Prometheus Debate

A while ago, I talked about a major plot hole that I found in one of my more beloved movies.  It was one of those needling, pesky thoughts you would have over time.  But every time I watched it, I new something was wrong.

Which is how I felt watching Prometheus.

I don't think a movie in recent years has sparked such debate.  People in whom I have placed a certain amount of trust when it comes to gauging a movie's quality have said it was awful.  Other's who I wouldn't pick to tell me if it was raining outside said it was an amazing film.  Now, this is a failing of my own, not making up my own mind, but that's another post for later.  And I don't mean to generalize my friends into idiots and geniuses when it comes to film, but I know that if certain people love a movie, I will hate it.  That's just experience over time.  What I'd like to do today is put down my thoughts, and the thoughts my of my lovely lady, into a humble critique of the movie from an obvious layperson.

Ridley Scott has flattly stated that Prometheus wasn't going to be a prequel to Alien and I remember thinking that was a dodge.  When Star Trek came out in 2009, the fans were elated at the quality and performances.  The story was serviceable and there were a few spatial anomalies to be concerned about, but over all it was the most enjoyable movie I saw that year.  I recall walking back to the car just too happy to even speak; so many good things happened in that movie.  But I also remember knowing it was going to be a reboot.  It was going to use the same starting point, but go off in a new direction.  No one made any claims to the contrary.

Prometheus, on the other hand, was summarily dismissed as a prequel to Alien, and more of a story behind the mysterious Space Jockey.  This creature was window dressing to the horror that was later to unfold in Alien but has since sparked much interest.  What was this petrified life form?  Was it attacked by the xenomorphs?  Was it transporting the eggs for delivery or research?  Was his death intentional? A lot of questions were raised in that short scene, and Prometheus, it seems, was attempting to answer those.

From this point on, I will be talking about major plot points.  You've had your warning.

So, the movie wasn't a prequel.  It had a company that sent researchers to a world on the other side of the galaxy.  This world had a giant C shaped starship.  On this ship were containers with alien life.  This alien life easily infiltrated its host, emerged and grew quickly.  There's even a nefarious android.  No, this isn't a prequel.

I understand the desire to tell a different story based in that universe.  I understand wanting it to be separate from what you've done before.  But I believe that it was done wrong.  Sir Scott wanted to show where the mysterious Space Jockey/Engineers came from by giving us a prettier version of Alien.  The problem with the movie was that it brought up too many questions while looking like it was on the verge of answering them at the same time.

The opening shows a large pale humanoid figure standing atop a waterfall.  He disrobes, eats something from a small dish and dies, while in the background a large disk shaped craft slowly flies off into space.  The poison destroys his DNA and his body disintegrates.  Once in the water, the DNA seems to mend and become vibrant, active cells.  Though we don't know for sure, the setting is very Earth like, so we are to assume that this opening bit is the film's way of saying, "Hey, these guys pretty much invented life on Earth."  The question for later is, "Just human life?"

The basic gist of the story is that a rich old guy funds a trip to a planet based on a discovery by two archaeologists.  They find carvings and paintings of ancient peoples depicting the same giant figure pointing to the heavens and the same celestial objects.  The find the right location of the stars, find that there is a sun like ours, with a planetary moon much like Earth.  So they go there.  They find a building.  In the building they find a body (much like the Space Jockey.)  In a room near the body they find a huge head, a crystal on a dais, a mural with an alien figure and a lot of little vases.  Their presence activates the hi-jinks that is this movie and it turns into the goodnight song from the von Trapps as one by one the crew is picked off by something.  One Space Jockey is alive and the old guy shows up to ask him for eternal life.  The alien responds by going on a killing spree and the heroine must survive him and the elements.  She ends the film by finding another of the alien ships to go looking for where they came from.

I've left a lot out for brevity's sake.  The questions and assumptions start here.

We don't learn from any record that these aliens are purposefully carrying the dangerous xenomorphs to Earth to eliminate us.  It was all supposition from an android whose sanity and loyalty were in question.  We assume he can read the ship's manifest and destination where it specifically states, "Cargo: weaponized life form.  Destination: Third planet of Terran system."  Our assumption comes from a) this ship contains a gelatinous substance that fucks with other life forms.  It has tons of this stuff and even the smallest drop of it turns normal living creatures into terrible monsters.  And b) a nice hologram of a wide rang of star systems shows Earth.  Amidst myriad of stars and planets, we now assume that since Earth is on there, that's where they must be going.  It couldn't be that we just exist in their databases.  They were there before; it serves that we could just show up in a star map.

So our theory is that the first giant space albino we see in the movie was dropped off on Earth as a punishment.  He was exiled with a loaded weapon.  However, the unintended consequence is that his DNA started life on this blue-green ball.  So ages later, his race sees what has happened and decide to come back with the xenomorphs to fix that mistake.  That kind of makes sense.

However, two issues come up.  The first being that form of eradication never works.  You use one animal to kill another and suddenly you have new dominant species to deal with.  How many times here on Earth has one thing been brought in to kill another only to become a bigger problem.  The second issue is that if we were a mistake, where did the cave paintings come from?  At some point the big guys had to come back and give us this information.  So what was the motivation there?  Was it them leaving enough evidence of their existence so that we'd go looking for them and bring a xenomorph back accidentally, saving them all the trouble?  Was it a benign few creatures, telling us stories of our existence, which we patently forgot over time?

Another idea is that they wanted Earth for their own and left a single person here to create life but that life became stunted and warlike.  The first visits were fine, just here to check up on humanity.  But later we decide to bomb the daylights out of each other over philosophy and land so the aliens decide we're too much trouble and chose instead to wipe us out before we become a problem.

But that is never explain in the movie.

So what we're left with is a film that sets out to answer more questions by asking them.  And I haven't even gone into who the rich man's "daughter" was.  (Theories are that she's an android but that story died with her.)  I get the distinct feeling that this will create so much buzz that additional films will have to be made if only to sate our curiosity over all these questions.  If not, it will die a very open ended story with just a surface level link to Alien.

In the end, Prometheus was a very pretty movie.  The environment, the actors, the action, the graphics.  At no point did something seem out of place or fake or unnecessary, other than the writing.