch. Knowledge of Weyland Industries and the Alien series is, again, not essential, but one I would actually advise getting to grips with simply for the added engagement and enjoyment you can gain here.
Prometheus, at no point, attempts to or claims to clarify things. Like the crew, the audience are there on an exploratory mission into the unknown, asking the questions that no one knows the answers to. Cynics will pinpoint it as a mere cash cow; an excuse to hone in yet again on the Alien franchise and leave opportunity for a further few films that can lead up to Alien. To me, it feels more like Scott opening up a new world to explore and developing a new franchise - but in a good way.
Two cinema viewings (one in 3D; the other in 2D – I would recommend the latter) has told me it was right to revisit. Right to delve a little deeper. Right not to judge Scott so quickly for making a ‘dud’. Every now and then a film comes along that generates an enormous amount of discussion and opinion (see Kill List from last year and 2001’s Donnie Darko as well), which instantly says to me that it’s not a film to be dismissed, but instead embraced as a thought provoking, interesting and far more intelligent film than it has been given initial credit for.
Certain plot coherencies aside, I will leave you with this…
Far too often audiences are left dissatisfied with the spoon-feeding nature of some movies. So why then is it that when we’re left to speculate and think a little for ourselves, that that too is seen as a bad thing?