Lynnette shrewdly picked up Prometheus on Blu Ray during our Gray Thursday/Black Friday binge at Wal Mart. We watched it together on Saturday afternoon. Luckily, Madison was watching her Disney programing on the iPad. Had she been in the living room, we wouldn’t have been able to watch the film due to the graphic nature of some of the scenes including the Engineer ripping David’s head clean off his body. Now I know this will come late, and perhaps I should see a movie immediately if I plan to review it or write a commentary about it, but I don’t have that kind of time.
When the film initially came out, I did want to watch it. The premise – that there were greater beings who seemed to have had appeared to various ancient human civilizations – was enough. Soon after it was released, however, a friend of mine saw it and posted a single sentence review. He described the movie as something along the lines of “a bunch of characters running around making stupid decisions.” That’s exactly the kind of story I try to avoid. So I did.
Lynnette and I were so disturbed by the numerous plot holes in the film that even as we lay in bed on Saturday night, she was still incredulously asking questions. But I think that’s the point. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and I suppose Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, the film is a commentary on mankind’s insatiable thirst for knowledge. That aside, there are still a bunch of things I have questions about.
1. How does Fifield get lost? He was the one with the mapping probes! Of all the people in the crew, he should have been able to navigate the tunnels the most easily. It didn’t seem to pose a problem to Shaw and the rest of the crew who didn’t leave early. And even so, why didn’t Stringer Bell just tell them how to get out since he was looking at the map and communicating with them simultaneously?
2. When he shows up outside the Prometheus in the spider/crab pose, shouldn’t that guy at the entrance have noticed the inhuman posture immediately? Yeah, yeah, something’s wrong, clown, he’s turned himself into a walking pretzel. Why and how does Fifield now have super powers? He’s more or less a zombie, but a superhuman zombie. He was just there to blow up shop. To create conflict? None of the other characters showed traces of being affected in such a manner. It’s not like one of those pre-Alien aliens burst from his torso.
3. What was the point of David’s poisoning of Holloway (Trey from The OC)? Was it just to see what would happen as the android intimated in their conversation during the pool game? I could see if part of the mission was to capture a live specimen (like in the original Alien films), but it wasn’t. I suppose since David isn’t human, he doesn’t really care what happens to humans, but it’s not like Weyland even mentioned such a sub-plot when he came out of cryo-ish sleep. This led to the worst subplot of the film…
4. After being infected, Holloway has intercourse with Shaw (left). She ends up being impregnated by an alien seed. In a particularly disturbing scene, she programs an extraction herself, then sits in the machine while her alien baby is untimely ripped from her belly. Then she gets stapled up and she walks away from it. AND NO ONE SAYS A WORD ABOUT THIS. My friend Dan (the same guy who wrote the single-sentence review) wrote of the scene, “And no one cared! No one mentioned how she has staples, disappeared for a good amount of time, or is covered with blood!” He’s right. She didn’t bother to tell anyone about David’s betrayal. Later, when David implies he poisoned Holloway, all Shaw does is give him an angry look. From a plot standpoint, it seems that the only purpose this served was to have her grown up alien seed dispose of the lone Engineer trying to kill her.
There are – to be sure – many other questions like: Why the hell would they allow David to touch ANYTHING? Why would they even touch that crap in the sealed off room without any kind of safety protocol in place? They are on an alien planet, after all. I think this was the root of Dan’s initial review: none of the characters other than Stringer Bell and Fifield and Charlize Theron behave rationally. But I suppose all of these questions are kind of the point.
Coincidentally, my Advanced Placement class just finished reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The novel uses the same kind of lack of clarity in its story telling and same expectation-building central question (Who is Kurtz?) to lead to an ultimately disappointing and unsatisfying conclusion. The Heart of Darkness‘ Kurtz is the shell of the man he was verbally characterized as, but at least the audience meets him. In the case of Prometheus, the central frustration comes from not having the key questions regarding the origins of man answered at all. All we are left with at the end of Prometheus is more questions. In Conrad’s novel, all of that uncertainty and disappointment is meant to mirror the disappointment of Marlow, the work’s central character. I have no idea what the point of it was in Prometheus.
Lynnette was upset because she believes the film purposefully did not answer questions so as to require a cash grab of a sequel. She might be right.
All of the irrational behaviors (aside from David’s), though, can be explained as a critical commentary on mankind’s never-ending quest for knowledge. The characters behave irrationally and without a thought for safety (until it’s way too late) because those ideas are overridden by the stronger urge to discover. Anyway, this hunger ultimately and inexorably leads to his/her downfall. My current haircut, for example is the outcome of attempting to answer the question “What does the 1-guard look like?” Well, now I know. It’s a basic theme of screeds of this kind. There are certain things humans aren’t meant to know, and humans are not gods, and all that.
This type of thinking and behavior are summed up in the final decision of the movie. David’s decapitated head tells Shaw – the lone survivor – that she can pilot a ship home. She tell him that she doesn’t want to go home, she wants to go where the Engineers came from. She just spent the whole movie trying not to die and now decides that she wants to head off into certain death because the Engineers “made them, and then changed their minds,” and she has to know why. The ship takes off, presumably to the home planet of the Engineers. And that’s that. Except for the humanoid Alien popping out of the Engineer’s body. What? So how does? You know what? There are just some things that humans aren’t meant to know. Unless they fork over $10 to watch the sequel.