Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

05 Oct 2012

(Movie - 2012) Prometheus directed by: Ridley Scott

(Reaction) 42 by: Antonio Conejos

Many of the themes of Prometheus stem from the film's central notion of seeking out and meeting one's progenitor or maker. This seeking out is explored on multiple levels. Clearly, there is the journey of discovery by the expedition to the planet of the Engineers. Then there is David's own personal exploration of getting to know his own makers - human, all too human they are. Finally there is the family drama being played out between Weyland, his daughter (Ms. Vickers) and the son he wished he had (David).

Each of these yearnings for the creator though end in disappointment. The Engineers provide no answers, only more questions. Thus at the end of the film Dr. Shaw intones that she is still searching. David is no better for having faithfully executed the commands of his maker. And of course the family Weyland is torn asunder, with the patriarch and daughter dead and the son literally ripped to pieces.

These disastrous outcomes call into question the value of seeking out one's maker; whether we are ready to reach out and touch the face of God. This is the question Prometheus really wants its audience to ponder.

Notably, meeting one's maker ends in ruin because the creation comes to his God with characteristic hubris. We come to the gods for answers yet are always unsatisfied with the responses that they give. Thus Dr. Holloway's bitterness upon arriving at the Engineer's planet and yet no one is there to enlighten him. Never mind that he has found the remnants of an alien civilization which visited his planet thousands of years ago; he is peeved that no one even bothered to stay up to wait for him.

Holloway's anger at not finding the answer to everything is classic overweening pride - the insistence that we have proven worthy and deserve to know everything completely and instantly is sheer arrogance.

David too finds the answers of his makers unsatisfying. He echoes the lament that his creators failed in giving him answers. When David asks Holloway why humans made him the answer is a blithe, because we could. The android though turns the tables quickly and asks Holloway, Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator? Holloway and David are alike in that both creations find the answers of their makers deeply unsatisfying.

Corollary to this hubris we bring on our quest to meet our origin is our sense of entitlement. Holloway, David and Weyland all burn with the unshakable belief that they are worthy of answers. Indeed this entitlement is the very reason why Weyland clandestinely arranges passage aboard the Prometheus. As he puts it, If these things made us then surely they can save us. Moreover, implied in his statement is the assertion that he is worthy to be saved, to live forever.

Hubris and a sense of entitlement doom the expedition Prometheus. The creations are not (yet) worthy to meet their creators.

Yet Prometheus also asks if the creators themselves are worthy of all the adulation and awe bestowed on them by their creations. The Engineers after all were about to unleash a horrible biological weapon on Earth. Indeed, the only living Engineer the expedition meets quickly kills a bunch of people and then proceeds to aim the weapon right back at Earth.

David (the android often reflects the tension of the film's themes) also reflects his disappointment with the Engineers, and by extension his own human creators, when he drolly notes, mortal after all when the recovered Engineer's head explodes upon study.

Ultimately the film argues that the origin of life should not be confused with the meaning of life. Often times the two concepts are thought entwined, to return to the Creator is life's summation and at that meeting, everything will be clear. This thought predominates many religions. In the Judeo-Christian tradition God is Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We begin with God and when we die we return to God, and then God makes everything all right. After all what is heaven if not the peace of no longer searching, the calm of an undisturbed mind.

Yet the origin of life does not hold life's meaning. The origin of the human race is in our simian past but our future, what we hold dear, must be higher than that. The titan Prometheus gave man fire not so that man would worship his origin (ie. the gods) but that man could, and would, make his way without his creators.

Review:

Disappointing movie and much of this let down comes from a surprisingly sloppy script. I expected much more from Lindelof. Below follows a list of some of the more egregious plot points that just seem like lazy writing and left me incredulous.

a. The very premise of the movie that they are able to get an accurate star fix from a bunch of ancient carvings, paintings and murals is fantastical. These maps would have had to reproduce a significant portion of the night sky in order to be accurate to any useful degree yet the movie shows the stars in the drawings as merely a bunch of dots seemingly splattered at random.

b. When Prometheus makes its landing the site is chosen at random and yet they manage to stumble (miraculously) on the site of one of the Engineer's ships. While this heightens the atmosphere of exploration (Holloway shouting look there while pointing out the window like some sailor on a wooden sailing ship spotting land) it is completely unrealistic. Prometheus is a space ship. It was in orbit around the planet. Yet no attempt was made to survey the planet from orbit to find an interesting landing spot. Instead the ship landed willy nilly and just fortuitously found the right spot to land on to keep the plot going.

c. How is is that two characters get lost in the cavern when the crew has a detailed map of the place? Moreover these two characters are in constant contact with the ship, so much so that when the captain asks for their position (when a probe detects signs of movement) the biologist is able to read out very specific coordinates. Lastly isn't one of the guys who gets lost also the same guy who lets loose the mapping probes, calling them his pups? So the mapping guy is so incompetent that he can't even follow the map made by his own probes? What the hell. I don't think that's an attempt at irony, it's just plain silly.

d. No one on the Prometheus knows who's in charge. Weyland says that Holloway and Shaw are in charge but no one follows their orders; notably the two geniuses who get lost in the cavern. Ms. Vickers looks like she's in charge but it's more that she takes charge rather than having a clear leadership position. Lastly, the captain would seem to naturally be in command but as he himself points out, he's only there to fly the ship. A crazy, unbalanced crew with no fixed hierarchy isn't credible for a one trillion dollar expedition.

e. David is very good at pressing alien buttons to operate alien gear. From the start he blithely presses strange glyphs and consoles and like magic doors open, recordings start to play, navigation charts come back online and a being is released from cryo stasis. David manages this all without any prior experience with alien technology. Amazing.

The above isn't nitpicking. These and other errors seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the film. If you're going to make a grand movie about the exploration of our origins, of the human desire to touch the face of God, then please do so. But let's take it seriously; not this slap dash effort which looks pretty but absolutely makes no sense.

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