In defense of an idea

I’m a defender of Prometheus – I admit it.

Prometheus poster

I also confess to you it is not easy, really. The film on its surface is a ludicrous mess. My attraction to Prometheus is largely due to my own “fill in the blanks, ignore that, and that, that is really this, etc etc etc” filter through which I view the film. I think a large part of the misunderstanding on the part of audiences of this film is due to the editing – large, and potentially important, parts of the film ended up on the cutting room floor, as they say. I attempt now to explain what I see and hear when I view this film, not that I hope or expect to win over any hearts or minds to the cause.  I was going to write about The Martian, but I don’t want to bash that remarkable if underwhelming film. Instead I want to focus on why I like Prometheus as much as I do.

Let’s start off with some of the worst offenders:

Even I’m not going to defend the running around active after a self-cesarean – that’s just ridiculous and has always bothered me. Even allowing for some off-screen super-healing abilities present in this futuristic medical contraption, it just stretches the imagination a bit too far to see someone running around after having their gut ripped in half moments ago.  I would have preferred the film makers found a way around this – at the very least give us some clear pseudo-magical cauterizing laser healing muscle reforming something-anything-at-all-miracle.  I never said it’s a perfect film…

I am also not going to argue very strongly in defense of the ridiculously negligent behaviors consistently displayed by the “scientists” in the film. I guess the magnitude of the event overwhelmed them and caused them to lose themselves and their professionalism. Weak, I concede, but I got nothing else here either. Maybe the whole flying through space in suspended animation for however long it took them to arrive screwed up their frontal lobes in some wacky way…

That out of the way, let’s move on to some more debatable, and much easier to defend, points. An easy one right up front is the symbolic message Shaw and Holloway found all over the world. This is often attacked online along two separate paths. The first being that the image could in no way ever lead anyone to any part of space ever. The second line of attack is the more formidable, namely that since the moon was not the homeland of the Engineers but rather a military installation, why send anyone there? Or if, as Shaw suggests on screen, it was meant as a warning, how was this missed by the scientists? Were the Engineers incapable of communicating danger effectively?

Addressing the first point, the symbol is obviously just that – a graphically simple stand in for more complex ideas. The symbol, as presented in the film, is reduced once further for the sake of cinematic effectiveness. When I view the film, I understand that any graphic communication capable of indicating a star system far from the Earth would necessarily be complex and involved. I also understand that, unlike in a novel where complex ideas can be explained and elaborated on to great depth, in cinema ideas must be presented using simple visual and aural clues. Trying to actually show a graphical image complex enough to be believable as a means of transmitting the coordinates of a distant star system would not only make for a poorer visual experience, but would also slow down the pace considerably as it would require mood-killing explanation which would only confuse us generally ignorant and uneducated entertainment-seeking viewers. No, a simple man pointing at some stars graphic will substitute adequately for the purposes of the film – or at least so the filmmakers must have figured. Perhaps audiences actually do crave intelligent and detail-rich layers in their movies these days…(?). But then again, why are the people so intelligent as to see the error in accepting this symbol so equally unable to see why cinematically it would be ineffective to do it any other way? At any rate, when I view the film, I substitute in an appropriate symbol, or set of symbols more likely, discovered by Shaw and Holloway, ignoring that ridiculous man pointing at stars image completely.

As for the fact that the destination indicated by the symbol is in fact a military installation filled with death, I can only guess. I question whether mankind was ever the intended audience in the first place. Perhaps it was a warning or reminder intended for other Engineers, or at least their human servants, and not ever a deliberate message for mankind itself either to go there or to avoid the place like the literal black plague it is. Again, I am forced to admit the film as we are left with it is frustratingly murky and leaves so much up for debate that, charitably, one can assume plenty was left for the sequels 😉 I do admit I find this an attractive facet of this film – nothing is spelled out so plainly and firmly that it has to be so, nearly everything is up for grabs when it comes to interpretation. I feel this enriches the film, although I acknowledge not everyone feels so appreciative of this gift they have been given.

I think, frankly, a lot of this film went over people’s heads. For one good example amongst many,  David’s mysterious knowledge and motives are questioned frequently, but the fact of the matter is he has been reading their writings. He has been in touch with Wayland, who we didn’t even realize was alive and on the ship at first. David knows more than we do. Deal with it. I bring this up to reinforce the idea that, while the film has some serious flaws, a lot of discontent stems from general braindeadery.

A lot more of the discontent stems from some perceived slight in regards to the relation between the films Prometheus and Alien. To my way of thinking, Prometheus is exactly what a truly thought provoking prequel should be. It doesn’t do to just throw more of the same up on the screen and state it happened earlier. No, there is origin here. There is genesis here, even if we don’t see the full path from said genesis to drooling xenomorph in all its spelled-out sub-glory. What we get here is exposition in the grandest sense, but I think a lot of folks just wanted to see inexplicably primordial mama xenomorph give birth to the first Alien and then proceed with an hour and a half of xenomorphic gore. Let’s be grateful for how much worse that film would have been.

In summary, (I could go on and on, but there really is enough out there already on this much discussed film and it’s 3 am and I want to go to sleep now), although there were some sloppy choices made in the creation of this film, if you pick up the pieces where the film makers dropped them, there really is a thought provoking, mysterious story commencing here. True, it would have been better if the film makers had done their job a little more thoroughly, instead of forcing the audience to finish it for them, but when all is said and done this incredible story is our story, like it or not, and one that is only beginning to be told. The fact that it also serves as a prequel to a classic film of our youth (or not, depending on your age) is just so much gravy on the plate.

Use the box below to tell me how I’m full of shit and why.

 

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