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Prometheus Gave Us Fire. Ridley Scott’s Film Gave Us Hype, Disappointment And All The Wrong Messages!

PrometheusPrometheus is the most over-hyped and under-delivering film I have seen in a long while.

Worse: It sends out all the wrong messages!

There I said it. I am also not afraid to repeat it, even if the movie ends up as a total blockbuster success. (God forbid they make a sequel.)

Wait a minute, you might say: Didn’t you just hit your head? How do we know this is not some kind of side effect?

Why, yes – I did. I had a grade 3 concussion about a week ago, but bear with me for a few minutes and see if I got damaged or if I make any sense.

Let me start with the good stuff:

The PR behind the film was successful in creating both awareness and high interest (hype?!) starting a year before the movie release. The film had unique trailers – e.g. Peter Weyland’s 2023 TED Talk, cleverly designed to stir the pot and go viral from the get go. The clips were released strategically not only to keep public interest high but to also culminate into feverish ticket sales right on time for the premiere.

So far so good. Then, throw in a great cast of actors, a legendary director such as Ridley Scott and a few hundred million dollars to make it happen, and you clearly have the recipe for success. No wonder most of us – me including, went for the hype.

So, what happened?! I really don’t know where or how things went wrong: Either I hit my head too hard or the above elements, though necessary, are not sufficient to make a good film.

If one thing is sure, it must be that Prometheus did give us hype.

“OK, fine!” you might concede. “But what about the ‘disappointment’ and ‘all the wrong messages’ claim?”

Well, take the first one – disappointment. Hyping a product is fine for as long as it delivers on its promise and fulfils the expectations. Failing to do so inevitably leads to disappointment.

“Give me a break, Soc!” you might retort. “Alien is a series of sci-fi horror flicks – not exactly the most profound films ever made. What did you expect?!”

Perhaps. But Prometheus could have been different. In fact, in my opinion this film was notably marketed as being different. So, if after watching it, I conclude it fails to live up to the expectations – both as a horror flick as well as the profound film I was promised, then, I am naturally disappointed:

What a waste of talent, time and money.

But it gets worse. It is not simply a waste. With so many messed up messages a blockbuster can do real damage.

“What are you talking about?” you may ask. “What is your problem?”

Well, one of my problems is that there are so many issues with Prometheus that I can write a book. However, since most of them might not be worth our time, let me give you the shallow quick run through of some of the bigger ones and what they add up to.

Some Things Are Not Meant To See Light!?…

Let’s begin with the film poster itself. The text in the middle reads:

“The search for our beginning could lead to our end”

Sure it can. There is no reward if there is no risk. Every pioneer risks almost everything. But what is the alternative?!

Staying put and searching for nothing takes us where?! Exactly:

Nowhere!

We’d still be in the caves.

“But this is just a minor message on the poster Soc. It is not the film itself.” you might reply.

Sure. OK. Let’s give Ridley the benefit of the doubt. Moving beyond the poster, I will claim that the film itself is dripping with what I call “all the wrong messages”: an unimaginative, intellectually small concoction of poorly-articulated anti-scientific technophobia, misguided Christian symbolism and twisted Greek mythology.

Take the opening scene, for example:

An alien humanoid being with God-like physique, on a water planet similar to ours, committing suicide in order to spark life.

So, what is the message here?!

You have to sacrifice yourself, even die, in order to give birth to new life.

That’s not too bad on its own but when you connect it with all the consequent messages it adds up pretty bad.

Imagine this super-advanced race of aliens spreading life across the galaxy, if not the universe. Would they be sacrificing one of their own on every planet that seems fit for life? Couldn’t they come up with a better way to pour some DNA molecules into the primordial soup? Why do you have to die to create? Why not live to see your children grow up?

It doesn’t make any sense. Unless, of course, your “aliens” have a fetish for our very human Judeo-Christian death-favouritism. Otherwise, why would they kill themselves?!

Moving on. Why is the powerful Peter Weyland so abhorrently deformed?! By the end of the 21st century a trillionaire like him should have no problem bettering the facelifts of today. Plus, if my math is right Peter is in his late 90’s – not that old to look much better at any time, let alone at the end of the 21st century.

My explanation is this: at face value, the purpose of the mission is to make contact with humanity’s creators – “the engineers,” for the edification of our species. But the real goal is to assist Peter Weyland in his quest to defeat death. Because he is a misguided human vainly seeking immortality.

“A king has his reign. He dies. It’s the natural order of things.” Weyland’s daughter, Meredith Vickers says. Clearly, her father goes against what’s natural.

Selfish and vain human – looks bad on the outside and bad on the inside.

Contrast that to the God-like Olympian physique of our alien creators. They do seem to be ageless, able to travel across the universe and are eager to commit noble suicide the moment they reach a water planet.

Selfless and life-giving alien engineer – good, both in and out.

Moving on. Why would the good engineers create us only to end up wanting to kill us?

Well, there is no clear answer but we are given clues that they changed their mind about 2,000 years ago. So, what was the major event around that time?

Clearly, it was Jesus. If Jesus was himself an engineer this would be the second time an alien dies for us. I guess two times is enough for our creators to change their mind for we are clearly beyond salvation. So after we killed Jesus they decide to kill us. However, while stockpiling their bio-weapons on a remote planet something goes wrong. And there we are: two millennia later humanity’s arrogant search for answers and/or immortality threatens to finish the job the aliens started.

In the process, Prometheus presents an intellectually small vision with no depth, gaping holes in the plot, an unimaginative under-predicted vision of the future while failing to explore numerous opportunities to at least touch on the complex intricacies of immortality, artificial intelligence, SETI, science, technology or philosophy.

Best thing about Prometheus: Michael Fassbender as David 8

If there is a single shining light in the movie it must be Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of David 8: an android with “no soul” but a clear liking for Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia.

It is David who steals the “black goo” from the alien ship and gives it to the scientist, after hearing the human say that he is willing to risk everything in his arrogant quest for answers. Though his intentions are somewhat difficult to discern, the robot is ostensibly giving the humans what they want – a divine transformative experience.

In his turn David also gets what he wants i.e. “to see his parents dead.”

Unfortunately, in the process an engineer with clear contempt for robots with “no soul” – our impotent attempt to be God-like engineers in our own right, rips off his head. Paradoxically, David’s creators have made him durable enough to survive decapitation.

A few weeks ago I watched a BBC interview with Ridley Scott where he shared that he is of the “it’s all about everything” school. Sadly, it seems to me that his meaning of “everything” doesn’t seem to include a good story, a solid and coherent script, proper scientific research and intelligent dialogue that challenges the audience to reach up, rather than come down.

Prometheus gave us fire. I have not doubt that if he could have made us Gods and given us immortality he would have. (Legend has it that his children went to live among the humans thereby breeding divinity among us and making us demi-Gods…)

Prometheus was punished by the Gods. Frankenstein got killed by his monstrous creature. Ridley Scott warns us that “The search for our beginning could lead to our end.” Some may take the film as a cautionary tale but to me it seems a lot more conclusive: a definitive proclamation! And I don’t like the main anti-technology, anti-science, anti-pushing the envelope and breaking through all barriers kind of message, even if admittedly we may be playing with fire.

Icarus may have died trying but we didn’t give up flying. And today we soar higher than we ever thought possible. Darned be those who want to ground us, whether deliberately or not, with their cautionary tales about chasing the impossible dream. As Muhammad Ali said once:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Yes, we have managed to create a myriad of problems for ourselves. But the mere fact that we are still here is a testament that we can and have produced a myriad of solutions too. So for me the answer is not going back. It is not less curiosity, science or technology. It is more. It is going intelligently forward with better and smarter technology.

And more of it.

Prometheus never regretted giving us fire and didn’t mind paying the price for his bold act of defiance. Ridley Scott’s alien engineers clearly regretted giving us life. I myself almost regret wasting time and money on this movie but now you know what I mean by saying:

Prometheus Gave Us Fire. Ridley Scott’s Film Gave Us Hype, Disappointment And All The Wrong Messages!

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  • Ron

    Soc, thanks for the review. I’m waiting for Camron to do it again.

  • You are welcome Ron! Hope you enjoyed it…

  • Nice job. I will still see the film as a modern day meme entry.

  • fatjay

    well one theory why they want kill us is from the comics… and the story was that the “engineer’s ” are in war with a other big alien race and are losing … so the last hope for them was to make the ” Xenomorphs” as a Weapon and for that they need Humans… but i dont think why pick this up in the sequel…..

  • Lank

    This movie is one third Bagahvad Gita, one third a feminist reading of Nietzche’s Apollonian-Dionysian dialectic from “The Birth of Tragedy”,, and one third Erich van Daniken’s “Chariot of the Gods?”. First, what most people missed was that Weyland and Shaw are guilty of being nothing more than a “Cargo Cult”. Second, the alien space ship at the beginning was spherical, while at the end it was croissant shaped, indicating there are two factions of engineers, one creators who we see at the beginning of the movie, the second group destroyers who we meet on the alien planet. Finally, the mythos here is that of the biblical Nephilim bring synced to the Titans of Greek lore; the problem is that these creators are not the biblical God, they are in fact the fallen angels who lived alongside humans in Genesis. The reason they want to kill humanity is because they rebelled against the true creator, and are not immortal because of the fall, they are in fact mortal, which is why the Engineer goes ballistic when asked for immortality. The director has provided us with a confidence trick just like his film “Matchstick Men” because we are dumb enough to believe what we are told even though our eyes and minds should tell us differently. The audience wants to believe Shaw, even though she is a “false prophet”. The Engineers did not create us, they are simply another fallen creature who has decided to occupy the stars. Perhaps the world we see at the beginning of the film is not Earth, bit the alien planet we encounter later after the black goo destroyed everything on the alien planet; and humans are already well and alive on Earth waiting for the Mayan Calendar to tell them when the a engineers are scheduled to return. You have been had by your own true believing!

  • Hi Soc, hope you are feeling better.

    Now, I’m not totally disagreeing with your article. However Scott’s movies are debated for a long time and like wine people tend to appreciate them after many years. Look what happened to Blade Runner, it was a box office disaster (Prometheus is not doing that great), however it did become one of the best scify movies of all time after 20-30 years. I certanly don’t think it was anti-science, or anti-exploration, especially after all that happened during the movie Elizabeth is continuing her search for answers…

    One of the problems I see in your article is that I do not think Scott was against humans trying to find immortality, the problem is human nature. We kill in order to survive, and that kind of nature is not worth immortalizing.

  • This movie’s mandate was to bring us answers to some questions from the first “Alien” movie, and so it does. It had to answer what the wrecked ship from Alien 1 was, the space jockey and explained the origin of the Alien race from the series.

    Perhaps the philosophy “Prometheus” bears of our origin is not absolutely wrong neither absolutely right. It’s a science-fiction movie, not an history class. You have to think and separate the science from the fiction.

    The bad rating of this movie to me, is nothing but the result of the QQ trend that gets bigger every year, with everything that get released. Nothing is good enough anymore, or so it seems.

  • Carl Brooks

    The movie was less of a plot driven entity and more of a showcase for Giger’s art work
    3/5

  • KMO


    It doesn’t make any sense. Unless, of course, your “aliens” have a fetish for our very human Judeo-Christian death-favouritism. Otherwise, why would they kill themselves?!”

    It makes perfect sense. In the context of the film’s mythology, it’s an inherited fetish. We inherited it from the Engineers. Also, who’s to say the seemingly self-sacrificing Engineer hadn’t backed up his consciousness just before the ritual? Maybe the Engineers were horrified to learn that humanity had inherited their death-favoritism even though they lacked the techniques of consciousness backup that render that fetish a harmless quirk. Maybe THAT’s why the engineers were bent on erasing the mistake that is humanity, lest that morbid mutant fetish spread beyond Earth.

    I enjoyed Prometheus, but then I know what to expect from Ridley Scott and can set my expectations accordingly. He is a director who specializes in stylistic imagery. He is not a writer. He didn’t write Alien or Blade Runner. He’s been saying for decades that he’d like to make a sequel to Blade Runner. He’s just been waiting for (not working on) the right script.

    It’s been no secret that Damon Lindelof was writing the script. Is there anything in his resume that would lead you to expect anything more than Prometheus delivered?

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  • CM Stewart

    I finally saw this movie last night, and found it to be worthwhile, but it does have some issues. It seems Scott started out with the spark of a grand idea, but it fizzled before bursting into a full flame.

    The beginning of the movie was an issue, but I didn’t disagree with the death sacrifice so much as I disagreed with the method of the sacrifice. Drinking a bowl of liquid seemed too humanistic. Yes, the alien was humanoid, and spawned humans, but was still an alien. I think Scott tried too hard to make an alien-human connection there.

    My favorites characters were David and Shaw, though toward the end I began to wonder if Shaw was some kind of alien-human hybrid. Her superhuman strength and endurance were unbelievable. Her DIY cesarean abortion was the best scene in the movie, and the symbolism wasn’t glaringly obvious. I’m not sure what the relationship was between the octopus-like creatures and the originating aliens.

    The ending of the movie was a letdown. No real answers, and why would Shaw choose to continue to hunt down the originating aliens after learning they mean to destroy all of humanity?! What is she going to do, knock on their door and say, “Excuse me, I know you want to immediately destroy me, but could you answer a couple questions first?”?

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