All Things “Prometheus”
Compiled by Zavero
Prometheus has sparked some of the most heated debates and vivid discussions amongst moviegoers in recent memory. While my own feelings about the film itself remain mixed (I agree with the consensus that it’s just one of the most beautiful things to look at—Ridley Scott employs the best usage of 3D to date—, Michael Fassbender continues prove that he is a big bright shining star, and there’s an instant classic scene that is so horrifying you can’t not look away, but the screenplay written in large by Lost‘s Damon Lindelof is a mess that ultimately resembles an expensive and extended pilot rather than a thought provoking sci-fi epic it certainly had the seeds for), all the talk surrounding is fascinating. After the jump is a compilation of reviews good and bad from my regular critics of choice, complaints, writings on the Alien franchise, analyses (reading too much into it, or not enough?), and ever growing theories about one of the most divisive movies of the year that, personal opinion aside, people just can’t seem to shut up about. And, these days, that’s got to be worth something.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between this film and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and Scott seems to be inviting those comparisons with his first image here, an almost-direct quotation of Kubrick’s movie. The difference is that Kubrick didn’t graft the Hollywood structure onto his examination of the moments where life has taken a quantum jump forward in complexity and sophistication. He had enough faith in the strength of what he was doing that he told a very unconventional version of a narrative. But anything he raised as a question in that movie, he answered. If you think “2001” is in any way “vague,” you need to see it again. That is a movie where every piece of information you need from it is contained within. Although I enjoy “2010” as a piece of mainstream science-fiction, it is very much the dumb cousin of the first film. It spells things out, or tries to, in a way that is almost insulting after how carefully constructed “2001” is to reveal it secrets to a patient and inquisitive audience. Unfortunately, “Prometheus” is far more “2010” than “2001.”
The ethos of the titan Prometheus is one of willing and necessary sacrifice for life’s sake. That’s a pattern we see replicated throughout the ancient world. J G Frazer wrote his lengthy anthropological study, The Golden Bough, around the idea of the Dying God – a lifegiver who voluntarily dies for the sake of the people. It was incumbent upon the King to die at the right and proper time, because that was what heaven demanded, and fertility would not ensue if he did not do his royal duty of dying.
Now, consider the opening sequence of Prometheus. We fly over a spectacular vista, which may or may not be primordial Earth. According to Ridley Scott, it doesn’t matter. A lone Engineer at the top of a waterfall goes through a strange ritual, drinking from a cup of black goo that causes his body to disintegrate into the building blocks of life. We see the fragments of his body falling into the river, twirling and spiralling into DNA helices.
Ridley Scott has this to say about the scene: ‘That could be a planet anywhere. All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space. And the plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history – which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas – he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.’
Can we find a God in human history who creates plant life through his own death, and who is associated with a river? It’s not difficult to find several, but the most obvious candidate is Osiris, the epitome of all the Frazerian ‘Dying Gods’.
And we wouldn’t be amiss in seeing the first of the movie’s many Christian allegories in this scene, either. The Engineer removes his cloak before the ceremony, and hesitates before drinking the cupful of genetic solvent; he may well have been thinking ‘If it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.’
The human search for significance and meaning is the human condition. It’s the basis of art, discovery, and most of the good and bad things that have happened in history. In the case of Prometheus the laudable thirst for knowledge leads Shaw and her team into peril. As she herself says, “This place isn’t what we thought it was.” Yep, Ms. Shaw, there’s only one thing worse than not getting what you want. And that’s getting what you want. But humanity keeps puttering along, doesn’t it?
And the thing that occasionally dooms us, that insatiable appetite for more, also makes us great.
As humans, we are emboldened by both our creations and destruction. Prometheus is keen to point out that we a) could have been created by aliens and b) other beings might share our appetite for destruction.
The Engineers built us, and we built David. Then David destroyed us, and everyone was against the aliens. Earth was created, but the civilization that created it seems to be made up of destroyers. It’s a completely circular logic, but it maintains that energy is finite, and nothing can be created from nothing.
Of course, then you do a little research, and realize David’s quote comes from Stalin, and you’re shipped right back to go, fumbling about for answers.
Why does pretty much anyone in Prometheus make any of the decisions they make? Like…
- Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) with the helmet-taking off. Really, is sniffing (and contaminating) the alien world atmosphere on the planet you just landed on and know nothing about such a good idea?
- Vickers (Charlize Theron), running in the one direction that will lead her to being squashed by a giant falling spaceship?
- Millburn the dumb biologist (Rafe Spall), who just wants to reach out and make friends — even with the squishy alien penis-snakes?
- Space crew guy, walking straight up to his recently deceased, re-animated fellow shipmate who has spider-crawled his way across a space desert to space-murder everyone?
Most of these aren’t necessarily unanswered questions, just incredibly stupid decisions that inform and support the characters in facepalm-worthy strokes. Holloway is a risk-taker! Vickers is a sheltered, prideful ice queen with probably little field experience who would rather try to outrun death than roll, like her unassuming and practical brunette counterpart, out of its way! Crew guy is, well, a redshirt, for lack of a better term. Yes, yes. There are reasons to be found here, if not particularly great ones.
The bigger questions have to do with two still-opaque entities: The Engineers and David, the increasingly creepy mayhem bot, Lawrence of Robotica.
Movies.com: You throw religion and spirituality into the equation for Prometheus, though, and it almost acts as a hand grenade. We had heard it was scripted that the Engineers were targeting our planet for destruction because we had crucified one of their representatives, and that Jesus Christ might have been an alien. Was that ever considered?
Ridley Scott: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an “our children are misbehaving down there” scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, “Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it. Guess what? They crucified him.
Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” is a magnificent science-fiction film, all the more intriguing because it raises questions about the origin of human life and doesn’t have the answers. It’s in the classic tradition of golden age sci-fi, echoing Scott’s “Alien” (1979), but creating a world of its own.[
For me, the most spellbinding scenes involve the crew members exploring the passages and caverns inside the pyramid, obviously unvisited in aeons, and their experiences with some of the hibernating alien beings. One of the key members of this crew is David (Michael Fassbender), an android, who knows or can figure out more or less everything, even alien languages, and is sort of a walking, talking, utterly fearless HAL 9000.
There are some very effective sequences in the film, and Rapace has a scene in the second half of the movie that is harrowing, brilliantly conceived, and instantly iconic. It is one of those movie moments that people will talk about all summer, and for good reason.
I think my biggest problems with the film come from a mindset that is simply standard operating procedure for Hollywood these days. First, this is clearly meant to kick-start a new series of films, and the way the movie ends is such a half-hearted cliffhanger, a sort of half-measure, that it fails to satisfy, and by design. Second, because it is a prequel, the ticking clock that the film uses to ratchet up tension in the film’s climax doesn’t work. We know it can’t happen. We’ve seen the other movies. There’s no way it plays out as they suggest, and so there is no real tension. It is a problem that every prequel has, and “Prometheus” doesn’t manage to figure out a way around the issue. I’m tired of movies being treated like TV shows, where each film is just a set-up for the one that follows. At some point, I’d rather just see a complete story, well-told, without a game plan in place for more movies. I understand that for Ridley Scott to get the film greenlit, it needed to be connected to a property that Fox could exploit, but a good business decision is not automatically a good creative decision, and in this case, the thing that got the movie made is also the thing that hurts it the most.
I’d recommend seeing Prometheus in 3D on a big screen as it’s a great looking, well shot movie. But that’s all that it is – Prometheus is a totally hollow piece of design work, even by Ridley Scott standards. In the myth Prometheus brought fire to man; as written by Damon Lindelof he’s just bringing an ornately carved piece of firewood with a simplistic, reductive homily written on it. It’s lovely but utterly useless.
A lot of the pleasure of “Prometheus” is in that hovering. Once the themes touch down and the arc of the story becomes clear, some disappointment sets in. But Mr. Scott’s sense of visual scale, which has often produced hectic, hectoring grandiosity (are you not entertained?),achieves, especially in the first hour, something like genuine grandeur.
Like John Ford and Shakespeare, Mr. Scott likes to throw a few clownish, expendable rustics into his ensembles, though in this case the designated buffoons are bickering scientists played by Rafe Spall and Sean Harris. Tradition dictates that there also be, among all this compromised, agenda-driven humanity, a paragon of decency and idealism under duress. This would be Elizabeth Shaw — Dr. Who fans take note: Your bases have been covered too — a researcher played by Noomi Rapace. Along with her husband, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), Shaw regards the voyage of the Prometheus as a spiritual quest. The child of missionaries (glimpsed in flashback), she wears a cross and speaks sincerely and literally about going to meet her maker.
Rapace comes off as a doll-like naïf, pretty but wholly lacking in charisma or even science-fueled ardor. Guy Pearce appears in heavy age makeup which, if you ask me, is a total waste of a perfectly good Guy Pearce. Theron and Fassbender have much more presence: Theron, at least, gets to suit up and fire a flamethrower – the vision of her big bubble-helmeted head perched upon a body that seems to consist mainly of two lily-stem legs is something to behold. And Scott gives Fassbender the quietest, most poetic sequence in the movie: Early in the picture, the robot David wanders the ship while the rest of the crew are still deep in their hypersleep dreams. He busies himself with assorted tasks, and then sits down before a massive wraparound screen, where he watches Lawrence of Arabia with rapturous admiration. David finds a physical, if not spiritual, twin in O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence, a model for the man he’d like to be, if only he were a man at all.
The film’s most vivid single element — Michael Fassbender’s turn as a humanlike android with the fishy obsequiousness of HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey” — cashes in on our collective memories of Kubrick’s troublesome computer, with a side order of Jude Law’s metallic gigolo in the Kubrick/Steven Spielberg amalgam, “A.I.” The robot with the classy diction and ambiguous intentions is nothing new (In fact, Ian Holm played one in “Alien.”) And yet it seems so here, partly because Fassbender’s variation on a familiar archetype is so meticulous and witty, and partly because our relationships with attractive devices of all kinds have become the stuff of daily waking nightmares. Or maybe that’s just my inner Amish guy talking.
I’m generally in tune with the mordant philosophy that seems to be expressed in “Prometheus”: If you think the human race are assholes, wait till you see who made us! But it’s enclosed, in this case, in a shiny-looking vehicle that becomes more and more like your average horror-chase movie as it goes along, channeling not just the entire “Alien” series but also “Blade Runner” and “Avatar” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” But what “Prometheus” resembles most strongly, if perhaps accidentally, is Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” as unlikely as that sounds. Both are grand statements of artistic purpose, and searches for the beginning of time and the meaning of life. Both are obsessed, even hypnotized, by the unmatchable spectacle of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001,” the greatest of all murky sci-fi allegories. Both will be avidly defended by fans and viciously derided by detractors. Both are mightily impressive spectacles that will maybe, kinda, blow your mind, en route to a hip-deep swamp of pseudo-Christian religiosity.
Prometheus may seem like more sophisticated fare, with a promise of greater significance deeply entrenched in the oft-mentioned subject matter (i.e., uncovering the origin of human life), but the movie utterly fails at tying its ideas and its monstrous happenings together. Despite feigning interest in probing life’s most pertinent mysteries, the film has nothing to say. It asks — literally asks, aloud — weighty questions without any interest in exploring the answers. The film expects you to do the heavy lifting, as though it should be rewarded for even daring to ask the questions to begin with. What is the meaning of life? Where do we come from? Why do we believe what we believe? What makes us human? What drives us to find the answers to these questions?
Yes, I’m asking you.
What, am I supposed to contribute something to the conversation? I’m the one who asked the questions. That’s, like, the hardest part. Because naturally, nobody watching Prometheus has ever considered these questions before. This is literally the first time anyone has thought to breach such existential territory, save for stoners, coffee shop philosophers, and everyone who has ever lived since the beginning of time.
Not only is it thrilling, but it leaves you asking questions. (remember, Damon Lindelof is involved after all). The 3D looked great, and the film is visually stunning. Sadly, every trailer/tv spot gives away the story’s biggest “twist”, but I think the movie is enjoyable regardless. Michael Fassbender is amazing, stealing every scene he’s in.
What the hell kind of biologist says “Hey, a completely alien life form that’s hissing and snarling and exhibiting threat behavior remarkably like a cobra’s! That probably means it wants to cuddle! Since I don’t have any containment or handling gear on me, I think I’ll just poke my fingers into its glistening alien mouth!”
[Scott] talked about how much fun he had making Prometheus and his desire to do the sequel, the difficulty in tackling serious issues when a movie costs so much, what will be on the eventual Blu-ray/DVD, director’s cuts, and more. In addition, Scott talks about a possible scene from the Blade Runner sequel and reveals the Prometheus Blu-ray might have 20 to 30 minutes of deleted scenes and describes one of them.
Scott is in “world builder” mode when he’s doing sci-fi, and the production design, costumes, and creature effects all add to this world (we loved, in particular, David’s opaque “dream goggles”). And Scott’s great eye for detail and spatial geography is enhanced, greatly, by its 3D presentation, which emphasizes depth and nuance instead of things flying at your face, working particularly well in sequences where the pyramid is being mapped by flying “pups,” and in the abortion scene, when you feel like you’re really trapped in that pod. It’s undeniably Scott’s most visually lush film in a while, something you kind of have to acknowledge even if you hated the film.
Cowboys & Aliens was a clunker, an unwieldy beast that somehow failed to take advantage of a fabulously fertile premise and a visually gifted director. And Prometheus? ‘Bad’ is too kind a word for your script on this enormous disappointment. Prometheus is an embarrassment and given your recent comments to The Hollywood Reporter that any proposed sequel “might benefit from a fresh voice or a fresh take or a fresh thought”, I think you know it.
Can you tell the difference between these two celebrity dopplegängers?
Some will claim that the movie’s problem is asking questions it can’t or won’t answer. That’s not true. In fact, the movie is thematically strengthened by keeping certain points ambiguous. It’s by design that these characters are encountering workings that are way beyond the scope of sense or understanding and so as an audience we are also left only to speculate. But the ending does something different. It doesn’t leave questions open. It purposely leaves plot open. What’s more annoying is that I’m sure a similarly “open” ending could have been crafted that wouldn’t have felt as much like the movie slapping you in the face and saying “HEY, LOOK, YOU SHOULD COME BACK FOR THE SEQUEL!” The ending, instead of making the questions feel thematic and satisfying, plays them for plot and makes the movie feel incomplete.
Jordan highlights the best examples of Ancient Astronauts in TV, film, books and even music.
Zombie Tom Hardy kills all the nameless technicians, but it’s cool. Missy Opossum has her alien fetus aborted by a surgery machine, but it’s cool. Idris Elba has sex with Charlize Theron and we don’t get to see it, but it’s cool.
Soon enough, all the questions you’re thinking about asking are quickly distracted by the presence of Tom Cruise in old-guy makeup. Apparently, the guy who paid for the trip decided to tag along, and now he wants to talk to one of these Space Albinos on the off-chance they know anything about living forever. Hey, when Tom Cruise comes to you looking
“It would be very convincing to say that there’s no hope for movies – that audiences have been so corrupted by television and have become so jaded that all they want are noisy thrills and dumb jokes and images that move along in an undemanding way, so they can sit and react at the simplest motor level. And there’s plenty of evidence, such as the success of Alien. This was a haunted-house-with-gorilla picture set in outer space. It reached out, grabbed you, and squeezed your stomach; it was more gripping than entertaining, but a lot of people didn’t mind. They thought it was terrific, because at least they’d felt something: they’d been brutalized. It was like an entertainment contrived in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World by the Professor of Feelies in the College of Emotional Engineering.” —Pauline Kael
The fact that Alien3 was a nightmare for virtually all involved is not entirely unknown. Its director (actually the third hired) has since disowned it. It went massively over-budget; at $63 million, it astonishingly cost more than twice as much as Alien and Aliens combined. The production overran to such a degree that its initial announced Easter ’90 bow was pushed back to Memorial Day, 1992. Despite a robust eventual $160 million worldwide gross, it opened weakly and was critically drubbed. “A muddled effort that offers little more than visual splendour to recommend it,” shrugged Variety at the time. “[It] goes back to square one and proves inferior to both its predecessors.”
In particular, commentators bemoaned the fact that, unlike James Cameron’s combat-movie sequel, which displayed inventive genius in evolving the story of harried Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley while locating it in an entirely different genre to Ridley Scott’s horror/sci-fi original, David Fincher’s Alien3 amounted to little more than a glum retread of the first outing. But Alien3 didn’t have to have turned out that way. Indeed, it very nearly didn’t. For a brief time, it was shaping up to be something daring, fascinating and, in terms of the setting at least, unique.
Almost every horror film since “Alien” has ripped it off in some way, but most of the imitations have focused on details — a slimy killing-machine monster that is both vaginal and penile; the dripping, cavernous interiors of the Nostromo; those immensely influential H.R. Giger “biomechanical” designs — and missed what you might call the overall Zeitgeist of the film. Well before a trio of crew members is lured out of the Nostromo into that fallopian-tube alien spacecraft where John Hurt will stumble into a mist-shrouded nest of throbbing, thrumming eggs, this movie is already a dank, sweaty, claustrophobic zone.
One last thing. Those not familiar with the viral marketing might not have had the chance to see these videos released as part of the online campaign (Hi, Guy Pearce).
Are you not entertained?