18 June 2012

Prometheus Explained?

I don't agree with this defence of Prometheus (note: link is to a youtube video).

At least I don't think I do.  But it did make me reconsider, and (slightly) soften, my earlier judgement of the film.

Update: this seems spot on.

19 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful response the the symbolism and meaning on the prometheus site. Billiant stuff really.

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    1. Glad someone else out there found it interesting! :)

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  2. He has simply restated what can be gleamed from a careful view of the movie. The problem I had with it is the essential and complete implausibility of the actions of those characters. The two scientists who are lost in the ruins, for example; they are supposed to be PROFESSIONALS (unless Weyland was a moron and spent trillions of dollars on a ship and then went cheap when choosing personnel.) One of the them is supposed to be a trained biologist. Who in his right mind would act as stupidly as them?
    The captain and the two mates at the end of the movie: they are going to die like they are going on a picnic, with a smile on their lips. That's just frigging implausible. For all we know, I would suppose that ALL of them are androids!

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    1. I agree, Antonio, that the two scientists and "Charlie" were amazingly foolish (all had Wisdom scores in the 3-5 range).

      However, for some reason I bought the captain's motivation at the end.

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  3. I didn't really go in for all the symbology stuff. None of it had even occurred to me until I saw some blog posts about "pro-life messages" and the whole space-jesus stuff... Admittedly I tend to not (over) analyze movies to much... I'm there to be entertained, and Prometheus entertained me even if it didn't do everything I wanted.

    Here's the thing about professionals vs. morons. This was a secret, privately (i.e. non-government/military)funded, 4 year round trip space mission to which the people involved were given minimal information. This may have been Weyland Corp., but it wasn't the Weyland-Yunti "we're a corporate behemoth and law unto ourselves" style company from the previous movies. The people they hired to go on that would have been necessarily limited to the scientists crazy/desperate enough to agree to that sort of contract. It doesn't mean they were crap at their jobs, but this isn't necessarily leaders in their field or anything.

    But I agree that there were a number of "people are dumb for horror plot reasons" things in the movie.

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    1. Some people see a "pro-life" message in "Prometheus"? Wow. My initial impression would be the opposite.

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    2. Yeah... I didn't really get that either. I mean, I didn't feel either way, and when it was mentioned I felt that if I had to pick a side it was more the other way as well (personally I think it's stretching).

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  4. If you have to watch youtube videos to "understand" a movie, doesn't that mean the movie has failed? If you consider movies as a means of communication, I guess.
    if it is purely entertainment, do people seek deeper meaning in their cat or dog chasing a laser pointer beam?

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    1. I disagree: I think that films -- like novels, plays, poems, paintings, etc. -- can have 'deeper meanings' that aren't always obvious at first.

      And simply because a film (or novel, etc.) is a form of entertainment does not prevent it from raising deeper questions as well.

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    2. I think if you can't get to it on your own-and someone has to explain it to a reasonably intelligent adult (or rather most of the reasonably intelligent adult viewers of the film)-it's failed.

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    3. Well, I strongly disagree with that view, as I think that there are many great works of art (literature, film, etc.) that contain layers, allusions, and ideas that are not immediately accessible to the average 'reasonably intelligent' person. For instance, most 'reasonably intelligent' people have a hard time understanding Ulysses initially, but I think that it would be absurd to conclude from that that Joyce's novel is a 'failure'. (Not that I would put Prometheus in the same league as Ulysses of course!)

      Part of the process of thinking about a film like 2001, for instance, is that it's not obvious what is going on (at least at the end of the film).

      In any case, I doubt that it would be fruitful to pursue this debate further here.

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  5. When it comes to film or literature critique/interpretation I'm always interested in the intent of the creator(s). No offense intended at all, but I'm not particularly interested in what some random person thinks about the meaning.

    I once read a lit crit article in a book (can't remember the title) that was written from a "feminist perspective." The author argued that the scene where Pris jumped up on Deckard's shoulders and was squeezing his neck was symbolic of the fact that she was an android and had a barren womb. She could never give life from her groin, so she was trying to take life from it instead.

    Honestly all of this says more about the author than the intent of the movie. Though also in this context it says something about the state of academia, but that's a different topic. The long and short of it for me is if we can't get to the actual intent, we can't really know what was intended, if anything. There is a school of thought that author intent is irrelevant, but I don't subscribe to that in this context, anyway.

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    1. Dan, my impression was that, to some extent at least, the guy who made this youtube video was trying to ascertain Ridley Scott's 'intent' with respect to the different elements of 'Prometheus'.

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    2. Possibly, but I want to hear Scott's intent from his lips, not an interpretation/guess at the intent.

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    3. Unfortunately, I doubt that we'll hear anything substantive from Scott's lips until after the sequel(s).

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  6. I think this video is a good-faith effort to defend a narratively shallow movie. I particularly didn't like the sort-of moralizing at the end. Yeah, I get it: good sci-fi leaves questions unanswered. But when you learn to write good science fiction, you learn that there's a real art to leaving good unanswered questions. Turns out it's very hard to do well. More often than not, your story has unanswered questions because you don't know what you're doing. Alien is an example of providing good unanswered questions. Why? In part, because those questions contribute to the horror of the film, in the form--no doubt inspired by Lovecraft--of inviting us to realize just how small we all in the grand scheme of it all.

    Anyway, notice a few things here. First, a good length of time is spent in this video debating whether Vickers is a robot. Now ask: does the answer matter in the least. Does it matter one single bit to the story told whether Vickers is a robot? No, which suggests that zero time should be spent dwelling on it, and story-wise, if we were supposed to wonder about this, we weren't given a reason to.

    Second, I don't quite understand why so much effort is devoted in this video to explaining what is obvious. Obviously the goop is a biological weapon. Obviously it turns things it comes into contact with into violent, somewhat mindless aggressors. But again, so what? The big Engineer plan is to release that on us? Now that invites a much more interesting question, which is entirely missed in this piece. If that's true, then the story focused on the wrong part of the plan. Yes, the Engineers wanted to destroy us. But they wanted to do so by having us destroy each other via the goop. Which is amusing, really, since the best explanations I've heard for them wanting to destroy us is because we're good at destroying ourselves.

    Last, the Alien tie-ins. These are entirely superflous. Narratively-speaking, the only important thing we learn is that the goop can be "passed on" via sex, and when then happens, things turn ugly in an interestingly different way. Okay. But in the context of this story, again, so what? The only answer to that is: it's the birth of the aliens! Yeah, sure, but who cares? Now we know that the aliens are the product of humans mating while infected by a weapon meant to destroy us. And the weapon was created by other aliens who are like us and created us. We've lost the wonder of Alien, and replaced it with a pretty humdrum worldview, in my opinion.

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  7. Good points, Chris, especially in the last paragraph, concerning the key difference between 'Alien' and 'Prometheus'.

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  8. We've lost the wonder of Alien, and replaced it with a pretty humdrum worldview, in my opinion.

    Really? Despite its flaws, and a few "I don't believe you" moments, the film made the Alien universe feel larger to me than it had seemed before.

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  9. I don't understand the Prometheus hate. I loved watching a movie that left me with more questions than answers, especially given the premise (answering all the old questions posed by Alien). Mysteries within mysteries, and cleverly done. So far the problem I have noticed with those who dislike it so much are a matter of expectations, preconceptions and misinterpretations...which I suppose one could argue as a mark against the film if it left so many people confused, but which I think reflects the fact that Alien as a film and phenomenon had grown far larger in our mental expectations than Prometheus could live up to.

    That said, I do agree there were some "idiot, you're in a horror movie, don't you know better than to do X???" moments that genuinely derailed certain moments in the film by forcing the viewer to question the sanity or logic of the various characters.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.