Might solve a mystery… or rewrite history!
What what what.
Prometheus is exquisitely made and beautifully acted. The art direction will melt your face. The cinematography will scorch your scalp. But the story is a fractal of mess, where you approach the general shape of the mess and find jutting mini-messes all the way to infinity.
NONE OF THIS MOVIE MAKES ANY SENSE.
It is a Rorschach test of confusion, where you can reflect on it for hours with a heckling partner, comparing notes on which morsels jarred your brain the worst. It is a Master’s Thesis of confusing, contradictory and silly. This is a movie with more red herrings than regular herrings.
Here there be spoiling pretty much everything that happens, and it is graphic, so be warned.
The primary mess is that, in Prometheus, a race of massively muscled translucent white “Engineers” started life on earth, which evolved into humans. Some tens of thousands of years ago, these beefy dudes visited various groups of people and persuaded them to kindly depict a space map on cave walls and whatnot so as to direct humans to a certain planet once they become space-faring. Then about 2000 BC the beefy dudes (and they are all dudes) get SO MAD at us they want to wipe us out. WHY they get SO MAD goes deliberately, infuriatingly unanswered, but if you buy this critique (link from Oddernod) it was because we killed Space Jesus.
Also they have Greek statue faces. Allegory direct enough for ya?
Alas we humans don’t know we made the beefy dudes SO MAD, because we kill pacifist prophets basically as a hobby. So we go on our merry way until about 2089, when a very nice married couple of archeologists (some guy and Noomi Rapace) discover the shocking pattern of space maps, because by 2089 humans have developed shocking advances in CAVE EXPLORING and LOOKING AT STUFF.
Anyway, a megawealthy corporation takes interest in their assessment that an alien species created humankind and left these maps so we could find them. The revealed goal is that the head of this corporation wants to meet the creators of humankind so he can live forever.
It turns out the beefy white dudes got SO MAD they created a new kind of biological weapon — hostile seeds of life itself — to send to earth and wipe us out. They created this weapon on a planet other than their home world. This also happens to be the planet they directed us to before they got SO MAD. But they also put ships on it to ferry these horrible weapons to earth.
Uhhh… so ten thousand years ago they left us maps to a barren planet. Maybe this was intentional, in case they decided later they didn’t like us? But then as soon as we killed Space Jesus, they were like, “Forget it — let’s waste ’em.”
Ah, frick, I don’t know what’s going on.
Or why they sculpted a giant head in their spaceship/military base/welcome station
Anyway, the seeds of life itself kill all the beefy white dudes on this installation (pretty much). And the other beefy white dudes ostensibly on their home planet or wherever don’t make any attempts in the intervening two thousand years to rescue their fellows or nuke the doomed planet or keep trying to kill humankind or anything.
So all the nastiness and spaceships are still on this doomed planet when archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her posse come to town.
I heart caves!
For a funny critique of this narrative, go here (link also from Oddernod).
Stuff that was cool:
– Replicant David (Michael Fassbender) dyes his roots blond. Not only does this imply that his hair grows, which is SUPER interesting, it characterizes a robot who wants to look other than his predetermined look. That is SUPER INTERESTING. Don’t worry — not explored further.
Also he eats food! No, David! You will break!
– Idris Elba smokes, plays a musical instrument, flirts and generally acts like a human being, which is nice.
– The spaceships look cool.
– The landscapes look cool.
– Biologist guy wears a future hoodie. It looks kind of cool.
– Characters plainly stating their intentions. A geologist proclaims, “I’m not here to make friends.” Don’t worry — this proclamation is not confirmed or disproven at any time. He is quirky Giger fodder and disappears quickly.
– Science-types on a strange planet ALL TAKE THEIR HELMETS OFF. Quickly, with limited discussion. There are no holdouts.
Loo lee loo loo… helmets are for suckers
– The science-types do not act like scientists. They aren’t cautious. They don’t take notes. They don’t measure or document. The geologist doesn’t look at any rocks. The biologist tries to pet an alien snake — like REALLY tries to pet it and doesn’t take no for an answer — like the dumbest dummy that ever dumbed. Even at Yosemite you keep wildlife wild, yo.
– Science-types dissect an alien noggin with no protective gear but gloves. No goggles. They have masks around their necks, which is not a useful place for masks.
– Also the alien noggin is “incredibly well-preserved.” By that, science lady means that, despite having been sitting in an earthlike environment in the presence of mealworms for two thousand years, it is fresh as a daisy. Why? NOBODY ASKS.
– Oh, and there are flying probes that detect life, but they don’t detect all the mealworms. They COULD have detected these mealworms, and everybody looks around and says, “Oh, it’s just mealworms,” so the crew starts to ignore the probes, BUT NO.
– Deliberately flimsy reasons for stuff. Why are nice married archaeologists along on this multi-year adventure? Because Daddy Weyland is “superstitious” and wanted a “true believer.” Really? And “true believer” means what exactly? No one asks, and it doesn’t pay off. The archaeologists are surprised by this. Is this not something you might ask BEFORE embarking on a four-year mission? THEN why is cool blonde Vickers along on this ride? According to her, she didn’t want to stick around the board at Weyland-Yutani trying to figure out who should be in charge, which is apparently a complex issue because Daddy Weyland (Guy Pearce) is still alive. THIS MAKES NO SENSE. If you want to be in charge of a company, you don’t leave it for four years! While the real CEO is gone! In space! Where you decided to join him! AAAAARRRRGH.
– Husband archaeologist is all moody and depressed because they traveled two years and only found evidence of multiple kinds of advanced alien life and biotech, including terraforming. But since there are no living aliens, he can’t ask his important questions! Because archaeologists rely on talking to living beings to get their questions answered. BLARGH.
– For some reason David infects archaeologist husband with alien black slime, because… I dunno? Possibly so he will impregnate Shaw, the archaeologist wife, with an alien entity? This is what happens, but why? This has NOTHING to do with David’s prime directive, which is to put wannabe-immortal Daddy Weyland in front of one of the beefy dude Engineers. I watched this movie like three hours ago, and I seriously have no idea why David infects one, or whether he even intended to impregnate the other. SO BLARGH.
– Also Shaw reminds her husband at one point that she’s infertile. So it’s weird that she gets pregnant (is it truly conception, or implantation?) Don’t worry — this isn’t explored at all.
– When Shaw realizes she’s pregnant and immediately wants to get it out of her — which is at least a thing that makes sense — David drugs her. Two other scientists show up in hazmat suits (protective gear FINALLY) to put her in cryosleep. Why? What did David tell them to persuade them to cryosleep her? Is this just a thing they do? “Hey, you’ve got a bad headache; we’re gonna throw you back in cryosleep.”
– Rather than TALK to the scientists, or TELL ANYONE AT ALL EVER that she’s got an alienfetus inside her, Shaw fights them. Apparently she knocks them both out, because they don’t pursue her. Also apparently she KILLS THEM, because they never appear again.
– Then Shaw sprints off to the Chekov’s gun of Vickers’s surgery pod. We learned in Act 1 that only twelve of these were made, and one is sitting in Wickers’s quarters because she’s safety-minded (FLIMSY REASON.) Shaw requests a C-Section (what), but she has to summarize the procedure because the machine is on a “male” default setting. WHY is this machine set to “male”? WHY is it set to either gender? IT’S A FREAKIN’ POD THAT DOES SURGERY. And WHY is it set to male when it lives in a woman’s quarters? Did Wickers not go through the user’s manual? If anything, it should be set to Charlize Theron’s exact biological description, and short Noomi should have to stretch to seem 5’9″. AAAARRRRGH. (Ohhh. Heckling partner has read that the surgery pod was possibly pre-set for Daddy Weyland, not Vickers, which also explains why its along for the trip at all. OK, but still — gimme a main menu!)
– So now we come to the C-section. Why, why, why does Elizabeth request a C-section and not, you know, AN ABORTION. I think no matter your opinion on abortion you will pretty much agree to a woman’s right to get things out of her uterus that AREN’T HUMAN. But no! She asks for a C-Section, and she gets what, like, George Lucas imagines a C-section is: one long lateral incision, and then a claw machine lifts out the amniotic sac. Handy! Then another device staples her skin shut, and then she’s up and sprinting with the best of them. ALL OF THE BLARGHS. There is a scene from The Fly that should have been here.
– In great pain, Shaw flees down a corridor and happens up on the room where Daddy Weyland is being secretly kept. Was this an accident? Coincidence? Was she looking for someone? No idea. David’s there, and she doesn’t seem too steamed at him about him for drugging her and condemning her to cryosleep while she begged to be unpregnant, so that’s mighty forgiving of her.
– Shaw takes a moment to ask Idris Elba’s captain what he believes in, but does not mention the whole horrific alien pregnancy thing, or that the alienfetus is still flailing around Vickers’s surgery pod. Man, some people just won’t open up.
– Vickers turns out to be Daddy Weyland’s kid. So she has a different last name from him, and that’s progressive, and I’m down, but how did that happen? Wouldn’t she want to keep that powerful last name if she wanted to run the company? But that’s a small potato here.
– The great question of how we made the beefy dudes SO MAD is not answered. It’s left as a cliffhanger, because after two hours and fifteen minutes we did not earn the answer. COME ON.
Stuff that happens but does not pay off in any way:
– Vickers and Captain Elba get it on. This is never mentioned again.
Look out! A story point with no consequences!
– At the beginning, Shaw gets a super-short backstory showing her religious Africa-exploring dad. An hour later David casually mentions that dad died of ebola. This does not come up again AT ALL.
A whole world of random things to mention
– One of the sacrificial scientists (I seriously don’t even know which one) comes back to the ship as a charred heap folded backward on himself. He reanimates, kills some dudes, and they set him on fire some more. I guess they just needed to kill off some crew members, because nothing comes of this later.
– Shaw risks her life to get the giant, “incredibly well-preserved” head back to the ship. She and
Lysa Arryn Ford (Kate Dickie) dissect it, and it explodes. A lot of screen time and suspense is applied to the head, but after exploding it never comes up again.
I’m sure there’s more but my brain feels squishy and bad. So.