Ok, so it’s important to note that, when it comes to movies, I’m a pretty cheap date. Superpowers, futuristic technology and explosions are good enough for me, and if there are lots of superpowers, lots of futuristic technology and lots of explosions, not only am I sold, but I may even cry tears of happiness.
Nonetheless, I was really looking forward to Prometheus, and not just because it was “this year’s must see sci-fi thriller”, but because it was being sold as a possible prequel to Alien.
I loved the Alien movie franchise as a teen. And Ripley. Mostly Ripley.
This wasn’t Alien.
Spoilers begin here.
Let me start by saying that this movie was visually stunning and the technology was just awesome. With that said, the characters and backstories were all shallow, choppy and underdeveloped. All, that is, except for that of David, the (to some extent) antagonist android. I’ll elucidate further on my attraction to David, but first I must lambast.
A WHITE alien comes to Earth to either seed human life or all life? Really? If it’s all life, then why the hell was the alien able to breathe the atmosphere that – as it was established they required – without the single celled organisms that, billions of years ago, created the oxygen through metabolising the molecules in the atmosphere and oceans?
If it was only the humans they created, then why didn’t they make this more clear and why was it a White/Arian? In the real world, white skin was selected for when early humans migrated from the tropics of Africa into the higher latitudes in order to absorb more UV light in a shorter time, so that adequate amounts of Vitamin D could be produced. Dark skin is selected for in the tropics because the melanin that creates the dark colour filters out UV light, because too much UV creates skin cancer and too much Vitamin D is also bad.
I’m inclined to believe that it was the latter – i.e. that aliens just created humans – (the premise that the Prometheus travelled to this distant planet after early human cultures artistically depicted giant aliens pointing to the constellation they invariably travelled to), but even then, the alien apparently creates humanity and early humans carry some sort of memory of the giant alien and where it launched from, but later cultures don’t share this memory. Is that right?
Nonetheless, the theme of direct creationism, albeit via design, is implicit in the movie. As is the Judeo-Christian undertone of a benevolent creator who turns capricious and decides to kill everything for no reason. And speaking of Christian undertones, the captain of the ship who sacrifices himself on Christmas day to save humanity? C’mon!!
There were some really silly religiously motivated exchanges too (badly paraphrased):
“I guess you should throw away your cross.”
“Well, it’s obvious we weren’t created by gods.”
“But who created the engineers?”
And at the end, Elizabeth Shaw, after having seen her partner die; taught a voice controlled autonomous medical machine how to remove the alien from her abdominal cavity (and yanked out the umbilicus attached to her); gone back into the alien installation to meet the alien after having invasive surgery; escaped the alien and sprinted back to her ship; leaping across chasms, that would’ve torn her stapled stomach open, to tell the captain of the expedition team to destroy the alien ship; sprinting from the falling debris and rolling ship, which is seemingly intent on crushing her; narrowly making it back to the life-boat with 30 seconds of O2; narrowly escaping the squid monster and the alien, again; after all that, the thing that steels her resolve is her Christian cross… that David, for some unknowable reason, placed in his utility belt after changing into his environment suit.
Lastly, while I loved the technology, I do have a few niggling gripes; ion drives don’t travel faster than light, so the two year journey would’ve been immensely longer; the gravity on the ship had no observable explanation; the voice controlled autonomous medical pod was purchased by Meredith Vickers, a woman, but the pod was not configured for women; the flame thrower worked too efficiently for an atmosphere with four times the CO2 of Earth.
While the crew were in their deep sleep, David learned the root of all human languages, taught himself basketball and how to comb his hair like Laurence Olivier. His philosophically charged wit and snark make him my favourite character by a very wide margin, even despite his homicidal tendencies.
My three favourite exchanges in the film were all due to this completely relatable character.
Third favourite: old looking Guy Pearce is attacked by the “engineer” and is dying, says, “there’s nothing”, to which David replies, “I know, have a nice journey.”
Second favourite: Holloway tells David that he doesn’t need to breathe, so wearing an environment suit would be pointless. David responds by saying that humans made him this way (i.e. restrained him to such a frame) because they’re fickle and scared of things that are more capable/better than themselves. As such, he must wear the environment suit so as to maintain the illusion that he is not a trillion times more awesome… even though he is.
Favourite: Holloway is drunk and dishevelled at the pool table and David enters to antagonise him and dose him with the “weaponised evolution.” In this exchange David is curious why Holloway is so disappointed at not being able to meet the “engineers.”
David: “Why did you make me?”
Holloway: “Because we could.”
David then, covertly, asks Holloway whether he was expecting a different answer to the same question. David then tells Holloway that he knows his creators and is pretty unimpressed.
So, what more can I say?
The film was pretty darn enjoyable, albeit fairly frustrating in parts. I dare say that if I had only a limited understanding of the biological evolution, and they’d spent more time working on the plot and storyline and less time working in out-of-place sex scenes and vagina-aliens, I would’ve been singing their praises.
I did leave the film feeling a little disappointed, but I am buoyed by the possibility of a sequel where David and Elizabeth Shaw hunt down the aliens to find out WTF they were thinking. Hell, it may even be a great opportunity to answer the questions raised by the lazy science in this movie.