Prometheus: The Balance of Stupid and Clever

Perhaps the greatest mystery spawned from Prometheus is my joy of it. I can’t figure out why I like this movie. I feel like every time I watch it, I discover another script cliché, unanswered question, illogical motive or plot-hole. And it overall lacks the unique science fiction intrigue and/or thrilling adventure necessary to counterbalance the errors. Yet…for some reason…I come to it time and time again. Perhaps I want it so bad to be good that I am willing to “suffer” through it until I discover the lost meaning that binds it all together. But to no avail…

I have decided to take one of the minor details of the movie and write a moviephor article for it, as I feel it’s worthy of attention, if it hadn’t been noticed by previous viewers before. But, I am taking this opportunity to first tear apart the rough of the film to find the small diamond of cleverness hidden within. So first, to get it thoroughly off my chest, here’s every problem with Prometheus that I have found, in chronological order…

Errors of Prometheus

Why would a sentient alien species (which we discover later on has a desire for survival) willingly take a substance that would annihilate its DNA, regardless of the life-bringing consequences? Was he tricked? Was he already dying so he “offered his body for science”? A minor issue that I never would have bothered with had the nitpicking of the film not become a habit…

The money-grubbing a-hole Fifield is all-too-common and this version is particularly black-and-white and by-the-book (could there be more hyphens in a sentence?).


Cliche angry guy.

What is the point of the hologram of Weyland addressing David’s anatomy in such detail? The “soul” comment isn’t only unusually cold, it’s pointless to anything else. Making everyone aware that he is an android was a smart move, but everything else seems awkwardly irrelevant.

Why would the Engineers want to leave a map/invitation on Earth to their most powerful weapon that was planned to be used on them? Sure, at the time of the maps, they may not have planned on using the weapons on them, but it still seems ridiculous that the Engineers would build a military installation that they have provided the coordinates to for another sentient species to find. Regardless of whether the installation was there before or after the maps were placed, the Engineers would want to keep a “military installation” hidden, not easily accessed by another race. So either, don’t provide maps to a current military installation, or don’t build the installation where you know that this other race could find it.


For a superior race, they sure make weird/dumb decisions…

A commonly recognized error: why would scientists, researchers and explorers remove their helmets? Even if the atmosphere and temperature was perfect, there is no way they’d have a system capable of calibrating to any pathogen in the universe, especially when moments earlier Fifield’s systems couldn’t determine if the structure was built or not, probably because of the pseudo-genetic/artificial science of the Engineers.

How does the geologist who is mapping the cave/ship get lost?

As with the helmet removal, the scientists’ treatment of the decapitated Engineer head doesn’t make much sense. Firstly, we have the same pathogen/contagion issue as before. How can their systems be 100% reliable for detecting unknown pathogens? If you don’t fully understand the anatomy or cellular behavior of another species, why would you want to attempt to reanimate it? It’s an overall careless scene.


Future scientists have evolved beyond the need for safety procedure…

Perhaps I am too dense, but I can’t find the correlation between David “infecting” Holloway and the motivation instigated by Weyland. Why would Weyland’s goals affect David’s motivations to commit this action? From my perspective, or anything I would consider “realistic”, David at no point has a “malfunction” like Ash from Alien. This is how he operates. And it is implied regularly that David is dependent on Weyland to some extent based on some level of programmed commands to follow Weyland’s orders, despite some level of sentience that shows a disdain for Weyland and virtually all human life. So…I can understand David’s motivation to kill others, but I can’t see how his directives from Weyland would allow him to do so while Weyland is alive. Once the shackles are broken, these actions make more sense, but right now it’s hard to justify anything nefarious David is doing with sound programming seemingly functioning. I suppose you could get into the whole Weyland/weapons division business…but that isn’t mentioned once and the primary motive of this trip appears to be eternal life, not delivering death.

Why would Captain Janek purposefully freak out Fifield and Millburn? He lets them know about a lifeform reading while they are stuck in the cave/ship. If his purpose was to alert them for safety’s sake, he would have alerted them immediately instead of admittedly waiting a couple of hours to tell them. It’s like he’s completely ignoring his responsibility to morale and trying to instigate fear in these two men. Perhaps it is the way it is written, but the whole scene feels wrong.

One of my favorite actors, but his character is an enigma wrapped in indifference.

One of my favorite actors, but his character is an enigma wrapped in indifference.

Millburn goes from complete fear of the lifeform ping to courage in the presence of a snake-alien. This would go against any logical move for a biologist to make, especially when the snake shows a threat gesture similar to many snake species on Earth. It’s a completely illogical move for the Millburn character and the field of study he represents.

As a biologist, one should know not to approach something giving a threat response.

As a biologist, one should know not to approach something giving a threat response.

Why did the “black goo” cause the Engineers to explode from the inside like chestbursters, but infect and mutate worms and humans into killer zombie-like creatures? If the Engineers fell victim to a xenomorph-like creature that impregnated them, where are the xenomorphs? And how does the black goo infect Holloway and then Shaw’s womb, but not the rest of Shaw? Why wouldn’t Holloway’s genetic material be a perfect transmitter of the infection to Shaw? Why would it be contained to just her womb, even if it still managed to form an embryo?

The scene in which Shaw discovers that Weyland is still alive and awoken from stasis is messed up for so many reasons…Why does Weyland have no care for the condition of Shaw? She’s half naked and bloodied. Yes, to the viewer, Weyland’s situation is more important, and Weyland is more concerned about his own situation more than Shaw’s, but he has no questions for her condition? He may or may not know about the alien baby, but it’s surprising this isn’t brought up at all.

I can’t imagine that by the time Shaw has [somehow] prepped herself to leave for the final trip to the cave/ship that Weyland hasn’t been made aware of her recent history since being on the planet. Losing her lover to an alien virus/fire, being impregnated by an alien baby, seemingly betrayed by the crew in order to examine the fetus later, and then, most recently, having a c-section, while awake, to remove the alien baby. Yeah, I’m sure she is mentally and physically fit to attend the venture. There is no logic for Weyland or anyone else on board feeling any necessity or luxury of having her join on the trip.

There is no logical reason that Weyland doesn’t know about his own daughter being on board at this point. Surely he would know everything about this trip in every detail before and during the voyage.

David is nefarious…but how and why is anybody’s guess.

Vickers’ reveal as the daughter of Weyland is not only obvious beforehand, it’s pointless to the story. There is essentially nothing gained by this knowledge, and the revelation provides no blanket of light to any other element of the story, except perhaps her envious disdain for David, the son Weyland always wanted.

When Vickers says, “[why would I sit in a board room arguing over control over the company?]” to Weyland, you wonder…wait…why didn’t she do that? What leverage or fortune does she gain by going with Weyland? The lack of any endgame in her agenda makes her character feel rather irrelevant.

Janek going from the indifferent captain to the sacrificial savior of Earth makes a little more sense every time I see the movie…but considering Janek’s actions started at zero sense, that’s not saying much.


Shaw apologizing to David for having to put his head in a bag makes no sense. Yes, he is a necessary tool for her to have, but he also intentionally killed Holloway and she knows that. He’s obviously a nefarious being that can’t be trusted, yet she seems completely naïve to David’s intentions by the end of the movie and it’s just “oh well, let’s start fresh!”

Whew…now enough of that…let’s get to the metaphors.


Metaphors and Parallels

Holloway’s treatment of David can directly correlate with an excuse for the unanswered questions about the Engineers’ motivations for preparing to wipe out humanity; because it doesn’t matter. Just like Holloway treats humanity’s creation as a tool or a toy he can treat as he pleases, does it really matter what the Engineers’ motivations are? They can have any they’d like and it’d be like us treating a fully sentient android like a beat-up Tercel. They can destroy us because they can. Or leave us alive. And the reason is as meaningless as shooting an android in the head. The “humane” behavior of such an action can be disputed, but not completely denied. But it just so happens that there is a symbolic parallel in the plot that explains the why for the Engineers wanting to destroy us. Jesus.

Our first hint at the Jesus parallel is the dream sequence of Shaw witnessed by David. We have the “because I choose to believe” theme that is present throughout the movie, and the direct correlation with Christianity. We then get our second hint that it’s Christmas when they arrive on the moon, which is more-so foreshadowing for the parallel itself. We then get a carbon date of one of the Engineer’s corpses, which is an approximation of 2,000 years. This voyage takes place in 2092, so that would put the Engineers’ plans right around the death of Christ…how interesting…

And that leads us to the subtle parallel of the Engineers as the “angels” of Earth. They attempted to save humanity from themselves with Jesus, but Jesus was killed, so now comes the reckoning. Except maybe the reckoning wasn’t decreed by all the angels…the genetic weapon built to destroy human life was the sin of angels, which gave us the demons, the “xenomorph”. And the xenomorph was is a villain to all life, not just humanity. And it is powerful like the angel, but without a conscience.

I have to admit that I haven’t seen Lawrence of Arabia, but it is the film that David is watching and mentions loving in Prometheus. I figured there had to be some level of significance to this, but of course one could assume it means nothing, because this film is bonkers. One parallel I could make based on my minute study of LoA is…there is a parallel with Lawrence’s inner conflict with his allegiances to Britain and Arab comrades. David must have had a similar struggle being this “soulless” creation that has emotions that are forced to be kept at bay by his programming. Where do his allegiances truly lie? And by the end of the movie, his allegiances are to no one.

Jaws is about the oldest movie I'll watch on repeat. Sorry, O'Toole.

Jaws is about the oldest movie I’ll watch on repeat. Sorry, O’Toole.

So believe it or not, but this essay is over. I hope that you got a giggle or a piece of information you found intriguing. Hopefully it won’t be too long between now and the next moviephor!

What did you think of Prometheus? Is it a guilty pleasure movie for you as well? Do you genuinely love it and have defenses for all of my critique? Are you still looking forward to Alien: Covenant? Let us know in the comments!

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