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Commentary: Breaking down ‘Prometheus’

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Reactions to “Prometheus,” director Ridley Scott’s return to both the “Alien” franchise and, more importantly, science-fiction, have been divisive at best. Some viewers love it, some outright hate it. But if there’s anything those viewers can agree on, it’s that it raises a lot more questions than answers.

That’s the film’s biggest drawback. “Prometheus” tries to be a lot more clever than any of the previous “Alien” flicks, which weren’t really much more than slashers in space. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — any summer tentpole that can create a discussion is OK with me, apart from the dreadful “Inception” — but some viewers don’t like having to tie up the loose ends themselves.

There’s a lot I have to say about “Prometheus,” so I apologize if this is jumpy. This is going to a long post, so I will break it into subsections. Beware: Spoilers forthcoming.

Story, Part I  or “Before everyone becomes a moron”

The film opens with a tall, pasty man, who we later come to know as one of the Engineers, standing over a waterfall chugging some black goo. His body begins dissipating at a molecular level and after falling into the waterfall, we see his DNA — or what’s left of it — sent on its way, sparking what will become the creation of humankind.

We then jump to Scotland, around the year 2090, where a team of researchers find a painting in a cave. The painting depicts the Engineers pointing to a star system in the sky, and it’s not the first of these found.

A  rich guy named Peter Weyland, who is dying presumably of old age, funds a trillion-dollar expedition to the planet LV-223, which is in the star system that was painted in the caves, to see if we can interact with these people. Long story short: We are led to believe Weyland is dead, but we later find out he was on the ship all along, and he funded the mission to see if the Engineers could prevent him from dying and extend his life.

This is about where “Prometheus” stops being interesting. We have the setup: We know of a planet that might house intelligent, extraterrestrial life so we should probably go check it out.

Now it gets a bit infuriating.

Story, Part II or “Where everyone becomes a moron”

We land on LV-223 and every crew member decides to act like a total freaking moron. It reminds me a bit of “Armageddon” at this point. For such an important mission, I would assume we would send the best and brightest minds light years away in what would be undoubtedly the most important event in human history. In reality, we send a bunch of damn idiots.

While the crew is exploring a cave-dome thingy, they are forced to evacuate when a storm approaches. However, two of them get lost. One is a geologist, who I would assume could navigate a cave by himself, but especially considering all he had to do was ask the captain of the ship where to go. He blew it. Because of the storm, they can’t be rescued ‘til morn’.

Then they die, because the stupid biologist — yes, BIOLOGIST — decided to provoke a snake-vagina, which ends up killing him, and then something else melts the face off the geologist, later turning him into a pissed off super-zombie.

At the end of the film, Vickers, who we come to find is Weyland’s daughter, is trying to run away from the Engineer-piloted ship that rose from the cave-dome to go kill Earth. After the captain of the Prometheus and his crew, who didn’t even hesitate to sacrifice themselves, knock the Engineer ship out of the sky, it crashes down and starts rolling like a Frisbee on its side. Instead of doing the logical thing and run out of its way, Vickers runs in its way the whole damn time and dies the death she deserved for being so stupid.

So what is this movie about?

According to “Prometheus,” the Engineers created us. Once we land on LV-223, we notice something is awry. We see holograms of Engineers fleeing from something in the dome-cave. This is one of the unanswered questions, which I will get to later, but I presume humans have done something so wrong that we, in part, created something horrible, and I also presume it had something to do with the black goo.

In the film, there’s a fleeting line about humans doing something horrible 2,000 years ago. Scott said in an interview that this is certainly about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It stands to reason that Jesus was an Engineer, and the Engineers are now upset with man for crucifying him. Seeing what mankind has become, the Engineers are pissed, and now want to kill us off.

There’s a lot of Christian allegory in “Prometheus,” but I don’t want to get into that, not only because I’m no religious expert, but because someone else did it much better than I ever could. Check out this guy’s breakdown of the film.

Unanswered questions, Part I or “What the f— was that black goo?”

I wish I knew, but I only think I know.

The black goo is one of the biggest questions. What is it? Is it the same black goo the Engineer drinks at the beginning?

I’m not sure, but it could be. The black goo doesn’t seem to do just one thing. It almost seems to be a harbinger of life (and death).

Apart from that opening bit, we see it oozing out of pods in the dome-cave. We later see larvae crawling around in it, which I presume matured into the snake-vagina.

It stands to reason that the things that spawn out of the black goo are influenced by whatever is around it. I’m not 100 percent convinced on this, however. The snake-vagina killed the biologist, possibly out of the same sense of self-survival humans have. But why would it also spawn a squid-baby in a human womb?

Later, David, the droid who is basically the HAL-9000 of the Prometheus, slips a bit of the goo into one of the crew-member’s drinks. Eventually he turns into something similar to the super-zombie from earlier. But what’s worse is that he impregnates his girlfriend, who was previously infertile, with an alien-squid baby.

After the alien-squid baby is surgically removed from her body, it spawns into super-huge-killer-squid. At the end of the film, it latches on to the Engineer, who had just unsuccessfully tried to go kill Earth, and eventually, the famous Xenomorph from the previous “Alien” films explodes from its stomach.

Unanswered questions, Part II or “What the heck was everything else?”

Unless I’m missing something, I can’t figure out what the Engineers were running from in the cave-dome. I’m guessing humans corrupted the black goo and created a monster that was killing them. The shifting murals in the big cave-dome room, one of which features a Xenomorph, I believe, might corroborate with that.

But what was the thing they were running from?

Why did David slip the black goo in the dude’s drink? People have speculated David might have turned all HAL-9000 on us and became aware … or something. I don’t think he was evil. I think he was just curious to see what the effects of the black goo were.

Also, why didn’t David help the girl when he found out she was pregnant with the squid baby? I would presume something similar here, but even so, given all the crap that had gone down to this point, allowing an unknown creature to gestate inside a crew member seemed risky to the whole operation.

Why are the Engineers pissed at us? Apparently for the whole Jesus thing. A friend of mine put it this way, and I like it:

“The Engineers understand the concept of willing self sacrifice; of giving one’s own life so that others may live. The humans (a corrupted being), are predators, and kill so they may live, and pretty much want to live forever. And that ancient old man presents himself and his artificial intelligence to the last Engineer, and the Engineer is, given the circumstances, very irked.”

Voila.

​My analysis

With all that out of the way, it’s time to digest all this.

So “Prometheus” is about the creation of man. Our “god” is the Engineer species. That much should be evident for anyone who sees it.

But so what?

Humans quickly devolved into a savage species so bent on their own survival and well-being that we became essentially a lost cause to our creators. The religious undertones here are quite clear, as evident from the Biblical motifs I linked to earlier.

We have to be stopped, not only because we suck, but because a life-form more advanced than us is pissed at us. And not only is it any life-form, it’s the one that created us.

Weyland speaks a lot about our species. We are increasingly bent on prolonging our vitality. We’ve gone from doing it purely for survival to the point where it’s almost shameless. Look at what plastic surgery is to us now, and imagine that magnified as time progresses decades into the future when “Prometheus” takes place.

But then there’s David, whose character is arguably the greatest success of “Prometheus.” I can’t help but think of Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film, “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” which is also, coincidentally, about a droid named David.

This David, however, is a bit more cold and calculating. He appears to be very human, but he isn’t. He is willing to sacrifice crew members out of his own scientific curiosity. But what’s his point? Why is he there?

We see a lot of creation (and destruction) of life in “Prometheus.” Vickers is Weyland’s daughter, sure, but David is Weyland’s “son.” An odd juxtaposition as David isn’t human, but is the creation of a species that was created by the Engineers, who then killed one of the Engineers and tainted the black goo with all of its awfulness, but then created an artificial human whose creator was part of the species who killed one of the representatives of the species that created it, and then helped to create the Xenomorph species.

Whew.

I see it as something like that. Plus more Bible stuff.

Conclusion

“Prometheus” is good and bad. It’s good in that, on a technical level, it’s wonderfully awesome. It’s incredibly well-crafted, which is really no surprise as many of Scott’s films are that way.

But the script is just so wholly unsatisfying that it’s almost irksome. You have something that’s so aesthetically pleasing, and after the film’s first act, everything seems to be going well, but then the story just completely evaporates into an abyss of nothingness.

I am 100 percent interested in a sequel, but I can only hope it offers up much more meat on its bones than “Prometheus.” Will it? I don’t know. But even so, I’m totally excited to see how it plays out, permitted it even does.

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