Friday, June 22, 2012


This movie is messy. Both in the horror/sci-fi sense with blood and violence, but also in the plot sense. But I think the writers had some sense of what they were trying to do: hint at possibilities without being concrete. Not a surprise they wrote for Lost.

Plus, I think there are some intriguing possibilities when it comes to the plot.

Spoilers ahead. Duh.

It struck me that the opening was weird -- was it a metaphor or literal? Would aliens really drop down on the surface and sacrifice their bodies to create a new life form based on their own DNA? Sure. why not. It seems pretty inefficient, but let's just accept that it's the process they tested and decided upon. who needs robots or unmanned probes. 

In fact, let's not even assume that this was a scientist. Let's assume he was a religious figure.  The robe hints at that. Maybe this was a guy that sacrificed himself for some grand, egotistical scheme. He believes he's a god or he wants to feel like one. So, maybe he's not left behind; maybe he sneaks away. We'll call him Engineer Zero.

And maybe when the other Engineers find out what Zero's done they have to erase his mistake. they don't want Zero's creation littering up this planet they found that could be a perfect colony.
Might the Engineers have decided to destroy humans simply because the humans were created out of vanity by a powerful, rich CEO/Scientist/Crackpot? Created just because they could be created? Or maybe the entire race created humans and then, like tossing a bad poem or smashing a lopsided clay pot, destroyed the humans because they aren't nearly as good as vanity demands?
Interesting, but not enough proof to be SURE. Plus, if my friend Mike is correct, Ridley Scott has said that the Engineers did put their DNA on earth this way. He didn't say it was a one-man vanity project. But...

Should we make the mistake and assume that the Engineers are one cohesive people?  What if we think more like the human society being featured -- the one where Weyland industries as trillions of dollars to spend on a vanity project? What if an Engineer (not THE ENGINEERS) created Human Beings as a vanity project? what if there's a company or a faction of Engineers that wanted to CREATE a being; it's not the goal of the entire race of Engineers. it's a vanity project of one particular Engineer company. The Engineer Weyland Industries.

Or, perhaps this: what if humans are not a vanity project -- immortality for an individual or an entire race -- but are genetic engineered weapon project version 1.0 and the Aliens (acid drooling, insectoid Geiger aliens) are version 2.0? Ver 1.0 is "see if you can create a form of life that's purely biological, not an android. Then, Version 2.0 is see if you can create a purely biological weapon.
Or what if humans are simply created as food to feed the weapons. Create a whole planet of food and then deliver the black goop and then you've got a planet manufacturing plant and warehouse. Trouble is the weapon is too aggressive, the military base gets destroyed as they are making final preparations to deliver the goop, leaving the food source to evolve and begin assuming it's 'special' -- like a McDonald's hamburger left in the sun, gaining sentience, and convincing itself it was created for something more than becoming lodged in the large colon of a Geiger monster.

Creating life makes me feel powerful until I see that the creation is not on the same grand level as me. How sad. David even points out to Charlie: "Wouldn't you feel disappointed if you got the same response from your creator?" when Charlie says David was created just because humans had the ability to do it. 

Creation for the sake of creation is a vane pursuit. It's good science to explore and experiment, but with the religious impulse of humans it will inevitably lead to the worship of science/technology and the disappointment with the creations. 

The Engineers may have simply decided to destroy humans because they were too primitive. Made out of pride; destroyed out of disappointment. Humans didn't DO anything wrong. 
This of course also leads us to look at why there's such an emphasis on MALE creation and the horrors associated with FEMALE creation.

Enough people have pointed out the psychological trauma of men being impregnated in AlienPrometheus does not reduce the amount of gender imagery. In fact, I think it does an even better job of expanding on the idea of gender conflicts and makes a more forceful illustration of the terror men feel when they feel like they are useless. science and money and technology makes men feel useful; men hoard power because it hides their biologically temporary usefulness (men provide genetic material and then the female does the rest of the work; except with sea horses and a few other creatures. but seahorses didn't take over the planet, so clearly the female-as-baby-maker is the more successful form of reproduction).

Overall, I think the film argues supports the longstanding argument that men yearn to create life and resent the fact that females actually do 99% of the creating when it comes to human reproduction. Race of Engineers, we can assume, have the same issue. Men have power to destroy but wish they could create AS WELL. (No idea how the engineers reproduce, but since we share their DNA we must assume it's similar. not like viruses or with eggs, which is why the Alien aliens are so terrifying.)

Consider the various gender conflicts presented throughout the film:
Vickers -- daughter of Weyland, the guy that wants to live forever or at least be the man to face his creator. Vickers is resentful of male android who gets father's affection; clear that father does not respect Vickers; clear that she wishes he would just DIE already. She's a tough chick in a difficult place: she knows the agenda (her father's vanity is essentially the financial engine behind everything, including the expedition); but she also knows that the people on board the ship are a mixture of science nerds and "true believers." In fact the "truest" believer is a female, while Vickers believes the markings are the scrawls of animals (my paraphrase). Vickers would prefer in a more mundane, scientific explanation -- that there are no creators. that no creature or race would have power over humans. It would mean Vickers, once she's head of Weyland industries, would be close to a god.

Plus, isn't it fitting that the Captain asks Vickers if she's a robot and the way she disproves this is to have sex with him? her only power is her genitalia. and also that's the way she has to identify herself in a male world. I think Vickers is the saddest character of all. I feel like Dr. Shaw's challenged faith is pretty tame compared to what Vickers ends up going through. And i'm sad that Vickers gets killed as I think her journey to the stars (with or without Shaw) would've been even more telling. Does she take up her father's cause or Dr. Shaw's? Vickers and David in a ship looking for the Engineers? Now THAT's a story.

Weyland -- dude is human vanity personified. Uses all money and technology at his disposal to face his creator and is rightly murdered for it. In many ways, human stories suggest that one CAN face a creator and win: Zeus overthrows his father and then fears being overthrown himself; the stories of kings are the stories of vanity and fear of death. Even the Christian tradition allows for humans to "face" their god -- Moses and Noah, amongst a few others, get face time with God. Jesus is both god & man. So, it's not surprising that Weyland believes he will have a chance to ask questions of his god.

Sadly, he forgets the story of Job, a story that's much older than much of the old testament. Weyland also ignores the older version of the flood myth where Utnapishtim -- the Sumerian/Akkadian Noah -- is protected by one god when the other gods decide to wipe out humanity. Utnapishtim is then forced to live apart from humans because he was from before the flood. He's deemed special, but not a god. Some of the god's hate that he survived. But Job is the one that asks questions and is reprimanded. Not with death like Weyland, but intellectually: god tells Job "you do not have my creative power, you did not create the earth, the trees, the sea monsters, so how dare you presume you can question me about why you suffer!" The Engineer that whacks Weyland in the face takes less time to make the same point. (Curiously, Job gets all his stuff back and new, better looking daughters. But that's another analysis...)

Weyland deems himself powerful enough to look a god in the face; that god smacks him down (note, too, that Weyland dies of head trauma -- the head being the seat of sentience -- while David has his head ripped off of his body, essentially isolating his sentience from his body, the thing that represents his biological humanness (recall that Charlie says David has no biological processes, but even so David needs senses to analyze the world. A digestive tract? not so much.
Plus, David but does not die -- he will be able to continually explore this issue because he has no soul; Weyland says "there is nothing" and David confirms this but still says "enjoy your journey." David might actually have the potential to understand the nature of the soul, even without 'having' one.)

<image removed, but you can google it I swear!>
Fassbender as David is awesome. Just look at him all awesome there.

David -- made in "man's image" David is the obvious parallel to the creation of human beings by an Engineer. David says that despite not needing biological human processes (breathing, eating) he looks human because it makes human's more comfortable. But we know that it's not comfort but vanity. Weyland calls David his "son" who lacks a soul. David is made to look like a human. Even David has some sense of self in dying his hair and mimicking TE Lawrence as portrayed by blue-eyed Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (a movie about an outsider in a desert much like David is an outside amongst humans in the desert of deep space).

David's gender conflict is that he has a proscribed gender (male) but no need for a gender. He is not a biological creature but is still a man. He and Vickers are perfectly at odds -- both are cold, but Vickers has one of 2 emotional moments when she slams David against the wall and demands information. (The other is when she has to torch Charlie.)

Engineers -- all male. We have no sense of female presence on the entire planet. the ship in the beginning could be called an Ova, though the military ship is a bent penis or a snake eating itself. Either way, the moon the Engineers used to create their weapons of mass destruction is masculine: tombs with male faces, a mountain peak jutting into the sky, the comment "god does not build straight lines" made by Charlie.

Black Goop Created Creatures -- There's all these hints of phalluses and vaginas here. Once the black goop begins to transform the worms in the dirt of the tomb, we get the first vagina. The worm looks sperm-like when it raises out of the black goop, but as the idiot biologist (who says "good girl" and "what a pretty girl") approaches, the sperm-like work opens up and reveals a toothed vagina (and there's that classic toothy vagina myth, of course). The worm is male AND female. Not surprising that it grabs idiot biologist, breaks his arm, and then penetrates him and impregnates him. The biologist is raped (just as the face-huggers rape the men and women in the Alien films).

Dr. Shaw -- performs an abortion on herself. There's no need to belabor the suggestions here. The machine is "calibrated for male patients only" and she must improvise. (the machine is clearly there for Weyland and not Vickers.) She suffers through a c-section of sorts, the horrible alien fetus is removed from her, and she's stapled back together. She's a modified virgin mother -- sterile but impregnated by the aliens (because the Engineers are godlike they can impregnate a sterile woman just like god impregnates the virgin Mary. if you're willing to believe that Mary's a virgin, but it seems more like she'd had sex with her husband but was IMPREGNATED without having sex. immaculate conception yes, virgin no.)

Dr. Shaw is caught in between two intriguing binaries: she's a woman, but cannot get pregnant; she's a scientist that believes aliens created humans but believes in God (or, at least, wears a cross? It's not as clear as it could be).

Oh, and David snooped on her dreams and memories while she slept (a memory rape). So, she's also the equal partner of a scientific duo with Charlie, but also under the thumb of 2 men: Weyland & David.

In the end, I think Prometheus is fascinating and flawed. As a movie it has great moments of tension, some astounding visuals (some "ruined" by the trailer), good music, great acting, and a reasonably pleasing set of possible interpretations. I just feel like it could be a little more on the nose about one or two things instead of being so satisfied with the "I am still searching" conclusion offered by Dr. Shaw's voiceover. 

Interesting collection of quotations that elaborates on some of the vagueness.