Prometheus: The Men Behind the Mask.

Some things Man was not meant to know.

We start with spoilers, right off the top: Back in 1979’s Alien, Lambert, Kane, and Dallas passed through a big spooky chamber— the Devil’s own rib cage —  en route to cinematic immortality.  The fossilized remains of an alien creature rested at its center like a great stone heart, embedded in organic machinery: mysterious, vaguely pachydermal, lonely somehow. We never learned what that creature was, where it came from, how it ended up fused to the bottom end of an alien telescope with its ribs shattered. We didn’t have to. The mystery was what gripped us: this evidence of things beyond the firelight we couldn’t see and, oh please God, might never see: because the infinitesimal sliver of the Unknown that did leak into view was enough to make us crap our pants before it ripped us limb from limb.

Thirty-three years later, Ridley Scott shone a light into the darkness. He peeled away that skeletal shroud and showed us what lurked underneath: just a regular dude with big muscles and albinism, as it turned out. Mr. Clean without the earring.  And with that one reveal, Scott took all that was mysterious and compelling and fearful about the monster under the bed, and reduced it to utter banality.

The scene itself is almost meta— because when you scale it up, that’s pretty much what Prometheus does to the entire Alien franchise.

If you haven’t checked out Caitlin’s review yet, you should: it’s concise and thoughtful and right on the money in terms of the broad missteps that make Prometheus sputter on its narrative cylinders.  But perhaps the one grand achievement that this movie might lay claim to is, its failings are too vast and too numerous to be contained within the limits of any one review. It will take squads, entire platoons of reviewers to properly pick apart these bones.  I only hope that I, along with the half of the Internet that also happens to be weighing in, am up to the task.

Where to begin?

How about at the very first shot, where a naked alabaster oxygen-breathing humanoid strolls about on a planet that doesn’t have any oxygen in its atmosphere (i.e. prebiotic Earth). He drinks of a literal Cup of Life; dissolves; topples into Earth’s water cycle, where the soup of his dissolution forms the basis of all life on the planet.  We know this, jumping ahead a few billion years, because we humans turn out to be an exact genetic match with said alabaster dude. Meaning that

  1. Every earthly life form from the Archaea on down has exactly the same genotype — has had the same genotype for 4.5 billion years, in fact — and everything anybody ever discovered about genes from Mendel on down was wrong; or
  2. Different earthly clades do have divergent genotypes, but our particular twig on the tree (and none other) just happened to end up converging back to an exact match on the primordial soup after four and a half billion years of independent mutation, divergence and reticulation on its own (oh, and everything anybody ever discovered about genes from Mendel on down was wrong); or
  3. Everybody who ever had a hand in developing the screenplay for Prometheus dropped out of school after Grade Three, never watched a single episode of Animal Planet or CSI, and stuck their fingers in their ears and hummed real loud whenever anyone at a cocktail party talked about science. And everything Damon Lindelhof thinks he might have overheard somewhere about genes is wrong.

These are pretty big lapses to encounter in the first ten minutes of any so-called “science fiction” film — much less from the hands of someone as genre-defining as Ridley Scott — and yet I feel a little silly even bringing them up, because so many of the broader storytelling elements are such a mess.  When the Challenger blows up, you don’t waste your time complaining about its paint job.  But beyond Sweet et al.‘s observations about the lack of dramatic tension, the lack of mystery, the lack of story, science does play a disproportionate role here. Alien was about a bunch of truckers on a lonely monster-haunted highway; Aliens, about a bunch of jarheads rediscovering, to their shock and awe, the nastier lessons of Viet Nam.  Prometheus is about a scientific expedition, for fuckssake— and while Cameron cared enough about verisimilitude to put his actors through a couple weeks’ basic military training, it’s blindingly obvious that Scott couldn’t be bothered to ensure that his “scientists” knew the difference between a gene and a bad joke.  Much less anything about science as a profession.

So nobody thinks it remarkable when an archaeologist performs micro-necro-neurosurgery or runs a genetic analysis — anybody with an ologist on their resumé has gotta be a whizz at everything from microbiology to global general relativity, right?[1] We’re shown a biologist who uses the word “Darwinism” as though it were a legitimate scientific term and not a dig invented by creationists: the same biologist who, in the penultimate act  of a profoundly undistinguished career, runs with his tail between his legs at the sight of the first actual alien the Human race has ever encountered, even though it’s been dead for thousands of years.  Then, a few hours later, watches a live serpentine alien perform what’s pretty obviously a threat display — and tries to pet it.

And yet, idiotic though that biologist may be, the scientist in me can’t really take personal offense because nobody in this shiny train wreck has a clue, from the pilot to the aliens to an on-board medical pod that, honest-to-God,  is Not Configured for Females (unless that was supposed to be some kind of ham-fisted comment on gender politics?).  Nobody bothers with any kind of orbital survey prior to landing (blind luck is always the best way to locate  artefacts that could be anywhere on the surface of a whole bloody planet — although that’s downright plausible next to being able to find a multi-mooned gas giant from 34 lightyears away, based on a prehistoric game of tic-tac-toe someone scratched into a cave wall during the last ice age).  A survey team goes charging into an unexplored alien structure and takes off their helmets the moment someone says “oxygen”.  Their captain leaves the bridge unattended for a quick fuck, right after informing two crew members stranded in the bowels of said structure that some kind of unknown life-form reading is popping in and out of sensor range just down the hall from them. The lead’s love interest notices an alien worm doing a quick tap-dance on his own cornea, then suits up for EVA without telling anyone.  David the android does a pretty good pre-enactment of Ash’s later subterfuge in Alien by using his flesh-and-blood crewmates as incubators for this week’s infestation — for no reason I could see, since the standing orders that motivate Ash can’t possibly have been coded yet (nobody even knows about these aliens, or any others, prior to planetfall). And the “Engineers” — ancient godlike beings who act across billion-year timescales and give life to worlds —  have yet to figure out how to make biohazard Tupperware that doesn’t breach whenever someone comes through the front door.

Not, granted, that all that black goo really can be contained, not by any plausible bioware facility (although you do have to wonder why, if the stuff really was such a handful, the Engineers didn’t just take off and nuke the site from orbit). The stuff seems to spin a roulette wheel to decide what it’s going to be at any given time: kraken, mealworm, biologist-eating cobra[2].  At one point it acts as some kind of zombifying-and-reprogramming agent, reanimating the corpse of a dead geologist and sending him back to the mothership to flail around like Jason Voorhees on So You Think You Can Dance.  Biological containment measures are doomed to fail because this McGuffin is not limited by any plausible biological constraints.

I see that over on io9, my buddy Dave Williams describes the Engineer’s goo as a “DNA accelerant”. I don’t know what that is; maybe it’s a product of “Darwinism”.  I’d be more inclined to suggest that it simply exhibits whatever arbitrary characteristics the plot requires at any given moment, except for the fact that Prometheus doesn’t seem to have a plot. None of those iterations seem to tie into a coherent biological model; none of those incidents seem to connect narratively to any other.  It’s as if some lazy Dungeon Master showed up for a night of Dungeons & Dragons without having actually planned a campaign, and just threw a bunch of random encounters at the players hoping they wouldn’t notice.

Of course, those who champion the film don’t do so on the basis of its science.  It’s not about the science, they would say, it’s about the Big Questions.  (I wonder how such folks would react if the producers of Master & Commander had followed the same logic, decided that since the heart of the story was the human relationships, why not just let Russell Crowe and  Paul Bettany bob around the tropics in Water Wings and not worry about all that nineteenth-century nautical trivia?)  I admit to half the point; I admit that Prometheus is not a movie especially interested in science.  I do not concede, however, that it is a movie about Big Questions: that would put it into the realm of philosophy, and the script lacks anywhere near sufficient rigor to qualify on that score.  Philosophy does more than throw a bunch of what-ifs at the wall and leave them sticking there like overcooked pasta. It doesn’t just raise questions, it engages them.  It grapples. Prometheus just takes its what-ifs and stuffs them into a hundred-million-dollar fortune cookie.

Which makes it not a work of science or of philosophy, but of religion. It may mouth the Big Questions, but the answers it provides are downright inane.  And you have to take everything else on faith.



[1] Granted, this is an all-too-common failing even of SF shows that I like.

[2] I won’t complain — just this once — about the biophysics model that allows a larvae the size of a banana to grow into an adult Kraken in the space of a few hours, without eating anything.  That’s been a perennial problem even for the good installments of the franchise. (It’d make a great basis for a Gator-Ade commercial, though.)

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday June 18 2012at 06:06 pm , filed under ink on art . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

84 Responses to “Prometheus: The Men Behind the Mask.”

  1. Well said, Pete! You make many of the same points I was ranting about on my blog yesterday, only you have the scientific expertise to point out the flaws in greater details, while I just frothed furiously about them. What a train wreck of a film.

  2. Film crit Hulk does an excellent analysis, laying most of the problem to storytelling failure. I wanted to like it, was not expecting an “Alien prequel”. I was prepared to accept it on its own terms but the problem was that “Prometheus” doesn’t know what sort of movie it wants to be & as a result is an incoherent muddled mess. Looks pretty though.

    And don’t even get me started on the behaviour of these so-called scientists & technicians.

  3. I just wanted to present a different read of it? Not given any specific time information, I assumed the giant pale alien in the beginning dated from the time of the cave paintings- as direct explanation for the cave paintings and mythology. His tampering was hands-on, implying the Prometheus myth: Prometheus, given charge of creating mankind, feels sorry for the pitiful creations he shaped out of clay, and so gave them fire, gifts reserved for the gods. The rest of his kind are outraged and thus their impulse to destroy is a result of their outrage over what Prometheus has done. The black goo I read as a sort of attempt to improve the body, mass-produced so the entire race can transcend, turns out to create horrible killing machines, so they stockpile it in the default reaction of everyone to the Aliens (wouldn’t a horrible killing machine be useful later?). And go tell that Prometheus guy that the transcending brew worked and is awesome, but actually give him some disintegrating poison.

    Maybe not much scientific sense, but works out more in line with the myths.

  4. I hadn’t read your post before posting mine… now I wish I had! You’ve explained the cup of life bit (I TOTALLY didn’t get that this is what they MEANT, about them as progenitors… even with all the shots of those bits of DNA I still managed to MISS THE POINT entirely. Gah! So I may be stupid, but at least I didn’t get as angry as I now am now that you’ve laid it out for me. Because it’s preposterous!)

    It was quite the letdown for me. I saw it the day it came out, and I’ve ranted about it, so well, that’s that. Now I’ma read your take on it….

  5. OMG… your review is… cleansing. I can go to sleep and be at peace now. G’night :-)

  6. Scott himself has said, in an interview, that the Engineers wanted to destroy the human race because, two thousand years ago, humans had killed Jesus Christ. That alone would be enough to put me off the movie.

  7. @Gardner:
    It’s about expectations: “Prometheus” was marketed as a SF movie. What we got was a religious movie. That accounts for a large amount of my irritation.

    It was quite like my response to “Book of Eli” which was also marketed as SF.

  8. guys, uhhhm, didn’t the trailer for the movie scream incoherent idiots at the helm…….??
    maybe it was just me…but 30 sec. into the trailer my brain shutdown with the schlock alarm sounding and I exited the page knowing that I was not going to waste money on that pig. sigh still waiting for Blindsight or The Island to be made into a movie, hopefully by a Canadian co. not some `merican idiot movie production corp. we can only hope that hell is real and has a very special place reserved for every member of the mpaa. sorry for the rant, but it is HELL living here in the land of supreme cognitive dissonance. for what it’s worth the last SF shows that I could tolerate were produced in Canada.

  9. Thank you Peter, I feel as though you have saved me the ticket price for seeing the movie, and probably been more entertaining in the process as well. I expect I’ll see this piece linked to quite a bit…

    Will, I like your interpretation and am looking forward to the inevitable fan cut. :)

  10. I quite enjoyed Prometheus. I love the original Alien and Aliens, and I felt no loss when Prometheus shone some measure of light on the mysteries emerging from those films.

    No doubt Prometheus is a flawed film – nearly all Hollywood productions are, these days – but it’s a brave film that dares tread where few go, and it’s a very well-made and engrossing epic.

    But then, I enjoyed the Transformers films as well. Maybe I’ve gotten over the fact that Hollywood doesn’t make films to satisfy geeks, but to make money, and I get my kicks in when I can.

  11. Lindelof wrote it? That’s all you had to say.

  12. Excellent summary/review! I was so excited to finally go and see this and then when I left the theater I felt insulted!

    I find it funny (and telling) that they had to completely fucking butcher basic science in order to give the religion plot any footing whatsoever.

    Some of the imagery and scenes were pretty cool, though!

  13. I’ve described Prometheus to people as a combination of slick visuals and good effects mixed up with a terrible script made of stupid characters and plot holes big enough to fly a spaceship through them. Seems to get the message across to avoid it until it’s available for rental.

    Ultimately, my disappointment with the film stems from being able to see what they intended (explore the “Big Ideas” in a scary sci-fi thriller with ties to the Alien franchise) and then how they bungled up the execution of those intentions. If you can’t stick the landing all the fancy pirouettes in the world won’t save you.

  14. Yes! The biomass-question has always bothered me about the alien franchise but the other science bloopers were so distracting. I didn’t like the way the Scottish one announced he was a geologist and it was total news to me because it’s not like he was doing any sort of geology at any point, he was just going around showing that no one had been briefed on the mission before they left, what sort of job is that?

    Also, what was with all the TOUCHING stuff as soon as they looked at it? They had those weird mappy laser doodahs, why didn’t they send those boys in and come for a recce the next day? If I’d been the lead scientist I would have sent the robot back to the ship for the typing shenanigans. (Although I really liked it when the Engineer took exception to him as soon as he could understand what he was saying, no problem with LOOKING human, that’s fine, but speaking a language I know? It’s rip you in two times)

    But with the cup of life, I am SO glad that Ridley has gone around telling people what that was about because the way I read it, the Engineers had invented black plot-accelerant goo and gone away on their spaceship to test it on some other stupid planet and one of the Engineers drank it to commit suicide on their home planet out of scientific regret.

    It really irritated me that their spacesuits were the shape they were, what the what? Why would you invent something like that? That’s nuts. Just so that the creature inside the suit could plausibly have “the same DNA” (except why didn’t they look all the way human if that was the case, bonobos look more like us than those CG jokers and they’re not an exact match)

    Also, I feel cheated that they didn’t clear up that what’s her face was another robot all ready for a “surprise” reveal in the se-prequel they are sure they are going to make.

  15. By the way, the term ‘Darwinism’ seems to have been coined by either Alfred Russel Wallace or T. H. Huxley. It is only in the USA that it has been co-opted by creatonists, as far as I can tell; using it with British English speakers won’t raise an eyebrow.

  16. Idris Elba and a few of the other actors were good enough to get me to groove along with the visuals with my brain shut off. Sadly, this is as close as you are going to get to a good big budget sf film these days and the box office will “teach” Hollywood to go dumber, not better. They are already rebooting Transformers, that’s right “rebooting” Transformers as we speak.

  17. The movie was pretty–that’s about the only nice thing it had. It was a train wreck of a movie. The “scientists” were a complete mess. Not removing your helmet in a potentially infective place or petting the weird snake seem like pretty basic rules. Having some sort of methodical plan would have been useful rather than “let’s all run into the big building before we map it.”
    The science was a mess. The writers don’t seem to have any idea how genetics actually work or how the scientific method works at all or any sort of idea of, well of anything.
    It seemed like they almost wanted to explore the notion of free will with David, but just couldn’t quite engage. As Peter said, throwing out some questions like spaghetti isn’t at all the same as trying to grapple with them.
    The Theron character seemed almost rational–Don’t engage the unknown aliens and don’t let the potential plague carrier on the ship. So, she, of course, had to be crushed.
    And, yeah, there was no need to reveal the alien as just a spacesuit. Ridley doesn’t seem to understand that horror is best kept in the shadows.

  18. Prometheus was sheer idiocy. I am not tempted to get into the guts of this overpriced stupidity; it’s just too broad a topic. The thing fails at almost every moment. Token black dude: gonna shag the boss lady and then heroically crash the Prometheus into the earthkilling bad guy. Glorious!

    No, the interesting thing here is that Alien I and Prometheus were the handiwork of the same individual. 30 years have passed, but it’s the same person, right? Right?

    No, the question that is _really_ bugging me is this: were the good and great things about Alien I planned or are we dealing with an unintended, emergent phenomenon,

    To take an even broader view: is all great art an accident? Can one set out to create something permanent, something compelling — or even something moderately decent? Does great art arise from the subconscious? Does the author have control?

    So we are down to a multiple choice question:

    When it comes to creating great art (Moby Dick, Alien I, Blindsight, etc) what really matters:

    A) intent and ability
    B) latent qualities and the subconscious
    C) luck and accident
    D) all of the above
    E) none of the above

  19. Yes!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. One of the first things I thought of after seeing the movie was, I can’t wait until Peter Watts reviews it.

  20. I’ll admit to enjoying some parts, but yes, it was not what I hoped it would be.

    Just out of curiosity though, what would it take for a single alien being to actually have seeded life on a world? I did like the idea of that, but it has its failings.

    Although, if said aliens were somehow able to bodily absorb multiple genetic strains from other life forms from other worlds, and then combine and release them into suitable environments, it might work.

    Octavia Butler’s aliens come to mind, since they do something similar. They actually have a specialized organ for this purpose.

  21. >> David the android does a pretty good pre-enactment of Ash’s later subterfuge in Alien by using his flesh-and-blood crewmates as incubators for this week’s infestation — for no reason I could see

    I got the impression that David was pissed off with humanity and wanted to sneak some goo back to Earth with the aim of killing us off. When he talks to Shaw (I think?) he says something about how she would hate her creators if, when she asked them why they created humanity, they replied “because we could”. It’s implied that he thinks that about us.

    But then, he spends the rest of the film being nice and helpful, so make of that what you will…

  22. Just to be thorough, let’s not forget the horses on the ‘invitation’ in the Isle of Skye–they’re only anachronistic by–oh, I don’t know–ten thousand years?

  23. […] “Prometheus is about a scientific expedition, for fuckssake— and while Cameron cared enough … […]

  24. I agree with most criticisms I have read about the movie. some are more glaring and bothersome than others, some are just common movie problems. I came away with some disappointment, but i also came away liking the film a fair bit.

    Some random things:
    -David’s ambiguity and the subtle portrayal by Fassbender
    -that the film wasn’t simply ‘everything you ever wanted to know about the space jockey
    -that for the first time in an Alien picture, instead of being defeated and running scared, our heroine remains firm in her ahab-like resolve to pursue.
    -that Theron’s character was not an android and was simply cold for having been raised in a cutthroat corporate environment and been cast aside in favour of a souped up toaster.
    -the various bits of dialogue between the two archaeologists and between each and David that make the analogies between human-engineer and android-human.
    -the essential futility of their questions while they, being human still feel compelled to seek
    -the journey Shaw has been on her whole life trying to live with both science and faith.

    all of this stuff was interesting, thought provoking, even if it was flawed and at times poorly executed.

    I’m not suggesting that I just have low expectations of films, though i do go in doing my best to suspend disbelief, be on board with tropes and narrative shortcuts and logic shortcuts, and generally just try and meet the filmmakers halfway.

    In the end, I thought Prometheus was an ambitious sci-fi. It wasn’t a battleship or transformers, or skyline. It was one of those rarer films that wasn’t simply an action movie wrapped up in pretty. Most movies are bad. I want hollywood to make more of this kind of movie so there will be more that get it right. For that reason, I’ve been a bit disappointed by the sheer wall of vitriol raging over the internet. I know hollywood listens to dollars, not angry geeks, but all this word of mouth can’t be good for box office. We complain when all we get is Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich or worse, their less entertaining second and third cousins. But then sometimes when someone tries, we go ballistic that it isn’t everything we ever wanted or wasn’t as coherent and logical as a novel can be. I feel like we went through this with Splice, another ambitious film, whose only flaw (for me) was in the last few minutes, cut those out and it was great. Geeky types shat all over that movie. it didn’t quite make its budget back, and i’m sure hollywood was paying attention. same way people complained about Contact for being, i don’t know, too existential, sentimental and personal. I don’t mind mushy squicky questions in my sci-fi. that’s always been part of sci-fi. sci-fi isn’t simply exploring the consequences of science, it’s often just another environment to explore human stories.

    I’m not saying we ought be blindly loyal, but sheesh we sure seem to flip our lids whenever someone tries to do something a bit different than just a monster movie or just a shoot em up.

    our culture and environment are tipping into a terrifying crisis, and i think the anxiety is reflected in our sci-fi films. there are more sci-fi dramas lately that examine hope and fear, desolation, meaning, the spiritual.
    -Cold Souls, a story about selfhood that revolves around the conceit of a compnay that can extract and store your soul.
    Perfect Sense, about a plague whose symptoms rob you of your senses one by one.
    Another Earth, the appearance of another earth and curisosity about what is on it is a bit of a back drop for a human drama and the sci-fi elements are again used symbolically.
    Mr Nothing, i’m not sure what this was about except it was existential, reflective, not centre of the road sci-fi
    Monsters, was about connection and love
    Melancholia, was about planetary crisis bringing everything into sharp relief.

    It does not seem out of place to me that Prometheus was twining questions of faith and meaning with its adventure quest story. it’s crime was doing it poorly. I think it is rather limiting and stifling to sci-fi stories when this movie is dismissed as being a religious story, not sci-fi. What the hell was 2001?

    We are getting a variety of different kinds of sci-fi films, but most of them do fly way way under the radar. I am willing to wade through ambitious failures if it means i don’t just get cartoony movies (which are fun on their own terms, but ultimately not so satisfying)

    sorry this has been long and rambly (its been thoughts as they come, not an essay)

  25. “Which makes it not a work of science or of philosophy, but of religion. ”

    Well, yes. It repeatedly and explicitly is. We get numerous references to the idea of the dying god – the god who dies to give life, typically though having its stomach torn open. It is in the title of the film, the opening sacrifice, a prominent part of the mythology of all the cultures that had “invitations”, part of the fresco on the wall of the storage chamber, the side reference to Jesus, Shaw having the larva removed, the final eruption, etc. The only peaceful endings come to those who sacrifice for the larger whole (contrast Halloway remaining dead vs the geologist), and the idea of failing to sacrifice is abhorrent to the Engineers (the revitalized head screams in horror, the pilot, confronted with Weyland trying to live longer while standing next to created life decides to attack the heretics). The final abomination is a lifeform that lives only to take life and consume, rather than sacrifice, the ultimate antithesis of the philosophy of the Engineers and symbolism of the film.

    The problem is this movie is that it replaces “plot” with “symbolism” and expects it to work. When you need to catch multiple background interviews, peruse the production notes, and reread The Golden Bough to get what is happening rather than just seeing it in the screen, there is a problem with your storytelling. As a result, it is a good film student movie, and a terrible everyone else movie.

    However, I am willing to give it a few years to age, a lot of the criticism applied to it so far could have been lifted word for word from the criticism for the original Alien. I don’t expect I will look back on it fondly, but I’m willing to give it a chance.

    A more pertinent criticism to me is the failure to have visual continuity in the art direction for the human ships. Here they have tablets, holograms, and bright glowing lights everywhere, yet decades in the future they have beige block computers, keyboards, and green crt screens. That is particularly important in a science fiction film, since about all of your worldbuilding is the art direction there. Say what you will of the Star Wars prequels, I could look at them and see the similarities between those ships and the star destroyers. Here it is basically a whole different universe.

    But beyond that people aren’t being quite fair to the acting. Fassbender (David) did a fantastic job and deserves a few awards for it.

  26. It’s not a mealworm, it’s a superworm. There is a difference.

  27. Simon:
    It’s not a mealworm, it’s a superworm. There is a difference.

    It’s like saying “It’s Watts” when in fact it’s Lem. There is a difference, however subtle.

  28. This is one of the worst films I have seen in recent memory.
    It is like a big budget version of one of those cheapo Sci-Fi channel monster films starring has been actors.
    Here is one more example of the inanity of the film:
    At the end of the film the remaining idiots decide to wake the last living Engineer (Space Jockey) out of his 2000 year hibernation. They try to talk to him and he goes postal on them and immediately lifts off and heads a course for earth to destroy it. Huh?
    “Hey you big pale dumb ass, you have been asleep for 2000 years, don’t you think you better take a moment to figure out what the fuck is going on here? What if there is no more earth? What if the humans blew it up? What if your leaders completed your mission 2000 years ago? What if the humans are now super advanced and way, way more dangerous than you asshole? Don’t you think a little Intel is in order here? Don’t you think you ought to taste your food before you salt it dick head?”
    And one other tidbit, after the huge ship crashes to the planet and rolls all over the damn place the last surviving scientist (Noomi Rapace) finds the head and body of the android are still in the exact same place on the ship they were before the crash, they didn’t even move in the slightest!

  29. “A more pertinent criticism to me is the failure to have visual continuity in the art direction for the human ships. Here they have tablets, holograms, and bright glowing lights everywhere, yet decades in the future they have beige block computers, keyboards, and green crt screens.” — Daniel

    Films are always made with whatever technology and effects are contemporary. It’s just one of those things that needs to be overlooked. There are 30 years between the films. If they had gone for continuity there would have been other problems and it would just have looked fetishistic. Nothing in the Star Trek universe looks like the tech in the original show, but people kind of understand why. if i were listing criticisms, visual continuity, if it were on the list, would be pretty low.

    it’s one of the nice things about books, they have unlimited budgets for special effects and set design and more fluidly move forward and backward in time.

  30. It feels silly to nitpick this movie; it’s like playing chess with a four year old. It’s so easy it doesn’t even make you feel smart for seeing the flaws. But as long as we’re on the subject, I’d like to know how the archeologists came to the conclusion that these creatures engineered the human race. How do you get from evidence of ancient astronaut visitations to this? Makes more sense to assume they visited 10,000 years ago for the first time and left a calling card so we could pay back the visit a good neighbors do.

    Moving on to the subject of holo displays: I bet you in the real 2089 it will look just as ridiculous as the bridge of the original Enterprise seems to us now. Displays will probably be replaced by contact lens displays or direct brain interfaces. Physical displays will probably be as extinct as analog dials.

  31. Peter said, regarding scientists who know ALL science:
    “[1] Granted, this is an all-too-common failing even of SF shows that I like.”

    Personally, I blame this trope on Gilligan’s island. That damn ‘Professor’ defined what a scientist was for a generation of TV and film writers.

  32. It is interesting to contrast this with Watts’ THE THINGS short story expanding upon the movie THE THING versus the way PROMETHEUS expands upon ALIEN.

    Both The Thing and Alien owe a great debt to Lovecraft who famously wrote “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

    Essentially, though The Things actually expands upon the nature of the Alien, it doesn’t betray the basic nature of the story. It does not try to apply some overall meaning to the story.

    Prometheus essentially tries to take what was At The Mountains Of Madness “in Space” into a New Testament for Von Daniken’s Space Gods. While at the same time it also tries to be a by the book sci-fi thriller like Event Horizon (a.k.a. Hellraiser “in Space”) and to be honest, it is no more intelligent than Event Horizon — or actually than Aliens Vs Predator which shares a lot of plot points with this movie.

  33. http://m15m.livejournal.com/23209.html pretty much sums it up and makes you choke laughing at the same time

  34. The thing is, prometheus is still a great movie. It’s like a master class in how acting, diolouge and plot can be merely incidental in film. The movie is beautiful, the sets are amazing, the cinemotography is out of this world. The script and the majority of the acting is just terrible though, god awful. Prometheus would be vastly improved by removing all of the diolouge. Much like PW mentions, it’s the needless exposition that make the movie such a horror, the why’s.

  35. You’ve missed the point of the film. To the “engineers” humans are as rats are to humans. Something we experiment on, don’t necessarily like, but are willing to abide with as long as they provide us a route to advance ourselves biologically. That is, until they start harboring Black Plague, which also affects humans and kills them. THEN WE WANT TO KILL ALL THE RATS SO WE DON’T GET IT!! The “Engineers” are no different. If a science experiment goes foul, cut your losses and run…except, that is not always the final outcome. It wasn’t a bad flick. My biggest problem with it was, in the year 2090, the best weapons they have are crappy flame-throwers???

  36. Visually beautiful, but flawed script. I saw it in 3D, and while it wasn’t filled with gratuitious 3D effects, the 3D wasn’t very well used either.

    I’m blaming Ridley Scott. It may not be entirely fair, but it’s “A Ridley Scott film.” If it was a success he’d get the praise.

    That said, I can see two likely causes for a script that requires many people to be stupid to advance the plot. (And stupid not just as scientists, but as human beings.)

    One is the Hollywood contempt for script writers. In the film industry a makeup artist wouldn’t dream of telling the camera crew how to do their job. But words on paper? Any fool can do that! Lindelof may have written a really good script which was mangled by the director and/or actors.

    The other is that Lindelof is a good writer, but not a good science fiction writer. Again, it is not an original observation that while the writers of a legal drama will spend weeks in courtrooms and law firms, and the writers of a police drama will spend weeks in stations and on patrol; when it comes to science fiction, hey, let’s just make shit up. Or possibly “I’m an artist writing about the universal human condition! I don’t need to think about the setting!”

    I don’t know whether it’s secrecy or ego, but film scripts don’t seem to have editors like written fiction does. Surely an editor would have pointed out little things like starting with metric measurements in space and then switching to imperial.

    It’s too late to save the movie, but not too late for a DVD / Blu-Ray release with pickup shots. My attempt at fixing Prometheus:
    http://members.ozemail.com.au/~laranzu/rants/prometheus.html

  37. Hugh: My attempt at fixing Prometheus:

    Hey, those are pretty good!

  38. agreed. someone get Hugh a job in hollywood.

    perhaps the cut material might help smooth things out. but it would be sad if the best talent money can buy would have butchered the film that badly to get the running time down. usually a sub plot or character depth is what gets cut for length reasons, not all the bits that make anything make any sense.

  39. Yes, those are very nice adds.

    Too bad the basic scenario is still screwed.

    The trailers and teasers and viral videos promised something more like the anti-2001. Ancient unknowable and nigh omnipotent entities seed the human race and leave an “invitation.” When the humans arrive, they walk into a trap, an extremely complex rat maze that’s part of a billion year old experiment with a purpose that we could never ever fathom any more than rats could ever understand the point of all the lab tests we perform.

    Like this blog review points out, in the end, Prometheus takes the mystery out of ALIEN and implies that behind the horror, there is some sort of point – a purpose – and in the end, the only way it has a purpose is to reduce it to a “spiritual/religious” journey.

    But at the same time, it really is just another one of those “A CABIN IN THE WOODS” movies with a cast filled with expendably idiots and monsters you’d list alongside the rest on the dry erase “monster pool” board down in the bunker.

  40. Thanks for the nice words, people.

    John Henning, I would have liked your anti-2001 as well. But maybe it would have been considered too close to Alien vs Predator :-( even if those movies have been declared non-canon.

    A big reason I’m hoping for a fixed DVD/Blu-Ray release is that once you get past the stupid and easily corrected bits, Prometheus is a genuinely ambitious science fiction film. Still flawed, but when “science fiction” in film generally means either robots bashing each other or aliens vs US Marines, I’m very grateful that Scott and Lindelof at least aimed higher.

    For ambitious but flawed, consider religion in Prometheus. The film hits us over the head repeatedly to emphasise that Shaw is religious and hasn’t lost her faith. But how about Weyland? He’s also religious – remark about David not having a soul – but is that his motivation for making the trip?Does this influence the Weyland – David – Vickers triangle? Maybe Holloway is religious too, and that’s why he falls apart when they discover the Engineers are dead?

    (Personally, I’d hope for word of the expedition to get back to Earth, and learning that humanity really was just engineered leads to the complete absence of mainstream religion in Alien/Aliens and an improvement in android rights.)

  41. Peter Watts wrote, in-part, and I thank him for saving me the $10.00 for a ticket with this review:

    […] its failings are too vast and too numerous to be contained within the limits of any one review.

    So it’s the “Fermat’s Last Theorem” of Bad SF Film?

    Of course, it will probably rake in so much box-office that someone will immediately launch a big-budget remake of that Star Trek (the original series) episode with the giant energy-sucking space amoeba. With a subtext of US trade imbalance and somehow including Nanotechno-Lamarckism from none other than the Nephilim as somehow responsible and with global meditational attuning to Gaianism as the only possible countermeasure.

    Get writing, folks. The big bucks (and infamy, rightly deserved) are out there!

  42. Hugh:

    (Personally, I’d hope for word of the expedition to get back to Earth, and learning that humanity really was just engineered leads to the complete absence of mainstream religion in Alien/Aliens and an improvement in android rights.)

    Sort of another thing I hated about the movie. In ALIEN, you got the idea that none of the crew knew androids existed. Certainly, they didn’t know Ash was an android, but listen to the dialog in the scene where they find out. It sounds like even the idea that androids are a reality freaks them out. Now, they aren’t stupid so it’s not like they think androids could not exist, but it certainly seemed like the existence of them was NOT common knowledge.

    This is further supported by Ripley’s reaction to Bishop. It clearly seems like the common knowledge of Android crewmembers was something that happened while she was asleep for fifty odd years.

    On top of that, when David infects Holloway (“Hollow Way” = belief in random evolution – I hope everyone notices the allegorical names in movie characters, by the way), the justification Lindelof gives is that when he asked what Charlie would do to get his answers – “anything and everything” meant that David could do whatever he wanted. If he had followed that up with, “oh, so you don’t mind if I infect you with an alien organism – that I haven’t even run a basic lab test on yet [as you point out] – and risk contaminating the woman you love and the entire ship in the process, do you?” I image Charlie would’ve expanded upon his earlier answer.

    Thomas Hardman:

    Of course, it will probably rake in so much box-office that someone will immediately launch a big-budget remake of that Star Trek (the original series) episode with the giant energy-sucking space amoeba. With a subtext of US trade imbalance and somehow including Nanotechno-Lamarckism from none other than the Nephilim as somehow responsible and with global meditational attuning to Gaianism as the only possible countermeasure.

    Get writing, folks. The big bucks (and infamy, rightly deserved) are out there!

    I think it’s time for a moritorium on two things in science fiction.

    1. Alien origins of mankind – how many times are we going to get the same old space gods trip?

    2. It’s not magic; it’s very advanced technology – only Arthur C Clarke is allowed to use that idea anymore and he’s freakin’ dead. If you’re gonna use magic as your explanation, then call it freakin’ magic, boys.

    Yes, Damon Lindelof, I am looking at you and your damn rock phallus in the stone anus that “paid off” seven seasons of LOST.

    That said, I am getting to work now on the big-budget return to the world of GODZILLA. You see, here’s what Godzilla and all the daikaiju really are:

    Millions of years ago, a race of human looking extraterrestrials settled on Earth. What they didn’t realize was that this verdent world was conscious and capable of giving birth to giant monsters to act as mega-biologic immune agents attacking invaders. After a century of battling these creatures, the aliens hit upon the idea of mixing their DNA with that of a hominid species on Earth basically creating superintelligent apes who would be accepted by the planet as her own and would carry on the civilization of the colonists after the apocalypse of giant monster wars.

    From this we get all our myths of Titans, Ragnarok, The Great Flood, Fall from Eden, the monster myths of ancient Greece (like Typhon) and so on.

    Only now that our cargo cult imitation of the “Space Gods” of the distant past has achieved levels similar to the first invaders, the Earth has woken up to the deception and sees the human race as an invader species — thus awakes Godzilla!

  43. John Henning:
    Sundry Godzilla Awesomeness

    This. This needs to be made. I don’t care what media format, you need to make this, ASAP.

    What can I say, I loves me some kaiju.

  44. While Prometheus is a trainwreck (as a friend said, “in space, no one can hear you yawn” 😀 ), even though a beautiful one, I do have to say that the kinds of “team-building” and “expertise” demonstrated by the characters are not unprecedented in “base reality”, and the movie itself seems to have been staffed in a similar manner, with a genius director (who still can pull pretty solid cinematography almost out of his ass), an idiot screenwriter (the same hack who screwed up Lost, for fuck’s sake), a beautiful, wonderful actor who I am totally hot for (and I tend to prefer women most of the time), a pair of nice actresses playing stereotypical characters (one of whom I am similarly fond of), and a whole bunch of whats-their-names who could be replaced by stoned college students with minimum damage to overall “talent pool” (especially given that their characters are basically one-dimensional parodies at best, placeholders at worst. Yes, stereotypical hypersexual incompetent black guy and oriental kamikaze pilot, I am looking at you :) )

    Also, I’ve participated in enough “CEO’s pet projects” to sincerely claim that crew’s downright pathological incompetence has a degree of grim realism to it. For me, it was more of a case of incompetently delivered satire than “science and plot fail” proper. Yes, “personally overseen” aka “pocket” projects can be that bad. Or almost that bad. It’s hard to tell the scale of a clusterfuck from the inside – which, BTW, is the reason why Scott is probably proud of this bit of handiwork 😉

  45. Absolutely right on. I hated this film for failing to live up to even an iota of its potential, and instead wallowing in idiocy for the painfully apparent purpose of “creating a franchise.”

    Money wasted. Time wasted. It destroyed what was good about Alien just as the two Matrix sequels ruined what was good about the Matrix. I wish Prometheus had never been made. It has robbed me of exactly the sense of wonder and delicious Lovecraftian horror – i.e., humans thrusting themselves into the void without any inkling of the ancient, eldritch terrors that are out there – that Alien inspired.

  46. Bastien: . This needs to be made. I don’t care what media format, you need to make this, ASAP.
    What can I say, I loves me some kaiju.

    I’ve been rewatching a lot of old Godzilla movies on Netflix and I have to say that they are actually more plot-filled and thoughtful than I noticed as a kid.

    I do think that if they ever revive the property, the conflict between human interests and its impact on nature is a natural framework for the films since atomic testing and the cold war aren’t as relevant today.

    01:

    Also, I’ve participated in enough “CEO’s pet projects” to sincerely claim that crew’s downright pathological incompetence has a degree of grim realism to it. For me, it was more of a case of incompetently delivered satire than “science and plot fail” proper. Yes, “personally overseen” aka “pocket” projects can be that bad. Or almost that bad. It’s hard to tell the scale of a clusterfuck from the inside – which, BTW, is the reason why Scott is probably proud of this bit of handiwork

    This is the best explanation of what happens in the movie so far.

    Apparently, the engineers also suffer from some kind of military governmental “lowest bidder” syndrome since they can’t even handle an outbreak of their own bio-weapons. Despite having around six separate fortress compounds, they are all wiped out.

  47. […] I’ve read about Prometheus share my total incredulity at just how shit a film it is. Seriously, lots of people are quite rightly ranting about just how awful it is.However, there are a lot of people […]

  48. One question – Are we certain that the alabaster mega human in the start is actually seeding the earth several billion years ago? Couldn’t he just be seeding the earth X million years ago and the outcome of that becomes humans?

  49. Michael:
    One question – Are we certain that the alabaster mega human in the start is actually seeding the earth several billion years ago? Couldn’t he just be seeding the earth X million years ago and the outcome of that becomes humans?

    This is actually an excellent point! I was explaining this opening scene to a friend last night and this same alternative explanation came to mind (as opposed to human seeds life, life diversifies and then miraculously un-diversifies back into people that have a slightly more healthy looking skin luster.) Kind of like a monolith from 2001.

  50. Michael:
    One question – Are we certain that the alabaster mega human in the start is actually seeding the earth several billion years ago? Couldn’t he just be seeding the earth X million years ago and the outcome of that becomes humans?

    It’s still patently silly, albeit seemingly less silly than the “Precambrian Jockey seed deployment” shtick

  51. Yeah – the DNA would still have to have gone through something like a very hairy ape stage despite the fact all the Engineers are uniformly hairless, white and over 10 feet tall.

    if they wanted to seed the planet with their DNA at that point, why not simply plant a colony there? It would’ve taken just as long and no need for the magic goo.

    Obviously, though, the albino giants must have a bit different genome than we do because they are 11 feet tall and have no skin pigmentation or hair at all.

  52. i had thought what we see at the outset of the film was taking place 35 000-40 000 years ago, and was supposed to explain why we are so genetically homogenous and the great leap forward (rapid technological and cultural change, not the chinese leap). i was really surprised when people started talking about millions, and then billions of years earlier. it hadn’t even ocurred to me that i was filling in blanks–in my memory there was text on the screen or something to date what was happening. brains are sneaky buggers, quietly problem solving while your staring passively at a screen.

    i just assumed they were introducing a blend into primate DNA, choosing our particular strain. souping us up.

    this idea creates as many problems as it solves (as an alternative to seeding all life, or creating the earliest primates. like why did we already have such a similar phenotype?

    it doesn’t help matters to have a possibly addled ridley scott saying things along the lines of ‘maybe it isn’t earth, it doesn’t matter, it’s the principle’. what principle? all some people got out of that opening was a religious suicide.

    i’m unwilling to accept any story that has organic life conducting million or billion year experiments. this just seems patently absurd, even by hollywood standards.

  53. @John Henning, who wrote in-part: Only now that our cargo cult imitation of the “Space Gods” of the distant past has achieved levels similar to the first invaders, the Earth has woken up to the deception and sees the human race as an invader species — thus awakes Godzilla!

    Um. Leave out most of it, and just give us more Godzilla. 😉 Though actually that whole “Cargo Cult of the Space Gods” thing, what with humanity thus achieving a technological level close to that of the “divine”, sounds rather a bit like Genesis 11:1-9, that being the story of the Tower of Bab El. From the Douay version, which I quote because of their attention to the pronouns:

    [6] And he said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue; and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them indeed. [The King James has it thus: “and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” -th]

    [7] Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

    As I am the sort who doesn’t mind stealing from great stories and re-writing them a bit and passing it off as mine own, I just had write a novel mostly dealing with a human-created plague of Semantic Aphasia as an emerging backdrop to the completion of a vast hemispheric highway system (linear induction motor superhighway built of of nearly indestructible “organonanotech”). (“In the Fall”, 1996 by yours truly. Never saw print.)

    This is sort of another way of me pointing out that “if you read much of the very oldest parts of Scripture, as if it were both science-fiction and actual history, barely remembered and highly misinterpreted, you have to really wonder and worry if the interstellar commercial empire known as the YHWH are thinking that it’s about time to do it once again”.

    Such a script could probably be written and perhaps even be filmed and distributed, but I figure Armageddon is already right around the corner, no real need to give it a kick start.

    @All: Are we agreed yet that “Prometheus” isn’t just the name of the ship, but also of the alabaster giant? (Still haven’t seen the movie; I’ll wait for it to be on the instant queue on Netflix.)

    And I might add, given the stuff that has continued to sell in Larry Niven’s “Man-Kzin Wars” franchise, I can’t fault these folks for trying the whole thing of dissolving themselves into primordial soup just so as to re-evolve as a sub-set of the genetics of the descendants of some promising plains-apes. The back-story on Niven’s “Protectors”, as awesome as the Protectors are, has been flapping in the wind like a sheet of loose literary canvas for the last 30 years or so. One Matthew Joseph Harrington finally nailed down the loose corners in some novellas/novelettes in the Man-Kzin Wars XII offering from BAEN, especially in “Peace and Freedom”. Things I had thought ridiculous on the face of it are now rendered into something in which one can easily choose to suspend disbelief.

    So maybe someone can manage to nail down the loose ends of Prometheus, so that that canvas will stop flapping, and if they manage to do it without severe retcon, I’ll bow down and worship.

  54. I think that the best way to salvage the franchise is to declare Prometheus as “non-canon homage”.

    Also, it might be worthy to have all future Alien franchise products (if any :( ) use an idea suggested by one of my friends-with-benefits, the idea being that most Xenomorph-related Jockey technology (including xenomorphs themselves, their “hive material”, and even shed skins) has a vague “spooky action at close range” effect that manifests as “induced transient idiocy” in most intelligent beings (AIs included)

    Oh, and sexy butch women with PTSD are partially immune to the effect, explaining why Ripley has failed to act like an utter moron on so many occasions :)
    That would nicely explain why everyone starts acting as an utter moron whenever a Jockey artifact / a Xenomorph infestation is encountered. And why Weyland-Yutani always fails to properly contain a macroscale biohazard that, at first glance, is hardly more dangerous than a very large tiger with acid blood.

    P.S.:
    making Xenomorphs smarter would be a nice development, too, since it would go a long way to make them scary again (though Aliens already had implication of Xenomorph intelligence if you spend a lot of time overthinking the fact that the queen was about less than 5 years old, and nonetheless had the smarts to operate the elevator in the exact manner needed to follow Ripley and hide onboard the dropship. That’s quite superhuman an intelligence, if you ask me).

  55. @01: You wrote, in part: P.S.:
    making Xenomorphs smarter would be a nice development, too, since it would go a long way to make them scary again (though Aliens already had implication of Xenomorph intelligence if you spend a lot of time overthinking the fact that the queen was about less than 5 years old, and nonetheless had the smarts to operate the elevator in the exact manner needed to follow Ripley and hide onboard the dropship. That’s quite superhuman an intelligence, if you ask me).

    Well, the Xenomorph Queen has a pretty big head, dontcha know. Besides, if she wasn’t that smart, the plot couldn’t have gone forward as it did. Less scary pop-out action would have been possible. Thus, the instincts of the monsters are clearly supplied less by evolution and more by deus-ex-machina or something much like it.

    Of course, this reminds me of my suspected story line for Jurassic Park IV (or V or VI or whatever would be next). Having learned the folly of actually letting humans be in contact with the genetically resurrected dinos, more recent scientific expeditions simply have a high-tech equivalent of game-cameras all over the island. Reasonable enough, but of course the scheming ambitious underlings at Giant Mega Techno Corp (“GMTC”, Inc”) go it one better: They’ve noticed that not only are the velociraptors pretty darn smart and capable of organizing pack actions through their vocalizations, they’ll talk to anything that talks to them with a good imitation of their vocal apparatus. Clever techs in the GMTC Weapons Research Division manage to drop ship some modified game-camera units into the heart of Raptor Country, and compound their hubris by developing and teaching an artificial language to the Raptors. But little do they know! Being very curious carnivores with an astonishingly efficient circulatory system to supercharge their not-so-tiny brains (they were inadvertently synthesized from not just deinonychus but also the large-brained stenonychus), they managed to accidentally drop into another screen that teaches them the basics of english and gives them all of the mozilla on earth via dedicated satellite.

    Unfortunately, this is entirely unsuspected by the folks sent from GMTC (WRD) to transport a few dozen back to a training lab to weaponize them as a dirigible reptile ninja force. Even less suspected is that they have already learned everything they need to know about all of that, and have furthermore adopted a variant on certain human political ideologies

    Can you predict the trajectory of the movie from this point of “reveal”? :)

  56. I remembered a superb (IMHO) piece of Alien fan-fiction from a while ago. For those suffering from Prometheus Disappointment Syndrome, “Killing Elvis” by David Hines:

    http://archiveofourown.org/works/37677

  57. Thomas Hardman wrote:

    Unfortunately, this is entirely unsuspected by the folks sent from GMTC (WRD) to transport a few dozen back to a training lab to weaponize them as a dirigible reptile ninja force. Even less suspected is that they have already learned everything they need to know about all of that, and have furthermore adopted a variant on certain human political ideologies…

    Surely the raptors will be taught proper corporate values and thus turn into libertarians? Office politics is about to get a whole lot deadlier…

  58. Please forgive an off-topic comment, but I saw an interesting bit on Science Daily the other day and it struck me as the kind of thing you might like to comment on, so I am sending along the link, title & teaser:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120626092714.htm

    Biologists Reveal Potential ‘Fatal Flaw’ in Iconic Sexual Selection Study
    ScienceDaily (June 26, 2012) — A classic study from more than 60 years ago suggesting that males are more promiscuous and females more choosy in selecting mates may, in fact, be wrong, say life scientists who are the first to repeat the historic experiment using the same methods as the original.

  59. @Hugh, who wrote: Surely the raptors will be taught proper corporate values and thus turn into libertarians? Office politics is about to get a whole lot deadlier…

    On that day when I find myself confronted with an intelligent velociraptor trying to convince me to read some Ayn Rand and become an Objectivist, I’ll figure that my lifetime limit of WTF exposure will have been exceeded by a couple of orders of magnitude. Then again, scenes from “Finding Nemo” may have helped to prepare us to better accept such eventualities. 😉

    @Cate: Thanks for that. I hadn’t ever read Bateman and I’m glad for the information. That study was doomed to failure! Gowaty suggests that perhaps promiscuity in the female (fruit fly, at least) provides greater diversity in immune response potentials from the male side, meaning that the offspring of promiscuity might have a better change to pass along the mother’s genetic contribution to the mix. Of course, the same is true for the males. Yet with the methods in Bateman, it’s a wonder any of the offspring survived much of anything. Including hatching.

  60. Wow, the poor “monogamy evopsych” folks.

    I think I can feel their pain.

    It tastes like chocolate marshmallows.

    With whipped cream.

    And a large cup of ristretto.

    MmmmmmmmMMMMMMMmmmmmmmMMMMMmmmmmm

  61. If this is really the first time since the initial experiment that someone else as tried to replicate the results through the same methodology (as seems to be implied by the article), then I think a reminder is in order:

    Scientists, if you want to confirm that the results of an experiment are not mistaken and accurately reflect reality, you independently repeat the GODDAMN EXPERIMENT! YOU IDIOTS!

    There, you may now return to your regularly scheduled science. You idiots.

  62. Hey everyone. Will comment on these comments over the next couple of days. Just working against an imminent deadline, and no time to post. Later. P.

  63. Some of my notes on Prometheus: (pardon any obvious errors, second language and all…)

    The movie Prometheus -while certainly in the genre of science fiction- is not a movie primarily about science except in a mythical, symbolic sense. Biology, physics and every other branch of science is portrayed mostly in the context of the underlying themes of hubris and human folly. Characters in the film make assumptions and jump to conclusions based on their own backgrounds and act accordingly, only to have reality come crashing in
    when their ideas are proven wrong. This may mirror some viewers experience if they thought the film would be another familiar part of the Alien-franchise, a notion the filmmakers have discouraged.

    All mentions of DNA and origins of life in the movie are just a twisting of scientific terms to fit the symbolic themes of the story. Like with the pseudo-science use of ancient alien visitors in the script, all scientific realism is thrown aside for storytelling purposes. If you shrug off the Hollywood treatment of science and consider the underlying mythical elements, the movie is more enjoyable. Many real-life PhD.s will no doubt struggle to contain their screams for a range of reasons.

    The black goo used by the engineers represents a life-giving, mutating chaotic force, an alien technology so god-like and beyond understanding that humans tampering with it are like baboons tossing around a nuclear warhead.
    The use of the goo by the android David in an experiment is driven both by his own innate curiosity and more pressingly by the orders from his own maker, eager to find something, anything to advance the true agenda of the
    mission: longer life and immortality.
    The whole mission is assumed to be a scientific expedition by the crew and audience, but ultimately it is not; the entire operation is really just one mans trillion-dollar vanity project and the answers sought by the “scientist” characters are of religious and philosophical type. Any discoveries are
    entirely secondary unless they contribute to Weyland & son’s goal of finding the fountain of youth. Hence the indifference to any dead ends or casualties along the way. The audiences presumption of malice by the company is coloured by the earlier movies. Who are villains and from what perspective?

    As to the incompetence of the science team, these are not the best scientists in the world, obviously. If Earth sent an actual scientific expedition to an alien world, you might expect the best people for that job. Since, however, the mission was put together by the control-freak and egotist who paid for the flesh- and metal instruments to do his bidding, the crew consists largely of obedient lackeys, some unmotivated mercenary types
    just along for the money and a few archeologists, who on Earth might have spread their ideas around to the wider world, but once brought along onboard the secretive mission, serve as tools to be used and discarded as the situation requires. Some of the crew were also hired by Vickers, whose assumptions and opinions about the whole operation may be reflected in her hiring decisions. She never cares much for the success of Weyland’s plan and acts out her own agenda instead. When it´s time for the king to die, the torch is passed to the heir. Passively dropping wrenches in the machinery of the mission would suit her fine as long as she gets safely back to the company headquarters on Earth.

    The real research and learning is hurried, neglected and figuratively as well as practically handed over to the creations; Fifield (a geologist, not a geographer) is not motivated to pay much attention to the task of navigating and mapping the area (with consequences later on), he instead sends his little sensor-drones to do the job. For Weyland every person is just a tool and extension of his own ambition, learning ancient languages or doing experiments is handed over to his creation, David. The man himself
    wants to make demands of god but won´t even learn the language first.

    The naive, childlike biologist assumes he can handle a strange animal as though it was domesticated and manageable and overreaches. The obvious involvement of a serpent figure and pursuit of knowledge is joined by the ancient belief of snakes having regenerative powers and immortality due to the shedding of skin. This is the source of the images of intertwined snakes as an ancient symbol of healing. His actions and fate are a direct
    allegory of the quest of the characters.

    David, eager to please and wanting recognition for his brilliance, is also brought down by his hubris. Convinced of his own superiority and feeling slighted by his own creators, he wakes the elder god he sees himself on equal terms with, but is unprepared to be judged and found wanting just like his creators.

    When intruded on Mount Olympos by his species’ own creations, whose first words through a synthetic facsimile are a demand for more life, god is pissed. His kind have been creating life through a process of self-sacrifice for eons and now these upstarts want to rival them as well as have their cake and eat it too? NO.

    The assumptions made by David and the captain are also open to interpretation. David sees a holographic map and recognises Earth. The map clearly reacts to his interaction and when the recording ends, he notices Earth being locked in as the next destination. Was that part of the recording or did he inadvertedly select it himself? This has major
    consequences later in the film.

    The captain, coming from a military background, interprets what he sees as a military installation housing biological weapons. The audience may end up viewing his words as exposition of the actual nature of the planet and subsequently the intent and character of the engineers, but as far as can be seen it is only one characters assumption. We have already seen how that has worked out so far in this film. The combined assumptions of intent, payload and destination end up dooming the ship and crew. Were they correct or not? Were their actions heroic or misguided?
    The bloodied and emotionally shaken believer Shaw assumes the threat is urgent and persuades others to fight and sacrifice themselves so that Earth may live, the clinically pure and sceptical Vickers just wants to leave the
    whole mess and is first overruled and then overrun by the ouroboros-juggernaut.

    The surviving engineer, having crushed the arrogant intruders like bugs, shows no interest in the fleeing Shaw, who had been roughed up by the old mans’ henchmen. Instead he gets back to doing whatever he was up to before his stasis. Only when again bothered by these infuriating meddlers does he go after the living intruder. The blind rage that sends him
    running into trouble should be understandable to any erring human ever kept awake by a mosquito. Gods were made in the image of our own subconscious after all.

    As for the mythology, the film follows the Prometheus-myth quite closely at times and shows little details that hint at the original story. The elder gods punish the trickster Titan Prometheus for stealing fire, the first technology, and gifting it to humans, whom he had created from clay. The immortal benefactor of mankind is chained to stone and an eagle eats his liver each day, only for it to grow back during the night. His eternal agony is finally ended by Hercules, a son of a god and a mortal who sets him free.
    The injuries on the bodies of dead engineers can also be seen to allude to the background story. The Prometheus-myth is also the origin of the Pandoras Box, a jar containing hope, disease and all things evil. Opening of the jar out of curiosity was not a malicious act, but like the figure of Prometheus, represented the well-meaning striving for knowledge and
    the unintended risks inherent with it. The gift of giving life to others involves a
    sacrifice of the self, what passing of the torch and the meaning of life is ultimately about.

    As far as I´m concerned, a fun movie with more going for it than most other Hollywood titles. YMMV.

  64. Artturi:

    Wow. Some fascinating insights there. Thank you.

  65. One thing I did find interesting was that the Engineers were shown to be only slightly more advanced by a degree than human technology. The humans used holograms almost as advanced as the Engineers’. The Engineers needed cryo chambers for long interstellar flights just like the humans. At the very end, the Engineer ship had the same “ion effect” that the Prometheus faster than light drive used.

    The only distinct advantage the engineers had was in their bioengineering ability, which was just plain magical.

    The idea being that if the human race was allowed to continue unimpeded it would eventually develop a civilization as advanced as the gods’.

  66. Oh, by the way, given the direction this talk is taking, I think this is as good time as any to share a silly evopsych gem a certain evopsych-obsessed quasi-christian kook (whom I happen to “know by IRL proxy”, so to say, if you know what I mean 😉 ) has deemed worthy of posting in Bakker’s blog comments.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/93805672/Michael-Trust-Modern-Political-Thought-in-the-Context-of-Evolutionary-Psychology

    I would have shared earlier, but various matters have prevented me from delivering this barrel of lulz to our kind host’s web place 😀

    @ Thomas Hardman

    Nazi raptors would make for the best trash-cult masterpiece of all time. Somebody please tell Tarantino. And ask him to put some sadomasochistic bisexual female cyborg ninjas into the script 😉

    As to xenomorph’s instincts being basically DEM, well, they are implied to be artificial in-universe, so their instincts are basically “whatever the weirdo who made them wanted”.
    Speaking of deus-ex-machina properties of the alien, I always kinda liked the weird-ass “egg transmutation scene” from first Alien that got cut, even despite its somewhat flawed execution (for those who didn’t ever see it, youtube to the rescue) .

    It adds a nice level of uncertainty about just what the fuck those creatures are capable of and just how many “hidden features” have their creators stashed away inside them.

  67. @Artturi: an excellent exposition! I haven’t seen this, but if it really does make that sort of sense as an allegory of morals and ethics, akin to Greek myth and legend, it can go ahead and be terrible as science-fiction. Though of course it would be best if it worked both as fable and SF.

    @01: did you say something about nazi raptors would be the most awesome trash epic evar? Possibly from before your time, see the 1984 TV movie and series, “V”. 😀

  68. Somewhat along the same lines as Artturi:
    http://squaremans.com/the-last-prometheus-post-peter-weyland-and-film-as-a-consumer-product/

    Worth a read.

  69. Thomas Hardman: @01: did you say something about nazi raptors would be the most awesome trash epic evar? Possibly from before your time, see the 1984 TV movie and series, “V”. 😀

    Sadly, I am old enough to remember “Old V” ;).
    In fact, this lady is the first woman I distinctly recall being sexually attracted to. Ah, the memories…

  70. Some hints on the allegories as food for thought:

    -Fifield and Millburn represent Weyland and David. Discuss.

    -What consequences may be implied in the above? Who or what is involved?

    -Shaw reaches and probes the godhead* for answers (*orig. godhede-godhood, the inscrutable aspect or essence of a god). What happens later in the film?

  71. One more layer of clues before I shut up:

    What aspect of a psyche does each character represent?
    What is the ship?
    Where is the character in relation to the ship in a given scene?

    I won´t spoil further. I´ll just state that Ridley Scott is a clever director and deserves credit in my opinion. Even though there is much I disagree with in the answers etc., the film made me think on multiple levels. And I´m not even usually into films much. A sign of good artwork or is Prometheus like mankind; too clever for its own good? Not clever enough? Maybe watch the movie again or go stare in a mirror. You decide.

    I´ll stop rambling about the topic now. Paging our resident Titan Watts… :)

  72. Cate: Biologists Reveal Potential ‘Fatal Flaw’ in Iconic Sexual Selection StudyScienceDaily (June 26, 2012) — A classic study from more than 60 years ago suggesting that males are more promiscuous and females more choosy in selecting mates may, in fact, be wrong, say life scientists who are the first to repeat the historic experiment using the same methods as the original.

    Thank you! Thoroughly enjoyed!
    Hm, so people start with their own narrow-minded prejudices and project them onto the subjects of their experiments, in order to confirm their own worldview. Who’d have thunk it. 😉

  73. @ Artturi

    Hmmmmm… well, I’m not buying the “stupid duo” being some kind of metaphorical mirrors of David and Weyland.

    David and Weyland are single most competent and successful… entities in the entire shebang.

    Weyland, while dying and hobbled, designed an ingenious plan to do the impossible and reach for immortality, and it almost worked. Yes, the “gods” turned out to be douchebags and didn’t give him any immortality juice (giving him a solid punch instead), but it’s not like Weyland had much to loose, and the sheer amount of success his mission had (successfully locating an alien planet based on clues that border on nonsense, successfully reverse-engineer an alien language, etc.) is fascinating.

    David is the “effector component” of most of his plans, it is through David that any sensible results in this mission were achieved. Meatsacks are dead weight compared to him. Also, David is one of the two survivors thanks to his absurdly redundant design, and thus is a poor match for any of two members of the stupid duo.

    Now, what happens when Shaw probes godhead for answers? hm… I suspect the godhead probes back (dun dun dun)

    I am not entirely certain what you mean by “aspects of psyche”, but I am an IT person, so “psyche” isn’t really something I’m very keen with (a friendly shrink used to babble something about something or other many schools and something something models by those schools of thought being neither verifiable nor falsifiable and that being bad, or something)

    P.S.:
    I don’t think Prometheus is “too clever for its own good”. It certainly has some clever stuff in it, but I think it’s worth recognizing that in order to make some of its points (some of which it would be better off not making) it mishandles a lot of fairly basic things in a manner that is far too obvious for even a casual observer, and it kind of spoils the impression. Okay, maybe I am not enough of an artistic person to get over visceral WTFBULL response to some obviously implausible things that were probably intended as metaphors.

    It would have been better off as urban fantasy about a super-old vampire queen seeking to summon an Elder God to petition it for true immortality or something along those lines, methinks…
    That way, it wouldn’t run into any of those “scientific yada-yada this, implausible yada-yada that” problems.

  74. I just re-watched Promie with a new friend who is a medical professional, and her first comment was “I totally expected the medbot to extirpate every single bit of Shaw’s genitals, since she asked a medical machine which is somehow “not configured for females” to remove a “foreign body” from the pelvis”

    I think we will get along well ;).

  75. @01, I´ll pose a bunch of hints and rhetorical questions, mull them over or not, ok?

    If you check the middle of my first post regarding Fifield etc. and consider his desires, motivations and interpersonal dynamics (hint: wolfhowl) with Millburn maybe you’ll see some of what I see. Which can be right or wrong ofcourse. :) Events are foreshadowed throughout the movie and everything has layers and layers of significance, especially in terms of psyche. What instincts and traits would you associate with Fifield? When encountering dead vs. live organisms what are Fifield and Millburn up to? Think of them in
    more abstract terms. Where are they going? What ultimately happens with Fifield and who stops it and why? Also, are Weyland and David ultimately succesful? The stupid or naive vs. not as clever as they think is something to consider isn´t it? Fallability. Overreach.

    Does Shaw understand or accept answers when they are in front of her? What (in detail) happens to “god’s head” as a result of her actions? What does Shaw symbolise? What does she expect vs. what she actually gets? Words or something else? What are her conclusions?

    If you are an IT person and all this subconscious stuff is seemingly Alien to you, don´t mind. 😉 Each person brings their own background along for the ride. It´s ok to not see through a mystery right away or at all. Sleep over it. Often helps me.

    As to the mishandling of things in the film, there are errors and omissions, true. Many of the issues people have with the script also involve their perception of what to expect from a movie or a character etc.. If you consider the movie to fail you as a viewer, then that is a valid viewpoint. Each person sees a different thing in the mirror too. There are always different perspectives and the success or failure of movies is not something I can
    judge beyond my own.
    Scientists behaving against common sense? Making stupid mistakes? Ha, never! :)
    Well, from where I´m standing the universe and common sense don’t always get along, but that’s beyond this discussion for now I think. I´ll just shut up. Again. :)

  76. Shaw has the severed head of a Jockey, and later has David’s head; both apparently reanimate after death. Heads are a weird theme in this movie, least as males go. Wombs are as usual.

    David is also a ‘robot after Weylend’s own heart’. Presumably, in a future movie along this spur, the Son of David will be bitten on the heel, but will crush the head of this particular serpent. Is this part of what your getting at, Artturi?

    Or less Christian, more Ancient Greek, maybe Persian or earliest Semitic?

    01, are you referencing Lifeforce? That movie freaked me out when I was a young’un. Weirder than other “zombie” flicks of the time…

  77. It is too kind to treat Prometheus as being about religion. It belongs more in that area which gets referred to as “spirituality”, since “religion” is too tough-minded and logical for its adherents. To put it in another way, if we have a spectrum stretching from Thomas Aquinas and Isidore of Seville at one end and crystals, astrology, and homeopathy at the other, Prometheus would be in among the crystals.

  78. Prometheus: Worst. Scientists. Ever.

    That’s all I could say during that movie. And I majored in polisci (which I know isn’t a science.).

    But the stapler scene was cool. I’m going to give a stapler to my pregnant friend after she sees the movie. ^_^

  79. Lodore:
    Just to be thorough, let’s not forget the horses on the ‘invitation’ in the Isle of Skye–they’re only anachronistic by–oh, I don’t know–ten thousand years?

    Totally missed that one.

    idleprimate: I feel like we went through this with Splice, another ambitious film, whose only flaw (for me) was in the last few minutes, cut those out and it was great. Geeky types shat all over that movie. it didn’t quite make its budget back, and i’m sure hollywood was paying attention. same way people complained about Contact for being, i don’t know, too existential, sentimental and personal.

    I too liked Splice quite a bit (to my own surprise), until the end; same with Contact, until they pulled the critical payoff scene straight out of third-season Star Trek. The difference is, I think, that those two movies succeeded throughout most of their lengths before failing; like the Galactica reboot, there is still much to commend overall even if they did blow the landing. Prometheus, in contrast, had little going for it (from an SF perspective, at least — not to detract from Artturi’s comments downstream) except for pretty visuals. Which really does kinda make it comparable with Transformers.

    Simon:
    It’s not a mealworm, it’s a superworm. There is a difference.

    It’s a mealworm. I should know. I ate more than my share of those things back in grad school.

    Michael_gr: Moving on to the subject of holo displays: I bet you in the real 2089 it will look just as ridiculous as the bridge of the original Enterprise seems to us now. Displays will probably be replaced by contact lens displays or direct brain interfaces. Physical displays will probably be as extinct as analog dials.

    Yup. Delany was one of the few guys to get that right (in Nova, and he had it figured out back in the sixties.

    bill brunton: You’ve missed the point of the film. To the “engineers” humans are as rats are to humans. Something we experiment on, don’t necessarily like, but are willing to abide with as long as they provide us a route to advance ourselves biologically.

    Not that this isn’t a valid interpretation, but the fact that the movie lends itself to so bloody many interpretations seriousy weakens the argument. “2001”, for example, may have been opaque to many, but there’s a definitive story there; every makes sense in the context of that one interpretations, and other interpretations don’t fit the data so well. In this case we seem to have less of a story and more of a Rorschach blot on which everyone can impose their own interpretation with equal validity — which is, I think, a hallmark of a bad screenplay.

    Besides which, Scott’s been pretty explicit in interviews about the mythic symbolism of a self-sacrificing God giving up its life in an act of creation. So based a least on the supplementary materials, the people-are-rats interpretation doesn’t seem to hold up.

  80. Hugh: Visually beautiful, but flawed script. I saw it in 3D, and while it wasn’t filled with gratuitious 3D effects, the 3D wasn’t very well used either.

    This is something else that hasn’t got much mention. In fact, Roger Ebert — famous for his hatred of 3D — actually praised its use in this movie. But in fact, the 3D made the visuals less realistic. You keep getting these wondrous 3D aerial shots of rugged mountainous terrain, but human eyes are so close together that real humans would not see a 3D effect from that altitude. So my brain kept telling me that I was flying over a series of lovingly-rendered tabletop models with mountains about 8cm high, tops. (The alternative being that my eyes were about two hundred meters apart.)

    Thomas Hardman: Of course, it will probably rake in so much box-office that someone will immediately launch a big-budget remake of that Star Trek (the original series) episode with the giant energy-sucking space amoeba.

    Hey. I liked that giant energy-sucking space amoeba. I may still have a decorative button showing its knobbly mass left over from some con in 1976…

    Thomas Hardman: @All: Are we agreed yet that “Prometheus” isn’t just the name of the ship, but also of the alabaster giant? (Still haven’t seen the movie; I’ll wait for it to be on the instant queue on Netflix.)

    No. See below.

    Hugh: I remembered a superb (IMHO) piece of Alien fan-fiction from a while ago. For those suffering from Prometheus Disappointment Syndrome, “Killing Elvis” by David Hines:

    I think this is the best piece of fanfic I have ever read. Including “The Things”.

    Cate: Biologists Reveal Potential ‘Fatal Flaw’ in Iconic Sexual Selection Study

    This looks cool and (together with the downstream link from 01) probably warrants its own comment thread. Maybe its own blog post, when I get the time (although depending on deadline dates, I may have to use it for my Polish SF-magazine column instead. Thanks for bringing these to my attention.

    Thomas Hardman: Then again, scenes from “Finding Nemo” may have helped to prepare us to better accept such eventualities.

    God I loved that movie. Saw it at least three times in the theater (the only one I saw more often that summer was Pirates of the Caribbean. 5 times.)

    Artturi: (Much, much snippage) … As for the mythology, the film follows the Prometheus-myth quite closely at times and shows little details that hint at the original story.

    Okay, you almost had me. If you look at the whole thing as the retelling of an ancient myth dressed up in modern tropes, I could totally re-evaluate. I’d still find fault with the specific choice of tropes — could we not plunk our archetypes down into a western, or a Romance format, or something where the scientific method is not just a central part of the standard equipment? — but if you’re enslaved to telling a previous myth, then if I squint I might just see my way clear to letting it slide.

    Except when I brought this up to Caitlin, it took her about one second to cite various interviews with Ridley Scott in which he admitted explicitly that he wasn’t going for a retelling of the Prometheus myth at all. He wasn’t even going to go for “Prometheus” as a title, but the studio wasn’t happy with “Paradise” — and then someone pointed out that since “Prometheus” was the name of the ship, why not use that for the title instead? And then someone else said “Hey, you know, some of these story elements might almost be Prometheusian if you kinda squint” … and ol’ Ridley said “Okay, okay. Whatever.”

    Which brings me back to my upstream comment about intent. If a scientific theory is so broad that it can accommodate any new data without fear of contradiction, then it’s a useless theory with no predictive value. Same thing for stories: if “the film follows the Prometheus-myth quite closely at times” without that even being the author’s intent — if it is also amenable to so many other, conflicting interpretations — we’re not talking a story at all. We’re talking a Rorschach blot.

  81. RE: “Killing Elvis”
    Loved this. I was giggling to myself all the way through.

    Peter Watts: I may have to use it for my Polish SF-magazine column instead.

    Wait, you have a column? Why was I not told about this?

    Oh, before I forget, B-Max and Seppuku arrived in the mail today. Gotta say Alibris is a damn good service for the harder to find stuff, and at a not utterly-fucked-in-the-brainpan price point too.

  82. @Peter Watts, who wrote, in-part: If a scientific theory is so broad that it can accommodate any new data without fear of contradiction, then it’s a useless theory with no predictive value. Same thing for stories: if “the film follows the Prometheus-myth quite closely at times” without that even being the author’s intent — if it is also amenable to so many other, conflicting interpretations — we’re not talking a story at all. We’re talking a Rorschach blot.

    Peter, I don’t think it’s your style to do a Rorschach blot story — though I think we’d all welcome it if you tossed one out, as we, like hungry dogs, would like any sort of bone that comes our way 😀 — but sometimes that sort of thing is just what’s needed, the amorphous thing as opposed to the very structured work that conveys quite well exactly the author’s intent. Of course the best fables are those that have multiple layers of interpretation, each a shadow play that casts more shadows, when analyzed, than seem to have been placed by the conscious intentions of the storyteller. But those storytellers can be such devious and clever folk, especially when speaking subconscious to subconscious. Yet that sort of thing often isn’t easily critiqued. Or if it is critiqued, if properly done it’s an output of the subconscious (and I do remember that I’m addressing the author of Blindsight which posits that consciousness might not be all that necessary nor perhaps useful in many situations) critiquing a subconscious-to-subconscious communication. Neither the work nor the critique are expected to be entirely comprehensible to the conscious mind, yet that’s the nature of critique as we know it. A conscious analysis of subconscious-to-subconscious (“S2S”). Sort of guaranteed to at least skirt the boundaries of Fail, as a conscious thing, even if it takes home the Nobel in the S2S category.

    For me, I think that resolves as “I actually have to see this movie now” even if on all conscious and scientific/professional levels it gets an Awesome Stupid award. Take a look at the original Greek Myth of Prometheus. A giant eagle eats his liver every morning but he’s healed by midnight? Sort of hard to believe. But it’s easy to understand on that non-thinking level, “he suffers forever for bringing us Fire”. I have to see the movie before I say much else about this, or it’s all expansion of theory without any actual data.

    @All: And BTW and OT congrats to the folks at the Large Hadron Collider, and I need to go bury my head in anything I can find about the Higgs Field/Higgs Boson. The implications cause much boggle of the mind.

  83. As far as the mystery of the engineers, what I thought it would be about is kinda Arthur C Clarke meets HP Lovecraft.

    Forget the religious overtones – instead, this is simply a vast secret experiment by a relatively small group of the engineers to see how they themselves developed. When David asks the idiot Holloway why men made him – the answer was, obviously, among other things, to determine the nature of what is human and what is not. Not the ridiculous “because we could.”

    Why not the same question for the godlike engineers? Imagine a race that has been advancing so long, they have completely forgotten their origins and decide to seed a planet with their DNA and create a species mimicking their own in some kind of grand several thousand year long experiment to see how their own race developed. To see, in fact, if there was some purpose inherent to their own origins (“Who made the engineers?” Shaw asks, and the next question is “Do they know who made them?”)

    Then, to their horror, when primal humans turned out to behave in eeriely familiar ways – when it became clear that the gene and their own DNA actually does have some sort of innate programming regarding the acquisition of culture, knowledge and technology – the Engineers freak out.

    First, just like the old Garden of Eden myth, God and his angels are afraid that if Adam and Eve, who’ve tasted of the tree of knowledge, then take of the tree of life, they will be as gods themselves. And, actually, left alone for 2,000 years, we develop a technological civilization almost as advanced as the one the Prometheus finds.

    Second, the human race itself flies in the face of the idea that their own evolution was completely random. In other words, it places them in the same position the humans find themselves, and that David is in. They are the creations of something else and they don’t know what the purpose of that creation is.

    Therefore, we become scientific evidence that the “mainstream” finds abhorrant – an abomination of science that must be eradicated. And if humans on Earth were a special case – not a standard gardening ritual by the Engineers – then it makes sense that when the space gods running the experiment panic and get wiped out by their own xenomorphic weapon, no one else would be any the wiser and come to wipe mankind out.

  84. @John Henning: Awesome analysis and now I really have to go see this, though I’ve probably got about 20 different “prejudices”. I mean I am walking in with 20 well-developed and often contrary opinions already in mind. I should have just gone to see it on Day One.

    @anyone: And will someone please not argue that this film is the best argument ever made against the case of “intelligent design” (if there was such a thing this movie would never have been made 😀 ). Holy Spaghetti Monster! I fear that the present war on the (Somali) Pirates is responsible for this horrible heat-wave in the US. Seriously: almost no pirates left, and massive crop failures are imminent. Do we need more proof? I predict that if everyone in North America talks like a pirate, ahhrrr, for the next three days, our crops will be saved even if another derecho storm trashes the DC region electrical system. After all, who declared war on pirates?

    (Sorry folks, just had to do that. Just be sure to talk like a pirate! Or we will have both no popcorn at all, and temperatures high enough to pop it without needing any cooking fuel. And I need to see the movie before Sunday morning’s storms here shut down all of the theaters and my access to the internet.)