Monday, June 11, 2012


I’m sure I missed a lot, and noticed some things that I will forget to bring up. I’m not a theologian, I’m not a critic. I’m just a guy with a love of movies and disdain for doing my actual job while I’m at work. And I love to write.

Prometheus is a story about faith, about the meaning of life, about where we came from. A story about curiosity and our insatiable need to ask “why?” When we do get an answer, we often aren’t satisfied… we want more. The movie itself is testament to that. Because more than just a story, it’s a philosophical jumping off point. Its purpose seems to be to raise as many questions as it answers. And to anyone fluent in pop culture, this much should have been evident as soon as the screenwriting credits were displayed: Damon Lindeloff. Anyone who knows much at all about Lost (and based on its popularity, that’s probably a pretty good proportion of moviegoers) should realize immediately that our journey won’t be straightforward, nor will it tie up all of our loose ends in a pretty bow. It will challenge you, challenge your beliefs.

As with previous installations in the Alien franchise proper, there are characters with several opposing (and secret) agendas: Shaw out to prove our creators are real; Vickers out to prove the opposite, and perhaps something more; David, seemingly interested in preserving (or at least studying) a new species; Weyland, looking to cheat death.

The angle of David intentionally infecting Holloway isn’t ever directly addressed, and in retrospect might not make a ton of sense. It wouldn’t result in Weyland reaching his goal- which is David’s primary purpose. Although it does provide yet another backdrop to bring the issue of faith into clearer focus- when the two debate the origin of life, Holloway’s (perhaps unsatisfactory) answer as to why humans created artificial life was a rather blasé “Because we could.”

The presence of the Aliens themselves, and the associated Easter eggs, is only tangentially important. This movie is definitely related, but it’s more concerned with the reality of the universe as a whole; the Aliens are here more as a treat, a nod to fans of the franchise, as opposed to the centerpiece. Aliens themselves aren’t the focus, just a piece of the mythology that Ridley Scott has built.

The religious undertones are unmistakable and omnipresent, right down to the movie taking place during Christmas. From Western eyes at least, what better parallel than the birth of Christ for humanity finding its own true birthplace?

We also have a scientist, Shaw, who wears a cross. In flashbacks to her childhood she had a conversation with her own scientist father about death and what it means. The father, in explaining Heaven and its various counterparts in major religions, says he knows it’s real because he chooses to believe, a theme recurrent throughout the movie. Not only is it a theme, it’s also a request implicit in the movie itself- if you choose to believe in the answers this movie gives you, you will no doubt be satisfied.

Some of the elements are heavy-handed. For example, Vickers. Her icy, impersonal demeanor is reflected almost too on-the-nose in her choice of living quarters, especially when one of the crew members points out as much- that she lives in a self-sustained escape pod, away from the rest of the crew. It’s clear she has no belief in otherworldy life, especially beings which may have themselves created us. Yet she accepts that some people do believe- when asked by Shaw why they even bothered to invite them along if expedition rules prevent the scientists from attempting contact, Vickers replies “we wanted a true believer.”

Ultimately, in addition to being a solid movie, Prometheus can be seen as a metaphor for the audience as believers or cynics- do these answers satisfy you? Are you Vickers, or are you Shaw? It could be argued that neither one met a fitting end: Vickers, literally crushed beneath the truth she acrimoniously resisted; and Shaw, taking yet another step in her Sisyphusian journey to find answers that she undoubtedly won’t want to hear.

The Engineers themselves- our very creators- aren't too different from us. The place they've led us to is essentially an abandoned military outpost for their biological weaponry.

Beyond that, Ridley Scott has proven that he’s still got it when it comes to Sci Fi. He’s old-school, as evidenced by the fact that his future has a society that is incredibly advanced but still uses combustion engines and wheeled vehicles- details not lost on the sci fi literati. He ultimately never answers the question of why the Engineers created us (or the far more interesting why they subsequently sought to destroy us) because sometimes not knowing the answer to a question is much more liberating.

Sure, you could nitpick some of it. I’m not above that myself (, but if a movie doesn’t take liberties with the boundaries of what they expect you to accept, then I’m willing to suspend some disbelief. Could Shaw have done everything she did after abdominal surgery? Doubtful. But I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, that maybe the surgical machine contained advanced healing agents, or at the very least incredibly strong painkillers. And it was clear early on that Weyland was still alive and that Vickers was most certainly related to him. But these elements didn’t detract from the story, they didn’t derail the message that the movie was trying to deliver.

I don’t recall the exact dialogue (because I had all this other minutiae swimming around in my head), but near the end when Shaw asks David what he’ll do once Weyland is no longer around to program him… I recall David saying something to the effect of “Well then I’ll be free.” And I may be reading into it, but he seemed to have a bit of trepidation at the thought.

To those of you who expressed displeasure/contempt/frustration with Prometheus: What were you expecting? You got everything you could’ve possibly wanted- the origin of the Aliens, the origin of our very species. The only reason I can think of for all the hate- or perhaps more accurately, disappointment- is that it wasn’t the answer you hoped for.

Basically, the movie itself can be summed up, in my esteem, by the clip of old cinema David was watching early on, when a character in another movie said “the trick is not minding that it hurts.” You have to be able to stand the hurt of not finding what you were looking for.

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