A Shipload of Confusion (Prometheus Spoilers)
June 20, 2012 1 Comment
So I saw Prometheus on Saturday……
I liked it. Visually it was stunning, and the concept was really interesting but if I’m being honest with myself the plot was confusing as shit. There were plenty of things in the movie that are left unexplained, most obvious of all being the question that the movie is based around, “Why are we here?” Another question unintentionally brought up through the movie would be “Why would you do that?” Several people have already said it, but the movie was about a bunch of supposedly smart scientists making really dumb decisions, but more than that the movie was obviously only supposed to be about 2 specific people, and the other people in it were originally just props that they decided to teach how to speak. The movie itself was trying to do too much in too small a timeframe with too many characters and because of that, a lot of the characters suffered.
The basic plot of Prometheus is that a couple of scientists who are also a couple find a connection between several historical paintings spanning thousands of years that show a giant man pointing at a cluster of stars that are exactly the same configuration in each painting. I’m assuming that this science couple are a couple of archeologists, because why else would they be looking at cave paintings? However there’s reason to believe that at least Shaw may not be seeing that at two points in the movie she seems to be very familiar with surgical procedures. From these paintings they realize that the cluster of stars is actually a constellation in another galaxy and they convince millionaire Peter Weyland to pay for them to go into space and explore the only moon in that galaxy that can support life. Of course during the trip wacky shenanigans ensue, and by wacky shenanigans I mean death and destruction as well as a lot of creep factor weirdness.
A huge problem with the movie isn’t just that the characters in it are talking props, but also that the talking props somehow got degrees in their various fields of science without learning anything about them. Holloway (one of the couple of possibly-archeologists) decides that even though they’ve only got about 6 hours of daylight left, they should go out on an expedition in an unknown structure on a never before inhabited by humans planet without knowing any of the possible dangers they might face. Holloway is also the genius that decides that because the structure has oxygen it’s totally okay to take your helmet off and breath air that could be contaminated by who knows what diseases. If we go on the assumption that he’s an archeologist he should be aware that even on Earth if you’re entering anything that has been closed off to the outside world it’s best to wear some sort of mask to protect you from whatever diseases could still be lurking around. Somehow though, Holloway doesn’t take that into consideration, and it’s a wonder how nobody ended up sick because of his stupid decision.
That was only the first most glaring mistake in character development. The next one would be Fifield, the Geologist who’d done these kinds of missions (with a lot of this crew) before and has these really cool probes that map out the structure they’ve found, yet somehow doesn’t know what to do when he gets slightly flustered. He’s the one in charge of making sure a map of the structure (that the crew of Prometheus conveniently find themselves right in front of on their first ever trip to this distant moon) is plotted by the probes and sent back to the Prometheus ship. However, when they find a decapitated alien body in the ruined structure, him and Millburn the Biologist decide they would rather get back to the ship to avoid any potential danger they may face. Somehow though, the two of them get lost in the structure, despite the fact that they both had communication links to the crew of Prometheus, and Fifield had a link to the probes that were currently mapping out the ruins. So of course this gigantic error ends up getting them both killed, because the Biologist doesn’t seem to understand aggressive behavior in the alien that breaks his arm, eats his face, and sprays acid jizz on Fifield’s helmet that burns through it and into his face.
The two characters who weren’t an afterthought and actually had nuance in them were David and Shaw. Although Holloway was a main character and Shaw’s boyfriend (Shaw’s the other person in the couple), he seemed to only be there as a weak character foil for both Shaw and David. His interactions with them tell you little about him as a character (other than he’s a jerk and an idiot) and more about Shaw and David’s little quirks.
A lot of Shaw’s characterization seemed to be forgotten about as the movie went on, her relationship with her father only sort of explained her interest in the human like Engineer giants, and her infertility was only mentioned right before she was impregnated by an infected Holloway with a rapidly growing alien squid baby. It seems as if we’re supposed to empathize with Shaw simply because she’s the main character, even though we barely know what her motives are. We do know however, that even after she’s had an emergency c-section to get the previously mentioned alien squid baby out of her stomach, she has no trouble running around and jumping over platforms to get away from giants with staples in her stomach, even though zipping up a zipper on her spacesuit causes her to scream in pain.
David on the other hand, we’re supposed to distrust and possibly hate, because of his not quite human behavior and his willingness to infect Holloway with a highly destructive alien disease in order to obey an order he received from his creator. The characterization of these two characters didn’t work for me, because I ended up sympathizing for David after both Holloway and Weyland criticized him for not being human or having feelings when he seemed to be developing them. Even the sneaky way David infected Holloway intrigued me because even though he was following an order, it seemed as if he was also trying to get revenge on Holloway because of how much of a jerk he was.
The other props were just one big jumble of confusion and unanswered questions. Janek and the other pilots had a lot of potential for good characterization, but instead were used for witty quips. Janek himself was there to speak out loud plot developments that the plot should have explained on its own, and had no real set character. He flip flopped back and forth between Team Vickers and the Don’t Engage With Any Lifeforms and Team Shaw and the Don’t You Want To Do What’s Best for Humanities. The last feat of heroics from him and the co-pilots felt like it should have been fulfilling and climactic, but instead left you confused as to why they would sacrifice themselves in such a way.
Vickers, may or may not be a robot. That ends up being very open ended. Although she refers to Weyland as her father (after Weyland states that his robots are his only children) and Janek asked her whether or not she is a robot because he wants to sleep with her, it’s never directly said that she was. Her actions were mildly robotic, and I believe she was a robot, but I don’t know what the writers were trying to do with her and her robotic nature. However her emotions are part of the reason I believe David was actually developing real feelings instead of mimicking them, because Vickersbot showed fear, anger, happiness and other emotions in a more genuine nature and not forced.
The characters in this movie could have been better. Although they tried to make the only two female characters as badass as Ripley was in the original Alien movies, they didn’t come off quite as good, and very few of the other characters were interesting. Whether or not this movie is really an Alien prequel is still up for debate, and even THAT seems like an afterthought. If you don’t think of the movie as a prequel and just enjoy it for the large bag of popcorn you inhaled while watching it, it can still be very enjoyable, but that’s another post for another day.