“Pride has always gone before a fall”: Prometheus Discussion

For seeing they saw not, and hearing they understood not, but like shapes in a dream they wrought all the days of their lives in confusion. (Prometheus Bound)

Prometheus certainly has people talking. How this talk bends and weaves from one person to the next has been interesting to watch. I think it boils down to expectations and audience knowledge and sometimes a combination of the two. Some went in for a good science fiction space flick; some saw Alien waaaay back in 1979 and find it to be a sacred film; some probably saw Michael Fassbender or Charlize Theron or Idris Elba and didn’t really care much about the premise. Except for the last reason, in which no one left unhappy I hope (unless *spoilers from here and throughout* you were excited to see Guy Pearce), I think love for sci-fi and your feelings, expectations, hopes and dreams from the Alien franchise all framed what you got out of Prometheus. In particular, the whole experience hinges on expectations, and going in the expectations were undoubtedly diverse and myriad. And it is fascinating. I’ve seen it twice now and I walked away both times completely satisfied. Personal bio: saw Alien as a kid, saw Alien Resurrection in theaters, and just revisited all four films. I also love sci-fi horror and Michael Fassbender (with a growing appreciation for Ridley Scott…er…at least when it comes to Blade Runner).

I have seen that some people are upset that Prometheus explains away the great mystery of Alien. Or does so inadequately. Or was filled with so many plot holes they couldn’t possibly enjoy it. Red Letter Media has done an excellent job of highlighting the most talked about plot holes; it’s hilarious but none of these issues bother me. Among the most fascinating ways to look at the film is through its sexual imagery. Like Alien, many scenes are akin to men being raped. In Prometheus, when biologist Millborn makes contact with the hammerpedes, he says they are female (and they are very…vaginal in nature). And some see Shaw’s invasive surgery to remove the trilobite as illustrating a woman’s right to choose.

During my second viewing, I found myself clarifying what I thought about events and finding sufficient explanations. They may be right or wrong but unless the film wants to flat out tell me the answers (it clearly doesn’t) I don’t see the harm in assuming. I just wanted to lay out a few thoughts after seeing it again, to add to the growing discussion.

David: Okay, I am fascinated by androids. And David did not let me down. An android can be used to comment on humanity, equality, and right to life; it can also be used to show what happens when our creations (artificial intelligence) realize they don’t need us anymore or what happens when they malfunction. David is an interesting case. He is a bit quirky (idolizing Lawrence Olivier in Lawrence of Arabia) but he easily fulfills his duty to “carry out directives that my future counterparts might find distressing or unethical.” Like when Weyland (presumably) tells David to infect Holloway. But the infection seems predicated on the answer to this question: “How far would you go to get your answers?” Obviously most people would reply very passionately but had Holloway voiced doubt, would David have stayed his hand? He also seems to have a particular fascination with Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw. He watches her dreams, keeps her cross in his pouch, and flies her off of LV-223. With Peter Weyland, his “father,” now dead, he believes himself to be free and I am anxious to see what his behavior might entail if we get a sequel. Because David seems to have some pretty complex emotions for a being with no emotions.

If he wasn’t cracking a cringe-inducing joke, he was just being rude.

Charlie Holloway: There is no way around it: this guy is a dick. He irked me the entire time he was on screen. I can’t decipher whether he was meant to be as terrible as I viewed him. It would have helped had Logan Marshall-Green and Noomi Rapace had any chemistry. They didn’t and it made his scenes even worse. He treated David negatively (and was the only crew member to seem biased towards him for no reason; Charlize had plenty of reasons) and started a thirty minute temper tantrum when the Engineers weren’t there to roll out the red carpet and answer his questions about creation. Granted, his treatment of David is made interesting by the turn of events: did David infect him because of his incessant condescension or did Weyland make the call and the added benefit in both scenarios was Holloway’s intimate relationship with Shaw?

Connections to Alien: I thought people might be assured knowing that Prometheus takes place on the planet LV-223 and Alien takes place on LV-426. Therefore, we are not even seeing events directly setting up what the Nostromo crew finds — at least if you don’t look at the facts. This has not seemed to quell the fire of anger from some crowds though; oh well. The events of that lead up to the xenomorphs overrunning the derelict ship on LV-426 and the original space jockey are still unknown but can be discerned. The fact that space jockeys are now “Engineers” who created humans does not ruin Alien for me. Then again, I haven’t been obsessed with the mystery since 1979. Years make my head spin but the majority of Prometheus takes place in 2093; Alien takes place in 2122, thus leaving only a 28 year gap. But, when dealing with so much time, that is pretty relative when it comes to 2000 years no? The dead space jockey in Alien was carbon dated to having died 2000 years before 2122. The dead Engineers in Prometheus were also carbon dated as having died 2000 years ago. Perhaps the dead space jockeys on LV-233 and LV-426 are related by the unfortunate outbreak on LV-223.

Clunkiness: Whereas some of the so-called plot holes that left people confused didn’t affect me, the moments where I felt the writers pulling the strings did. Why did zombified Fifield return to the Prometheus? Obviously to get rid of some of the crew members we didn’t get to spend any time with. But my clunky award goes to the delivery of Charlize’s “father” like to Guy Pearce. It was clear at that point the reveal was going to be that Vickers was Peter Weyland’s daughter. Every line was alive with possibility. But nothing. Almost like an afterthought Vickers menacingly snarls “father” in her goodbye and it just didn’t hit for me.

Where do we go from here?: It already appears that we have much to look forward to when Prometheus hits Blu-ray and DVD. I’ve read rumors a certain scene was cut that, if included, would have made the overall plot and motivations much clearer. And the viral heritage of the film continues with the end credits pointing the audience to this website: http://www.whatis101112.com/.  Speculation points to this as the release date as well as the date being New York Comic-Con. We can probably also expect this deleted scene: an image has appeared which shows an older Engineer participating in the film’s opening sequence. The scene appears to be a ritual whereby the younger Engineer is preparing to be used as the jumpstarter DNA for a new race.

And if you probably thought the ending definitely set up the sequel, you would be right. Ridley Scott hopes to explore the next chapter and confront notions of “God” and “paradise.” In the meantime, if you were super depressed by the lack of chestbursters, facehuggers, and xenomorphs, here is an equally detailed glossary to use in your discussions about Prometheus: like the article says, even if you didn’t like it, people will bring it up! So mark your vocabulary accordingly. And search the internet for more interviews! Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof have helped me refine my own interpretations via their cagey answers. Check out this email exchange with Damon at MTV and a more broad interview with him at Vulture (cool discussion about viral marketing, androids, rape imagery, Blade Runner, and even his Buffy spec script!).

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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