Warning: The following article goes into serious spoiler territory, so do not read until you’ve seen the film…


Every once in a while, there’ll come a film that gets people talking. Not just a “Hey, what did you think of it?” sort of surface chatter. I mean, really talking. The last time it happened, the year was 2010 and the film was “Inception”. Now, “Prometheus” has landed, so to speak. After more than half a month in cinemas, the dust still hasn’t quite settled.

Critics and audiences alike have been divided over director Ridley Scott’s science-fiction epic. On one hand, it’s undeniably a gorgeous-looking triumph of atmosphere and world-building, with a great central performance (read Electroshadow’s review here). On the other hand, its legitimacy as a complete and intelligent narrative has been called into question. Many have accused it of terrible, lazy, stupid, haphazard, ham-fisted, or intentionally opaque writing. Mostly all of the above. Bearing the brunt of the blame is screenwriter Damon Lindelof, who’s no stranger to controversy, having previously suffered the wrath of fans of hit TV show “Lost” for similar crimes. While some of the issues that plague “Prometheus” are genuinely indefensible, a lot of the accusations are actually unfounded. These people either aren’t paying enough attention or they’re too used to being spoonfed as an audience, with spelt-out answers delivered on a silver platter. Which sadly is a prevalent trend nowadays.

So, this article is to help answer some of the common questions out there. I’ll divide them into two categories: Questions that have definite answers, and those that require some speculation and theorising on my part. Hey, it wouldn’t be an Opinionator piece otherwise. Here we go: “Prometheus”, explained as best I can…

 

STUFF THAT THE FILM DOES ANSWER

What is the black goo and why does it affect different people differently?
This is one of the biggest criticisms leveled at “Prometheus”. The seemingly random way the black goo (discovered oozing out of jars in the Engineer’s Temple) behaves. It turns little earthworms into vicious cobra-like creatures, transforms Fifield into a zombie, makes wriggly things come out of Holloway’s eye, and through his sperm makes a barren Elizabeth Shaw pregnant with a squid-like monster. The answer to all those disparities lies in what the black goo is. It’s a genetic mutagen of some sort, which completely alters and rearranges a lifeform on a genetic level, and then accelerates its mutation into an aggressive new organism, all in a matter of hours.

But why are the mutations so different? Well, because that depends on the subject it is mutating. It’s really not inconsistent at all. The worms just became a bigger, nastier version of themselves, as did Fifield and Holloway. It’s just that we never got to see Holloway’s full transformation. His change was slower, showing itself gradually because he received a far smaller dosage of the goo than Fifield, who fell face-first into it. Holloway was already exhibiting signs of the same transformation as zombie Fifield, with symptoms like veiny, swollen flesh. Early concept designs for Fifield had him look more like an Alien, with an elongated, translucent head (see pic below). Personally, I would’ve preferred that over the relatively mundane zombie design, as it would be more in line with the other decidedly inhuman creatures.

The biggest head-scratcher is Shaw’s squid baby. Not so puzzling when you consider what it resembles: a giant sperm, albeit one with 3 tails instead of one. It’s basically a mutation of Holloway’s seed, who’d inseminated Shaw during their lovemaking. So there is a certain internal logic that the black goo’s mutagenic properties does indeed follow.

 

Why does David intentionally infect Holloway with the black goo?
Talking about Holloway’s mutation, it leads back to the question of David’s motivations in doing that to him. Some viewers interpreted that as David being evil. But since he is an android and thus incapable of emotion, human-defined notions of morality do not apply to him. He was merely acting out of two imperatives. One was from direct orders by his maker, Peter Weyland. In a previous scene, David is seen communicating with Weyland in his stasis pod, and being told to “try harder”. Obviously, this means Weyland wanted to find out more about how the black goo works, and whether it would help in his selfish goal of extending his life. David needed a test subject, and when he asked Holloway what he was prepared to go through to get his answers about the Engineers, Holloway replied “any and everything”. David took that as “permission”, or at least justification to use Holloway. The second imperative that drives David is a curiosity about everything around him, which is demonstrated throughout the film. So, poisoning Holloway was in his innocent way, a means to satisfy his own curiosity about the black goo.

 

Why did Weyland have to fake his own death? Why did he have to sneak aboard his own ship? He paid for the trip!
Why not have Weyland present and openly part of the Prometheus expedition? It’s simple. Weyland is a very very old man, and had reached the end of his natural lifespan. He could not continue without the aid of machines, so he faked his own death and went into hibernation in stasis pods, which have been shown throughout the “Alien” franchise as being able to keep a person alive indefinitely. As he explained in the film, once outside of the stasis pods he would only be able to survive a few days, so it was just easier and more practical to remain “dead” to the whole world. Weyland was still capable of communicating with the outside world and exerting his influence, as he clearly had been doing with David. He was simply biding his time until the mission to find the Engineers was a success. Only then would he emerge from stasis to personally ask them to grant him immortality. That was what the entire mission was actually about. Plus, from a dramatic standpoint, his reveal provides a twist and gives the audience a proper villain to root against.

 

Why does Holloway open his helmet in such an unknown and obviously dangerous environment?
This is the first of many stupid character decisions that have turned audiences off. Fortunately, the next two questions have proper answers, though they might not fully satisfy everyone. The spacesuits worn by the crewmembers have sophisticated sensors, and just before Holloway took off his helmet the readings indicated that the air in their immediate vicinity was breathable. It made no mention of being free from infectious germs and whatnot, but at that point Holloway was acting on “faith”. He believed the Engineers were benevolent life-giving beings and would not have invited them all the way to their place if they had not made their place safe for humans. Once he found out the air inside the Temple had an oxygen-filled atmosphere of its own, compared to the exterior which consisted of poisonous CO², his mind was made up. It’s still very reckless, but that in itself was intentional on the part of the filmmakers, to paint his character that way.

 

How come the guy in charge of mapping can get lost in the place he’s mapping?
Again, this just seems like poor characterisation. But there is an explanation. Kinda. Inside the Temple, Fifield boasts about his “Pups”, a pair of airborne laser-mapping devices that provide the ship with a precise layout of the Temple’s interior. Yet, later on, both he and Millburn (aka Tweedledum & Tweedledee) get lost inside the Temple. WTF, right? Well, even though Fifield knew their co-ordinates, it was just a bunch of numbers that meant nothing without a means to get their bearings in relation to the layout of the place. From what I understand, they were still reliant on the ship to provide them with complete, usable data from the mapping exercise. And during the period Fifield & Millburn were trying to find their way out, a storm hit the area. According to the film, the silicate particles in the storm caused considerable disruption in all communications and sensor readings. So the ship’s Captain Janek only had limited and sporadic contact with the two of them. No outside help meant they were stuck there. It’s a stretch, but I can buy that.

 

Why do all the ancient star maps invite humans to some unpopulated moon and not the Engineer’s home planet?
First of all, it was Shaw and Holloway’s arrogant/ignorant assumption that they’d been invited at all. She later admitted that “we were so wrong.” The constellations in the prehistoric diagrams were simply tributes of some sort to show where life began, or to be precise, where the Engineers created the source of all life (the black goo). As to why it was on LV-223, a moon and not their actual planet, it was likely out of safety concerns. Think about it. When you conduct some major scientific undertaking that could have potentially dangerous results, do you situate it in your backyard or some safe, out-of-the-way location? Besides, for a species that has access to intergalactic travel, a distant moon is probably like a quick trip around the block.


Why did David decide to help Shaw after betraying her and poisoning her boyfriend earlier on?
Again, the motivations of the android appear to be unclear. David was simply acting on his orders in the earlier part of the film when his maker Weyland was still around to issue orders. Ensuring Shaw’s black goo-induced pregnancy went to full term or was preserved for study was merely part of his directive to learn as much as he could about it. After Weyland died, David was essentially “free”. At that point, survival was his key priority, driven by his curiosity to find out more about the Engineers. It was in his best interests to help the sole human survivor. He knew it would be a mutually beneficial arrangement, and Shaw realised that too.

 

Is the crashed ship at the end of “Prometheus” the same one in “Alien”? But the events don’t match up.
This one is easy. It’s not meant to match up directly. This film is set on the moon LV-223, while “Alien” was set on LV-426. The confusion is probably due to the fact that the ships from both movies are almost identical, and they crash in a similar fashion, ending up with their front prongs in the air. I don’t know why Scott chose to do that other than for the sake of having a visual nod to his 1979 original. Another possible reason could be due to the physics and configuration of the ships, with their U-shape lending themselves to naturally settle on the ground in the same way most times, if not every time.

 

STUFF THAT I’LL ANSWER ON THE FILM’S BEHALF (BECAUSE IT DIDN’T/COULDN’T)

What was the Engineer at the beginning of the movie doing, and where was he?
The opening scene alone is responsible for a whole lot of confusion, and that’s totally understandable. There’s no explanation of the meaning or context of what’s going on, and the film never returns to the setup shown here. Based solely on what we are shown, the Engineer is performing some sort of ritual suicide. Or as I see it, self-sacrifice. I say that because of the way the scene plays out. He’s wearing a hooded robe and he purposefully discards it to stand at the edge of a waterfall as if in preparation. Others know he is there, and probably what he is there for, based on the giant alien ship hovering nearby. He watches it leave the atmosphere then he drinks from a canister. It contains the black goo. He begins to disintegrate, and in his death throes tumbles down into the water. His DNA breaks down and re-integrates into a completely new form, presumably human DNA or a precursor to it. Which means he is on Earth, and this act is the very first seeding of human life on our planet.

In my review, I pointed out that Ridley Scott had admitted to having removed scenes from the theatrical cut in order to keep the running time more profit-friendly. There’s a fair bit of stuff he omitted, which will be reinstated in the Director’s Cut. One is a scene that precedes the suicide, shown in the picture below. The original Engineer (back to camera) is surrounded by so-called “Elders”. This just-released shot more or less corroborates my sacrifice theory. It remains to be seen exactly how much clearer the behavior of the Engineers will become once this and other scenes are revealed.

 

Why wasn’t the Biologist guy afraid of the alien cobra thing?
Okay, this is single-handedly the thing that annoyed people the most. I thought it could’ve avoided all the scorn if they’d played Millburn’s reaction to the Hammerpede just a wee bit differently. Sure, by all means show him interested in the alien life-form he’s just discovered, but make him smart enough to keep a respectful distance. Then have the creature attack him anyway. As it stands, he abandoned all caution and showed neither recognition nor fear of the organism’s clearly threatening body language. I have two possible theories for Millburn’s idiotic behavior. One was that he was trying to show off to Fifield, and combined with his natural fascination for animals as a Biologist, it made him more reckless than usual. The other theory is less likely, but worth mentioning. The Hammerpede might’ve “hypnotised” Millburn into coming closer, lulling him into a false sense of security before it got aggressive and attacked. Some animals have been known to do that to their prey. But in all honesty, this one is hard to explain away. Just put it down to lazy scriptwriting as well as a lack of consideration for the character by the director and actor. Rafe Spall’s agent must be cursing now.

 

How does Captain Janek know that LV-223 is a weapons manufacturing base?
When the crew of the Prometheus start falling victim to the black goo, Captain Janek comes to the conclusion that the Temple was really a manufacturing and storage facility for weapons of mass destruction. Biological warfare, as it were. But how would he know that, since no one ever came across any data to suggest so? The short answer is he didn’t. He just made an educated guess based on seeing what the black goo could do, and seeing how much of the stuff the Engineers had made. In his mind, no one manufactures huge amounts of a dangerous substance if it’s meant solely for experimentation or anything benign.

 

Is Charlize Theron’s character a robot?
There’s two schools of thought here. One is that she’s a human. And the film does spell it out to a certain extent. Meredith Vickers is shown expressing emotions, like fear, anger and sadness. She has (offscreen) sex with Captain Janek, probably in response to his taunt that she’s a robot. She calls Peter Weyland “Father” and expresses disdain when he describes the android David as “the son he never had”. Clearly some Daddy issues there. Or is it?

The other school of thought is that Vickers is an android, just a very sophisticated one. Her emotions can easily be explained as being simulated responses relative to the situation. David is also programmed with the ability to simulate emotions, a fact highlighted in one of the film’s brilliant viral marketing videos. He just doesn’t demonstrate them in the film. As for having sex, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for an android to be anatomically accurate in every way. Calling Weyland father doesn’t necessarily mean he’s her biological father. It could also be a term for her maker (see next question). Another hint is the automated Medpod unit in her private quarters, which turns out to be calibrated just for men (as Shaw discovers). Why isn’t it calibrated for women, since it’s supposedly hers? Maybe because the Medpod is for human use and she isn’t. Then the question is, why have it at all? My take is that it was actually meant for old Weyland, once he was revived from stasis. Since his presence onboard was kept a secret, the Medpod had to be disguised as being for her use.

The biggest suggestion that she might not be human comes from Theron herself. In an interview with Slashfilm, she revealed that during filming, she and Michael Fassbender played around with the idea of her being an android, so they started mimicking each other. Theron said: “It was nice to have something ambiguous about the origins of both of us, maybe, like why do we look so much alike? Why am I walking so much like him? Is it that I am an android or is it that I gave him human qualities, that I gave him my DNA? We played with a lot of that shit, which was fun.”

I prefer to see Vickers as an android, as it makes the film more interesting and layered.

 

What did David say to the Engineer that made him go berserk?
When old Peter Weyland finally comes face to face with the awakened Engineer, he gets David to convey his request for extended life. Instead, the Engineer rips them all to shreds, leading to speculation that David said something else to him. Turns out the truth is pretty straightforward after all. I did some digging and came across an interview in The Bioscopist where the film’s Linguistics Consultant Dr. Anil Biltoo of the SOAS Language Centre in London, revealed exactly what David said: “This man is here because he does not want to die. He believes you can give him more life.”

Interestingly, this mirrors a scene from Scott’s 1982 classic “Blade Runner” in which Replicant Roy Batty also meets his maker, the human scientist Dr. Eldon Tyrell. Batty, trying to escape his in-built 4-year lifespan, tells his creator “I want more life, father.” That scene ends in death as well. Looks like Scott is intentionally revisiting a rather profound theme, about the search for eternal life and the folly in seeking it.

So why did the Engineer react so violently to that request? The bottom line is, the Engineer was going to kill all humans anyway (see next question). He just probably got offended at this puny creation of his having the cheek to demand anything from him. Also, he might have recognised David as an artificial creation of the humans, and realised that humans had now become ‘Gods’ themselves. And he wouldn’t have taken kindly to that.

 

So why did the Engineers want to destroy us, their creations?
There are some clues as to the reason the Engineers turned against humans. When Shaw and Holloway carbon-date the dead Engineer in the Temple, they get a measurement of approximately 2000 years. Which means the Engineers were on their way to destroy mankind some 2 millennia ago, before something went wrong and they were themselves wiped out (save for that one Engineer who went into stasis). In a recent interview, Scott said that this was part of a plot detail that was ultimately removed. What happened around 2000 years ago? The crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Apparently, Jesus was really an emissary of the Engineers (the Gods), sent down to Earth to check on the humans and usher in an era of peace. Instead, the humans tortured and killed him. That one event royally pissed off the Engineers and convinced them that their creations were unworthy of the love and guidance they’d been given. So they decided to send a shipload of the black goo to exterminate us. It may be kind of crazy but it’s the closest thing we have to an official explanation. Scott excised it because he felt it was “too on the nose”. If we do get a sequel, it’ll be interesting to see if they continue on this trajectory or make something else up entirely.

Personally, I’m glad they did away with this angle. It’s quite presumptuous to have one religion represent all of mankind. The fact is, when Christianity first emerged, it amounted to little more than a cult in comparison with other religions of the world that had taken root long before. So to say the Engineers wanted to wipe out all of humanity because of that one event is like womenfolk deciding to kill every last man on the planet just because one man committed a rape in some small village somewhere.

Bottom line is, this question was intentionally left unanswered to leave room for a sequel. Frustrating, but personally, I appreciate it when films take their time to develop a mythology, instead of trying to wrap everything up neatly in one story. Case in point: Magneto’s overly rushed turn to evil in “X-Men: First Class”. It’s a big gamble though, in case the film doesn’t do well enough at the Box Office to earn a follow up. As unfortunately might be the case here, since “Prometheus” has barely made enough to recover its production and marketing costs.

 

So there you go. “Prometheus” explained. Does the film seem clearer or at least a little less unfulfilling to you now? In any case, I hope you had as much fun reading these answers as I had coming up with them. If you have any other questions not raised here, do share it with us in the comments section below, and I’ll try to answer them.

Until then, I’d like to leave you with this quote: “There is nothing in the desert. And no man needs nothing.”

 

 

 

19 comments

  1. Moonjune

    June 22, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    wow!! amazing!! as i read on and on, i made mental notes to ask more questions but somehow, they all got answered as i scrolled down! i discussed this a lot with the guys too before reading your Q&A and now….everything is clear!

  2. Lisa

    June 22, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    Twiddledee and Twiddledum were very disposable characters in the script. Their lines and the lack of thought put into their parts gave them away. Other than that, I didn’t mind the “flaws” that much. Did manage to conclude that the opening sequence was about the seeding of Earth using the goo juice. But thanks for the Theron-android bit. I was wondering, too!

  3. Calyn

    June 22, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    A very good explanation. Because this movie really confusing and not as good as I expected it to be….

  4. e-Lena

    June 23, 2012 @ 2:11 am

    nicely done, I can sleep in peace now knowing what the Engineer was doing during the start of the film…It became a mini debate which was unsolved, and now that I’ve read it, I’m relieved. hahaha!

  5. Wai

    June 23, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    Hey everyone, thanks for the feedback. Looks like there are quite a lot of folks who found “Prometheus” a little too ambiguous.

    Moonjune: Glad to be of service. As for “The Matrix”, I did once write a detailed breakdown/explanation of the themes and unanswered questions when the sequels first came out. It’s a bit passe to post it now though. But I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have about it.

    Lisa: It’s great to hear you were able to overcome to film’s flaws and enjoy the rest of the experience. And at least now I have a fellow advocate in the Therondroid camp!

    Calyn: Thanks for writing and for your compliments! It’s a shame the film did not match up with your expectations. Perhaps the sequel will do better, if there is one at all…

    e-Lena: Cheers! I’m curious to know what side of the debate you were on regarding the Engineer scene at the start. Did you win? 😛

  6. RGillespie

    June 24, 2012 @ 4:40 am

    Brillant dissertation Wai. I was bitterly disappointed by the film in that it was unable to fully articulate its plethora of ideas. As if the writers (and I’m sure it’s more than just the listed two, knowing Hollywood) were content to throw grand sci-fi themes in just so the film would qualify as serious and mature. Cheated is what I felt, of the opportunity to really explore the age-old question Where Do We Come From? through the prism of invented stories.

    Even so, after reading this and other similar breakdowns of the film I felt all the more angered at what Ridley & Co had forced us to do but, on the same token I was excited like you that these conversations were even taking place to begin with. Bravo on putting all these to paper (screen?) and I commend you on the review also. Very well said. Keep it up, bud.

  7. gwen10

    June 25, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    I’m a little late to the party, but I agree with everyone. This FAQ’s have been extremely helpful. I thought the film was sufficiently entertaining. But the longer I thought about it the more my head hurt because of the unanswered questions. Then I read this. Now my head doesn’t hurt anymore. 😛

  8. Wai

    June 26, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    RGillespie: Whoa, I’m honoured. It seems like you had really invested yourself in the potential of the film. Sorry it didn’t pay off for you.

    gwen10: Happy to note that your head doesn’t hurt anymore. Wai’s Opinionator: Now 87.69% more effective than Aspirin! 😀

  9. casca

    July 1, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

    I’ve got 2 questions:- 1, How come people talk negative shit about this movie if they’re too dumb to understand it? I got everything they were hinting at.

    2, How come I can’t find your reviews on rottentomatoes.com? If you’re not you should be.

  10. Wai

    July 3, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    casca: Welcome to the site! Not quite the kind of questions I meant, but I’ll answer them anyway…
    1: I do agree that some people have been overly negative about this film, but I’ll put that down to their general outlook in life. Not sure if that makes them dumb though. Lol
    2: I’m not on rottentomatoes because I’m not registered with them as a “proper” film journalist. Electroshadow is very much an indie film site. Hopefully, it’ll expand to an even broader audience with support like yours. Thanks!

  11. Aaron

    July 6, 2012 @ 2:42 am

    I think you’re constructing a bit of a superficial straw man regarding people’s distaste for the film — poor decisions made by the characters is an oft-used plot device. The questions your answering beg other, bigger, questions whose answers underscore why people are pissed off about this movie.

    For starters — in the intro, the “Engineer” disintegrates and falls into the water on *some planet* (maybe Earth, maybe not); the “DNA” which is already un-wrapped, un-coiled and just free-floating around in his blood (WTF?) gets cut apart. The audience is not shown how much, but it is depicted in the same fashion that one would show a completed puzzle being broken apart and tossing the pieces aside.
    But that completely ignores how DNA actually works; how genes work, period. It also arrogantly suggests that humans are somehow the “optimal” configuration of DNA (since, after having the “puzzle” broken up, it is completely re-assembled into a “perfect match”), which is also ridiculous.

    Also, the idea that humans could be a “perfect match” for the engineers is equally ignorant — the Engineer they met TOWERED over the other humans; had very pale skin; was able to breathe in the toxic atmosphere (though, despite the “expert” opinions of the characters, 3% CO2 is not unbreathable) — he may have superficially APPEARED to be human-like, in the same way that a Koala Bear APPEARS to be a bear (but is actually a marsupial).

    This level of scientific ignorance isn’t surprising, considering that Lindelof had one of his scientists refer to evolution as “Darwinism” (is that like Newtonism or Bohrism?), and that he let stand a comment like “I choose to believe this”, which is the same false-dichotomoy, pre-suppositional fallaciousness used by various Creationist organizations.

    His characters were tropes — mere pawns to be manipulated into various situations, all to serve Lindelof’s master allegory and forced symbolism. The original Alien movie, which is both terrifying and beautiful (macabrely) had real characters whose develoment drove the plot and made the actions feel far more believable.

    You don’t need to invent “Well maybe he was hypnotized, or maybe he was just showing off” as explanations for the events in Alien — Millburn touched the Hammerpede because Lindelof determined that “Someone needs to touch this thing so that it can kill them.” Vickers ran away, in the path of the rolling ship, rather than at a 90 degree angle, because Lindelof needed her to die there. The actions & mistakes of the characters are merely plot devices in Prometheus — they are not born from any sort of character depth; we do not learn anything useful about Millburn because of how he dies. If he is reckless, then that should have been foreshadowed. If he is being hypnotized, then that she have been brought up again. His death (as is pretty much everyone else’s) just a fatal Deus ex Machina. (One notable exception would be the poetic way in which Weyland dies — being killed by the Engineer that he hoped could have extended his life *was* interesting, but they completely missed the boat by not providing a subtitle or indicating that David was asking that)

    In “Alien”, Kane (the first infected crewmember) approaches the Alien Egg out of curiosity, not knowing what is inside — but he is CAUTIOUS. The facehugger defeats him by catching him by surprise AND by being viciously fast. The crew puts him into quarantine and only lets him out when they think he is better (when the facehugger falls off) — and, as a mining vessel, most of their actions were excusable; the silly mistakes they made were simply a lack of training.

    Instead of pre-supposing that “the writer is correct and the movie is done right”, take a more critical look at it — particularly at its poor portrayal of scientific matters. Lindelof did with his symbolism the same thing that Michael Bay does with his explosions — he made it the centerpiece and tries to build a story around it; and as a result the characters (and thus the movie at large) suffer.

  12. Wai

    July 6, 2012 @ 4:10 am

    Aaron: Wow, what a thorough response. Thanks for writing, and it’s always good to have readers putting in so much effort. I do appreciate it.

    But what I do not appreciate is this distinct whiff of antagonism in your comments. So, allow me to respond in kind.

    First of all, I wasn’t “pre-supposing” anything, and none of what I theorised amounts to a “straw man argument”. I have observed first-hand the many real and valid grouses people have had and they are represented here in my piece. Just because YOU personally perceive certain so-called deeper, more anger-worthy issues does not make them any more or less pertinent/pervasive than the ones I did address. More importantly, these are opinions, not fact, just like most of your arguments are born out of opinion and not fact as you may think.

    Regarding the issue of the exact DNA match, let me turn your “koala bear” analogy against you: a short, fat old black lady bears no more resemblance to a muscular, 7-foot tall Chinese basketball player than the average human being does to an Engineer. The old lady and the b-baller are of the same species with the same base DNA, yet to any extraterrestrial observer, the two can easily be mistaken for two completely distinct species. As can dogs. Do Chihuahuas look like Afghan Hounds? Environmental conditions, diet, selective breeding, or even just good old-fashioned evolution can result in dramatic differences, buddy.

    I will however, give you the DNA-in-water sequence and the wrong usage of the term Darwinism. Because I noticed them too, especially Millburn’s hack quote. With the DNA sequence, I simply accepted it as cinematic shorthand for storytelling purposes. It was simply more expedient to show it that way. And rule No1 of Cinema is Show Not Tell. Yeah, they could have done a highly-informative, scientifically-accurate Discovery Channel-alike Infographic for the sake of scientific integrity. But really, I think in this case they erred on the side of not dragging the film down in pedantic minutiae. Which you seem awfully preoccupied with just to let everyone here know just how clever you really are. We get it. You paid attention in Biology class. I wonder, did you spend a lot of those classes inhaling 3% CO2? Or maybe other “recreational” vapours. Who knows. Come on, carbon dioxide is poisonous, and in large enough amounts, it IS lethal. Go on, argue your way out of this one.

    And perhaps you missed the part where I clearly surmised Millburn’s idiotic behavior as exactly that: idiotic behavior that was a result of poor writing, or to use your rather clever term, “character tropes”. My theories were just meant to be a fun way to explain the possibilities. Oh, and your usage of Kane to make a point about realistic or believable characterisation? Poor choice. Kane was less stupid than Millburn, but still pretty damned stupid regardless. You see a scary alien egg thing hatching and you put your face right up to it? This has nothing to do with lack of training and everything to do with common sense. Millburn didn’t have it but neither did Kane. It’s obvious that the only reason for the stupidity of his actions is to enable the plot to progress: get a monster on board the ship for the main event. It’s just as “Deus Ex Machina” as Millburn’s rashness and subsequent death.

    As for Vickers, here’s an answer for you. The ship, called the “Juggernaut” by Ridley Scott and crew, was a bloody enormous thing. From the looks of it, one prong was easily 50 feet in width. Would Vickers running in a lateral/90-degree angle have helped her escape? It’s possible. It’s also entirely possible she still would’ve gotten crushed, given the size of the thing. And last time I checked, her spacesuit was not equipped with sensors that informed her exactly what trajectory and angle the exploding, crashing, WILDLY unpredictably falling giant ship would end up on. She was panicky and she ran literally for her life. In situations like these, people aren’t exactly at their most rational. On a thematic level (and I’ve discussed this in my review’s comments section), Vickers getting crushed after escaping in her lifepod was quite conceivably a statement by the filmmakers about the futility of their situation. The crew of the Prometheus were essentially being “punished” for their sins of trespassing, echoing the fate of the mythological Prometheus.

    And I honestly do not know where you got that I pre-supposed that “the writer is correct and the movie is done right”. I did call out some of the film’s BS and I did take Lindelof to task. Omission of certain questions/issues is not the same as saying I thought the writer was right. Please get your facts straight before you come here and attack me. Oh, and since you’re so partial to dishing out judgement and advice, here’s a tip from me: try not to go into a movie with such a cynical, combative and holier-than-thou attitude, and maybe you’ll enjoy movies more, as flawed as they may be.

    Other than that, welcome to the site! 🙂

  13. BrianC

    July 10, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    Easily the best attempt at explaining this film that I’ve seen online. So many of the explanations I’ve seen are complete speculative nonsense. Yours is down to earth and realistic.

    If I could suggest another problem for your article: The 2 co-pilots who pointlessly sacrifice their lives in the kamikaze run on the Engineer ship – for no apparent reason at all. Anyone who’s read The Selfish Gene could make a reasonable explanation for Janek’s sacrifice, but the other 2? Nope. Completely unrealistic and unnecessary.

  14. Wai

    July 10, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    BrianC: Welcome to the site! Thanks for the words of encouragement.

    You raised a good point there. I resisted addressing that particular problem simply because it’s one of those things that doesn’t have any plausible reason behind it, other than weak character writing. Chase and Ravel (the two pilots) did what they did cos the story needed them to. That’s it. The closest I can come to an explanation is that they put aside their nonchalant attitudes (shown throughout the film) once they realised the stakes. If the Engineer’s ship made it to Earth, everyone they cared about would be dead. If they made it back home, they’d probably be goners themselves anyway. So in a brief moment of clarity and altruism, they decided, “Screw it, let’s save the Earth and go out as heroes!” Or something.

    Thanks for writing!

  15. Hambegger

    July 20, 2012 @ 3:38 am

    Great explanation but I don’t remember the very first picture at the top before the article begins. It looks like the engineer got infected or something.

  16. Wai

    July 22, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    Hambeggar: Welome to the site! Thanks for the compliments. Regarding the first image, that is actually not from the finished film, but a piece of conceptual art from the book “The Art Of Prometheus”. It’s a beautiful coffee table book filled with amazing paintings, concept sketches and schematics for the vehicles, props and sets. I’m trying to get a copy for my collection. Keep writing!

  17. david8

    January 30, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

    With the upcoming sequel Alien: Covenant slowly coming our way, it’s been fun going over all the analyses of Prometheus again. Although it is a flawed film, many were and continue to be overly critical of it to the point of hyperbole, even to the extent where they posit issues where they were none. A good example is how Fifield and Milburn got lost; again and again this crops up and it just blows my mind that many didn’t pay enough attention –
    1. Yes, Fifield had 4 mapping “pups” that he released in the air near the centre of the temple, they gave basic number coordinates (long/lat).
    2. When Fifield got freaked out and decided to return to the ship, with Milburn accompanying, obviously they would have relied on the coordinates relayed to them from the crew on board the ship where the holographic map display was.

    Here’s the thing; the mapping was no where near completion when they left (with one pinging pup being stuck at a door) and an electrical storm came in minutes after they left which interrupted their communication and instruments sporadically.

    The rest of the crew made their way out thanks to David.

    Again, when you watch the film all the visual information is there for this alleged issue. Heck much later in the film when all the crew settle down to wait out the storm, Vickers enquires to Janek when the mapping will be completed as it still continues to map out the temple.
    As for Milburn’s behavior with the hammerpede, well, he was feeling cocksure in his state of the art spacesuit with his face protected by thick glass and wanted to impress. He reached his hand out and paid the consequences for his arrogance, in fact he reached that very same arm out to Fifield during the breakfast scene on the ship and was rejected. It’s a very on-the-nose metaphor for the hubris and overreach of exceeding your bounds as per the myth of Prometheus.
    All the crew acted cocksure due to their equipment and tech but in their overreach faced the consequences.

    There’s also confusion over how the engineers died in the temple, with some positing either chestbursters or explosion due to the black goo.
    It’s clear that the black goo acts differently depending on its dosage and application; when applied to the skin in a large amount you get a rapid evolution into something very aggressive and xenomorph-esque.

    When ingested in a small dosage you get a much slower mutation; with sperm mutating in the process also that can be transmitted via sex into a female. Eventually the host mutates to the point of the aforementioned aggressive stage but the process is far less rapid due to the low dose.

    When ingested in large dosages you get almost instantaneous disintegration or even explosion with even larger dosages as implied by the reanimated engineer head exploding and the exploded bodies of the dead engineers in the temple.
    It’s pretty simple really.

    It’s not the best writing in the world as the human characters could have been written in far more compelling ways but I thought the juxtaposition of foolish and arrogant humans and an intelligent, subtle and curious android was clearly intentional. The film leaves too many unanswered questions but overall I think David’s line, “Sometimes to create, one must first destroy.” was a sufficient answer for me. Really, I thought that one line basically answered the film’s biggest question completely.
    It was a solid if flawed sci-fi that opened up the mythos of the alien universe and I can’t wait for Covenant.

  18. Rui

    December 24, 2016 @ 7:51 am

    Dear fans, I appreciate and respect all your views on so many different subjects, but really what I feel is missing in PROMETHEUS is a right proportion of ENGINEERS / ALIENS.
    Let me explain: I’ve watched all the movies that extended ALIENS ‘s lives beyond their (already long) naturally long and resillient ones. I have done it over decades, it’s like going out for dinner for 20 years between appetizers and learning the bill’s secret value over a 2 year-long coffee.
    When the openning scene + music begun I thought (felt) Mr. Scott was up for something as big as what he did with Blade Runner (appropriatelly scaled to the respective year it was released on).
    Later on I enjoyed the movie. But that was all. I enjoyed it besides some of the referred characters stupidity (for me the worst was the cool tranquility with which a captain – hero-to-be revealed later on – left two crew mates on a night out in the wild.. As I was saying, I merely enjoyed it besides all that.
    But the feeling of “absence of awe” was permanent right after the marble-man DNA mixed in the river, except when the horse-shoe spaceship went up close to the end.
    For me, Mr. Scott briefly opened the door to a powerful new book, and came back to the “slime+goo+triple jawed bullitproof insect-reptiles with acid for blood” soap opera.
    And worse: if Ms. Rapace flight with the robot’s head at the end made me dream and wait for a sequel passed on the ENGINEER’s home, a strange and unexpected world, with open-aired freshness, unafraid of being naked and clear to our “lesser” human eyes, … the dream came gradual and sadly to an end, by the contact I’ve had with the images of the coming Covenant picture: we are bound to get acquainted with a new set of cousins of the original monster, apparently drooling as usual, within cave-like dark environments.
    I feel sad for that, for a lost opportunity to make us (closing 50) science fiction lovers go back to the teenage thrill of being surprised, almost hit in the stomach for a couple of hours..
    Hope I did not offend anyone,
    Accept my best regards from Portugal
    Rui

  19. Wai

    December 30, 2016 @ 8:07 pm

    Rui: Wow, talk about late to the party. Good to see our think piece is still getting read. Thanks for posting your own thoughts here, and do visit more often!

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