One of my Christmas presents was a copy of Ridley Scott’s kinda-sorta prequel to Alien. As Alien and Aliens are among my favorite movies (hell, I even liked David Fincher’s Alien3), I was excited to watch Prometheus and see the hinted at origins of the Xenomorph and Space Jockey. Also, Charlize Theron in skivvies, but I digress.
Prometheus is certainly a marvel to behold. From its Icelandic fly-over opening (which I can only describe as porn for geologists) to its haunting musical score to its Gigeresque backdrops, Promoetheus looks and sounds amazing. It definitely feels like a epic Ridley Scott movie, along with Alien or Blade Runner or Gladiator.
However, when you get down to the actual plot of the movie, Prometheus is a muddled rehashing of the other Alien movies. The basic plot: a ragtag time of scientists led by not-Ellen-Ripley, having watched too much “Ancient Aliens” on History Channel, finagle funds from yet another Mr. Weiland (this time played by Guy Pierce in the worst old-dude make-up possible) and fly off to distant moon LV-not-426 to search out “The Engineers” of humanity.
They arrive at the apparently dead moon but conveniently land next to a giant dome with giant fucking human skull on the top and, being brilliant scientists, decide to investigate it immediately. Without helmets. Right before an oncoming dust storm. Inside, they find an increasing number of dead Engineers, who turn out to be the Space Jockeys from Alien despite their being giant albino bodybuilders, and a room stockpiled with urns filled what turns out to be the black oil from The X-Files. After that, pretty much everbody dies at the hands of non-humans (expect, of course, for not-Ellen-Ripley):
- the on-board Weiland Company robot (played with eerily precision by the remarkably named Michael Fassbender) kills one for no obvious reason by infecting him with the black goop, which the movie reveals either (a) rapidly decomposes what it comes into contact with, (b) mutates it into a huge and hideous freak, or (c) makes it pregnant with space squids, depending on whatever the movie’s plot needs most at that particular moment.
- a pair of scientists — a geologist with a bunch of state-of-the-art mapping robots who nevertheless cannot ever figure out where his is at any given time, and a biologist whose first reaction to seeing a giant aggressive albino penis snake is to make kissy faces at it — are variously burnt and mouth-raped by goo-mutants.
- the lone surviving Engineer they uncover rips the robot in half and kills the rest of the scientists off before jetting off to blow the living hell out of Planet Earth, also for no obvious reason.
But the Engineer doesn’t make it to Earth (spoilers!) and instead meets the mother of all facehuggers and chest-bursts a really gummy xenomorph, while not-Ripley and the decapitated head of the robot fly off in some leftover Aliens test footage.
On first viewing, almost none of Prometheus makes sense, but not in the clever Primer way: rather, nothing any of the characters do makes a lick of sense. Take, for instance, the scientists. As hinted at in the plot summary, Prometheus is populated by what must be the worst scientists of all time. There’s the aforementioned geologist who cannot identify rocks; there’s the aforementioned biologist who cannot identify dangerous fauna (even when it sits up and hisses at him); there’s the archeologist who, after being outside on an alien environment for all of 5 minutes, decides to remove his helmet because it’s Christmas; there’s the ship captain who, when trying to escape the path of a giant, rotating ship, decides to try and outrun the front of it rather than run perpendicular to it and let it pass. And, of course, there’s the protagonist, scientist not-Ellen-Ripley who, who, when asked to present her evidence for her belief that 200 years of evolutionary biology is completely wrong, remarks “I don’t have any evidence. But it’s what I choose to believe.” Because Up yours!, Scientific Method.
The actions of the aliens don’t make much more sense. There’s the aforementioned space squid that not-Ellen-Ripley gets surgically removed (in the movie’s best — and most quease-inducing — scene), which can apparently increase its body mass by eight-hundred times over the course of an hour. Also, after trying to kill not-Ellen-Ripley after its mechanized C-section (not, she adamantly declares, an abortion), the space squid decides instead to save her and kill the hell out of the Engineer instead. There’s the aforementioned black goop and the fact that it acts naughty or nice only in deference to the current whim of the film’s director. It’s later posited that the goo is some kind of dangerous weapon… which only begs the question of why the Engineers would leave thousands of canisters of the stuff literally just lying around on the ground of a cave. And, of course, brings us to the Engineers, who might be the only creatures stupider than the humans. They leave their deadly bio-weapons in crappy vases on the floors of caves. They pilot their cutting edge space-ships with space-flutes. And, after spending ten thousand years trying to communicate with humanity, they decide at the last minute to nuke ’em from orbit instead.
The reason for this is never explicitly spelled out in the movie… but after a second and third viewing, we can find enough clues to explain it. Among the clues:
- The movie opens with an Engineer sacrificing himself to start life on (presumably) Earth.
- The movie implies that the Engineers have visited humanity repeatedly over the course of thousands of years.
- The event that makes the Engineers decide to extinguish humanity happened 2000 years ago.
- The only character who survives is the cross-wearing not-Ripley.
- Not-Ripley’s name is Elizabeth, and even though she is barren, she conceives with the help of an otherworldly being. Compare with Luke 1.
- The entire movie takes place in the few days before and after Christmas.
That’s right: the Engineers are pissed with Earthlings because we killed Space Jesus.
That’s right. Jesus was a giant albino space alien. Not only does this explain the movie, it also actually goes a long ways towards explaining why Christ always looks more like this:
than, say, a brown-skinned dude from the Middle East.
So, there you have it. Prometheus is a Aliens prequel in which the dominant themes are:
- Science is bad.
- Abortion is bad.
- Illegal aliens are bad.
- Jesus was good.
So, pretty much: