Trying to follow Buckminster Fuller's example in life, one step at a time to bring you brain scrapings for a new millennium.

Haiku Revu: Prometheus

23 Jun 2012 - Nic Ho Chee

My haiku review of Prometheus:

Director finds god,
contained in human genome,
ruins film in process
Warning, SPOILERS. Also, wtf.

Nearly four billion years ago a lone camera panned across unpopulated vistas which we later learn are from our fair planet. A loin cloth attired seraphic Space Jockey watched a teardrop shaped starship lifting off through the clouds whilst a single tear wound it's slow way from an eerily human eye. The Jockey sacrificed himself by drinking a deadly black enzymatic liquid, which reduced his cellular structure to a lump of simple proteins. His macadamised remains fell into our barren oceans to seed an Earth with its first life. Nearly four billion years later a British person in a darkened cinema feels a distinct sinking sensation as he realises that the film just "Did A Lucas" with the Aliens franchise.

If the previous paragraph wasn't obvious enough, I'll spell it out; Ridley Scott created a "Science Fiction" movie where large humanoid aliens seed life on Earth by sacrificing themselves to create the biomass which "evolved" into you and me. In one fell swoop the director and writing team eviscerated any hope of a decent science based fiction film that fleshed out the Alien back story. The assumptions taken to believe just that scene broke the film for me in less time than it took to realise Hicks was a badass:

In a bid to deliver a slightly more balanced review, I've split it into three sections; what works, what I thought didn't work, and what the $%*!.

The Good

There are some great parts to the film, it looks incredible, with beautiful sets and amazing looking tech. The acting surpassed my expectations, with Idris Elba putting in a strong performance as the doomed captain, and Michael Fassbender excelling as the subtly demented android David. Even the flight crew came across well, and although more could have been made of Benedict Wong and Emun Elliot there was enough in the minute amount of screen time they were given to suggest a parallel between Parker, Dallas and Brett from Alien.

David in particular was one of the shining beacons in an otherwise disappointing film. The writers created a strange paradox which saw the most advanced sentient being in human existence slipping by almost unnoticed allowing the rest of the humans on the ship to treat him like a very backward child as they mawkishly underline his lack of soul both mystical and mythical. One scene showed David racing around the ship on a bicycle whilst throwing perfect hoops and reconstructing the dead language of the Engineers unseen by the hibernating crew. The director/writers seemed to be pointing out the stupidity of travelling across the galaxy to possibly meet some aliens who may or may not have created life on Earth when there is a god-like being for you to talk to watching over you whilst you sleep. If the crew of the Prometheus had spent more time understanding the demi-god that walked among them they would probably have been more prepared for what came next.

David's travel along a path culminating in total carnage was expertly handled by the director. It was obvious that the android understood the Space Jockey technology, could read their language and work their machinery, so knew exactly what was the cause of the catastrophe which befell the Space Jockey's race. With definite intent he led Weyland and the team of the Prometheus to their doom. At one stage he talks to a recently awoken Space Jockey, the contents of the conversation we will never be privy to, the end result of which left Weyland of Weyland-Yutani fame broken and dead, destroyed at the hand of the alien god he had travelled across the galaxy to meet. The humans didn't seem to grasp the full extent of David's knowledge of the Engineer/Space Jockey culture allowing him to calmly throw explosive spanners into the works of the people around him. Its interesting that one of the most destructive actions in the film, whereby Noomi Rapace's character convinces the Captain to fly the Prometheus into an escaping alien vessel on the premise that it was heading for Earth to disgorge a payload of biological weapons, suggests the reality that there was as much chance that the Space Jockey pilot may have been held captive and was trying to escape. The characters didn't spend time interacting with David, and as a result there wasn't enough actual data for Noomi's character to form her conclusion, and raised the spectre that the film was actually a carefully wrought Comedy of Errors.

Noomi Rapace handled Elizabeth well, piloting the character from her initial moments uncovering further evidence of the Engineers existence in pre-history on her way to becoming an agent of raw survival as Prometheus-like, she opens herself up to create humanity's nemesis. Its unfortunate that David's path overshadows hers. The film is set on LV-223, and from David's previous form, its entirely possible that after the credits roll he may actually be responsible for the appearance of the Space-Jockey on LV-426, creating the continuity for Alien and the eventual death of Elizabeth.

The Bad

The film was woven from twisted fabric, resulting in what felt like an old man's/men's attempt to find meaning for life and a demiurge behind the scenes. The Space Jockeys are portrayed as creators of life on a myriad of worlds, and as caretakers/engineers of those worlds. They are shown in the mythology of various ancient cultures pointing out a star cluster that they purportedly originated from. Their size and demeanour suggests that they are supposed to be the Seraphim/Nephilim noted in the bible or the titans of ancient Greece/Achea. An attempt to carve a story close to the roots of religious belief reduces what could have been an amazing tale about humanity's place in a universe teeming with alien life, to what amounts to a pseudo-scientific rationalisation for a variety of genesis apocrypha. A brief history of time as shown in Prometheus:

Given this potted history, we're to take it, that somehow a sublimely long lived civilisation was taken out around 2000 years ago, so that humanity had a chance which would put us firmly at the centre of a galaxy of a billion stars. This stretches disbelief beyond breaking point, the Engineer culture would have been amazingly rich and widespread and the film reduces them to Homer Simpson-esque ineptitude as some catastrophic failure takes out the facility and by extension their entire civilisation.

One of the most annoying things about the film is that we really never know exactly what is happening, because the human characters don't seem to be that interested in finding out exactly what is going on around them. They do things completely out of character to help the story along, things happen to them, and they seem woe-fully ill prepared for anything that occurs throughout the film. What we're left with is a film full of religious and mythical iconography and we have to use that as a metric to understand the unfolding events. We have David appearing like Lucifer, annointing the sacrificial God-king Weyland's feet before sending him to his doom. Then we have the ship Prometheus hinting that like the eponymous titan of Greek mythology the Engineers both created humanity and punish themselves in some bizarre way. Was the Engineer at the start of the film being forced to sacrifice himself in punishment like the Greek titan, or was it his own choice? Why would a long lived culture not just create life from "clay" when we have people like Craig Venter doing that now. By extension we don't know what the surviving Engineer was actually doing, or even if he was actually a criminal about to be sacrificed when everything fell apart.

The What The $%*!

There were so many moments that just didn't make any sense. It felt like someone was literally pulling things that would move the story forward from their arse, and no one said, "you know, no human with their background would actually do that..." It broke suspension of disbelief, and turned what would have been tolerable into a ground molar of a movie for me. I've outlined a far from exhaustive list below of the events that stuck out in my mind:


I was massively disappointed with this film, and like the Phantom Menace, I've personally retcon'd</a> this film from my internal Alien continuity. Two thumbs down.