Nerdrage! – Prometheus Part 1

Posted by David On June 16, 2012 8 COMMENTS

When we reviewed Prometheus for the podcast we had limited time to express our thoughts in order to keep it concise. But a film like this one deserves more discussion, and that is exactly what is happening online. The interwebs are afire with people discussing the pros and cons of Ridley Scott‘s latest, and I thought I’d take an opportunity to add some of my own opinions to the mix.

However, being the massive nerd that I am, my thoughts ran to about 10 pages. So I decided to post them in two separate posts. The second post will be up very soon. I hope you enjoy and I would very much appreciate any feedback you guys have. Agree or Disagree? What are your thoughts on Prometheus?

Please be warned that this will be spoiler heavy so click More for article.

1. Is the planet in the prologue Earth?

In the film’s opening sequence, an Engineer stands on the edge of a waterfall and drinks a black liquid (later revealed to be their biological weapon) that causes his body to dissolve and crumble into tiny strands of DNA that spread throughout the world.

Scott seems to be suggesting that this is the origin of life on Earth but has since said in interviews that the planet might not be ours. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t. The scene demonstrates the idea that the Engineers have been seeding planets in order to create or kickstart life and that is all that matters. The Engineer is clearly one aspect of the Prometheus of the title. In the myth, Prometheus didn’t just receive his punishment for stealing fire and giving it to mankind – he created mankind, offending the Gods.

I believe the Engineer is a part of a faction of his race and creates life against the will of the majority of his people. His faction visit Earth over the centuries (leading to the different cave paintings from different time periods) but are discovered by the others, who believe humans are an abomination or failed experiment and create the bio weapons to wipe them out.

2. Why cast Guy Pierce as an old man?

This is indeed a weird one. There are plenty of older actors who could have played the part (Peter O’Toole would have been a great choice!), and Weyland is never seen in a flashback as a younger man, so there is no need for it at all (I sincerely hope it wasn’t just because they wanted to do that viral video with him as a younger man). Don’t get me wrong, Pierce is a great actor, but miscast, and everytime he is on screen all I could think was ‘What terrible make-up’.

3. Is LV-223 the same planet in Alien?

The film specifically states that the planet is designated LV-223 and every true Alien fan knows that the planet in Alien/Aliens is LV-426 (or Acheron), so no, it is not the same planet.

It is theoretically possible that the planet was given the new designation of LV-426 after the events of this film but it is unlikely.

At a cursory glance the end of Prometheus seems to setup for the events of Alien – we get a crashed Engineer ship, an alien bursting through the chest of the Space Jockey (Engineer), an inhospitable atmosphere, and a warning to stay clear of the planet. Except, not everything matches. The crashed ship is in an almost identical position and the atmosphere is terrible on both planets, but the Space Jockey (Engineer) isn’t in his pilot’s chair, and the warning in Alien isn’t the same one Shaw creates. Not to mention that there are 3 ‘pyramids’ in fairly close proximity to each other (with one of them practically next to the crashed ship) and none of them are seen in Alien or Aliens. There are other examples, but they’re sufficient. The planets are clearly not the same ones.

That doesn’t mean that a similar event didn’t happen on LV-426. Perhaps one of the ships carrying the bio-weapon also had an accident and crashed on the planet?

Also, the events of Alien occur in 2122, a full 29 years after Prometheus. In this time the Weyland corporation instigated the standing order for any Weyland crew to investigate distress signals and programmed their androids to retrieve any samples of the bio-weapon. After all, during the events of Alien, Ash seems to have a inkling of what they will find on LV-426 and isn’t shocked by the discovery of the crashed ship.

4. Why did David infect Holloway’s drink? Is David evil?

David is an excellent character, and Michael Fassbender does a great job portraying him. And I think that performance shows that David isn’t ‘evil’.

David doesn’t have emotions and is utterly without empathy, but he’s very curious and has been ordered by his ‘father’ to find out everything he can in order to find a cure for ageing and death. After manipulating Holloway into giving him permission (a great scene) he contaminates Holloway via the contaminated liquor. Yes, Holloway is a prick to him, but I don’t think that is a factor in his decision on who to infect.

This is what the screenwriter Damon Lindelof says about this:

In the scene preceding said “poisoning” (but WAS it?), David was chatting with someone in cryo-sleep via headset that we can safely assume is Weyland. If I were a betting man, I’d say something happened in that conversation that very specifically directed David to spike Holloway’s champagne. And yes, it was a safe bet that Holloway would have sex with Shaw soon after. Which is why in space, you should always wear a condom!

5. Why did the flying spheres, that were mapping the structure and looking for life forms, not pickup on the earthworms?

This was an annoying one at the time but to be honest now that I think about it, I’m not that concerned with it. Perhaps the worms were of a type of life forms that consisted of properties Human technology couldn’t identify as ‘life’

They were able to pick up on Engineer in suspended animation in the engine room though so they were doing their job.

6. What happened to the bodies of the other Engineers that managed to make it into the statue room?

The hologram David activates shows a group of the Engineers run down a corridor, apparently fleeing something, and dash into the room with the giant head statue. But one of them doesn’t make it in time and is decapitated by the closing door, leaving his body outside and his head inside. When the crew open the door and find the head they comment on how ‘freshly preserved’ it is, whilst the body outside has mummified. If that’s the case, then why isn’t there a bunch of ‘freshly preserved’ Engineer bodies inside the room? Where did they go?

Fifield and Milburn do stumble across a stack of Engineer corpses in another part of the complex, but they are clearly a different batch.

I can only assume that the statue room had another exit that the crew didn’t discover, but I would have preferred to have seen that on-screen.

7. Are Fifield and Milburn the stupidest scientists ever?

This film seems to be filled with scientists who have no idea how to be scientists, but Fiefeld and Milburn are clearly the worst and are emblematic of the film’s larger issues and the way the plot is driven by illogical behaviour.

In particular, Fiefeld the geologist is a shockingly bad character (although I did like Sean Harris’ performance). Right from the start he’s cranky and rude for no apparent reason, but accompanies the crew to the pyramid and is quite civil and part of the team, then, when they’re making new discoveries of an alien race and their technology, he screams like a lunatic that he wants to go back to the ship. He doesn’t collect a single sample of the soil or rock and seems disinterested in the other formations in the pyramid on this newly-discovered world. Yeah, really scientific that.

Even worse, we see that he’s the one who is running the cool probes that are mapping the entire structure, and in a later scene with Janek they pinpoint exactly where they are when he asks (because of a read-out on his suit). So then why do he and Milburn get lost the moment they leave the rest of the group?  Why can’t they simply use the digital map they’re building to find their way out?! It was at this point that I actually started to get angry with the film.

Milburn the biologist, decides to join Fiefeld back to the ship. He has even more reason to stay once they find the alien corpse, but instead of marveling at this amazing discovery, he decides to accompany the man who has been outright hostile to him from the moment they met!

Then, after they get lost and are told of the storm outside, instead of bunking down and waiting for a rescue, the two men (who previously, and in the case of Fiefeld, hysterically, declared they didn’t want to explore the alien pyramid) now suddenly go exploring!

Of course the two men then encounter one of the mutated worms, which now resembles a cobra. All concern they previously displayed about the Engineer corpse (something that couldn’t possibly hurt them) is forgotten and the men are now curious. To be fair Fiefeld wants to leave it and move away, but Milburn talks to it and even goes so far as to try and touch it! Seriously? The film’s most cowardly characters suddenly seem keen to touch an alien creature that looks like something that clearly doesn’t want to me messed with!

Weyland has demonstrated that he had almost unlimited resources to spend on this project (the ship cost a trillion dollars!), yet these were the best he could get to be part of his crew? The stupidest smart people ever?

And lets not isolate just Fiefeld and Milburn’s stupidity, the whole crew are dumb. Here’s just a few examples: The crew sign up for a mission without ANY details first (I hope they were paid a crapload of cash), the initial exploratory crew investigate the pyramid unarmed, are willing to take off their helmets just because the computer says there are traces of oxygen in the air, and open the back hatch in order to investigate Fiefeld’s folded over body (no airlock?).

Special mention is deserved for Janek’s decision to fly the Prometheus into the Engineer’s ship as it tries to leave the planet. He, and two other crew members that I don’t even know the names of, sacrifice their lives based on a declaration from Shaw that the ship intends to destroy Earth. Seriously? No further information is asked for or given and they have known this woman for what, 48 hours? At the very least have a bit more clarification on the situation. They didn’t see the Engineer flip out and kill Weyland and the others, but they have seen Shaw lose her lover and know she is distraught and obviously hysterical. Perhaps she made that up in order to get revenge? And even if she is right, why not simply warn Earth so that they can launch their defenses and keep the ship and remaining crew alive in order to evacuate the planet? The only excuse I can think of is that Janek knows (or suspects) that the Engineers are hostile and are using the planet for the development and storage of their WMD. Either way, it’s supposed to be heroic, but instead comes across as stupid and leads me to my next point.

7. How did Janek know that LV-223 was a testing ground for Engineer WMD?

While on the subject of Janek, why is he able to put together the plot based on what he has witnessed, while Shaw and the others have no clue, yet were witnesses for almost everything the audience saw. I’m not saying that the plot was all that mysterious (I had it worked out the minute David found the black goo), but surely one of the others would have been the more obvious choice as the revealer of the plot?

The real reason is obvious – the writers needed an easy way to explain the alien installation, and try and cover up their plot holes. Not to mention set up Janek’s eventual suicidal ram of the alien ship. Lazy writing 101.

8. Why did the Engineers have a change of heart and set out to destroy mankind?

The cave paintings seem to indicate that the Engineers (or at least some of them) appeared to like the human race and helped guide them in different time periods and different civilizations. If they didn’t want us around they could have killed us off at any time in these periods. Yet it seems pretty clear that they experienced a change of heart and now want us dead. I still stand by theory that we were created by a faction of the Engineers, and that the majority find us abhorrent and want us gone, but there are other possibilities.

Shaw and Holloway calls the cave paintings ‘an invitation’. But what sort of species says ‘You can find us at this address’ and then gets angry when someone turns up? And why direct us to a desolate planet harbouring their WMD factories instead of their home planet? Unless of course it was a trap all along? Perhaps they wanted us to find them and that would be the indication that we had exceeded the limitations they thought we capable of and had become a potential threat – and had to be destroyed.

Some fans offer yet another view..

While examining the Engineer corpse outside the door Shaw carbon dates it to ‘around 2000 years old’. Meaning that the accident at the base occurred around that time also. Were the Engineers getting their weapon ready for transport and that’s when the accident occurred? Why were they getting ready to go to Earth? What was a significant occurrence on Earth at that time?

The death of Jesus and the beginnings of Christianity.

Was Jesus an Engineer? Did his death at the hands of inferior humans upset his people and cause them to decide to wipe us out? In a recent interview Scott teases this idea:

If you look at it as an ‘our children are misbehaving down there’ scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, ‘Let’s send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it.’ Guess what? They crucified him.

Personally I hope this is not the case. But unfortunately it’s not up to me.

9. Is Vickers human, or is she an android like David? Is she really Weyland’s daughter?

I think most of the answers to these questions are given in the scene involving Weyland’s holographic presentation to the crew. He refers to David as “the closest thing to a son I’ll ever have.” Not “David & Meredith”, (having her father admit that he loves his android more than his daughter brings a look on her face that would scare a Xenomorph!), David is totally devoted to Weyland, while she is clearly only waiting for him to die so she can to take over, and the incredibly arrogant Weyland wouldn’t leave his empire to a robot, no matter how much he considered it his ‘son’.

Some people mention the scene where she throws the super strong David up against a wall and holds him there while she interrogates him, but I believe that David allows this to happen. It is safe to assume that he would be programmed to not harm a member of the Weyland family, and she is his ‘sister’ after all.

Although I am willing to admit there is evidence to the contrary (She lives in a lifepod and says she doesn’t like to take chances, yet the MediPod in her quarters isn’t calibrated for female anatomy.), I believe she is human.

Lets give Lindelof the final word:

Vickers. Yes, she does look like David. Yes, this was intentional. What better way to piss off your daughter than to build the male equivalent of her? But enough about daddy issues (seriously, Lindelof, we get it!), allow me to answer your question. Is she a robot? She is not.”

End of Part 1, Part 2 to be posted soon.

All comments welcome 🙂

8 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    […] knows that the planet in Alien/Aliens is LV-426 (or Acheron), so no, it is not the same planet. Nerd Culture Podcast Blog Archive Nerdrage! – Prometheus Part 1 ———- Post added at 07:50 ———- Previous post was at 07:43 […]

  2. promethifuss says:

    I enjoyed the Movie greatly. I felt the art was far too quality to dwell on some of the minor imperfections.
    I felt the psych issues of each character were fairly well written and palpable from the start.
    I recommend reading up on anxiety to understand why Fiefeld was very consistent from line 1.
    the milburn greet the worm screen was annoying, agreed, but explainable in terms of irrationality seen in extreme situations. It is an examination of the human condition. Not a hero movie. Humans do very stupid sh*t, repeatedly. Predictably.

    Also, by not knowing the names of the characters who saved humamity, you might have made Scott’s point.

    I feel your rage is unwarrented, but a dose of humility might be.
    Can you please post one of your screenplays so that we may know what perfection is.

    • David David W says:

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment Promethifuss. You make some great points there.

      I agree that humans do stupid sh*t sometimes and that could potentially be a valid explanation for why some of the characters do what they do, but there are simply too many instances of people performing actions or making decisions that are contradictory to actions and decisions they did/made earlier, and that is just not believable.

      It is possible that Fiefeld is afflicted by Anxiety, but as someone with a family member who suffers with that condition I can confidently say that I don’t believe that a person with that terrible condition would blindly volunteer for a deep space mission, so I have to rule that out. Research after the fact reveals that he is in fact ‘unstable’ after ‘many space missions’ and that would help explain his bizarre behavior, but the point I tried to make in my post is that the film doesn’t bother to explain this pretty important fact about a character with quite a large role. You need to learn about that outside of the film. And that, I feel, is the main problem with this film’s story. Everything I need to know about the characters of the film, should be in the film itself. Not revealed in interviews after the fact.

      I give you Scott’s Alien as an example. You learn everything you need to know about the crew of the Nostromo in the first 15 mins, and it makes it a lot easier to accept some of the stupid (and not so stupid) sh*t they do later in the film.

      Also I never stated that I was a better writer than the scriptwriters of Prometheus. Do I think this script has problems? Yes. These men are professional screenwriters and they have ignored some fundamentals of that trade. Do I think I could do a better job? I don’t know. Hopefully one day I might get that chance but until then I’ll continue my hobby of watching and enjoying films and if I feel passionately enough to post some comments about one of them I will, and hopefully someone like yourself will feel strongly enough to comment on my comments and we can have another interesting discussion 🙂

      So, again, thank you for posting Promethifuss and I look forward to more comments from you in the future.

      • northernlightsource says:

        David,
        Good response to Promethifuss! The reason for a post is to explore perceptions and to invite response. Let’s hope responses can be constructive without vilification.
        May I suggest two things:
        1.In science there is no right or wrong answer, simply THE answer
        2. It’s a movie!

  3. Colty says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie. Plenty in there to enjoy and I would likely watch it again, if only to work out the meaning of a few more of the inconsistencies.

    But therein also lies my biggest bug bear about the movie. I want to leave the cinema and be able to appreciate it. Not leave the cinema and now have to come up with different theories as to what means what.

    Your comment stating, “I believe this engineer is part of a faction of his race……,” is precisely my case in point. Why do we have to come up with such a theory? I might also add that I didn’t even think of that so I applaud your idea of providing an opportunity for discussion regarding the film!

    Which returns me back to why the hell should we have to? We should be able of discuss what we liked/didn’t like about the film. I wanted entertainment. If I have to analyze every screenshot for hidden meanings of a film, I’ll read a murder mystery instead. Sure, don’t sledgehammer it to me, but at least provide hints and an answer in the end.

    This movie reeks of the writers not actually knowing what happens themselves, and trying to come up with something anyway. Sure, leave an open ending, but try and provide some answers along the way…..

    Of course, maybe that is actually sheer genius, since I feel the need to watch it again…..

    • David David says:

      Hi Colty! Thanks for leaving a comment. I agree with everything you said. 🙂

      And thank you for the praise regarding my ‘faction of his race’ theory. Since this article was posted a screenshot of a deleted scene has been released showing that the Engineer at the start isn’t alone, but is accompanied by a group of Engineers of varying ages. The majority of speculation seems to agree that this represents a religious ceremony, with the younger Engineer as the sacrifice to start the experiment and create life. I have no problem with that theory. I think it even helps my ‘faction’ idea. Perhaps the group at the start have splintered from the more scientific members of their race and have chosen a more spiritual view? Of course this is pure speculation until the blu-ray with the deleted scenes and/or obvious sequel are released, but it is fun to speculate for the moment.

      I really enjoyed some aspects of Prometheus, especially the visuals. The scene where David activates the navigation controls was breathtaking, and the rest of the visuals were almost as impressive. There is no denying Scott knows his stuff, I just wish his writers had backed him up.

      I’m also open to some ambiguity. I don’t need to have everything spelled out. Some things you simply don’t need to know. I’ll use Alien as an example again. At the end of Alien you never find out what the creature is, and in the context of the film, you simply don’t need to know. Of course more information is revealed in later films, books & comics, but in Alien all you need to know is that it is a hostile life-form that does whatever it needs to do to survive. Of course at the end you are left thinking ‘Gee, that was an interesting creature. I wouldn’t mind knowing some more about it.’ But that is just curiosity. Not knowing doesn’t ruin your enjoyment of this masterpiece because the questions they asked in the film were answered in the film!

      So, I guess what it all comes down to is this – Don’t base your entire story around a single question – ‘Why are we here?’ – and then not answer that question. That is what has frustrated the majority of viewers and is why the film was beaten at the box office by the fourth film about a bunch of animated animals. 🙂

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment Colty!

      • David David says:

        Wow I just noticed how many times I used the word ‘speculate’ in that post. Sorry about that that, Lazy Writing 101 🙂

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