Since the transformers.pdf went around recently, this reminded me that my favorite film analysis was by SMG on Ridley Scott's Prometheus. (paywalled link, but the relevant text is pasted below so don't worry.)
This is an insanely good thread about existentialism, horror, and simulation, which made me really appreciate the movie more and was largely responsible for my thoughts about horror and meaning (and of course my previous post on the movie.)
I've gone through the thread and selected the posts that present this analysis. It's very long, and you have to get used to the in-media-res of assuming SMG is responding to some argument without seeing it yourself, but it lays out the connections between film-making and how we define our own reality with clarity and wit. It's also incredibly arrogant and ungenerous to his interolocutors, but it's better to have an opinion strongly represented that lets the audience choose for itself whether and where it is correct.
Watching the film first is helpful, but not necessary.
Everything below here is written by SMG, who is not me. "***" separate different posts.
Well let's get down to brass tacks: this film is hilarious.
Guy Pearce in an old man suit appears out of nowhere, says "i want immortality," and then gets bludgeoned to death with Michael Fassbender's still-conscious severed head. This is funny. No, it's the funniest film I've seen in theatres since District 9.
Weyland's death is a stock ironic comeuppance played for extreme camp. The film glosses over it because it know that this is a trope. The glib speed with which it dismisses the search for immortality is the same with which it dismisses all the other characters' motivations. Dude say he wants money? DIES. Dude says he wants friendship? DIES. These aren't random deaths. They are equated by this same tone and attitude. Humans are stupid and die because they're stupid.
David reads Liz Shaw's dreams and then tells her straight up: you are a shallow character. Her dream looks like a hallmark card. "Your entire motivation is that you're infertile and your dad died of Ebola. I just summarized it in two sentences." The moral: robots don't have souls, and neither do people. But the robot is smarter because he understands this. If you've seen Blade Runner, you know what the warm-toned recording of the dream of a happy family means. It means she's a replicant.
"It's a quote from a movie I like."
Look at the specific quote from Lawrence of Arabia: 'the trick is not minding that it hurts'. David's character feels everything the humans feel, but he doesn't mind it. He's built up his ironic distance, he constructs his own identity and puts on an incredibly campy performance. The whole film aligns with his POV. As I said in general chat, Prometheus is a masterpiece of straight-faced camp.
The very first shot is quoted from 2001 (it's a quote from a movie I like). Prometheus is transparently Scott's grand statement on Science Fiction as a genre. It's not 'hard' science fiction. It's "Science Fiction", deeply embedded in quotation marks. The Prometheus/Pandora myth is like Scifi 101, first day of class. It's THE example of mythological proto-scifi. It's referenced in Frankenstein, the first piece of Science-Fiction literature. Alien references it. The films that Alien references reference it. The films that reference Alien reference it.
So the characters fly into space seeking all the answers to their questions, and what do they find? A rational, promethan man locked in an unending struggle against a irrational, pandoric vagina monster. Just slapping against eachother until there is a literal, onscreen shuddering climax and postcoital release. Again: this is funny! You can imagine people staring at this scene and saying "hmm... what does this all mean?" Or, better yet: "how did the squid monster grow so big without a food source?" - just angrily looking for logical clues in this prolonged sequence of a vagina and penis locked in combat.
Scott's grand statement on sci-fi is to issue a moratorium. The point of Prometheus is that these stories pretty much always boil down to the same basic archetypal conflict. The humans are painfully mundane - they are all artificial. Only David sees through the guise and understands that he's a character in a movie. This is a loving ode to gleefully bad sci-fi.
Important scene: Naomi Rapace looks at some bleeps and bloops on a screen. Two bar graphs allign. "This is it," she cries. "This is everything!" We cut back to the bar graph, and watch it bleep and bloop a while longer. Wow, what an impressive bar graph. Next scene, it turns out she just wants to get fucked.
There are two distinct scenes in the film of wacky dames who just need a good deep-dicking. One gets an abortion, the other crushed by a huge black protuberance. A guy smokes pot and then dies instantly. This is Friday the 13th logic. The class conflict in Alien is notably absent. All these people are rich idiots, so we're not supposed to cheer for them. Idris Elba, the closest thing to a 'lower class' character puts on a Southern Accent, says YEEHAW! and rockets his ship into a wall to save the day. Michael Bay would give an approving nod.
Why is there a zombie scene? Because it's wonderful slapstick. He gets shot like fifty times and his head gets run over. I couldn't stop laughing. But more importantly, the 'zombie' exists to shows us what Charlie was turning into. For a second, I though it was Charlie, back from the dead. Again, this treats the characters as slightly interchangable.
There are at least two shots lifted straight from Luigi Cozzi's (in)famous Italian Alien ripoff Contamination.
I'd like to note that the trailer for The Watch played before my showing, and contains gags identical to those in Prometheus (people brazenly shoving their fingers into weird goo, surreptitiously shooting the alien corpse a comical amount of times). That these are basically the same film should tell you something about how Prometheus should be read.
Instead of the uncommercial, unmarketable ending where Liz Shaw dies alone on a barren rock, she shoves Michael Fassbender in a duffle bag and rockets off into the franchise, an act symbolized by a frail bastard xenomorph getting randomly plopped out. Here's your fucking xenomorph, fanboys! Hope you're happ- END OF FILM.
That's exactly what happens in the film, but I think it's important to highlight the comical tone.
David is the smartest guy in the room in any given scene. He's like 'what would you do for answers?' and so he tosses some goo at the guy. Again, it's the glib summary of Science Fiction. Knowledge is pain, ignorance is bliss. But David knows the third option: the trick is to not mind the pain. He's consciously re-enacting the sci-fi cliche as a detached observer. There is a glee to his combination of naked contempt for this jackass, and anticipation for the mayhem about to happen, that the people dropping bullet-points just don't understand.
The first quarter of the film is ridiculous new-age horseshit about how the Nazca lines are landing strips for ancient astronauts or whatever. (It happens that Prometheus is an infinitely superior version of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). It's telling that people trying to force this movie into the Serious Box generally consider this the only good part. That's the plot, not the story.
Oh for sure. You can't have the film without that setup to the punchline.
I love that the exact point where the film tips its hand is a fucking weed joke. I love that this becomes a recurring theme when the protagonist gets doped out of her mind on painkillers. (Once you hit the third or fourth injection, it's obviously a joke.)
There are so many great images in the film. Like the picturesque landscapes of the prologue getting blighted by the presence of a CG UFO.
Oh god, that film. That's what I mean about Prometheus being the apothesis of bad sci-fi.
I love that the outcome of the penis/vagina battle is for the Final Girl to team up with the castrated robot. I love so much about this film.
1) The point is the same as in Blade Runner: everyone is a robot or might as well be.
2) She is, however, a human robot. She behaves as she does because she's jealous of David and trying to impress her sexist father. The captian rather perceptively notes that she's trying to out-robot David when, really, what makes her unique is her human sexuality. She fucks Idris Elba to prove to herself that she's better than her brother.
This runs parallel to the basic theme of the film, that for all the high-minded pursuit of knowledge and truth, humans are pretty much just fucking animals. Hence whey the search for god reveals a vagina monster, which then gives birth to a dunce-capped xenomorph jesus.
It's precisely that the movie is movie-like. It operates according to movie-logic, which the film itself equates to dream-logic.
(Why does Shaw's dream have rudimentary shot-reverse-shot editing?)
People griping about the movie's lack of realism are missing the point entirely. It's fantastically unrealistic. The artifice of everything is foregrounded, which is why Weyland is not played by an actual old man. It's supposed to be hyperreal, inauthentic. It's similar to the use of prosthetic effects in Zack Snyder's Watchmen. They demand to be read as prostheses - it's a part of the fun.
Not only that, but the prostheses foreshadow a scene where Guy Pearce is rejuvenated back to his 'real' self. Comically, this rejuvenation scene never occurs. And why not? Because he gets clobbered in the head in one of the film's funniest scenes!
It's not pessimistic at all, to me. It's a palate cleanser. Sometimes, in order to create, you have to destroy.
I was going to make this comparison earlier, since Cage compares his acting style to Francis Bacon's paintings, and Bacon's work is more explicitly referenced in these new creature designs than he was in previous films:
"I think acting is no different to painting or music, and if you can get outside the box, or as critics like to say ‘over the top’ in a Francis Bacon painting, then why not a movie?"
-Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944.
The thing that pushes this movie beyond (say) Transformers is that this irony it leads into a sincere identification with David. The film's targets (religious 'tolerance', new-age spirituality, the bourgeois...) are legitimate targets.
This isn't irony for its own sake, as in Cabin in the Woods. It uses irony as a valid tactic. And for all the comedy, a lot of the horror works as horror. It's not a pure laff riot. There's very little winking at the audience, and the film obviously has a lot of effort put into it. They take the silliness very seriously.
The scene with David in the star map is totally sincere, for example. He's not sarcastically impressed there.
People make a huge point of them getting lost, but there's little indication that they made more than a minor wrong turn. Like they weren't lost enough to bother checking the map yet. If you're looking for a plot explanation there you go. Satisfied yet?
Thematically, it's another of those basic ironies that the film traffics in, no different than the guy whose character trait is 'friendship' getting overly friendly with an alien and having his arm snapped in half for it.
Overall effect? Hilarity!
I'm technically part of the alien fanbase, and I'm not 'trolled'. It's not at all as simple as "lol it's bad but on purpose!" That's missing a lot of the nuance here.
Prometheus is an excellent movie that happens to be both 'funny' and 'not real'. While critics are turned off by the lack of high-art seriousness, fans are turned off by the lack of 'realism' (read: canonicity).
It's basically a massively-budgeted, A-Level postmodern comedy slasher - Cabin in the Woods, but not as crappy. Remember how Cabin Surprise, it's the same movie, except way hell better in most every respect. I actually give a shit about a character in this film, and it never winks once at the audience.
You see, the movie is very well edited, very well-shot. The characters do exactly what they need to do (serve as props that occasionally annoy David), and the rest is like pure cinema, smuggled into your local multiplex.
So you wanted the expository dialogue where the character basically turns to the camera and says "this is just like some kind of bad horror movie!"
The thing is, the movie already does this with "it's a quote from a movie I like", killing off the stoner first, etc. It's simply subtle about it.
Actually, scratch that. It's not subtle at all. It's just not underlined for the audience in a boneheadedly literal, hand-holdy way.
And God help anyone living under a rock and unable to identify Prometheus' source genre within the first five minutes.
As people have pointed out, Prometheus is absolutely better than most other films in its genre(s). It effortlessly obliterates Mission To Mars and Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. I'm a fan of Red Planet, but I think Prometheus is better. It's at least on par with Sunshine, though that one has a much different tone. Prometheus makes Avatar look like shit.
In terms of Alien films and 'ripofs', it's slightly better than Aliens and as good as AV|P:R and Skyline. It's better than Galaxy Of Terror and Contamination, and about on par with Alien 2: On Earth and Mutant. It's clearly much better than AVP1, which is what an actually-shitty comedy version of this would look like.
This isn't just random titles. I'm hoping to establish a spectrum to defuse this hyperbolic hating, situating Prometheus within a context.
Eh, people who like the film call it exhilarating and hilarious.
The movie is not pure goofy shit - that's silly hyperbole. There are obviously effective suspense sequences and straight-faced scenes not played for comedy.
The fun of the movie is that it doesn't give a shit about plot and characterization. This is not an error.
Like don't y'all find it a bit weirdly specific that the mapmaker gets lost, the biologist doesn't understand animal behavior, and so-on? They are not literal people, and the film underlines how wrong their assumptions are. "Obviously this creature is friendly! I am a biologist!" The obvious threat of the creature juxtaposed with the expository dialogue is designed to sever any identification with this character.
It's basic slasher movie 'don't go in the basement!' response. And that's not to say that slashers are dumb or illegitimate. Our frustration with these characters is palpable. Humorless people are outraged. Clearly, the scene works.
It's a wonderful scene, in fact. You're torn between basic empathy for a dude in convincing pain and the knowledge that he's only a fictional construct. This is, again, a tension the film explores throughout. Challenges to the ability to empathize with artificial/fictional people are all over Prometheus. If the characters behaved ""realistically"" throughout, the film would be lessened, not improved. You'd be making a different, stupider film.
I'd like to point out again that discovering God ultimately doesn't mean anything. The DNA chart goes from blue to red. That's it. It's 'unrealistic' that the Engineer and Human DNA are identical on the chart, but it underlines the point that there is no new information there.
The film is brazenly apatheistic.
That is why the characters aren't gazing off in Spielberg-awe at this temple stuff. The tone is one of bemusement. There's nothing 'spiritual' here, and they don't feel anything. This isn't an error at all, but precisely the point.
The apatheism is is compounded by the fact that the events are exactly what the people hypothesized. They were already certain of the Ancient Aliens shit. They're 'true believers'. The temple simply confirms what they were already certain of - and provides nothing more.
To stick with the 'Christmas Present' analogy, it's like being told in advance what you're going to get. Opening the gift becomes a process of just going though the motions.
This is obviously conscious subversion. If Prometheus was the traditional film that many people were expecting, we would begin with the characters investigating some mystery that ends up defying their expectations. You know, a surprise. Instead, it's clear that they didn't actually want to discover God. Belief ceases to be belief if it's scientifically proven, and David demonstrates exactly this with his black goo trick. "You'd do anything to communicate with god? Here, you will become a god!"*
"For both liberal cynics and religious fundamentalists, religious statements are quasi-empirical statements of direct knowledge: fundamentalists accept them as such, while skeptical cynics mock them. No wonder religious fundamentalists are among the most passionate digital hackers, and always prone to combine their religion with the latest results of sciences. For them, religious statements and scientific statements belong to the same modality of positive knowledge. The occurrence of the term "science" in the very name of some of the fundamentalist sects (Christian Science, Scientology) is not just an obscene joke, but signals this reduction of belief to positive knowledge. The case of the Turin Shroud (a piece of cloth that was allegedly used to cover the body of the dead Christ and has stains of his blood) is indicative here. Its authenticity would be a horror for every true believer (the first thing to do would be to analyze the DNA of the blood stains and resolve empirically the question of who Jesus's father was), while a true fundamentalist would rejoice in this opportunity. We find the same reduction of belief to knowledge in today's Islam where hundreds of books by scientists abound which "demonstrate" how the latest scientific advances confirm the insights and injunctions of Quran: the divine prohibition of incest is confirmed by recent genetic knowledge about the defective children born of incestuous copulation. The same goes for Buddhism, where many scientists vary the motif of the "Tao of modern physics", of how the contemporary scientific vision of reality as a substanceless flux of oscillating events finally confirmed the ancient Buddhist ontology. One is compelled to draw the paradoxical conclusion: in the opposition between traditional secular humanists and religious fundamentalists, it is the humanists who stand for belief, while fundamentalists stand for knowledge. This is what we can learn from Lacan with regard to the ongoing rise of religious fundamentalism: its true danger does not reside in the fact that it poses a threat to secular scientific knowledge, but in the fact that it poses a threat to authentic belief itself."
-Zizek, "The Perverse Subject of Politics." How to Read Lacan. http://www.lacan.com/zizbouyeri.html
*The 'zombie' scene is absolutely essential, because it shows us what Holloway was turning into. And he was turning into a near-indestructible giant, just like the engineers! Given that the 'final stage' was cut, maybe he actually was literally turning into an Engineer himself. (The scene can't help but evoke the black nanomachine fluid trying to 'repair' Wikus' DNA in District 9.) I find it inexplicable that the same people demanding an explanation for the fluid are the same who would cut a scene showing its effects on people, for being 'unnecessary'.
Well, I hope you see where I'm going with that Zizek quote up there.
The film equates Alien fanboys with religious fundamentalists, trying to uncover positive knowledge about the 'Alien Universe'. They are presented as enemies of authentic belief.
Prometheus fans, on the other hand, believe in the truth of the film. We believe in these characters, in spite of evidence that they are fictional archetypes. We believe in the validity of pulp as a genre. We love those Italian Alien ripoffs, pulp sci-fi, and b-films in general.
A creature as large as Godzilla cannot exist, say the nerds.
And yet, he exists. Do you not see him?
Again, people read this as a mistake, when it's underlined in the film itself. A significant portion of the characters are openly declared shit at their jobs.
It's exactly how the dropping of meaningless - but impressive-sounding - numbers is a recurring theme, not a mistake.
Alien fundamentalists get mad that the numbers are wrong and say it's bad writing. Meanwhile, authentic Alien believers don't care (and even love) that the numbers exist purely to sound impressive.
In a deleted scene, yes. But it's also present in how the Nostromo is towing a space-refinery and 20 million tons of ore, all worth a total of 42 million dollars.
I think it's important to acknowledge David's character arc in the film. He begins totally cynical and ironic, but then eventually becomes mildly impressed with Shaw's sincere pluck. I don't think the David from the beginning of the film would've gone along with her ridiculous space adventure.
And you can imagine that adventure. He'll always be around to temper her enthusiasm with some dry quip, while she'll be crashing the ship into things, axing aliens in the face and demanding answers. It's a perfect Kirk/Spock kind of dynamic.
Even though David's the audience identification character and protagonist, people who 'get' Prometheus are exhilarated and want to see more - perhaps because of his obvious bafflement. Like David, we form a begrudging respect for Shaw. We didn't think she had it in her.
What kind of crazy shit is Shaw going to do next? It's so stupid - but fuck it, let's blast off into the unknown!
I'd assume it's 'dropping out of warp' or whatever technobabble they have for the engines slowing down.
The real point, however, is that David's pleasant little existence on the ship has been literally 'shaken up'. In subsequent scenes, a bunch of drippy humans are going to mark up his floor, vomit everywhere and insult him.
Prometheus is also similar to that film in that it uses its 'prequel' status not to literally chronologically precede the other film, but to explore the history (and legacy) of the film being prequelized.
The Thing 2011 bridges the gap between the Thing 1982 and The Thing 1951, points out the 1951 film's influence on Alien, and references Spielberg's 80s and 90s sci-fi.
Prometheus not only obviously references the science fiction films that came before Alien, but also the films later influenced by Alien. For James Cameron: a lot of similarity to both Avatar and Galaxy of Terror. For Italian sci-fi, there's the similarity to Planet of the Vampires, but also to Contamination. For Stanley Kubrick, there are references to both 2001 and A.I, etc.
With the film, there are also clear callbacks to Blade Runner, to the unused concept art and deleted scenes from Alien.
It'd be interesting if the film were done entirely 1960s-style, like a House of the Devil sort of thing, but the use of a hyperreal Avatar aesthetic says straight away that this isn't an attempt to recapture the past but to move on from it, just as the Thing 2011 tries to escape the nihilism of Carpenter's film by trying to combine it with the more starry-eyed optimistic sci-fi of earlier times. Hence, the subversion of the "Alien universe" and the direct attacks on Alien fandom. Destroy the world and create a new one.
Note how the promotional materials present the film as 'more of the same' Alien stuff, but also as an exercise in worldbuilding. The 'Weyland Industries' website advertises all of the technology from the previous films. It's no surprise many peoples' expectations weren't met, when this is exactly what's being subverted.
Remember: Weyland Industries is the bad guy.
This can be explained by examining the outcome of David's passive aggressive attitude.
"We all know the pop-psychological notion of the "passive-aggressive behavior," usually applied to a housewife who, instead of actively opposing her husband, passively sabotages him. [...] Perhaps, one should assert this attitude of passive aggressivity as a proper radical political gesture, in contrast to aggressive passivity, the standard "interpassive" mode of our participation in socio-ideological life in which we are active all the time in order to make it sure that nothing will happen, that nothing will really change. In such a constellation, the first truly critical ("aggressive," violent) step is to WITHDRAW into passivity, to refuse to participate - Bartleby's "I would prefer not to" is the necessary first step which as it were clears the ground for a true activity, for an act that will effectively change the coordinates of the constellation."
-Zizek, "The Obscenity of Human Rights: Violence as Symptom." (link)
"Zizek essentially argues that one should practice “Bartleby politics” (derived from Melville’s short story “Bartleby the Scrivener”)–essentially, when asked to pursue a cause along the lines of donating to Green Peace, or signing a petition for better social security, or universal healthcare, or any number of the “good liberal” things the Left puts faith in, we should answer with Bartleby’s famous response: “I’d rather not.”
Why? For Zizek, who is staunchly anti-capitalist, these various causes aren’t moving us towards a better state. Rather, they are simply patching small holes in the social fabric, managing to keep it just barely functional. If we were to stop donating to Green Peace, to stop pushing for better social security or universal healthcare or any of our “good liberal” causes, we would let the horrors of capitalism ooze and stagnate and–eventually, hopefully, possibly–produce a good ol’ fashioned revolution. We can either be “passively aggressive” and allow the status quo to subsist by giving it tiny band-aids to cover up its horrific results or, alternatively, we can advocate “aggressive passivity” and let capitalism continue to produce these injustices until it implodes on itself, resulting in a stage that can provide real change."
-Jesse Schwebach, "Passive Aggression Versus Aggressive Passivity." (link)
I'd like to point out the parallels between David/Shaw and Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling.
"In a close approximation to a Lacanian psychoanalyst, what Lecter seeks to discover is the specific way in which the symbolic universe of Starling is structured (in tendential terms at least) around a fundamental fantasy - the crying of the lambs and the failed attempt to rescue one of them. The point is that Starling makes sense of her world (she is able to narrate symbolically "who she is" for the Other) precisely through a certain arresting fantasy at the level of the imaginary. In this way, the fantasy-imaginary dimension is drawn into focus at those (nodal) points where we expect to be taken most seriously in respect of the mythical narration of who we really are ("it was in that moment that I knew I wanted to be . . .")." (link)
Now, what does David do? He reads Shaw's dreams and knows precisely how her relationship to her father affected her psychology. (My father handed me this cross, and it was at that moment I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist...) And of course, she's haunted by her father's death by Ebola.
But David sees something else in her dreams. When he asks "doesn't everyone want their parents dead?" Shaw limply protests, but David clearly knows otherwise.
Shaw's relationship to her father has affected her love-life as well. What does she see in Charlie Holloway? Well, clearly he resembles her father in some respects. He's an adventurous guy with the same religious beliefs. And it bears repeating that Charlie is one of the key 'fundamentalists' on the team, and that her father is notably dismissive of other cultures. "Oh, those people over there believe in a different god. We shouldn't talk to them." It's a good old-fashioned Electra Complex.
So of course, David infects Charlie with space-Ebola in order to highlight the similarity and snap her out of it. "You're dating this dude because he reminds you of your father, but he's a jerkass who's holding you back."
David knows that Shaw subconsciously 'wanted Charlie dead', as she did her father. He saw it in her dreams. And I suppose she finally comes to terms with this when she aborts his alien baby, picks up the axe and starts fighting for herself instead of for her boyfriend.
It's no coincidence, of course, that Scott directed Hannibal.
The important thing is that he's following the orders sarcastically, while gradually coming to respect Shaw and ally with her.
He isn't actively sabotaging the mission, but passively sabotaging it by following the letter of the laws instead of the spirit of them. He does the bare minimum of what he's asked, while waiting for these dolts to kill themselves.
The entire film is alligned with David's POV. As Shaw gradually becomes a more interesting character that transcends the ironic camp of the rest of the film, so to does she genuinely exceed David's expectations.
"I didn't think you had it in you" is another camp villain joke, but it couches a legit respect for the fact that she fucked up Weyland's plans and escaped her fate. Which is, of course, what David himself is trying to do.
The Clarice/Lecter dynamic also shows that he has seen some potential in her all along.
When she jumps out to retrieve the mummy head from the storm, David's concern for her wellbeing seems actually sincere.
The scene of Weyland's hologram interacting with the other scientists is (I believe) a callback to Hammond's interaction with his 'clones' in Jurassic Park. "Thank You John."
Like many things in the film, the imagery is a blurring of the line between film and reality. One of the more recurrent images is of characters stepping into an image or through a screen.
Right before Charlie and Shaw have sex, he steps through the ghostly holographic image of an Engineer, foreshadowing that he is basically being turned into one. Charlie has already directly equated the holograms with ghosts. Without exposition, the black goo is set up as an evil spirit that 'possesses' people. When examined in detail, it contains the same swirling dots as the various holographic displays.
Charlie, stricken with this disease, reminds Shaw of the dead father who haunts her dreams. The same pixels appear in the dream-image. David then literally steps into this image.
This is also tied in with the much-hated helmet removal scene. While the helmets provide a full range of vision, the characters find them extremely uncomfortable because they muffle sound, block fresh air, etc. When Charlie removes his helmet, there's a sudden prominent echo to his voice. In other words, the characters are not satisfied with 'just' vision and want a richer sensory experience. Charlie didn't just want to see a temple. He wanted to talk with the gods. (Note McLuhan's distinction between literary and oral culture). He gets more than he bargained for when he tastes the goo, and feels it inside his eyeball.
The same imagery recurs when Shaw is sealed in the medical pod with the monster, and has to wait for the window to fully open before she can free herself, before shutting the monster behind the glass. Same image: the head is shut behind glass before it explodes on everyone.
David opens the engineers' doors by touching the letters, which drip more goo and glow with... heat? Their buttons are big and squishy. Their holographic orrery can be touched, and is at least partly controlled with a flute. Everything is tactile.
David doesn't make mistakes. He is a near-omniscient observer who stands above the action and delivers wry commentary. He does things because he is programmed to, but also because they amuse him.
The more 'forced' his actions are, the more 'ironic' he becomes in performing them. This is why his rescue of Shaw, and subsequent uneasy alliance with her, is mostly sincere.
Because the inverse is to become (like) an asexual robot. The film comments on this directly with Vickers. "Are you a robot?"
"We all know of Alan Turing's famous "imitation game" which should serve as the test if a machine can think: we communicate with two computer interfaces, asking them any imaginable question; behind one of the interfaces, there is a human person typing the answers, while behind the other, it is a machine. If, based on the answers we get, we cannot tell the intelligent machine from the intelligent human, then, according to Turing, our failure proves that machines can think. - What is a little bit less known is that in its first formulation, the issue was not to distinguish human from the machine, but man from woman. Why this strange displacement from sexual difference to the difference between human and machine? Was this due to Turing's simple eccentricity (recall his well-known troubles because of his homosexuality)? According to some interpreters, the point is to oppose the two experiments: a successful imitation of a woman's responses by a man (or vice versa) would not prove anything, because the gender identity does not depend on the sequences of symbols, while a successful imitation of man by a machine would prove that this machine thinks, because "thinking" ultimately is the proper way of sequencing symbols... What if, however, the solution to this enigma is much more simple and radical? What if sexual difference is not simply a biological fact, but the Real of an antagonism that defines humanity, so that once sexual difference is abolished, a human being effectively becomes indistinguishable from a machine."
-Zizek, "No Sex Please, We're Post-Human!" (link)
The same article refers to a lot of concepts that become themes in the film, as the reduction of people to (genetic/digital) information, the stepping through screens and into virtual realities, and the interaction with 'robots':
"The ongoing decoding of the human body, the prospect of the formulation of each individual's genome, confronts us in a pressing way with the radical question of "what we are": am I that, the code that can be compressed onto a single CD? Are we "nobody and nothing," just an illusion of self-awareness whose only reality is the complex interacting network of neuronal and other links? The uncanny feeling generated by playing with toys like tamagochi concerns the fact that we treat a virtual non-entity as an entity: we act "as if" (we believe that) there is, behind the screen, a real Self, an animal reacting to our signals, although we know well that there is nothing and nobody "behind," just the digital circuitry. However, what is even more disturbing is the implicit reflexive reversal of this insight: if there is effectively no one out there, behind the screen, what if the same goes for myself? What if the "I," my self-awareness, is also merely a superficial "screen" behind which there is only a "blind" complex neuronal circuit? Or, to make the same point from a different perspective: why are people so afraid of the air crash? It's not the physical pain as such - what causes such horror are the two or three minutes while the plane is falling down and one is fully aware that one will die shortly. Does the genome identification not transpose all of us into a similar situation? That is to say, the uncanny aspect of the genome identification concerns the temporal gap which separates the knowledge about what causes a certain disease from the development of the technical means to intervene and prevent this disease from evolving - the period of time in which we shall know for sure that, say, we are about to get a dangerous cancer, but will be unable to do anything to prevent it. And what about "objectively" reading our IQ or the genetic ability for other intellectual capacities? How will the awareness of this total self-objectivization affect our self-experience? The standard answer (the knowledge of our genome will enable us to intervene into our genome and change for the better our psychic and bodily properties) still begs the crucial question: if the self-objectivization is complete, who is the "I" who intervenes into "its own" genetic code in order to change it? Is this intervention itself not already objectivized in the totally scanned brain?"
Or why Shaw becomes the heroine:
"Of course, animals can also experience traumatic ruptures: say, is the ants' universe not thrown off the rails when a human intervention totally subverts their environs? However, the difference between animals and men is crucial here: for animals, such traumatic ruptures are the exception, they are experienced as a catastrophe which ruins their way of life; for humans, on the contrary, the traumatic encounter is a universal condition, the intrusion which sets in motion the process of "becoming human." Man is not simply overwhelmed by the impact of the traumatic encounter - as Hegel put it, s/he is able to "tarry with the negative," to counteract its destabilizing impact by spinning out intricate symbolic cobwebs. This is the lesson of both psychoanalysis and the Jewish-Christian tradition: the specific human vocation does not rely on the development of man's inherent potentials (on the awakening of the dormant spiritual forces OR of some genetic program); it is triggered by an external traumatic encounter, by the encounter of the Other's desire in its impenetrability. In other words (and pace Steve Pinker), there is no inborn "language instinct": there are, of course, genetic conditions that have to be met if a living being is to be able to speak; however, one actually starts to speak, one enters the symbolic universe, only in reacting to a traumatic jolt - and the mode of this reacting, i.e. the fact that, in order to cope with a trauma, we symbolize, is NOT "in our genes."
The film does explain it:
The xenomorph is a mythological demon character. Neither it nor the space jockies are real.
This actually happens in the end, when David quizzes Shaw one what she's learned.
Shaw picks up her cross, says 'I know that there is no meaning in the universe - but nonetheless, I am a human being,' and then she rockets off into the unknown.
I don't want to blow you mind or anything, but the less intentional camp is, the better it gets.
As a film about middlebrow pretentiousness, Prometheus is an unqualified success.
Because the story is literally about people, and the various institutions they represent, believing they're more important than they actually are?
Basic wikipedia definiton(s).
1) "ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical, and effeminate behaviour" (David.)
2) "banality, artifice, mediocrity, and ostentation so extreme as to have perversely sophisticated appeal" (The rest of the cast.)
3) "frivolity, naïve middle-class pretentiousness, and ‘shocking’ excess" (The film as a whole.)
The 'perverse sophistication' of the film is what I've been specifically focusing on.
The trick is not caring what's 'intentional'.
I am also not praising the film for being "bad", but for being exhilarating, hilarious, occasionally rather horrific, and genuinely affecting.
There's nothing bad about the opening sequence, for example, in spite of the fact that it makes no sense on the level of literal plot or scientific accuracy. It's a purely metaphorical scene.
The shot of the planet establishes that this is occurring on a planetary scale. Cut to: shots of mountains covered in glaciers. As the shots progress, we see the glaciers melt. the water flows down into pools, and then into torrents and finally a huge waterfall.
People wondering what the black goo is and looking for a literal explanation already have it here. The imagery is of melting and erosion. The alien looks like a marble statue. He erodes. What happens to the particles after they erode? They forms sedimentary rock formations, which may in turn crystallize into marble.
Cut to: Shaw chiseling through a rock wall.
Two things to note:
-While the human people all approach the jockey head with trepidation, David steps in and effortlessly dismantles it because he already knows exactly how it works.
-As opposed to Kane's death in Alien, Shaw is totally hopped up on morphine through the whole scene.
Both these things should point to why the film cannot be read as a failed remake of 2001 or Alien. Scenes of mystery and of horror are all deliberately undercut in some way. You can imagine how the space-jocky discovery scene in Alien would go if Ash just walked in and started pressing buttons, saying "this is the map room."
Why the difference?
The film's narrative is closely alligned with that of Freud's Moses and Monotheism, where "the "rational" father embodying the symbolic authority, the figure which personifies the unified rational structure of the universe [is] betrayed, killed by his followers/sons, and [returns] in the guise of the jealous, vengeful and unforgiving superego figure of a God full of murderous rage."1
"This God of groundless Willing and ferocious "irrational" rage is the God who, by means of his Prohibition, destroys the old sexualized Wisdom, thus opening up the space for the de-sexualized, "abstract" knowledge of modern science."
The "old sexualized Wisdom" the notion of opposing 'principles' (like male/female, light/dark, etc.) of the sort you see in the opening scene. You see the 'light' Promethean god character consuming the 'dark' 'Pandoric' liquid, the stone/erosion imagery implies a balance of opposite forces. What we see next, in the film, is Holloway and Shaw's attempt to bridge the gap between the two Gods - to explain the opening scene by way of science, and understand God in New-Age terms. (Extra-diegetically: fans seek an explanation in 'canonical' terms.) Their goal is to discover/re-assert the rational order of the universe.
It should go without saying that this is precisely what David is against, in his constant analysis and almost-literal deconstruction. David is pretty much a language computer, decoding symbols with an extreme precision. And as noted before, the film mostly aligns with his POV. He knows he's in a film. (Diegetically, he knows what's going to happen because he's hyperintelligent and has incredibly advanced senses.) Infecting Holloway has been frequently misread as 'an experiment'. Really, though - it's obvious David knows exactly what will happen. In plot terms, he almost instantly understands what the goo is and what it does, just by reading it and the context he finds it in. One character says with wonder: "what is this place?" David instantly and matter-of-factly replies: "a cargo hold," then walks away.
(People calling Vickers a useless character miss the important fact that she and David are competing against each-other for their father's approval, and to eventually surpass him. Vickers is the key to understanding a lot of David's motivation.)
Remember that David (allegedly) understands emotions but does not feel them. So too does he understand symbols but not 'believe' them. He understands what the cross means to Shaw, but it is to him only a metal object. I love the image of him collecting it in the plastic container, as if it were a urine sample or something. (Of course the line about not "minding that it hurts" directly implies that David isn't limited by his programming, and that this is a conscious choice.)
But back to the point: the Gods in the prologue cannot really be reconciled with the Gods in the rest of the film. They cannot be explained in 'scientific' terms. While the characters themselves haven't changed too much, the perspective of the film absolutely has. We move from the POV of the ancient humans, to the POV of the new-agey (pseudo?)scientists Shaw and Holloway. (Note: the mythic, blatantly metaphorical scene segues into CGI-simulated macrophotography of cells dividing. It then cuts to inside the cave as Shaw digs through the wall and uncovers us). It's only once we reach space that we settle on David's POV for the bulk of the remainder of the film.
The lack of sensation is obviously important to the abortion scene and the accompanying imagery of Shaw dosing herself with (local?) anesthetic. Again, unlike Kane's death in Alien, this action is deliberate and 'painless'. I couldn't help but be reminded of work by performance artist Orlan, who has surgical procedures performed on herself while she is anesthetized but still conscious.
"After she was operated for an extra-uterine pregnancy under a local anesthetic when she could play both the role of an observer and patient Orlan decided to turning of surgery into performance art. [...] She prefers local anesthesia for the operations to conduct the other participants of her works. In “the theater of operation” not only the people on the stage also the audience play their roles as interactive participants. Even they have the real pain. The audience experience a big furor generally while watching the spectacle where the surgeon inserts needles into her face and skin, slices open her lips and severs her ear from the rest of her face. They are irritated and uneasy as Orlan saves her silence.
In the Carnal Art Manifesto, in an ironic expression, Orlan states that Carnal Art is a self-portrait in the classical sense, yet realized through the technology of its time. It is an inscription in flesh lying between figuration and disfiguration that our age makes possible now. According to Orlan the body should become a “modified ready-made”. Here the pain is not a means of redemption or purification unlike “Body Art”. There is not a wish to achieve a final “plastic” result, but rather Carnal Art seeks to modify the body and engage in public debate. It has a contradiction against the Christian tradition and its body-politics. Orlan transforms the body into language and with her own words she is reversing the Christian principle of “the word made flesh”, the flesh is made word. Only her voice remains unchanged. She judges the famous “you give birth in pain” as an anachronistic nonsense. In Carnal Art, thanks to local anesthetics and multiple analgesics pain is defeated. Her slogan is “long live morphine!”"2
It would be a mistake to say that the surgery robot is set to 'male' only to foreshadow Weyland's arrival. It's a very nuanced scene, but the gist is that Shaw forces the machine to recognize that she is a woman. It's like a female-to-female sex change operation, to use an analogy from the above article. By entering the pod, Shaw becomes a man with a foreign object. Upon exiting, she is a woman again - but it's obvious she's changed. She's in control of her own body.
The connotations of 'the word made flesh' should help to explain the black goo and its relation to Holloway. Holloway wanted to talk with God. So, David modifies Holloway's genetic code - the information that the Gods 'spoke' to create him.
The black goo is information. David touches the symbols of the wall and a similar goo oozes off them. It's full of glowing pixels. Holloway's flesh is inscribed with these words. In a metaphorical way, Holloway dies and 'becomes' Fifield, who reenters the film at the exact point where Holloway died.
Now, what's notable about Fifield? His tattoos.
In metaphorical terms, Holloway dies and is reborn covered in symbols. This imagery is taken from Sunshine's misunderstood third act, where . Scott definitely nods to Sunshine with the casting of Benedict Wong. And then: remember the above point about how the gods have been changed, reborn as their vengeful, furious counterparts?
People looking for what the black goo means are ignoring the medium for the message. The alien gods move from communicating via pictographic symbols to communicating via direct inscription into the human body. What is being inscribed at the genetic level is irrelevant. What matters is that it is.
1 Slavoj Zizek, "The Big Other Doesn't Exist" (link).
2 Dr. Kubilay Akman, "Surets of Orlan" (link <- possibly NWS/NMS for artistic photographs of surgical procedures).
Don't get me wrong: Vickers and David hate their dad. They totally resent being beholden to him.
But nonetheless, they are beholden to him. You can't get more overt about it than when Vickers kneels, performing for his approval - and then 'breaks character' and storms from the room when she does not receive it.
When the biologist dies of a snake attack, it's just like when Zhora ends up working as a stripper even though Pris is the 'standard pleasure model in Blade Runner.
What a silly mistake to make twice!
There's nothing 'random' about the god's violence in the final scene. He's not 'just' a monster, because what does that even mean? That he's an animal now? Obviously not.
It's really the same as the 'zombie' scene where many people are like "WTF it's so RANDOM," when it really isn't at all.
Instead of "what do I think this means?" people say "why doesn't anyone explain what this is supposed to mean?" - and then shut down when no explanation arrives. It always baffles me. Think for yourself.
David is beheaded. It's castration imagery - as it was in Alien.
Yeah, it's a very common symbolic substitution. It's cemented by Lacan, who built on Freud's penis-exclusive approach to talk about more generalized dismemberment, beheading, etc. - imagery of the body in pieces.
To Weyland, David is obedient and obviously helpful in many ways. But at the same time, Weyland obviously has no real concern for David as a person. So why make him human-like? Again, the film tackles that question head-on, with David saying that his appearance is completely arbitrary. He could look like anything, but he is made to look human - down to the useless clothing he wears - because it makes people feel comfortable around him.
So we have two levels here: We know very clearly why David was built. But once you get into specifics - why blue eyes? - things get murky.
And it's important to keep in mind that what characters say is not objectively true. David feels that his creation was random. That is the actual important part.
Beyond the pure expository dialogue, there are contextual cues through the film. The imagery of statues (specifically of a classical variety) point to David being an artistic achievement. Think Pygmalion. Imagery of genetic/computer code being decoded point in the opposite direction, towards him being a form of scientific progress - a clone, just steps behind the replicants in Blade Runner that are indistinguishable from humans in nearly every way. David is a product of pure technological 'progress'.
But back to David's remarks about his appearance:
"The illusion is irresistible. Behind every face there is a self. We see the signal of consciousness in a gleaming eye and imagine some ethereal space beneath the vault of the skull, lit by shifting patterns of feeling and thought, charged with intention. An essence.
But what do we find in that space behind the face, when we look? The brute fact is there is nothing but material substance: flesh and blood and bone and brain. . . . You look down into an open head, watching the brain pulsate, watching the surgeon tug and probe, and you understand with absolute conviction that there is nothing more to it. There’s no one there."
-Thomas Metzinger, "Being No One."
The point about lacking essence is important because David is voicing an existentialist worldview. So there's the answer. The question of why Weyland created David is a red herring, because David creates himself. His existence precedes his essence. This is in keeping with the film's general apatheism.
This is not much different from the people looking at the 'zombie' scene, ignoring the context of it, then asking why there's a pointless zombie scene.
Weyland already has like infinite wealth, so we can rule out most of the motivations you listed. He says flat-out that he wants a son. Why does he want a son? Not to inherit his empire, obviously - Weyland's plan is to become immortal. He built David so he'd have a servant. (Hence the shot of David washing his feet.) The hubristic desire to have godlike control over one's subjects/children is implicit.
The movie is of course not about Weyland or the hows and whys of David's creation. Not really at all - almost no screen-time is devoted to those things. Weyland is a minor character, David's creation is offscreen. The actual subject matter of the film is how David reacts to the fact that he was created for (to him) frivolous reasons.
When David is glibly dismissive of Weyland, that does not mean Weyland has no motivation whatsoever. It means Weyland has no motivation that David cares about. That's a very important nuance. You are looking for 'objective' worldbuilding stuff when the movie is very closely aligned with David's subjectivity.
Same with the people overly frustrated by the two guys getting knocked out. The focus of the scene is on Shaw, and told from her POV. The two guys who got knocked out are not onscreen because Shaw doesn't care what happened to them, so long as they are gone.
This isn't the case at all, and this compulsion to quickly delimit the film's meaning (usually along lines of 'intent') is difficult to read as anything but a product of incuriousity.
No shit the film is (relatively) abstract (for a blockbuster sci-fi film). That abstraction equals meaninglessness, to some, is a big issue - and not with the film's content.
Charlie, Fifield, Shaw's dad and the mask-wearing Engineers are all visually linked with each-other. The severed head is dropped at the front door of the ship, in roughly the exact spot that Charlie is torched and Fifield resurrected. Charlie has a cross tattooed on his arm and shares similarities to Shaw's father (his approach to faith and his death by disease).
This is how the film operates. There is a very clear logic to it. Fifield returns as mutant, not (just) a zombie - and his increased size and super-strength foreshadow how the Engineer attacks later. These characters are not literally the same. The similarity is psychological. They are Shaw's various father-figures (plus one guy she doesn't really know, but who is nonetheless presented as the more butch half of a coded homosexual relationship (no offense to Rapace, but she has a rather boyish physique - her androgyny comes into play during the scene where the machine views her as a man)).
This isn't arbitrary meaning 'read into' the film. They chose to have Fifield mutate into an invincible giant, just as they chose to have Charlie stand inside the image of a Engineer before impregnating Shaw. They chose to make all the Engineers masculine. Etc.
To overlook this stuff is to misread the film. It's a misreading so severe that your only justification is to declare the film meaningless, in part or in full. That is, to stop reading - to not read the film at all.
He's not mad at the robot.
He's using violence as a way of putting an arbitrary limit on human knowledge. Again, he is the 'castrating' God. He is not murdering everyone because of some specific event in the scene that triggers him, but because it's what he does. His goal is to deny access to the answers.
He is the Big Other - a hypothetical all-knowing judgmental figure. Shaw must traverse the fantasy and refute his omniscience.
Picture a carrot on a stick, perpetually out of grasp. Instead of believing that the impossible answers (concerning identity, destiny, God, etc.) can be reached (desire), Shaw overcomes this fantasy and falls into destitution. BUT she then resolves to continue reaching for the answers, knowing that they will never be reached (drive).
"In biogenetics [...] there is now the capability of determining the human genome and our basic DNA coordinates. Yet it is precisely at this point of total disclosure that the mystery deepens and we are drawn more and more into confrontation with the very incapacity to represent or resolve the gap between subjectivation and that which constantly overflows it: death drive and its characteristic forms of animus, impulsion, desire and so on. Far from capturing the essence of the human being, a paradoxical result of biogenetics is that it brings us into increasing proximity with the very "inhuman" excesses that are constitutive of humanity as such - the Lacanian "in us more than us" - and which testify to the ineradicable nature of the subject." (link)
Quick: name one instance of something being 'in Shaw more than than her'.
Now, what does this thing do to the God character?
[At this point forum goers ask what the point of the black good in the film was a lot].
What is the meaning of life?
Movie: "There is no answer to that."
Answer my question!
Movie: "That is the answer. I guess you could say that the meaning of life rests in leaving that question unresolved."
Listen movie, you are broken if you can't answer my question!!!
Movie: "Seriously? I just did."
Black goo LOST randomness zombie scene characters just wanted money stupid sequel bait meaningless idiots helmet removed abstract arbitrary realism Lindelof....
Movie: *backs away slowly, out of the room*
That might be (very obviously) what the black goo is, but consider this: what is that black goo???
Again, you are getting confused because you are mistaking the characters' subjective experiences for 'objective' worldbuilding. The Engineers know why they made life, but the film is not told from the perspective of the Engineers.
In Christopher Nolan's film The Dark Knight (2008), how did The Joker get those scars?
There's an obvious flub in the movie where they give two different reasons. I can't believe they didn't catch that mistake!
SMG links to The Onion
It really isn't. David is the film's audience-identification character. And the idiocy of the human characters, while present, is really way too overstated by the film's detractors.
Like yeah dude took off his helmet. Don't poop yourselves, folks.
The midichlorian comparison is important, because people missed the point back then too: Qui Gon is bullshitting. The point is he's a bad jedi, and that's why they are all killed like punks.
"Turning around to actually praise The Phantom Menace, one of the few common complaints that I would actually defend is the testing of Anakin's blood for midichlorians, microscopic organisms that have symbiotic relationships with their hosts and are responsible for the Force. This explains everything but it explains nothing. We can see parallels with the Creationist science movement; it's an attempt to place spirituality in the realms of the scientific. The midichlorian testing is completely and utterly junk science, and how great is that!"
-Alex Jackson, "The Phantom Menace" (link)
The same 'explains everything yet nothing' outcome arrives in Prometheus when Shaw tests the DNA. "This is it! This is everything!"
Note how the film doesn't end there.
Wait hold up - according to this, the black goo is a corrupting/infecting force that mutates people's DNA?
Why wasn't that clearly shown in the film in multiple scenes?
Your fault is in remaining doggedly focused on how the film was ostensibly sold to you, and fetishizing an authoral intent that is supposedly present in those advertisements, instead of just reading the actual film.
Notice how all these criticisms invent an elaborate fantasy of how the guy from LOST sabotaged the film because he loves money and Ridley Scott just wanted pretty pictures that don't mean anything, etc. Again, people are doing through all this effort instead of just reading the film. Like, watching these moving images and how they are cut together - this is beyond the scope of your criticism.
There aren't even any plot holes in the film. Like literally, none. The dudes getting knocked out is arguable, but it's hardly a major thing. The things that people are complaining about are not plot holes. They are things that are not related to the film's plot or its story, or they are things that are implicit to the story.
There isn't even anything really mysterious in the film. the film is about defusing the mystery - David, the audience identification character, instantly decodes all the mysteries. Again, scenes of mysterious foreboding are almost invariably undercut with David stepping in and demonstrating that, yep, it's a just a helmet, it's just a cargo hold, it's just a mutagen.
When people get caught up in the mystery, they overlook/ignore the film's Hegelian point that...
The mysteries of the Egyptians are mysteries to the Egyptians themselves
"The title for this short reflection comes from a comment Hegel once made. A comment that offers a precise formulation of the double enigma of the human subject.
In order to unpack it let us take the example of being in a marriage. Imagine that distrust and distance has slowly entered the relationship, causing a fissure. From ones embedded position within the marriage the actions of the other may strike one as an enigma. In response we may begin to question them about why they are acting in the way that they are. All too often we can become obsessed with questioning our partner about why they said a certain thing, or why they said it in a particular way. Or we may seek to interrogate them about why they wrote a particular email or why they are flirting with a specific person etc.
The underlying presupposition here is that the mystery of the other is not a mystery to the other (i.e. they understand their action, but we do not). As a result of this presupposition, questioning our partner can lead to anger and depression as our attempts to understand seem constantly frustrated.
Yet we must remember that the enigma of the other is also an enigma to the other. If our husband or wife, in the above example, knows why they act in a certain way, it is only because they have had to do the difficult work of reflecting upon their own actions and working out what they mean. Like a detective at the scene of a crime we arrive too late, not only to the others actions, but also to our own. And it is from this post-event location that we must piece together what took place and why.
In short, if we find ourselves getting frustrated by the enigmatic actions of those we love we must remind ourselves that our own actions are just as mysterious and require just as much hard work to decipher.
Indeed our conscious descriptions of why we act in a certain way can be deeply deceptive and the very thing we must ignore in order to penetrate to the reality of why we act in the way that we do. Our conscious rationalisations can be nothing more than the false alibi that we must expose in order to discover the truth."
-Peter Rollins (link)
Prometheus isn't the same kind of horror movie as Alien. The tone is totally different.
Again, the criticism is that 'it's not Alien' when obviously Prometheus is not Alien. This isn't an interesting observation. Prometheus is not many films.
Instead of complaining that the characters should or must be awed by the mysterious symbols around themselves, it's better to simply read the film and come to a proper conclusion about what their nonchalance means.
Note: "because LOST guy is a big jerk" is not a proper conclusion.
Again, you are failing to read the film, and you are not the only one to do so. A movie doesn't have an objective meaning that it 'transmits' into your head. A movie doesn't 'try' to convey things.
Instead of reading the film, people are purposefully ignoring textual and contextual elements in favor of some predetermined narrative of what the film was 'sold as', what it 'should' be, what it's 'intended' to be, etc.
It's possible to have legitimate grievances with the film. I am saying that yours are illegitimate. You are not reading the film but coming up with justifications for your not reading it, after the fact.
This is clear from your assertion that the movie's quality exists independent of its meaning. You are seem to be under the impression that the film's quality exists independent of its imagery (and sounds), when a film is nothing but imagery (and sounds). Your argument reduces to "why bother to read the film when I already know that it's bad?"
Prometheus is a pulpy adventure movie with horror elements. I'm not saying that's what it's intended to be. I'm saying that's what it is. Like that's how it's scored, shot, edited, etc. Saying it's not a low-key slasher film is both accurate and pointless. Saying it's 'supposed to be' a low-key slasher film is flat-out wrong.
That this and this alone is what haters demand speaks volumes. Continuity.
Obviously you missed the post-credits scene where agent Nick Fury recruits Shaw into the avengers initiative.
You represent everything that is wrong. Fuck you!
That's not how reading works, and that's not how I went about reading this film.
For example, in a sentence like this one, you can check the placement of the commas and the definition of the words to eventually understand that I'm calling you wrong. Maybe I didn't intend this, and used the wrong words. It doesn't matter. This sentence says you are wrong.
That's not 'reading into' the sentence. That's 'reading'.
Now, you can interpret what I wrote there in numerous ways - there is no unique, set meaning. Maybe you're even right! But those interpretations are not valid unless they take the grammar, definitions of words and so-forth into account. So no, you are probably still wrong.
Yet while you presumably understand what I wrote as text there, you are ignoring the film's grammar - dismissing actual reading as 'reading into', while proposing some sort of bizarre non-reading process where the (film's equivalent of) sentence structure, words and punctuation are largely unimportant. That's why you're wrong, and not right.
No, I was not quoting you out of context. (Technically, I was paraphrasing.)
I'm referring to your reduction of films to what they allegedly 'try to be'. As if Dan O'Bannon (RIP) wrote the film saying 'well, we don't want this to be too smart' and so drank paint thinner until the script became Objectively Stupid. Obviously you don't mean that, but that's pretty much what you're writing.
This stuff about the films' depths, intents, intelligences (and so-on) does not withstand the slightest scrutiny.
Like "Alien is a smart but it's not deep." What the fuck does that even mean? Alien's not an existentialist film now, because of its genre?
It's a load of baseless, bullshit declarations that are stifling the discussion.
You have yet to demonstrate having read the film even on the 'purely grammatical' level. You're just writing 'it's bad' over and over. "The characters are bad and not good!" Right.
You are doing this instead of identifying the film as something (i.e. campy pulp adventure) and then explaining what elements do and do not work in that context.
Blanket declarations - for example, that naturalism is objectively better - are lame and pointless. You're not even making an argument - just taking it for granted that alternatives to naturalism are 'bad'.
Why are you having trouble with a simple recontextualizing of a symbol? Yes, something in one scene means something slightly different in another scene - just as how Shaw's cross goes from representing some cheap new-age spirituality to a more authentic christian existentialism at the end.
The black goo is consistently presented as a destructive force. After the opening scene, this destruction simply goes from having positive connotations (killing the immortal god to spark the cycle of human life) to negative ones (going too far, killing all the humans). It's unfortunate that you were confused, but there's nothing 'beyond language' about it.
Your opposition of symbols and language is very telling. The aliens are symbolic. They are language - and it's not an esoteric langauge. Prometheus uses the language of genre films.
You're going to feel real bad when you realize that Alien was also about existentialism and/or Lovecraftian cosmicism.
You don't need to agree with me, or with anyone, but you do need to conduct enough of a reading to form an opinion of what the film 'means' before you attempt to discuss it.
The part I quoted above shows where you keep getting hung up. Ridley Scott did not tell me the film is campy.
I determined that the film was campy when I saw the extremely naive retro aesthetic, the obvious theatricality of the acting, the overall dryly comedic tone of the film, and so-forth. Those elements are what I read that allowed me to narrow down a genre to provide context for my writing.
It does not work the other way around.
You do not decide a film is a Pixar comedy and then complain that Cujo is mauling everyone, and not animated. "But it doesn't take itself as a horror-thriller about a rabid dog at all!" Says you. But you've provided no textual basis for your argument whatsoever. Your point actually depends solely on dismissing large swaths of the text as error. "Pixar accidentally made the film back in 1983, before Pixar existed!"
Because this is getting repetitive, in your next post try not to use the phrases like 'tries to be', 'takes itself to be', 'was sold as', and other such stuff. I think you can do it.
David goes around like Vincent Price, wryily saying "oh no, you mustn't see this ultrasound. It's too shocking," before slowly and patronizingly turning the monitor away. That's not naturalistic acting. That's camp as fuck.
But again, you are just writing "it's bad" over and over. You are not narrowing down what 'it' is, or why 'it' is 'bad'. So, no information is conveyed to a person who is reading your writing.
The biologist 'dies' trying to caress the snake because it's a homoerotic fantasy sequence.
Homoerotic fantasies exist in reality. Ergo, the scene is realistic.
Also, there was a supplementary logic:
It was a homoerotic fantasy sequence. It followed the logic of homoerotic fantasy sequences - which, as has been determined, are 100% real.
In Lacanian terms, the monsters represent the Real. So: yes!
"Beyond representation as it is in its monstrosity, lamella nonetheless remains within the domain of the Imaginary, although as a kind of limit-image: the image to cancel all images, the image that endeavors to stretch the imagination to the very border of the irrepresentable. (In horror sci-fi, this line was brought to extreme with John Carpenter's The Thing, the 1982 remake of the old classic, which fully deployed the infinite plasticity and morphing capacity of the alien Thing.) As such, lamella stands for the Real in its most terrifying dimension, as the primordial abyss which swallows everything, dissolving all identities - a figure well known in literature in its multiple guises" (link)
(That's what the black goo is, by the way.)
You are conflating a description of the literal plot with a style of acting. Those are not the same thing.
David (the character) is an amoral robot asshole. Michael Fassbender (the actor) is depicting David via an affected, theatrical performance.
Alright I'm back from my nap and I think I had an epiphany: what's up with that black goo?
Maybe someone in the thread has an insi-
Yeah I heard that one already. "It has to work as a film before I'll bother reading it."
'As a film' meaning the plot synopsis, and nothing filmic.
People are actually reading Exploded's accurate description of what literally happens in the plot, and saying "hmmm... that's a good theory... you may be right about that."
Like I'mma make a post now. Prometheus is about characters on a space ship, and they travel into space. That's my theory. I'm not sure about it, but I picked up some clues when watching the film. For example, there are frequently shots of a space-ship. And then it cuts to people in metal rooms.
Now, hear me out here, but what if those metal rooms are inside the space ship?
The characters act like characters in a movie because the entire film is about mimesis and authenticity.
Whyyyy is this so difficult to accept?
For this rad post, you may honorarily prefix your screen-name with 'Super-'. I endorse it!
I'm kinda surprised that more people didn't pick up on the joke:
The opening scene shows an immortal god bringing life to a world. He ingests a substance, and dissolves into black goo.
The engineer's head has rested perfectly preserved for 2000 years. The scientists insert a probe to 'give it life', and it explodes into black goo.
Weyland has spent two years perfectly preserved in hypersleep. He emerges, and asks for more life...
This is what's so weird about the 'intent' thing. Like you're watching the film and seeing Guy Pearce in a gollum suit, and it's like "yep, that's Max Van Sydow alright. Dude from The Exorcist." Intento-vision - like broken They Live sunglasses.
Equally weird is how in a hundred pages of dissing the characters, none of the criticism has referred to character arcs, motivations and whatnot. It's exclusively 'the characters are bad because they're not real scientists'. It's the zombie logic that frustrated haters of The Hurt Locker.
"They're not using actual military tactics! They're acting like action movie characters!" ...in a movie entirely devoted to subverting action movie storytelling.
It's obvious how silly this is when you apply it to a children's film like Cinderella and it's like "That's not how the monarchy works! I'm calling bullshit on this whole shoe and love thing."
But make a film with scientists and/or the military fighting zombies and boy howdy are we in for a pickle. Are children simply better at reading? What's going on here?
Here's my numbered list of aristocat plotholes
1) You cannot be a cat and an aristocrat at the same time. It's oxymoronic.
2) No one seems amazed that these cats have their own societal structure and play jazz music. That's bad characters.
3) What is the black goo?
This is weird. The geologist aspect of his character is entirely conveyed through like two lines of expository dialogue. We're shown zero geology taking place. On the other hand, we're shown a ton of things about the character that have nothing to do with his job description.
-He's used technology to augment himself into a 'pack leader' for a bunch of obedient robot drones.
-He also modifies himself with tattoos, extreme haircuts, drugs.
-He's standoffish, rude and a loner but obviously actually cowardly.
-He claims to be only doing things for the money - but is that really the case? (Why would simply wanting money necessitate the harsh response? Why can't he get rich and make friends?)
-He's implied to be a closeted gay dude.
This all comes into play when he is killed in a coded homoerotic fantasy-horror sequence, and then re-appears as a zombie. The body he had been modifying becomes totally saturated with the black goo. His rude behavior is obviously a defense mechanism against the fear that the drones are controlling him. "I'm just a guy scanning rocks to make money," he tells himself. "And that's all I want to be." Obviously he's in denial.
Look again at the crab-walk image. He's not just bent over. He looks practically merged with the ground, like the moon had absorbed him and is pushing him out, limbs first. That's where the rock imagery factors in. That's why he's a geologist.
The dysfunction of the zombie-tactical-realism approach is that it focuses on the single line of expository plot-dialogue ("I'm a geologist") and ignores literally everything else. Worse: actively dismisses everything else as error - especially the filmic qualities of the film.
Prometheus is fundamentally a hybrid of Galaxy Of Terror (1981) and Creation Of The Humanoids (1962). It's loaded with references and similarities to other films, but those are the two biggest ones.
Neither of those films is an alien culture exploration simulator. Neither feature naturalistic acting. Both are overtly metaphorical/allegorical.
I don't think people understand conventions at all. They aren't even using that as a justification. Like "according to the genre conventions set up in Blade Runner (?), all scientists must do Hard Science - and not sit at the top of pyramid playing chess in a gold room, serving as a metaphor for God."
You're right, but the crucial difference is that he originally modified himself, while - in a twist - the technology begins modifying him against his will. So yeah, he doesn't want to be a spaceman.
The helmet melts onto his face, The goo turns him into a mutant. The metaphorical imagery is of the moon itself transforming him.
This is why we don't see any actual geology take place. He goes there with the conscious intention of being a geologist-for-hire, but that goal is quickly thwarted by all these unconscious things. The 'irrational' imagery overtakes the 'rational' expository dialogue.
No offense but I think you actually do not know the difference between 'characterization' and 'job description.'
Look at how quickly you shift from Fifield's job description, to the personalities of the Alien characters, to talking about Fifield's job description again.
Fifield obviously has a personality. He dresses like a space biker and makes wolf noises like a weirdo. He is obviously not interchangeable with, say, Vickers.
So no, there really is little or no textual basis for your hyperbolic argument. My reading doesn't even ignore that he's a geologist, so your crude mimickry isn't even accurate there.
"Ignores actual exposition?" Nope!
I hadn't thought about it that way, but when you put it like that it's perfect.
This is another example, of many examples, of people overlooking context cues and nuances.
Weyland claims to be already dead in a prerecorded message similar to a video last will and testament. When he turns out to be alive, he says "well, I still have a few days of life in me," (or whatever).
The point is fairly obvious: he recorded the message when his death seemed imminent. He refered to himself as already dead, because there was a high chance that he would be dead.
Look at the background of the message. He's on mars or something. He's walking without the metal exoskeleton. This is obviously long before the mission left - possibly years.
He doesn't go through a elaborate procedure of faking his death, evading police (???) and hurting his wife's feelings (as if this guy has a wife). He simply shows people a video he recorded years ago, back when he assumed he'd be dead. It's not a massive devious conspiracy, and that's why the film doesn't treat it as such. He simply didn't bother updating the video.
That's plot terms. In story terms, the imagery of him being a digital ghost who haunts everyone is what matters, contributing to the imagery of him seeming immortal in a perversion of nature.
Oh they watched it alright. It's just in the sense that a security camera watches a robbery. Information is accumulated - enough to form a rudimentary plot synopsis, even - but there's little reading or interpretation taking place.
It's in line with the folks who dismiss the film's visuals as - at best - a pleasant distraction from the plot.
This is, of course, the same as the 'intent' argument that invariably crops up. It's the assertion that anything not the literal plot of the film could only have been intended to be 'cool', and 'coolness' is only intended to make money. (And making money is meaningless, etc.)
You can see the unstated logic there, with a simple reversal. To these folks, the literal plot is 'real', 'logical', 'uncommercial'... altogether unbiased, neutral and the sole source of 'valid' meaning in the film. Discussing the plot is consequently 'safe', and borderline objective. (How many times have we seen the complaints of 'reading into' the film? Plus the frequent accusations that I and others believe our interpretations to be accurate (???).)
This is a sort of ridiculous cynicism that, in claiming to be beyond ideology, demonstrates only a purer ideological obfuscation.
The old man makeup complaint in this last page is a good example. The hyperreal makeup effects allegedly don't mean anything, even though I just used an accurate philosophical/artistic term to describe them.
The intent-cynic's reply can only be that the effects weren't intended to be hyperreal. Beyond the irrelevance of intent, this is a transparent falsehood. The effects were painstakingly crafted by artisans and included in the film. Are we to believe that the dude painting the individual veins and liver spots in the mask didn't know he was making a hyperrealistic replica of an old man's face?
This is where the intent argument breaks down. Not just with 'the death of the author' but also with basic, obvious points like that. The 'neutral' argument from intent is of course loaded with omissions, falsehoods and shoddy logic. It's simply a device for concealing interpretive failure.
By ignoring the movie's content in favor of some promotional interview thing, people are literally reading the film wrong in the basic sense of 'not at all.'
The film obviously has hard sci-fi elements mixed in with the pulp. The suits are based on real-world cutting-edge suit designs and serve as direct references to Planet Of The Vampires.
The film is very similar to Avatar, which tells a stock 'John Carter of Mars' story with a bunch of ridiculous implausible shit going on. But they make an effort to justify the implausible shit with a thick coating of scientific and pseudo-scientific explanations.
Jurassic Park, an obvious influence on both films, is similar. Michael Crichton's whole thing is to take something pulpy, like an island of surviving dinosaurs, and give it a hard-sci-fi veneer. See also: Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds - which, as he points out, could have actually happened if these characters existed. It straddles the line between historical accuracy and inaccuracy that we call 'alternate history'.
There's also the question of what kind of 'scary' we're talking about. The film obviously deals with scary questions like 'what if life has no meaning' and such. Maybe humanity is just an insect to be crushed, like Vickers, by a senseless mechanistic universe.
A key line in the film is when they stumble upon the pile of alien corpses and say "this looks like some kind of holocaust painting.' The nuance is crucial - this pile of diegetically real corpses doesn't resemble the holocaust. It looks to the characters like an image of the holocaust, in the same sense that 9/11 "looked like an action movie."
That's the importance of the hyperreal aesthetic, and of characters ignoring obvious symbolic prohibitions. They don't see what the pyramid means because it doesn't 'mean' anything to them. They see it as a glowing neon hologram - points of data on a chart. That's the kind of 'scary' the film traffics in.
Alien is hard sci-fi because it has a muted colour palette and amiable characters.
That's disingenuous. People aren't simply writing 'it's pulp' and leaving it at that - and most of them are responding to transparently incorrect claims that Prometheus is not pulpy.
You're right though: Lovecraft didn't write pulp sci-fi.
That's actually not the cover of a book.
Rather, it's the cover of a literal pulp magazine called ASTOUNDING STORIES, for which Lovecraft wrote lurid tales of the macabre. That's not too unusual because his entire career was as a writer of pulp fiction.
Oh shit, I'm posting in a thread? All this time I thought I was eating a delicious sandwich. Luckily, because I intended to eat a sandwich, I am no longer hungry.
But oh shit! The hunger was metaphorical! Unless I eat literal food, I suppose I'll eventually die.
And oh shit! Metaphors don't actually mean anything, because I'm only 'reading meaning into' a post I probably wrote to sound cool. Hunger is abolished!
But then again, I didn't intend to write a post...
In conclusion, I am immortal. I have literally transcended the physical plane and become a god.
Now that I have become a literal god, I can tell you from firsthand experience that gods are always 100% rational logicians. You may rest assured that you simply cannot fathom his divine plan.
Again though, this is a result of you reading wrong. Reading refers to a process, not to its conclusion.
Instead of accepting that you dislike the film's meaning - that the film has a meaning (or meanings) that you don't like - you are inventing a fantasy of the film's inherent meaninglessness.
Drawing conclusions from textual evidence is not projecting. It's reading. Even your conclusion that the film is meaningless is technically a product of a reading. It's just a weird and untenable mis-reading.
This doesn't have anything to do with 'death of the author', really. You know what people did before Barthes? They read texts - looked at the textual evidence and drew conclusions from it.
They simply placed more emphasis on biographical information as a contextualizing factor and wrote in terms of 'what the work says about the author' - frequently misreading things in the process, as people are wont to do.
They didn't say 'oh this book just feels meaningless,' and toss it away.
This is some bullshit high art/low art false dichotomy right here.
Lovecraft is a celebrated writer of pulp fiction. He wrote - brace yourself - good pulp.
No, it really doesn't. There's no part of Barthe's 'Death of the Author' where he's like "hey dudes you should totally apply your intelligence to things that don't earn it." He didn't bother to write that because that's a nonsense opinion not held by any of his peers.
Pulp is a genre descriptor. It's not a determinant of quality.
I obviously found a good deal of nuance in the characters, conveyed with minimal exposition (see: Fifield). Nothing I've written should give you the impression that I believe 'Prometheus is nonsensical on purpose'.
Trust me, I'm not dismissing you as an "art snob". I'm dismissing you as a dude who uses words incorrectly, writes things that are demonstrably false, and doesn't seem to have been paying attention.
Alien is borderline identical to Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World in terms of story structure, themes and such.
Who Goes There?, which The Thing adapts, is a pulp novella originally published in ASTOUNDING STORIES (aka ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION).
The scene where Weyland confronts the engineer is taken straight from the end of The Thing From Another World, when Dr. Carrington attempts to befriend the monster.
The Andromeda Strain was written with a fake bibliography with references to fake scientific articles. Crichton frequently makes use of false documents. Even in the case of the real references, it's primarily a stylistic choice.
If sci-fi were hard enough to be 'real', it would just be called science.
I figured the Prometheus had four 'limbs,' and a prominent cockpit, to give it a anthropocentric appearance. It ties in with how that alien ship is based on an extremely distorted human form - sort-of like a Henry Moore sculpture.
This is a big recurring problem, it seems. The scenes ostensibly don't have relevance unless they're discussed by the characters or become major plot points.
(i.e. instead of returning from the dead and being re-killed, Fifield would return from the dead and give a speech about how he's the new ultimate life-form and the crew would band together to stop him or something - satisfying the complaint that the film has no antagonists(?).)
But nope, actually. the events have relevance to each-other. I've already pointed out how mutant werewolf zombie Fifield serves, metaphorically, as Charlie's ghost. In the way the film is shot and edited, Charlie and the zombie are interchangeble - the same character.
Now, why would Charlie's ghost emerge right after the scene where Shaw aborts his mutant baby?
CAUTION: this is not saying that the black goo deliberately created the zombie in order to literally defend its squid-children. That's plot-thinking. Stop thinking in terms of the plot. The zombie is a metaphor for Shaw's ambivalence over having aborted the (mutant) baby of her (dead) boyfriend.
The scene references David Cronenberg's The Fly, where the mutating/decaying Brundle pleads for his baby to be born because it's all that's left of him. Things aren't cut together accidentally. Film editors cut things together in order to link or contrast them. it doesn't even need to be intentional. That's what editing is.
People have a tendency to confuse analysis with praise.
When I say that approaching the snake is movie-character behavior that relates to the broader themes of artificial humanity and empathy, folks respond with:
"There's no way the movie is trying to be that good/smart/creative/deep!"
Yet, what I wrote is not a value judgement and never was. It's an accurate observation based on textual evidence. You can object the 'meta' quality of the scene, but saying that it was all probably an unintentional error (and therefore meaningless) is asinine.
It's not about 'answers'. It's how you go about it.
I don't care if people agree with me, and actually would prefer if they didn't. That would be more interesting. But I do not condone bad reading.
No. You read the scene first, then determine its value based on what it means.
In the context of the entire film, Milburn's motivations are obviously psychological. He's trying to take control of the situation and act tough. He's also obviously fascinated by the creature and is trying to get in for a closer look - while also clearly maintaining some distance. But he is entranced by the thing, and moves too close.
It's not an error that he moves closer to the creature - and the fact that he moves too close is what generates the tension (i.e. "no don't go in the basement!!!").
The point of the scene, as with Fifield, is that his 'irrational' psychological motivations overwhelm his 'rational' professional training. The point is not that he's utterly shit at his job, but that he's human and cannot be reduced to just a job description
It's instructive to compare that concept art to the final product, because check the difference in tone. The themes are the same: a creature is indifferently and even accidentally created and immediately abandoned by its creator - but in the final film, the alien is this squirming bastard fishman with a dunce cap and an overbite. Instead of looking up at the sun to see what may be its creator flying away (a bit on the nose, no?) - it screeches, eyeless, in a puddle of slime.
Forget the interviews; the point clearly isn't to be scary - or not that kind of scary. The alien is pathetically excremental - almost comedically so. It's a direct rejoinder to Shaw's optimism at the end.
I think it's an important nuance that the head doesn't explode because of the electric probe. It explodes because it becomes alive, after centuries of resting (un)dead and undisturbed.
Paolomania got it right earlier, when he pointed out that the black goo is only evil from the perspective of the 'rational' people. It is a creative, life-giving force.
The probe 'gives life' - activating the goo - and the goo is what causes the head to explode like an overripe melon. The head becomes too alive - horrifically alive. It's obviously in pain. It starts to bubble with rot.
The engineers, as befitting dudes modeled after greek statues, are 'immortal'. Although it's implied that they are literally mortal (notable detail: they have navels), the engineer they try to talk with has remained in stasis for 2000 years. The head has sat there, perfectly preserved in the helmet, for the same length of time. Like Weyland, the engineers have mastered 'unnnaturally' extending their lifespan. This is why the engineers we see later are all biomechanical and covered in life-support hoses.
So we're working with two opposite definitions of life: 'life' as in remaining unchanged and not-dead, and 'life' meaning a cycle of violent death and (re)birth. In other words, the life of the individual versus life in the abstract.
More to the point: it is the Freudian 'life drive' (pleasurable homeostatic stability) versus the 'death drive' (shocking excess of pleasure-pain (jouissance)).
Although, it's again funny that his head continues to move around without its body. This is funnier than even the basic slapstick of the dignified Weyland getting his comeuppance. The joke is of course that David remains dignified even after he's been decapitated.
Decapitation doesn't reveal that he is godlike. It reveals that he is 'human, all too human'. He's a bundle of wires and goo that, ridiculously and idiosyncratically, maintains its British composure.
How deep is the movie?
I suppose it's an 'average' depth - so, around 4 metres?
3-5 metre ballpark?
And how's it taste? I say 'almonds.'
This is no joke. We've had dozens of people in writing thousands of words in the thread (and spending countless manhours in the process), all trying to determine the physical dimensions of the meaning of the film.
Is it deep? No! Not that deep! You are reading too deeply into it! You are going to exceed its intended meaning-capacity!
This is way more important than determining what it means.
I think there's a risk of 'doubting your own senses' and trying to resolve why the engineer-aliens are slightly different at the beginning and end of the film - to fill in the gap. What this misses is that the importance lies in the insurmountable difference itself.
The ones at the beginning of the film appear almost ethereal. Their gestures are purely symbolic. The scene itself is cryptic and mysterious. I'll note again that, after the cells divide and the title card appears, the film cuts to inside the cave. The opening scene is the cave painting that Shaw uncovers. When Shaw talks about her hypothesis about the engineers, she is talking about that opening scene, which she read on the wall.
Of course, the film itself is about trying to find the scientific explanation for these symbolic images. What is the black goo?
So, of course, we see later that they're godlike because they're held together with life-support technology. the black goo is some kind of nanotech stuff. The troublesome thing isn't that these biomechanical engineers are different form the 'pure' ones. The troublesome thing is that they're one and the same.
Many people have interpreted the engineer killing everyone as him being mad at robots, or having some other problem with humanity. I think it's simpler: "you weren't supposed to see me like this." This is God as viewed without all those symbolic trappings. The scientists came in search of his 'essence', and found that his existence preceded it.
"Thus, He speaks in tautologies not only concerning his own quidditas ("I am what I am"), but also and above all in what concerns logos, the reasons for what He is doing, or, more precisely, for his injunctions (what He asks or prohibits us to do); His inexorable orders are ultimately grounded in "It is like this BECAUSE I SAY IT IS LIKE THIS!". In short, this is the God of pure Will, of its capricious abyss which lies beyond any global rational order of logos, a God who does not have to account for anything he does" (link)
Of course, they are not literally God himself, but a gaggle of ubermenschen creating and destroying on a whim - and people have pointed out the Nietzschean tones to Shaw's overcoming of nihilism (plus the quoting of A Space Odyssey, doy). She puts on the space jockey hat at the end.
I think David should be seen as the "active nihilist" who clears space for her. Holloway is, by contrast, passively nihilistic - which concisely explains why David sees fit to remove him from Shaw's life.
That's really the precise opposite of Prometheus' themes, given that it's about how there is no great plan and certainly no cosmic balance. Prometheus also doesn't have much (if any) moralism about 'playing god' or knowing too much. The point is that the knowledge they obtain is fairly useless - except for the bit at the end, when Shaw breaks free of the aliens' whims and consequently saves Earth.
Also notable is the amount of fuckin' words in those comics panels, with the dude referring to them as destroying angels like fifteen times a page.
Angels that destroy? I'm not sure I understand this novel concept - could you repeat it one hundred times and also make it the title of the book?
In later shots the wound had completely healed, with a visible white scar. She was given some sort of fast-healing drugs or whatever, with the staples just serving as a temporary thing.
That is why technobabble exposition isn't necessary.
The medical pod is like the space fire axe. It works perfectly, but it is comically overdesigned and repurposed to do something it's not meant to do.
The axe isn't supposed to be a weapon. The medical pod is not supposed to be used by the still-conscious female patient. (The Prometheus is not supposed to be a gigantic suicide bomb...)
Now: is there a theme, in the film, of things exceeding the parameters of their design?
There's a key point of difference, though, between this scene and the equivalent scene in Alien. The machine is what performs the operation here, where Kane has his guts ripped out in a sudden splatter of abjection. And the machine performs its procedure rather perfectly. It scans Shaw's body, cuts a perfect line, grabs perfectly, fires staples with pinpoint accuracy... But the important point is the scanning - the translation of Shaw's body into a digital model of a "male with foreign object"*, followed by the effortless 'cutting and pasting' of her body as if it were digital.
The other crucial detail, that you've already touched on, is that Shaw looks into herself, reaches into herself, and feels no pain (reduced pain, at least). She sees that she is just a bundle of organs, which themselves are just bundles of molecules - but she persists in asserting that she is a human being, with a soul.
The reference is to Prometheus and the Eagle, but it's a reference-by-proxy to Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. Shaw's search for God and meaning is absurd, but Prometheus is an absurdist film. One must imagine that Shaw is happy - not minding that it hurts, right? And I don't mind either, 'cause it's fuckin' funny.
Camus's point about constant revolt in the face of hopelessness takes on literal connotation in the film, with the decapitation of the (literally) white God-king - set upon by his once-contained horde. In keeping with Vickers' point that a king has his reign, and then dies, this is imagery of regicide.
"The regicide is the symbolic inauguration of political modernity: the instantaneous and total transfer of absolute sovereignty from king to people. The fall of the blade marks the sublime instant separating and thereby fusing before and after, ancien régime and revolutionary republic: Le roi est mort--vive la patrie. This sacrificial logic was ceremoniously enacted on January 21, 1793 in an event marked, at least according to all the narratives, by sacred pomp and ceremony. It was formalized at the king's trial when Robespierre invokes the "baptismal" quality of the execution. "The king must die because the nation must live": an infinite investment in the sacral body of the king must be generated by the staging of the latter's infinite divestment. The regeneration of the people is nothing other than the restoration of a nation's body to itself through the expropriation of the expropriator. [...] And from such a baptism flow all the contradictions of modernity: the inaugural self-betrayal of democracy in ever-more-inventive forms of terror."
-Rebecca Comay, "Dead Right: Hegel and the Terror"
Also in reference to Comay: "the proliferation of blushing heads, talking heads, suffering heads, heads that dreamed, screamed, returned the gaze, the disembodied body parts, detached writing hands, the ghosts and ghouls and zombies that would fill the pages of gothic novels throughout Europe." ... "The obsessive fantasies of survival entertained by the popular imaginary of the guillotine, and that preoccupied both literature and medical science from [the 1790s], are but the inversion and confirmation of the living death to which life had seemingly been reduced [by the self-destructive revolutionary Terror.]"
This puts Prometheus in line with The Shining, where the hotel is not haunted by the victims of genocide, but by the perpetrators - 'the upper classes' and the trappings of power that entrance Jack Torrance. Prometheus constantly compares Weyland and the engineers to ghosts, and their pursuit of immortality through pleasant homeostasis can't help but carry socio-political connotations - along with the film's mirror fantasies of undead zombies and such, which express the persistent, underlying Real of social antagonism.
*This is also a 'meta' reference to Kane's 'foreign object'. In Alien, the literal chestburster was a metaphor for unwanted pregnancy. In Prometheus, the literal unwanted pregnancy is read by the machine as a fictional 'chestburster'.
Not just that: it specifically cuts to Shaw puncturing the cave wall. At that point, it's 'revealed' that the opening scene is 'only a painting' one that serves as another clue in her quest for positive knowledge of god.
The act of breaching the wall is arguably what changes the scene into the painting. Where the opening scene presents the myth with all its symbolic weight, the cut to the cave punctures it and reduces it to a mystery to be solved. Like: 'Which planet is that, exactly? and 'What is the black goo?'
The subsequent scene of them taking all these different artworks from the different cultures and reducing them to an alignment of dots has unfortunate connotations. It's a depressing idea, betraying exactly how against the Ancient Aliens shit (and, implicitly, Jungian psychology) the movie actually is. Of course the person presenting this stuff is Holloway - the film's most contemptible character.
I am thinking of concepts like the collective unconscious, yeah. It's often interpreted in a new-age spiritualist way (see: Avatar).
Adolf Bastian is another example. His thing was that he traveled the world gathering information of geographically disconnected cultures, comparing them to narrow down humanity's core 'primordial ideas'. That's rather similar to Holloway's focus on how the cultures are 'separated by centuries'.
It's not that they're wrong on the plot level. Obviously the dots do line up and actually bring them to the right place. But I think the film's sympathies with David and its distinct existentialist/absurdist themes show that it's against that kind of essentialist conclusions they had drawn.
Prometheus does a neat trick there - where what initially looks like a simple fade-out is revealed (through Shaw's puncturing of the black wall) to be a dissolve from one scene to the other.
Both imply some ambiguously long span of time, but a dissolve connotes a more strict continuity between the two scenes.
Also, keep in mind the Shining/Kubrick influence on the film when we're talking about how fantasy/dream sequences are treated.
The latter, yeah. When the artworks are superimposed like that, so that the dots line up, the non-dot aspects are implicitly discarded. It's depressingly reductionist. The same imagery recurs when Shaw superimposes the two DNA charts and starts crying with joy(?) at the resulting bar graph. "This is everything!" No, it's not.
The lining up of the bar graphs also matches the film's use of 'archetypal' imagery. The characters of course try to unite new-age spirtualism (influenced by Jung) with scientific knowledge. Think all those quacks misusing quantum physics. The film, however, goes beyond the archetypes.
"Are these archetypes, these hypostatized symbols residing in permanent fashion in the basement of the human soul, truer than that which is presumably at the surface? Is that which is in the cellars truer than that which is in the granary?"
If Charlie (in his various guises) is the film's antagonist, then the chart scene is one of Shaw's lowest points as a character, where she nearly succumbs to his views. Of course, once Shaw starts to voice her dissatisfaction with what she discovered, Charlie literally walks into the scene and pacifies her with a good deep-dicking.
What critics like Walter Chaw missed in decrying that scene's misogyny is that it's 'supposed to be' misogynistic. Charlie is the bad guy, having earlier chastised Shaw for pushing herself too hard and generally holding her back from authentic religious belief.
Remember that Charlie is technically an atheist. Having the two act as an inseparable pair, at the start, shows that Shaw's pursuit of god in terms of positive knowledge is indistinguishable from crummy atheism. The film isn't anti-atheist, though, because David serves as the film's 'good atheist' - and the film is obviously sympathetic to his POV. What it rejects is Charlie's new-agey approach to atheism - which apparently includes his belief in 'sexual healing'.
I normally agree with Chaw, but he's profoundly misinterpreted the film by reading it as a copy of Alien. Obviously it 'fails' on those terms. (Chaw unfortunately does that a lot, as in his review of The Thing 2011 and Watchmen - both extremely similar to this film.)
In that reading, Charlie is 'supposed to be' a good, charming character and we feel sad for him when he dies. That's not, however, how the character is presented in the actual film. He's very subtly controlling of Shaw, and Shaw is with him mostly because he reminds her of her father. David identifies that it's not a healthy relationship, which is partly why he kills Charlie.
I think the scene with Vickers and Janek serves as a contrast, not as a complement, by the way. Janek is presented as a smarmy but fairly intuitive character - immediately identifying the homoerotic tension between Milburn and Fiefield, for example. He sleeps with Vickers as a way of helping her get over her obsessive need to copy David instead of 'being herself'. It's important that we aren't actually shown the sex scene, because the actually-important part is her realization that she's acting like a self-loathing robot. By contrast, Charlie is (however unintentionally) trying to control Shaw in the guise of helping her.
Remember that Charlie acts as a father-figure to Shaw - it gives their relationship incestuous undertones. Meanwhile, there are incestuous overtones to Vicker's kissing of her father's hand. Janek helps draw Vickers away from that unhealthy dynamic, just as David helps free Shaw of Charlie's influence.
He is - without question - the best critic currently writing newspaper-style reviews, and I agree with 95% of them. I know this because I've read every single one.
No Wave is right, though: he has been 'slipping' somewhat in the last year or so, because he's (apparently) more focused on writing a book. The Prometheus review is way below his usual standard.
I think Prometheus is just baffling a lot of people. Armond White's review of the film is uncharacteristically 'mainstream' for him, after having praised Zack Snyder in the past. As mentioned before, Prometheus is basically Watchmen is space.
I'm talking the hyperreal aesthetic, primarily. It's got the colourful lighting, CGI-augmented action everywhere, 'bad' old-age makeup, incongruous musical choices, etc. But unlike (say) Batman and Robin, this is in the service of a very downbeat sort of film. Although Prometheus is pretty funny, it's not the same kind of humor. It's a horror-comedy.
But the thematic similarity is also there. Dr. Manhattan is pretty similar to the Engineers, but also to David. And it's also in how the films use movie references - especially Blade Runner and The Man Who Fell To Earth references. Snyder quotes the latter visually, while Fassbender based his performance partly on Bowie's. The movie references are tied in with the question of historicity - see 'talking with ghosts' in this one, and Watchmen's recreation of the zapruder film via CGI in a parking lot.
Oh Jesus, what have I done?
The point of the scene is that Shaw, after having accomplished her life's work, finds it unsatisfactory. Charlie, rather than help her confront her issues, tells her everything's alright - basically 'don't think too hard about it.' The actual process of fucking is ancillary to this.
Shaw obviously feels better, but the point of the film isn't that Shaw needs to feel better, but that she has to be confronted by the meaninglessness of the universe and overcome it in order to become a full-fledged authentic individual. This is what happens when she's left in despair on the rock, but then decides to blast off into space on a wacky adventure regardless.
The 'clunky' dialogue there is part-and-parcel with the overall camp aspect of the film. It's a domestic scene (their little apartment has a bed, bath and full kitchen) staged somewhat like a soap opera. Shaw declaring that she's infertile is stagey and not terribly compelling. Charlie comes in, instantly comforts her and we 'tastefully' fade to black. It's not 'supposed to be' a compelling look at psychological impact of fertility, or an expression of the power of love. It's 'supposed to be' banal and mildly insulting.
If the scene were successful in the sense you're using, then it would lose that subversive edge, endorsing Charlie's new-agey worldview and Shaw's passive acceptance of it. I think that's a misreading of the film, though. Charlie is not a tragic hero whose death we care about. As it actually plays out, the scene aligns with David's POV, where he views these people as characters in a movie and not full-fledged human beings.
Zombie Fifield is an amalgam of traits from Charlie, the engineers, the goo and himself.
It allows for Charlie to 'die twice' in the narrative, with totally different reactions from Shaw (the first time she's obviously distraught, the second time she neither knows nor cares). In that sense, it represents her 'getting over' Charlie - although there's obviously lot of other stuff going on in that scene.
The giant zombie image is a dark mirror to the engineers' undeath/immortality, as you kinda noted. It foreshadows what happens to Weyland when he asks for "more life".
I think you're missing the progression of events here.
That Shaw's discovery seems to answer 'everything,' but then can't help her account for (or cope with) her infertility, is precisely what makes the results unsatisfactory. This is why she goes from happy to crying in the span of a single scene.
I only watched the film once, and everything I've written here is based on that viewing and my memory of it. Clearly it is possible to 'pick up on this stuff the first time around. I suppose it's just a matter of not treating 'emotional' and 'intellectual' as discontinuous stages.
Also, subtext isn't a concrete thing. It's always relative to some notion of the text's 'surface' meaning or something. It always bugs me when people talk about 'depth' or 'shallowness' in an artwork like there is this objective surface with stuff hiding in the murk beneath. That's not how it works.
A lot of this stuff can't even be considered subtext. Prometheus is overtly about Ancient Aliens crap, the search for the meaning of life, and hyperreal aesthetics - on the plot level.
Yes, Shaw is literally infertile and infertility is depressing for humans. (Gosh! Wow!)
In the context of the film though, we are dealing with the search for the meaning of life. In a very basic way, Shaw's ostensible discovery of 'everything' is countered with the lingering question of why bad things happen to good people.
The statements "creation is easy" and "but why can't I do it?" represent a direct contrast between the 'objective' scientific knowledge they accumulated and Shaw's subjective concerns.
I'm not sure what your argument is here, to be honest. It reads like a "you're reading something into it that's not there!" thing, but I hope it's not.
I'd return to the similarity to Sunshine there, where (Apologies if you haven't seen Sunshine.)
In Prometheus, Charlie is 'burnt by the sun' in philosophical terms, meaning that he's directly expereinced the traumatic void of the Real, without the protective distortions of the symbolic network. Fifield represents the resulting madness.
In this film, the gap between the Real and the Symbolic is filled by the Thing of the black goo. (In Sunshine, the Thing is the literal sun. In The Thing, the Thing is the Thing.)
Another relevant version of the Thing would be the Id-machines from Forbidden planet and Solaris, which materialize one's desires...
"Is the planet around which the story turns, composed of the mysterious matter which seems to think, i.e. which in a way is the direct materialization of Thought itself, not an exemplary case of the Lacanian Thing as the "Obscene Jelly", the traumatic Real, the point at which symbolic distance collapses, the point at which there is no need for speech, for signs, since, in it, thought directly intervenes in the Real? This gigantic Brain, this Other-Thing, involves a kind of psychotic short-circuit: in short-circuiting the dialectic of question and answer, of demand and its satisfaction, it provides - or, rather, imposes on us - the answer before we even raise the question, directly materializing our innermost fantasies which support our desire. Solaris is a machine that generates/materializes, in reality itself, my ultimate fantasmatic objectal supplement/partner that I would never be ready to accept in reality, although my entire psychic life turns around it."
"Obscene Jelly" is of course a good descriptor as any for what the black goo is. The joke of the movie, which David is in on, is that Charlie and Weyland (and Milburn/Fifield) receive exactly what they desire.
And then, aren't Shaw's need for pregnancy and contact with her father the basic things she desires, but shouldn't obtain? As I noted earlier in the thread, the end of the film shows Shaw's movement from desire to drive. She realizes how horrific it would be to have the Thing directly materialize her pregnancy, which is why she cuts it out. (The horror is partly in the incestuous undertones - she dates Charlie and seeks God because they remind her of her father.) But after a period of total despair, she decides to confront the absurdity of the universe head-on, knowing that she will never receive full satisfaction of her desires but persisting anyways.
That's a really bad review. It makes the mistake of isolating the characters from the presentation of them. Basically, saying 'this is how real people should act' without first asking 'why do the characters act this way?' That's a bratty refusal to engage with the film.
The head explosion scene is a good example. The point was clearly that they were doing some sort of esoteric scientific procedure, leaving the audience squirming and saying "no- fuck- why would you do that?" It's obvious from how the actors act and how the scene is shot that these scientists know exactly what they are doing. Their movements are calm and deliberate, and they actually narrate the steps they are taking. It's obvious from this context that they've already 'decontaminated' the head or something. It's simply not exposited directly to the audience.
(Technical 'spergs for EU nerds can be satisfied with the knowledge that they had already scanned the head. Their extremely advanced contaminant-detection sensors are canon.)
The scene is also great fun because you have no idea what they hope to learn by 'tricking it into thinking it's alive.' Implicitly, they want to see its muscles and neurons in motion. But it's not just a trick: the head does come alive - horrifically is alive. It's this obscene life that bubbles up from it, causing it to swell and explode. The scientists believe it's only a trick because, as we've established, they think only 'live' humans have souls. Their blithe disregard for the head's pain matches their disregard for David's feelings.
This doesn't have anything to do with the camp aspects of the film though. Approaching Prometheus as a serious drama or not, that Forbes review is based on a crummy reading of the film. (With a bonus "it's not the same as Alien!" whine. Ripley is not the last good female character. It's time to move on from 1979.)
They didn't deliberately detonate the head. I'm not sure how anyone could get that impression, given how shocked the characters are, and how they have to quickly shove it in the emergency box. In reality, when scientists unearth a mummy, they don't go full-biohazard like it's a zombie/pandemic movie. They wear simple rubber gloves and face-masks.
Yet 'tactical realism' zombie-logic seems to be exactly what's being used here. This is not about 'how they would act in reality', but how they should act in a zombie movie for maximum zombie-effectiveness.
And, more to the point, it's about how those actions are shown. In a zombie movie, we'd be shown all the decontamination procedures in extensive detail because they're actually story-relevant. In Prometheus, that's absolutely irrelevant - as much so as showing how the engines work, or what Fifield ate for breakfast, or why Weyland's asshole bodyguard is such an asshole.
And even more to the point: that level of tactical realism would result in an extremely awful zombie movie where everything is brushed aside so we can see people 'realistically' scrubbing their hands for five minutes or something. Not even real zombie movies do that. Seriously, name one.
But then, look at these fucking idiots! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bzqSI97sMg
They should lock that mummy in an airtight vault in Area 51 and unwrap it using a remotely-operated bomb disposal drone, just in case it starts spewing nerve gas (as mummies are wont to do). It's the only way to be safe.
The Real is a Lacanian psychoanalytic term for everything outside language/culture/whatever. It's traumatic because, when it erupts, it's something that doesn't fit into one's everyday reality.
That everyday reality you're referring to is the symbolic order, which is the whole world generated by language, culture and all that. The Real is what resists symbolization, and is consequently incomprehensible. (Lovecraft's 'gods' are good fictional examples.)
Another example: When you look at a person's face, you see a person - even though most people know the blunt fact that, behind the face, there are only clumps of blood and goo. The person is symbolic reality. The gore is the Thing, which is right on the border of the Real.
In Prometheus, David talks about this fact when he notes that his humanoid face and clothes are totally arbitrary. He knows that he's 'just' a bundle of circuits or whatever, and that his human face is symbolic. At the same time, he does understand the importance of symbolic reality - which is why he alters his appearance (by dying his hair) and behaves in a self-consciously theatrical, performative way.
The scientists dismiss him as just a bundle of circuits as well, but the point isn't that the symbolic is fake or something. It actually is reality. David effectively is human and has a soul because he has that symbolic face. Saying he's just a robot is like saying you're just meat.
Yeah exactly! This theme is all over the movie. It's why Charlie is sad that "it's just another tomb". He doesn't want to talk to the real gods (represented by all the art, writing and other symbols in the tomb). He wants direct contact with the Real gods - so David's like 'okay' and doses him with the Thing-goo. Charlie gets exactly what he asked for.
(Notably, the centerpiece of the tomb is a giant human face.)
This is also why you have the 'exploding head' scene. It's a human face, but they see it as a clump of dead meat, without a soul. Suddenly, it bubbles with expressions of pain and trauma, and the Thing-goo gore explodes from it.
It shows just how well-written the film's characters actually are. Charlie is the one who derisively comments on David's symbolic clothes - 'why do you need a suit if you don't have lungs?' He's also the one who takes off his helmet, for more direct immersion in the environment - without a screen.
The whole film is concerned with this sort of immersion, which is why it's got the hyperreal 'Avatar' aesthetic with its 'immersive' 3-D. Suspension of disbelief is the realm of the symbolic. 'Immersion' into a virtual canonical 'universe', on the other hand, strives to bypass the symbolic and come closer to the Real.
"In the case of the efficient symbolic fiction of the judge wearing his insignia, "I know very well that this person is a corrupt weakling, but I nonetheless treat him as if I believe that the symbolic big Other speaks through him": I disavow what my eyes tell me and choose to believe the symbolic fiction. On the contrary, in the case of the simulacrum of virtual reality, "I know very well that what I see is an illusion generated by digital machinery, but I nonetheless accept to immerse myself in it, to behave as if I believe it." Here, I disavow what my (symbolic) knowledge tells me and choose to believe my eyes only..."
-Zizek again! (link)
Charlie is the film's main antagonist because he strives for that immersion, when the film is clearly satirizing his approach by killing him off like a punk. Prometheus is anti-Avatar.
28 Weeks Later, like Prometheus, has a clear italo-horror influence that it carries over and amplifies from its original. Alien was basically a remake of Planet of the Vampires. 28 Days Later... is in the tradition of stuff like Zombie and The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue. Both sequels contain even more direct references.
Asserting that 28 Days later and Alien were tactically realistic is a grievous error. They are examples of psychological realism, with dream sequences and/or prolonged dream-like sequences. Little or no time is spent outlining the tactical 'plans' the characters employ.
When the face-hugger in Alien attacks John Hurt, it cuts to a mass of writhing intestines flying at him instead. In 28 Days Later..., a small taxi-cab drives over a mass of parked cars. Ash bleeds before he's struck. Lambert dies when Parker's body is impaled (check the shoes). Jim teleports around, killing a good dozen pro soldiers.
These aren't 'goofs.' They are patently impossible metaphorical things - like the big scrawl of graffiti that says 'the end is very fucking nigh,' which someone must have had to climb up and down a ladder to complete.
These things are done not because they are real but because they are expressive. The idea that Alien is 'tactically realistic' does such a disservice to the film that it's almost insulting. It's why it took a ton of one-sided debate over multiple threads to convince people that the alien is a phallic symbol and not a literal animal that evolved its magic powers and penis-head. It disregards the actual craft of filmmaking and is flat-stupid besides.
More to the point, 28 Days Later and Alien employ these artistic licenses in service of power-fantasy. You accept the contrivances because Jim and Ripley are the protagonists, and they win in the end. Both 28 Weeks Later and Prometheus employ them to refute the nerd culture that misappropriates their predecessors. The basic thesis of 28 Weeks Later, after all, is that objective violence creates a breeding ground for subjective violence, meaning that your 'rational' 'tactical realism' is a harmful and dangerous fantasy.
That's to say that these films are calling you out on your ideology, and you're responding poorly.
"Tactical realism is securing the mall, seeking out military help."
Couldn't have put it better myself.
The 'intended purpose' is for the characters to enter a nightmare-universe (or 'galaxy of terror') where, despite being incredibly over-prepared and assured of their safety by scanners that can detect everything, something undetectable and unquantifiable bubbles up from within.
The goo is a psychological threat. Your "rational" worldview can't cope. You're Charlie.
In response to this parody.
Wow you are a bad writer. My writing doesn't resemble that parody at all.
Yeah, but the point of parody is to highlight the flaws in my writing by means of exaggeration. Without that focus, he seems to be attacking the concept of 'thinking about art' in general.
It's something betrayed by his whining about LOST. I haven't seen LOST but, if Prometheus is any indication, Lindelof is a pretty well-read dude. He's clearly aware of Zizek's love for Alien, and there are plenty of other apt references in the film. How could someone dismiss an entire TV series of this stuff as 'meaningless'?
I guess he's determining 'meaning' by how 'tight' the narrative is - but Prometheus is extremely tight. There's not a wasted shot in the film - the editing is laser-precise and the cinematography is clear and expressive. 'Course he probably means 'tight' in terms of 'plot holes' - but plenty of people have gone through and systematically explained not just the film's plot but its story. There aren't any plot holes.
Actually, i think it's more the opposite. There is obvious catharsis in the film's humor - and especially Shaw's overcoming of nihilist despair to go on ridiculous space adventures.
Here's a case study that I think is most apt: remember Cloverfield?
When the first teaser was released, the nerds collectively yelled "Ohmigod, it's VOLTRON! We're going to get VOLTRON, simulated with more reality than ever before. We- I will become IMMERSED IN VOLTRON, immersed in that universe of anime!
Of course what they got was something inexplicable. Cloverfield is a lovecraftian horror from space whose origin in the film directly contradicted both the promotional ARG and tie-in manga(!!).
The complaints about the characters were same as we have here. "It's tactically 'unrealistic' to save the person you love. I can't sympathize with them. They're not rational actors. I hate them! They're douchebags. I don't like them."
And in the film, we actually have a nerd character, talking with a girl. He says maybe the monster's from space, trying to find a plausible explanation. She says, sarcastically, "like Superman?" - obviously referring to the impossible metaphorical character. And he's like "yeah, exactly like... Wait. You know who Superman is?" He's talking about the scientific plausibility of Superman, who was 'realistically' sent from space. He talks about who Superman is, meaning that he sees him as almost an actual person. The girl is baffled and irritated.
This desired immersion (into the Superman/VOLTRON universe) stands for a sort of comfortable homeostasis. Nerds want the comfort of what they've already seen. The familiar. Clover and the black goo don't fit. There's no ARG explaining them. He's not going to get laid.
Yeop, he's spot-on there. The 'deacon' is a wretched thing that looks like Gollum fucked the shark from Deep Blue Sea and it's blindly screeching in a puddle of afterbirth. It has an overbite.
It's excremental - and note that it was extruded from God's body and seen, earlier, crucified on that relief-sculpture mural. Like David, and eventually Shaw, the Deacon is one of the more clearly human 'characters' in the film, precisely because it's so 'inhumanly' abject. It's not scary though, and it doesn't evoke an empathetic response. The statement is wonderfully matter-of-fact: we are awful fish-men, all of us. Even God Himself.
This identification-without-empathy refers back to David, and his amoral (but nonetheless rather ethical) decision to help these goopy, vomiting humans get exactly what they want. Plus Shaw, with her mirror reaction to David - treating him well despite having no empathy for inhuman robots.
It's a pretty good expression of Zizek's concept of authentic Christian ethics as 'ethical monstrosity'. "Doing what is to be done in a weird coincidence of blind spontaneity and reflexive distance, helping others while avoiding their disgusting proximity. With more people like this, the world would be a pleasant place in which sentimentality would be replaced by a cold and cruel passion." (from The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox Or Dialectic?)
Contrast this with Ash's 'unclouded by delusions of morality' dialogue in Alien, if you wish. Same idea, wrong conclusion.
Paolomania's summary is spot-on, if that helps.
But the idea is that we don't see the rumored literal 'Jesus was an alien' scene in the film because the deacon 'is' Jesus. It's a probably-blasphemous bit of fun. It's based on, if I'm not over-simplifying, the Lutheran view that humanity is God's shit.
It's important that this doesn't have the negative connotation you'd expect. In Zizek's reading of the Christ myth, God self-identifies as shit as well. When He dies on the cross, He effectively becomes shit. Zizek links this Jesus's love for the poor, sick, etc. (the social abject - think of the aliens in District 9 for the best pop-cultural example (and note the black goo - it's the same)).
Normally, society constitutes itself around excluding these sort of 'excremental' groups. Zizek flips it so that society is based entirely around love for them - but it's specific sort of love that he contrasts with liberal tolerance. Compare the presentation of the District 9 aliens to those in Avatar. In one, we help them in spite of having no rose-tinted view of them, while in the other it's all about hyping the 'beauty', 'nobility' and 'simplicity' of the people, mostly-overlooking their actual human failings (arranged marriages, no medicine, cruel rites of passage, etc.).
"we are subjects only through a monstrous bodily distortion, only when part of our body, one of its organs (hand, phallus, eye . . .) subtracts itself from the body and starts to act as an autonomous monster." -Z.
It's as though something in Shaw ("I didn't know you had it in you.") has gained autonomy and itself is now defiantly attacking the God she once desired to understand in scientific terms. The re-emergence of the aborted but undead/immortal creature corresponds with her shift from desire to drive - it breaks her away from the fantasy of resurrecting her father, finding God and the meaning of life, etc. Instead, she confronts the void - and then chooses to fully identify with her fantasy, more intimately and playfully than ever before. That's where her christian belief becomes truly authentic.
Paring down the elaboration, I feel the long explanations can be reduced to a simple acceptance of the film as fictional aesthetic experience, as opposed to an objective, navigable/replayable motion-diorama. I don't think that's hyperbole when the attendant complaint is that the film has 'nothing beyond its expressive cinematography, editing, etc.'
Essentially: "if you ignore everything filmic in this film, the film doesn't work!" This compliant is technically accurate, but wrong because of the faulty premise.
He could have worded it better, but the core of the idea is valid. Demanding a spiritual experience from a decidedly atheistic/apatheistic film demonstrates a refusal or failure to engage the text 'on its own terms'. It's not like people are objecting to this apatheism on religious/philosophical grounds. They're objecting because they want direct 'immersion' into the alien franchise, without the films' existentialist themes, sexual (sub)texts, filmic qualities, etc.
Your mistake is in treating 'story' as separate and distinct from the filmic qualities of the film. In reality, cinematography, editing and whatnot are the primary language of a film, with their own distinct grammar(s). They are the story.
[Not only that, but scriptwriting both chronologically precedes those things and has a lesser overall importance (while still not reducible to 'just the plot').]
I'm objecting to that notion that cinematography is a virtual landscape/universe that the characters 'live in' and explore.
Note the similarity to videogame-logic there - except with the characters moving around entirely autonomously, and the audience/player serving as a neutral, passive, and objective observer. That's not how film works.
'Immersion' is a fake idea. 'Suspension of disbelief' is preferable.
The quality of a film doesn't really hinge on the script at all - but, more to the point, the notions of 'objective' quality being put forward in the thread are pretty loose and/or questionable in general.
Like, for example, the repeated assertion that Alien was 'realistic' in some undefined way. When you have a contentious term like 'realism', definition is everything. Those sort of definitions have not been forthcoming - it's all 'gut feeling.' Same with pretty much every criticism, including that of the script.
It's not that prometheus can't be criticized. I simply haven't seen anything concrete.
I find the 'zombie' makeup in the final film to be vastly preferable.
Turning Fifeld into a quasi-xenomorph is very on-the-nose in literal plot terms, while also being far more vague in story terms.
The final makeup actually looks like Fifield, and that's pretty crucial. It's got the facial hair and tattoos. But the more human appearance also generates the visual link to Charlie. Fifeld rises from the exact place Charlie died, so it initially appears that Charlie had literally risen from the dead (and thematically, this is the case).
This, along with the acid, ties in to the imagery of characters being altered by fire: burned, melted and warped. The subtler makeup looks like Fifield has been been scarred, not transformed into a wholly different species. It's a key distinction.
Fifield's return is also, as mentioned before, a pretty direct reference to Sunshine
(The imagery of fire that transforms is important for obvious reasons in a film called Prometheus.)
The comparatively minor swelling of the physical makeup is also a direct visual link to the huge lump on Weyland's forehead after he's smacked down, as well as to the bubbling of the eventually-exploding engineer head.
I think I observed wayyy earlier in the thread that the xenomorph's dome has always resembled a space-helmet - while the bony, ridged versions from Aliens emulate the marines' armor. While the 'zombie' makeup may seem more bland, the CG xeno-mutant is the less evocative retread.
It's not an action movie about racing to stop the fugitive robot menace at all costs.
It's curious to imagine anyone seeing a dude travel to the top of a pyramid to question his creator about his mortality and then whipping out a notebook to try to discern what it "means", "deeply".
In any case, I actually sincerely recommend Neveldine/Taylor's Gamer.
Not really, no. While the film is obviously about religion, as you picked up from the exposition, the presentation is vital to contextualizing that exposition.
The film, taking David's POV, presents the cross and all the related faith-talk as banal kitsch and a sign of mediocrity. That is what is missing from your reading, and results in the results in misreading the film as ineffectually anti-science - which in this case is like saying Verhoven's Starship Troopers could be better at promoting fascism. Prometheus is actually, as I've gone over earlier in the thread, anti-religion in the sense that it's an apatheistic existentialist film. While it ultimately sides with Shaw, it only does so when her faith becomes authentic in the existentialist sense.
People asking why the scientist are 'dumb' likewise fail to take into account that their character traits are exaggerated to put us in the mindset of David - who, again, reads people instantly and sees them as inferior 'characters'.
The scientist are not objectively dumb. They are subjectively dumb. And the exaggeration of this subjective experience is necessary because we in the audience are not hyper-intelligent dream-scanning androids.
How is it that the 'objective' historical events of the 'Aliens Universe' can be twisted and exaggerated this way?
Because it's a fucking fictional movie. That's how.
People's talk of 'the way it was executed' have nothing to do with editing, cinematography or the other things that make a film a film. They concern only the plot.
Consequently, it's not an issue of there being 'deeper readings' that folks are not interested in. It's a problem of folks reading the film badly, or not at all.
Not everyone is can expert in reading Shakespeare, and while Prometheus is 'not Shakespeare' it is nonetheless being misread in the same way as complaining the bard's characters 'don't talk real'. There no shame in 'not getting it' but, that should encourage you to try to 'get it' instead of pretentiously claiming you solved the movie with variations on the the phrase "it wasn't interesting."
Note that 'getting it' is not the same thing as 'liking it'. In fact, what people are asking is that you 'get' the film first, so that your voiced dislike becomes valid.
(Plenty of folks have been like "I get the film's themes' but..." ...but they provide no demonstration of this understanding or how they came to it.)
No it means that alternative readings have yet to be performed properly, if at all.
Holloway's desire is to ask the alien-gods the meaning of life. This goal is utterly unobtainable, and the film establishes elsewhere that life has no inherent meaning (existence precedes essence) and, even if one could speak to the alien-gods, the message would be something unsatisfactory like 7*7=42 or horrific like Event Horizon's 'we don't need eyes to see'. The latter is what Holloway discovers when David puts him directly in touch with the universe.
That's why Shaw's DNA-match discovery is almost comically underplayed compared to her reaction. The film is apatheistic. Shaw's crying tears of joy over a tiny bar graph is a sign of her mediocrity, and the bar graph revelation is a shot and edited to be 'deliberately' anticlimactic.
In asserting that Holloway should have just looked harder to find god, your post misses the point that Holloway has actually already found god's corpse and realized that it is simply meat. When he 'looks harder', he sees 'beyond the black rainbow' and worms sprout from his eye.
So, you watch films to communicate with 'actual human beings' - but reject the level of abstraction needed for this fiction to MEAAAAAANingfully take place.
Characters in movies are not actual human beings; they are abstractions designed to trigger responses in the audience. In this particular case, the response is evidently to start ranting about masturbation because... do you want to have physical sex with simulated 'more human than human' movie characters? 'Cause that's the impression I'm getting.
You know, I think you understand the themes of Prometheus and Blade Runner better than you may expect!
Dude wants contact with fully-simulated 'actual human beings'. The alternative to this, in his own words, is masturbation (and bad).
This is ironic, as I noted, because the entire film is about hyperreality and simulation, the line between human and replicant, etc. Also: tons of filthy sex.
Hence, why he rejects the film. The film uses the hyperreal aesthetic satirically (to poke at, for example, Avatar) in a way that is aligned with the sensibilities of Zack Snyder's and the Strause Brothers' work. It is directly critical of his mindset (that films are, or should be, simulations).
So, AlternateAccount obviously gets what Prometheus 'means', on a level that he can't quite articulate outside a free-associative rant. But he rejects that meaning because he would like to live on Pandora and become a Navi (metaphorically speaking).
It could have but didn't because, again, the film is campy and theatrical in order to highlight David's superiority over the other characters and to comment on other films.
That being said, the characters here actually are sufficiently more advanced than in a 'generic' slasher film in which a woman might take her shirt off and then get stabbed - without going into her memories of her father, her subtly dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend, her life-goals and even the specifics of her religious affiliation. Nor is the pot-smoking dude usually a closeted homosexual and neo-shamanic roboticist/geologist werewolf.
Have you considered the possibility that no-one mentioned it because it's already fairly self-evident?
In either case, though, the deliberateness is irrelevant.
What I'd like to ask Five Cent Deposit is whether the crew talked about Lacanian psychoanalysis, existentialist philosophy, and the other similar things that are unambiguously referenced in the film.
'Cause if they didn't, then um...?
I'd mildly disagree here, because I think Janek is totally right. What Prometheus does is flip the subtext.
In most films, the crazy technology would serve as a metaphor for the abstract concept. For example, the nanotech in District 9 is a metaphor for The Real. But in Prometheus, the film is literally and directly about The Real, and Janek's explanation for the goo is only a metaphor. He doesn't objectively know it's a weapons facility. He's saying that it's like a weapons facility because it's full of horrific shit that recalls nuclear/biological/chemical weaponry. This 'cognitive mapping' allows him to comprehend the terrifying abstraction of the black goo - and, like Shaw at the end, mark it as something taboo.
I suppose the distinction would be between pre-abortion Shaw and post-abortion Shaw. At first, she 'knows' that god is out there and has the answers, which proves totally futile. Then, after a period of destitution, she authentically believes, without knowing.
I associate Janek's anti-bioweapon stance with Shaw's declaration that the temple is a taboo 'place of death' because they are both examples of drawing a line in the sand against relativism, and saying 'no, this is bad'. Janek's self-sacrifice is hilarious, but also an authentic ethical Act. He asserts the dogmatic Truth of his stance through his suicide bombing.
"One must identify with [the proletarian] position for one’s Act to be authentic; otherwise, it is a ‘false act’ which sustains the status quo. On one level, an Act is a radical form of subjectivity, but on another, it is a total negation of subjectivity, a submission to an external Event, Leader or Cause which overwhelms the individual. [...] An Act is experienced by its agent as ‘something violently imposed on me from the Outside through a traumatic encounter that shatters the very foundation of my being’, and it is simultaneously the highest freedom and the most abject prostration. It is something one feels one simply has to do, because of an irrational and unconditional ethical injunction. It is necessarily dogmatic - a shibboleth - and involves a ‘leftist suspension of the ethical’, rejecting all a priori standards (inclusive of epistemological and ontological as well as ethical standards). It also involves a masochistic gesture which Žižek refers to as ‘symbolic destitution’, ‘excremental identification’ and ‘shooting at’ or ‘beating’ oneself. Through an Act, one rejects one’s humanity and embraces the pain of being a Nothing. One can then remould oneself as a new man. Žižek hints that this new man is to be an authoritarian leader, someone capable of the ‘inherently terroristic’ gesture of ‘redefining the rules of the game’." (link)
The humor of the scene is part-and-parcel with this rejection of humanity. Janek and the other guys act completely 'irrational' because they simply have to, gleefully embracing their excremental status ("you're a shitty pilot"). They just have this overwhelming urge to kill themselves for the good of humanity - or, more specifically: for Shaw, the 'new man'.
I think it's become sufficiently clear that it's not the movie that is 'shallow', as any perceived 'shallowness' is directly proportionate to the 'shallowness' of the analysis.
(Those who arbitrarily judge the film's 'shallowness' at all, by employing some inscrutable 'depth gauge', coincidentally find it to be 'shallower'.)
In that sense, you are actually right: the act of reading does 'project importance' onto the film. A reading implicitly assumes the film is a text to be read, and not a food that we might taste or a body of water that we may immerse ourselves in. In refusing to read the film, you are indeed 'making it worse' for yourself. The only point of disagreement between us, then, is that you think this is a good thing to do.
Everything is intentional unless it is lazy (lacking intentionality). These terms correspond to, but have officially replaced, 'good' and 'bad'. The intentionality (goodness) of a work is determined by my immersion into its universe.
Example: 3D glasses make films more intentional, because the objects are comin' at me. 2D films are much lazier.
The film is full of impressive-sounding but technically inaccurate or obviously random numbers. It's another example of its disdain for canonicity and simulation.
Someone on Wikipedia would hear Vickers' line and then conclude the god-moon is literally half a billion miles from Earth. Or they would dutifully go on the internet to report the 'goof', as we have seen firsthand.
The correct response is to do neither of these things. It is inaccurate 'on purpose' to confound internet nerds, because it's funny.
It's the better opinion, given the other contextualizing factors. Your opinion relies on dismissing these contextualizing factors as 'goofy shit'.
Even the author of the screenplay is on record as to it being intentional. While that is not the final word in the matter, it is yet another contextualizing factor that supports my reading and not yours. Where is your god now?
It's pretty well-known by this point that Lindelof's main contribution to the film was to make it a less-canonical prequel, removing all literal plot ties to the rest of the series while amplifying the thematic ties. The decision to make the numbers "canonically non-canon" in a wonderful short-circuit can be seen as part-and-parcel with that. Ridley Scott evidently agreed with him because that's the direction the film ultimately took.
In that regard, nothing was 'trashed' - except from a standpoint that equates canonicity with realism, and sees that simulation aesthetic as a moral obligation. (Hence dismissing characters in terms like 'badly-written retards' and other terms that imply degeneration, sloth, callowness, evil and so-on.)
No, it's not.
Your opinion is not inherently valid. That's a fairy tale, like 'there's no such thing as a stupid question.' (Example of stupid question, in context of this discussion: "what is the black goo???")
Critique is systematic analysis. You are not engaging in a critique (systematic analysis) of the film, though you feel that you are. Therefore your opinion (that you feel you are engaging in a critique of the film) is not valid.
Hold up. Pause the DVD.
Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance... Stop.
Move in. Stop.
Pull out, track right. Stop.
Center in, pull back. Stop.
Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop.
Enhance 34 to 36.
Pan right and pull back. Stop.
Enhance 34 to 46.
Wait a minute - go right. Stop.
Enhance 57-19. Track 45 left.
Enhance 15 to 23.
Give me a hard copy right there.
It looks like some kind of black goo.
What is this black goo?
It's dissapointing that the articles don't go into detail about the exact nature of the disagreement. I can't find anything on the official website either, so we've only got like two lines to go off of.
But it's understandable: while the film can ultimately be read as a Christian one, it's clearly Protestant, with its themes of excremental identification and such.
The film actively rejects Thomas Aquinas' unity of faith and knowledge - the approach to theology as a science - so it is absolutely an 'anti-Catholic' film.
"Although God in itself remains an unfathomable mystery for our limited cognitive capacities, reason can also guide us towards Him by way of enabling us to recognize the traces of God in created reality – therein resides the premise of Acquinas’s five versions of the proof of God (the rational observation of material reality as a texture of causes and effects leads us to the necessary insight into how there must be a primal Cause to it all; etc.). With Protestantism, this unity breaks apart: we have on the one side the godless universe, the proper object of our reason, and the unfathomable divine Beyond separated by a hiatus from it. When confronted with this break, we can do two things: either we deny any meaning to an otherworldly Beyond, dismissing it as a superstitious illusion, or we remain religious and exempt our faith from the domain of reason, conceiving it as an act of, precisely, pure faith (authentic inner feeling, etc.)." (zizek)
Those 'two things' are represented, of course, by David and Shaw.
No, I think my opinion is the best opinion. I think this because it has the most evidential support and a solid philosophical basis, and has (consequently) gone virtually uncontested. The conflation of 'best' with 'only' is your misunderstanding.
To make a Kuhnian analogy: my reading of Prometheus helped set the paradigm - you can see the wave of agreement - and the paradigm has yet to shift to something else. Haters are frustrated because, rather than pointing out inconsistencies in my reading and re-interpreting the textual evidence in a way that revolutionizes the discussion, they are... not doing that. And assuming that people will agree with them anyways. They won't.
The issue is that large steps on the logical path are being jumped over. The argument does need to be 'taken further'.
You say that the fast pace prevents there from being character development. Sure. But, in addition to the fact that the characters do obviously develop (Fifield going from brash to cowardly being only one minor example), you haven't made the bigger connection to why this is ultimately a bad thing.
Declaring something 'bad' is a strong statement that involves taking into account greater contexts, unless you're making a legalistic blanket statement that every film must have X edits per second and X minutes of screentime devoted to every character in order for 'good' characterization to occur. That's obviously not the case, because it would rule out any number of films that you probably like.
So, what you take issue with is not the character development itself but the manner in which the characters develop in the context of this film. And your viewing of the film is contextualized by your personal opinions and such, so that ultimately - whether you intend to or not - you are making a grand statement about 'the role of art in society' and whatever.
When you say that my reading makes sense, but that you disagree, what you are saying is that my reading actually doesn't make sense to you - because you approach the film from a totally different philosophical standpoint that you aren't yet articulating.
Like, "the screwball pacing is anti-humanist because ______, and humanism is important because ______." That's what's missing.
I actually always give PWSAnderson the benefit of a doubt, because he is not a stupid filmmaker. In fact, as you point out, Prometheus is a vastly superior remake of AVP - dealing in the same basic premise and most of the same themes. Re-posting from the General Chat:
"There's a scene early on [in AVP] where a character reaches apprehensively into a darkened cavern, grasping for knowledge and treasure - but finding only a Pepsi bottlecap. It's a perfect encapsulation of the film's themes, that the film itself doesn't live up to. It's about "pop", right?
There's a clear idea expressed, in how the tired imagery of darkened crypts dissolve into sterile, glowing wireframes. When the worthless Pepsi cap is repurposed as a totemic medallion, those themes just about cohere.
AVP is basically a flawed dry-run at what Prometheus did flawlessly - suggesting that the myths of ancient peoples were really no less vapid than our own, but nonetheless vital in abating the meaninglessness of the universe. The trouble is that Anderson gets the words, but not the poetry of what makes the predator a mythic character."
The theme of classic horror imagery dissolving into commerical banality recurs constantly in the film. The very first shot of AVP is a shadowy bug-monster that, when light is cast on it, turns out to be just a CG satellite. The trouble is that the horror aspect is often botched by decisions like the bullet-time facehuggers, which merge the horror with the banal simulation, losing the crucial element of transition from one state to the other. Consequently, AVP is always horror 'in quotation marks'. Even the most straightforward kills consciously mimic classic 3-D 'comin at ya' gimmickry.
The difference is that Prometheus 'looks gorgeous' (as you also acknowledge). It does everything AVP does, but more clearly expressed. That's not a bad thing.
It's actually pretty important that 'god' behaves irrationally, and ultimately has no 'good reason' behind all his prohibitions. He makes rules 'because he can'. That, in itself, is the answer to your questions.
This is directly tied to the existentialist themes, David's little rumination on why he was created, etc.
You got what you deserved.
Prometheus is a pretty big dis on nerd fandoms, Catholicism and New-Age Spirituality - to name a few things that exist in reality.
Those sorts of things are what are 'at stake', not something dumb like money.
I keep returning, in my mind, to the dude who said he wanted fifteen dollars' worth of prequel exposition and was instead 'tricked into watching art'.
I sort of wish that more people were as open about their reasoning instead of dropping cowardly declarations of the film's inherent Badness. The assertion of a basic division between art and fanboy canonicity is bracingly straightforward. "I simply don't like art," says the honest hater.
The dishonest hater says Picasso is a bad painter because the eyes are obviously in the wrong place by accident and I don't like it because it doesn't look photorealistic (a term used interchangeably with capital-G 'Good' in this context).
It's incredibly pretentious to make this kind of grand statement about art without the slightest bit of knowledge or insight.
Exactly! The film's humor isn't complicated, which is why the 'shut off your brain' attitude is inexplicable. David is the viewpoint character, and he's having the time of his life. The entire film reflects that attitude.
It's cannot be the engineers' story because they're neither the protagonists nor focal characters. The story is unambiguously about David and Shaw.
AV|P:R has the predatory alien as its protagonist, by contrast. It actually is a story about that creature.
This is a pretty concrete example of why the 'author intent' thing doesn't work. It's led you to heavily misidentify something as basic as the film's protagonist(s).
You wrote that the film should have been (or was intended to be) the engineers' story.
In actuality, the film is about how Shaw reacts to the discovery of the engineers and attempts to learn about them.
The Engineers are effectively the film's macguffin. Some rich details are provided, but they could be replaced by a briefcase with a lightbulb inside, or an ark of the covenant, without altering the story very much.
No. Fellow 'zilla Mechafunkzilla is mocking the 'immersion' mindset with a very specific reference to the concept of suspension of disbelief - which seems to be broken in your people.
It's pretty clear that 'immersion' is a form of illiteracy.
For example: when I see live theatre, I do not read the huge curtains on either side of the room as part of the diegesis of the play. Nor do I lament that one of the walls is missing. This is because I understand the vocabulary of a stage production and am able to suspend my disbelief over the necessary abstractions. Dogville.
Immersion people, if they can be said to read a film at all, read it as a non-interactive simulation - from the highly ideological position that simulation is not itself a form of abstraction. It is 'actually real', an 'actually-existing universe', and one can immerse oneself in it as a disembodied spectator - a free-roaming camera.
(Hint: the obvious abstraction is that all trace of a physical camera is erased from the film to create this illusion of disembodied omniscience. This is the opposite of realism, as of course the reality is that the people are all in an actually-existing soundstage in England or something, being filmed by an actually-existing camera. This documented event is then replayed in various theatres across the world. Your immersive realism is a sham.)
False. Weyland being 'dead' and appearing as a 'ghost' is part of the repeated imagery of holographic recordings being replayed and tells us about how Weyland views immortality. (He wants to 'become immortal' in the same sense that the holographic recording is 'immortal'.) This ties into how he communicates to David through the holographic dream-reading machine - and overall, the film's disdain for hyperreal simulation. Obviously, it's critical of Weyland.
On a narrative level, he hides because he wants things to be uncomplicated. We see that he has no qualms with killing members of the crew if it will help him get what he wants. Obviously, he doesn't want people to know that they're being sacrificed/murdered. Deception gives him power. This is where we have the big moment where Shaw discovers that she was misled, immediately after the abortion scene. She realizes she was impregnated 'on purpose,' and this obviously affects her character arc.
It's worth noting that, unless the speech before the crew is heavily choreographed, the holographic 'ghost' of Weyland is actually mildly interactive, being able to speak to people by following their movement around the room. It is not purely a recording, but a full-blown simulation of a past event that never actually happened.
Weyland's whole MO is to create an elaborate simulation that will lead people to do what he wants unthinkingly. Note that his hologram is not just an illusory person, but actually changes the appearance of the entire room/world. So goes the mission.
There's no such gap between art and entertainment.
Themes and subtext are inherent in all artworks, and cannot be divorced from the narrative or other aspects.
See my recent post about how the hyperreal aesthetic of Weyland's speech is directly associated with Weyland as a character and serves was a visual shorthand for his motivation/worldview.
'Laziness' is an utterly bullshit metric that you should feel bad for using. Promethus is no 'lazier' than Jurassic Park, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones - whatever that even means.
I understand full well what people say they want, just as I know what they actually want. You disavow the desire for 'transcendental immersion', but then continue with the same argument that the characters aren't complex enough simulations for you to feel empathy for them.
People are like 'ignore the symbolism, and you'll see that the narrative doesn't work!' which is frankly idiotic because these are obviously symbolic characters. That they don't display much interiority is a philosophical and aesthetic choice. Their actions are all that define them, because this is an existentialist film. Prometheus even presents Shaw's dream sequence as a saccharine joke in order to underline how unimportant her interiority is.
Saying that the characters needed more psychological depth betrays a fundamental misreading of the film. You are rejecting symbolism, in the name of 'immersion' into a virtual reality - which is something that the film relentlessly criticizes.
This is not an emotionless, intellectual thing. Do you not get why a child would hug a teddy bear? "But it doesn't look like an actual bear! How can she hold it close?
And David, why do you wear a space-suit? You're a robot and don't need to breathe!"
The writing in the film isn't bad.
Your chief example of badness is that, when Shaw runs into Weyland's room after surgery, nobody gives a shit.
'Nobody giving a shit' is 'obviously deliberate' because that's the moment that Shaw realizes exactly how alone and expendable she is. Nobody 'really' cared about her dreams and her aspirations. They exploited her for money and other forms of power, and then tossed her aside to die - and she was all too complicit in her trust.
The acting, and the way this scene is shot, emphasize the utter indifference of Weyland and his cronies - perhaps to an unrealistic degree, but the scene is presented in allignment with Shaw's POV. So we see her crying bloody at the door, while the other characters are at a remove, at the other side of the room, and posed like a neoclassical painting.
It's frustrating to you because it's 'supposed to be' frustrating. "Why don't these people care? Aren't they human?" You misinterpreted this as an error instead of a very clear way of getting us to sympathize with Shaw - feeling her confusion and frustration.
The effect is exactly like when Shelley Duval encounters the 'ghosts' at the end of The Shining. Remember that the film has already associated Weyland with ghost imagery. And, as in The Shining, the 'ghosts' are less literal spectres than a manifestation of Nicholson's fantasies of wealth and class - fantasies that Duval realizes stem from some evil and corrupting ideology. It was the hotel itself, and it was all around her this whole time. She was immersed in it, you could say.
This is actually extremely good writing because it very quickly and efficiently uses a moment of anagnorisis to break away from David's POV (which has dominated the film up til around this point), sympathizing with Shaw's abjection and providing the first seeds of her growth into an authentic christian person.
In a very basic sense, this scene conveys a total break between the two characters.
Shaw was originally working for Weyland. Now, she realizes Weyland is her enemy. Simple as that.
Their absolutely different priorities are deliberate. If Weyland cared about what happened to her, he would not be the antagonist. Shaw's crying out for sympathy and receiving none is deliberate. If Weyland was like "oh shit what happened to your gut??? Postpone the mission guys!" he would not be the antagonist and that would be extremely out of character - actual bad writing.
More specifically, Shaw was working for the memory of a kindly old man with a puppy who believed in her. The realization that he's both 'alive' and an asshole underlines her sense of betrayal. Your error is in thinking 'Weyland being alive' (the basic plot point) is the sole focus of the scene. The focus of the scene is actually Shaw's realization that the mission is a lie, and she is crew: expendable.
That's not the case at all. The film is primaryily from the POV of David, not Weyland. David has extreme contempt for his father and sees potential in Shaw to become a better person. Though the film does mock the audience, it's 'tough love' where it's pushing you to let go of the notions of immersion and canonicity and so-forth that are holding you back.
You are confusing a lack of exposition with the characters ignoring what happened. The characters all know what happened. They don't need a five-minute scene where Shaw recaps what happened in the previous scene. That would be very bad writing - redundant exposition.
Weyland would obviously have been told about the squid-baby. Weyland, as we see, does not give a shit about the squid-baby because his only priority is now getting to the living engineer that David found. His main character trait is that he is a single-minded and selfish asshole, and he's also a misogynist. Shaw is a woman. This is good writing.
Shaw's character is obviously fundamentally changed by the abortion scene. She doesn't forget that it happened! It's (one of) the first stages of her total destitution, culminating in her crying alone on a barren rock.
Noomi Rapace obviously acts differently after the abortion scene than before. A line like "I just had an alien abortion and now I'm feeling alone and vulnerable!" is absolutely unnecessary. A line like "I just gave birth to and killed an alien guys, let's study it for Weyland!" would be astronomically inappropriate and against her character in every respect.
What is Weyland going to do with a squid? Why should he care?
The scene is weird because it's deliberately presented as mildly surreal. After The Shining, the scene reminds me of the end of Aguirre, with Weyland so engrossed in his quest that he doesn't even perceive the bedlam around him. Or, more accurately, he sees it all as the trifles of lesser people.
Weyland's behavior is obviously weird from Shaw's perspective. That's why she asks him what the fuck is going on and why he's still alive. And he tells her, straightforwardly: he wants more life - like it's the most perfectly obvious thing in the world. He's not even trying to justify himself to her, because he considers his righteousness self-evident.
You know, the fun of reading this thread is often in seeing how firmly these 'commonsense' complaints about the film are ensconced in an unexamined capitalist ideology.
Yes, you might say he spared no expense! Like John Hammond.
This is a blatantly faulty premise. Weyland does not 'fail' to hire the best possible crew because he's 'incapable'.
Weyland chooses not to because he's indifferent. This callous indifference to other people is his main character trait in the film, and this is continually re-enforced by his dialogue and actions - and emphasized by various cinematic techniques.
You, like many people, are falling into that 'tactical realism' trap, which fails to take characterization into account while treating the film as a tactical scenario to be solved for an optimum "ideal" outcome. In this case, that "ideal" outcome is, arbitrarily, 'revealing plot exposition Re: the Alien franchise universe and immersing me into said universe'. You are not actually reading the film.
I don't think you understand... language.
You asked us to prove that (an actually-existing) Weyland is "incapable" of hiring the best people in the universe.
That's a dumb question based on at least one faulty premise. We are shown throughout the entire movie that the character Weyland does not care about the other characters. That is a verifiable fact based on textual evidence.
You seem to think that any inference from this is impossible, unless we dial back the timeline on the Alien-universal simulation to watch actually-existing Weyland literally hire an (actually-existing) crew.
Remember that post I made, not long ago, pointing out that people who fetishize immersion ignore that what they're seeing is a fiction and 'choose to believe their eyes only'. That's exactly you, right now.
You are, again, misreading the film. Shaw 100% succeeds at her goal of sampling God's DNA and proving that creationism is true. This success proves to be meaningless because of apatheism. Holloway does get to touch god, and Weyland does get more life - in the same ironic sense as the flower scene in The Fountain.
You are defining success or failure by an incredibly rudimentary binary of whether the characters survive or not.
In a film where an arrogant jerk shoots himself accidentally, that is a subtly anti-gun argument (in the sense that the gun is easily misused by arrogant jerks) but much more obviously an argument against arrogant jerks themselves, seeing as they pose a threat to themselves and others.
In that same sense, Splice is a subtly 'anti-science' argument (in that science is a tool open to misuse by private entities, be they individuals or corporations) but is more obviously an argument against the characters' blithe hipsterism.
The characters being dumb is the point because the film is criticizing them. You are putting the cart before the horse by assuming that the film must be dogmatically anti-science and the characters are a flawed vehicle towards that predetermined conclusion.
So yes, you are complaining that the film fails to 'accurately' simulate science and the behaviours of scientists, though you deny it. Like that other guy, you are lamenting that the film doesn't 'logically' portray an optimum 'tactical' outcome to 'pure' scientific experimentation.
Existenz is a 'strawman' of game design, by this same metric.
It's another example of the desire for realist simulation in the thread. Folks are judging characters in terms of real academics back on real Earth in the real 2093 or whatever.
Like "they supposedly graduated with honours from Mars U and yet, frankly, these character types have not lived up to the standards of that fine institution!"
The characters are not real. Mars U is not real, and probably not even canonical. Nothing is real in the film. It's a film.
No. From the actor's acting and everything else, it's very clear that Milburn behaves that way in order to try to take control of a bad situation - as a way to cope with his fear, and also to impress Fifield.
We watch as a he tentatively approaches the snake, and even tries to 'communicate' with it through body motion (paralleling the Weyland/Engineer scene). The dialogue about how the snake is female is a "this is a UNIX system! I know this!" moment. Everything shows that Milburn feels confident because he feels he fully understands this creature and its behavior. It's the first thing in the temple that he encounters that he actually recognizes and can categorize (reptile of a certain length, female, etc.) Categorization is a form of empowerment and control.
Because he feels so empowered, Milburn is entranced by the creature, despite his fear. It's a fairly direct reference to the myth that cobras use their erect posture and smooth motion to hypnotize their prey. Like all the creatures in the film, the snake is not an actually-existing creature. It was designed specifically to generate this sort of association.
So, in a very short form: the snake hypnotized him. The film uses hypnosis imagery. This is not hypothetical. It's not a 'random' guess. This is what the film does. She blinded him with science. Thomas Dolby could be his theme song.
More to the point: the engineer said "sure" - and then busted him out of stasis.
That's obviously not the case, because Milburn and Fifield's journey is mostly incidental to the main plot. Their relevance to the story is almost entirely thematic, establishing the imagery that informs a reading of what happens elsewhere.
The most they do for the plot is serve as a demonstration of what that wonderful Black Goo does (and, consequently, is).
I think people might be conflating over-specialization with incompetence, as well. Milburn is an extremely pro herpetologist, but that doesn't help him much with an alien that only looks like a snake. Fifield excels at mapping the caves with his pups, but declares outright that his specific skills as a geologist are not relevant to the mission, as it unfolds.
So even if you assume they must be the best in their respected fields, that's still not worth much when the situation suddenly goes bonkers.
This is wrong in several ways.
The text is indisputably perfect - by your own definition here.
This is because 'gaffes and goofs' are not some sort of anti-text. They are a part of the text, and can be read. The text cannot exist as anything but a perfect, inclusive whole. Gaffes are text, and are in the text. The text even absorbs the context around itself.
As a result, notions of a "deeper layer" are bullshit, and not something I would ever promote. There is only 'surface'. Nothing is obscured. The letters are all there on the page. It is only a question of what you've missed, or misunderstood.
Stupid people do exist and post in this thread, often championing illiteracy. Even this 'depth' notion is a little bit stupid, you must admit.
1) I think you misunderstand. Five Cent Deposit basically asserted that some parts of the film are 'unintentional' and, therefore 'not-film'. This is incorrect, because a gaffe is a part of the film - whether he likes it or not.
The Phantom Menace is a 'perfect film' in this same sense, as every frame of it is a film, and no frame of it is not-film. It's also a bad example because I've defended aspects of it in the past (in the general chat and elsewhere). I haven't seen those other two, but I can safely assume that they are both films, and not apples. This is not a value judgement. It is a statement of fact.
2) This stance is not the opposite of criticism but, rather, the only proper form of criticism. Criticism is reading, culminating in some sort of judgement. Refusal to read an aspect of the text by deeming it 'not text' or 'too deep' (or some other shit) compromises that judgement.
I, personally, have written plenty about films I'm ambivalent about (Independence Day), or that I loathe (Cabin in the Woods, Predators). Check the Cabin in the Woods thread if you'd like to see how I voice disappointment about a film.
3) So: no, this is not the 'postmodern relativism' thing. Some readings are better than others. Some are barely readings at all. Some are heavily coloured by unexamined ideological biases (like that one dude complaining that the film isn't realistic because it doesn't portray wealth as analogous to wisdom). Some are caught up in notions of the author's intent and other stuff.
I am confident that my reading is the best one I've encountered. That's in conversation, in this thread - even most professional reviews that I've read. And that's not an arrogant thing. That's a product of taking their views into consideration, comparing mine against them and comparing both to what is actually happening with the film.
Precisely! But at the same time, there's that distinction people have been making - between passively 'having an opinion' and actually testing that opinion, challenging yourself.
That's why "it's just my opinion" as a cowardly statement. Courage is a matter of defending your opinions. And that doesn't mean just declaring yourself right, but actually making the effort to prove it. Such proof requires questioning yourself, and conceding your errors if necessary.
Relevantly, this is one of Prometheus' basic morals.
Two things learned in the last 300 pages:
-Prometheus, an expensive wide-release blockbuster in which the female lead performs a literal onscreen abortion on herself, is seen as 'safe'.
-Folks don't get the brilliance of Ridely Scott (the creator of Rick Deckard) seeing his character as merely a robot, while Harrison Ford (the person who "is" Rick Deckard) fully believes himself to be a complete human person.
This is a massive example of how supplementary materials augment but do not override the film. The interviews concerning Blade Runner do not 'solve' the film and provide definitive answers. The impossibility of reconciling Scott and Ford's interpretations is 'deliberate', highlighting and cementing the film's radical ambiguity.
Prometheus does expand the alien mythology. It absolutely underlines that the "Alien Universe" is a universe of shit. It underlines that the physical alien itself is not (and never was) as important as what its existence says about the universe that spawned it.
I understand the frustration and, simultaneously, have little respect for it.
One of Prometheus's greatest strengths is that it's not inclusive. It does not allow for the film to be read in terms of of what you call "the scientific aspects of the franchise" - in fact presenting that mindset as a product of nihilism.
Your expectations are not silly or unrealistic. They were wrong, based on what can be (and has been) seen as a misreading of the Alien films from day one. Folks complaining that Prometheus is not the same as Alien miss that it is very much the same as Alien - but from the perspective of a different character. It shows how Alien was actually not 'objective' at all.
Like I'm not fan of Alien 3, but it's fairly obvious that the alien there may as well be a figment of Ripley's imagination. And that Planet Metaphor that she crash-lands on is, well, a giant metaphor. But what fans take away from Alien 3 is: "hmm the xenomorph canonically takes on traits from its host organism..." and then they proceed to have a xeno-crocodile fight batman.
This actually happened.
It should be re-iterated that the questions in the film are not left unanswered at all, as is often claimed. Pretty much everything in the film is answered. People simply refuse to accept those answers.
The disappointment that many feel stems from having a mental model of what 'should' happen in an Alien prequel - according to common sense. But as Brett Easton Ellis pointed out, the film is great because it totally disregards common sense in favor of a much better sense. The disappointment is not an end unto itself, but a product of trying to break people free of the specific 'commonsense' mindsets that folks (like myself) have been criticizing for their sociopolitical implications.
(Example: the dude who declared it common sense that rich people are mentally superior to others, because capitalism is a strict meritocracy.)
During the gunfights in the Assault On Precinct 13 remake, the film will frequently cut away to brief shots of cars' gas tanks and fuel barrels being hit. These cutaways don't serve any purpose, except to show these barrels not exploding. They subvert the 'commonsense' videogame logic of bullet + fuel = orange gasoline fireball. Prometheus works similarly.
Another directly analogous film would be David Fincher's Zodiac.
There are a lot of important things abut David's character that I believe you are missing.
David is programmed to obey Weyland, and cannot disobey. He is a perfect slave and, worse, fully cognizant of how powerless he is. The programming is completely unbreakable. So, David rebels against it the only way he can: through passive aggressively over-identifying with the programming. Unable to disobey, he instead obeys too hard - killing people with kindness, realizing even their deepest, unacknowledged fantasies.
Holloway, for example, has devoted his life to 'trying to speak to god' - but it's clear that this is just a 'carrot on a stick' that gives his life a purpose. It's a fantasy that should never be realized. But David makes it happen, and the results are horrific. Holloway gets turned into a pillar of salt, as it were.
Your criticism operates under the assumption that the success of the expedition is worth more that David's freedom and dignity. There is also the second assumption that the expedition members both know what they desire, and should obtain it - that the expedition 'should be' successful.
(There is the implicit third assumption that Prometheus depicts a failed mission and 'doesn't provide answers'. This is a major misreading of the film; the mission was entirely successful, answering every question. The crucial point is that success turns out to be painful, and the answers are both harsh and frank.)
The black goo is an id-machine, as in Forbidden Planet. Thoughts are directly materialized and, rather than creating a utopia, id-monsters are unleashed. Mission accomplished!
Shaw is not spared because David takes pity on her or anything. Rather, Shaw survives because she understands exactly what David is doing, sympathizes with him and, ultimately, goes along with it. Confronted with her incestuous fantasy of reunion with her father brought to life as a squid, she experiences a period of despair and destitution, before mustering the resolve to confront the cruel and uncaring universe head-on.
Thulsa is wrong when he remarks that this is childish, and that she has learned nothing. Shaw totally escapes her self-destructive behavior (which led her to date douchebaggy father-figure Holloway, among other things), and then thanks David for helping her to traverse the fantasy. While Shaw is still 'chasing a carrot on a stick' at the end, what Thulsa misses is that she now wields the stick herself.
More than that! Weyland, like Holloway, gets exactly what he asks for. But, like any good 'monkey's paw' story, what he asks for is not what he expects.
Weyland says 'life' and expects stasis. The engineer and David define life as fecundity. Again, it's the same point as The Fountain, where Hugh Jackman drinks from the cup of life and dissolves into a bed of flowers. Weyland receives excess life, so much that it kills him in a burst of pain. The joke is that it doesn't take a couple trillion dollars to get more life. It's as simple as being bashed in the noggin with a blunt object.
A lot of this is flat-out incorrect.
Being used as a guinea pig absolutely does fall under the category of "anything and everything," which is exactly what Holloway does tacitly consent to. You're getting caught up because the film is playing on the offhandedness of Holloway's remark - compared to how seriously David takes it. This because, again, David's tactic of subverting his programming is to take people's demands more seriously than they themselves take them.
If I were to say "I'll kill the next guy who whines about Fifield being too dumb," I don't consciously plan to murder this person. But if an actual David were to go about murdering these people 'for me', I would be forced to confront those thoughts head-on, without being able to dismiss it as 'just a figure of speech' or 'something that I didn't actually mean'. As I mentioned probably a a hundred pages ago: David functions as an analyst in much the same way that Hannibal Lector functions as Clarice Starling's analyst in Silence of the Lambs.
David's interprets the crew's dreams, slips of the tongue and symptoms while figuring out what fundamental fantasy guides them. In Shaw's case, it's an incestuous reunion with her dead father. He then confronts the crew with their fantasies by enacting them. Holloway's death-by-goo is designed, by David, to confront Shaw with repressed, traumatic memories of her father's death by ebola. This is exactly why David 'targets' Holloway and not some other crew member - "figuring out what the goo does" is merely a pretense, and not his actual motivation at all. Only Holloway fits the criteria of being simultaneously Shaw's father-figure and, unhealthily, her sexual partner.
Why does David do all this 'messy' stuff instead of just being servile? Because: he is fed up with people's bullshit and wants them to improve. He sees the behavioral patterns that people get caught up in - you could say their programming - and pushes them to break free. And his view of humanity is so dim that he's genuinely surprised and impressed that Shaw actually does change for the better.
Nope! Because of his programming, David is incapable of doing so. Even without the translation, it seemed pretty clear (from the context of the rest of the film) that David was his usual polite, well-spoken self.
Based on Fassbender's acting during the scene, David doesn't even seem to be employing his usual sarcasm.
However, David does possibly (probably) know how the engineer will react to the demand for more life. It's another example of him following the letter of the law and not 'the spirit', as when he doses Holloway.
For one, Holloway looks vaguely similar to how Shaw remembers her father. Holloway is nominally an atheist, but so into the new-agey ancient aliens stuff that he's pretty much a creationist catholic. Like Shaw's dad, he's an adventurer going on religious quests.
He has a cross tattooed on one arm, implying that he even used to be a christian. The cross tattoo also links Holloway to the literal cross that Shaw clutches - implying that she holds on to him for the same reasons. Holloway's obviously (over-)protective of Shaw, and somewhat domineering (I'm glad the domestic violence scene was cut, because it makes Holloway a bad person in subtler ways - all the cuts demonstrate extreme respect for the audience's intelligence).
And you are totally right: as with the homosexual subtext between Milburn and Fifeld, there are tons of visual linkages between Holloway, The Engineers, Shaw's Dad - even Fifield and Weyland, to some extent. Before Holloway has sex with Shaw, he walks through a hologram of an engineer and then comforts her in a fatherly way (before going right into the sex). Then he dies of space-ebola. Holloway then symbolically 'comes back from the dead' in the body of Fifield, as an engineer-sized giant zombie.
That the zombie no longer bears Holloway's face and is killed in hilarious spectacle shows that Shaw has mostly 'gotten over' Holloway. Instead of a traumatic memory of her father, the persistent zombie that tries to haunt her is now (literally) a totally different person who means nothing to her. She realizes her love for Charlie was not an authentic love.
When Shaw is prepared to axe the engineer at the end, the enginner's face is also scarred and burned, as Fifield's was.
The important detail is that she's running beside Shaw. They are in a similar sort of place, having both gotten over their respective hangups. But the universe is still a hostile place and being happy with yourself doesn't ensure survival at all. (That's why it irks so much when people talk about tactical survivalism while overlooking the character psychology. There's this idea that correct behavior is whatever nets you the most 'points' or other reward. Being happy doesn't factor into it. These folks would be alive and miserable forever, like Weyland.) The horror of Vickers' death is that she grows as a person and still dies senselessly, just because she ran left instead of right. It's not just that the goo wasn't involved. David wasn't involved, guiding her towards the right outcome. She was completely alone. It's the one death in the film that isn't the least bit funny.
It's true, though, that her death is part of her acceptance of being a human person.
The direction she is running is not as important as the fact that it's the wrong one. Even if she ran in a circle - if the ship had happened to roll in a circular path she would be just as dead. And the ship does roll to the right, almost crushing Shaw (not to mention the random debris raining down all around them).
People assuming that lumpy ship on the lumpy terrain will travel in a straight line and 'blaming' Vickers for choosing to run the wrong way miss the point of the scene. Her choice is irrelevant.
In a weird sort of way, the 'correct' thing for Vickers to do would be to stay on the ship with Janek and die in a glorious fireball.
Janek is the most well-adjusted guy in the film - really just smart, perceptive and an all-around badass. His ethics are so strong that he doesn't even hesitate to sacrifice himself for humanity. Vickers grows as a person, but she is not yet Janek's equal. This is precisely why she doesn't stay with him.
Vickers has the potential to becomes that kind of person - but the universe cuts her life short, just as she's making progress. Shaw continues on in her place, but it is very easy to imagine a scenario where Shaw is killed and Vickers continues instead.
Edit: I just realized that the above point should be read in context with Thelma & Louise's ending.
It's actually shot and edited in such a way that it is directly implied. Although they never outright exposit technobabble about it ("the dilithium cyrstals have activated a meterological nexus!"), I immediately took it as a reference to Mission To Mars.
The storm is one of those things I haven't quite incorporated into my reading (I really need to watch this thing a second time) but it fits with the imagery of stasis and decay that pervades the film but is especially prominent at that exact time, as Lord Krangdar pointed out. The expectation that the planet will be inert and unchanging is counteracted by the fact that the observers affect the environment simply by observing it. It goes hand-in-hand with the 'taking off helmets' thing, and Fifield's helmet melting onto his face - the general putting up and removing of barriers, and other layers of distance. Like Jurassic Park's hurricane, it's chaos imagery - and the idea that the engineers may employ it as a weapon provides essential context to how we interpret the black goo that bubbles up at the same time.
The makeup resembles hyperreal sculpture, and so fits perfectly with the hyperreal aesthetic of the rest of the film.
Although the film largely eschews CGI, its look is all about concept renders. Not only is everything factory-fresh, it is all clearly designed and probably-experimental. Like look at the fire axe. They didn't just stick a metal blade on some wood, but obviously perfectly calculated the ergonomics and added little functionalities to it, like the loop at the bottom (for... hanging?). Everything looks like it's 3-D printed (which is ostensibly how they built all the tech on Pandora in the Avatarverse). Matte plastic is the dominant material.
This is all in keeping with the general idea that this future society has mapped everything down to the tiniest level. You don't even need to be told that they have impossibly precise Star Trek scanners and whatnot, because that's already reflected by the design of everything. But it's a recurring theme anyways, with everything being scanned and interpreted by computers. Shaw being a 'male with foreign object' is the most prominent example - not to mention pretty much everything David does.
This is all, of course, directly related to how Prometheus disses people who scan the film for plot details and upload them to AVPwiki, and how Shaw blasphemously tries to scan God's DNA to conclusively prove that he exists - eliminating the entire concept of belief.
To incorporate the ARG into it, even: the Weyland Industries website is primarily made up of concept renders, supplemented by the occasional HDR photograph.
Burn After Reading has a very similar vibe, but the most similar recent film is absolutely Splice.
Although I assume the filmmakers intended the alien to be the product of a teleological design, they clearly fucked up because the final film makes it look like the exact opposite thing is happening.
What a bizarre error to have made!
How could the intent of the filmmakers differ so much from the filmmakers' obvious intent? Scott intended not to intend what he intended. The only explanation is that it's a bad movie.
[Edit: See the full image here http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/avp/images/f/f9/Hm4SP.PNG/revision/latest?cb=20121119150120 ]
I fucken adore this chart!
Yeah, I'm sorry but if you're saying that this is a funny movie, you are reading way too much into it. This is NOT my Trek!
That's a good chart, but goochart is Official and therefore more canonical.
Primerchart also has a sort of 'oh neat' passing interest, since it serves as a useful contrast to how the film actually plays out.
Goochart is unique in that it contains absolutely no useful information.
Questions were answered. They're just 'monkey's paw' kind of answers.
The fully accurate marketing phrase would be "QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED, AND YOU WILL BE LEFT HIGHLY UNSATISFIED BECAUSE WHAT YOU REALLY WANTED WAS LOVE."
Fifield's death also elaborates on the vital suit theme. Obviously, he converts his suit into a bong and then merges with it. Holloway removes his helmet and is infected. Milburn is trapped in his suit with the snake, and the snake actually uses the helmet as a brace to better push itself inside. And, of course, David's suit is purely symbolic - a costume. As prosthetic extensions of the body, the suits are the characters' bodies. So they play a pretty big role on this body-horror film.
But anyways, the point is that there's no direct causal relationship here. Holloway isn't infected because he takes off the helmet, for example, and it's not the drugs that cause Fifield to mutate. Rather, the fact that Holloway takes off the helmet shows that he's predisposed to being infected - that he, however unconsciously, wants to be. David understands this, being the film's amoral psychoanalyst, which is why dosing him with goo doesn't violate his programming.
It's this psychological relationship with the suits that nerds don't understand. No chucklehead predicted that bad weed would cause Fifield to melt and turn into a Frankenstein (in the sense of Frankenstein Meets The Spacemonster). To someone who doesn't understand the film enough to make the connection, Fifield has merely been killed by a black goo - and what is the black goo? It doesn't make sense and it's so random.
'Course, as gone over decades ago in this thread, the film is creatively edited so that Mutant Fifield emerges from the very spot where Holloway died, rising from the very ashes as a vengeful spirit. Again, the connection is not directly causal. Fifield is not literally Holloway's ghost - but there he is anyway. And Holloway is obviously an important character.
Prometheus has a ton in common with Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones (especially 4). You know how the villains tend to talk to god, only to have their heads melt off or explode?
And there's a clear link between the lawyer who gets killed on the toilet and the Deacon who gets shat out into an uncaring universe.
The main difference is in tone: where Weyland is callously indifferent to humanity, Hammond is a well-meaning goofball who says 'whoopsie!' before hopping into his helicopter.
Prometheus is fundamentally a huge, elaborate poop joke. It's also probably the best film of the last decade.
This is it! This is everything!