Now that Ridley Scott's "Alien" prequel "Prometheus" has arrived, it seems that we now have more questions than answers. The gorgeous 3D film is definitely easy on the eyes, with unmatched visual effects and production design overall. But one of the main criticisms leveled by the majority of reviewers against "Prometheus" is that it fails to answer -- or even attempt to guess at -- many of the high-minded questions that it asks in the first place.
WARNING: Spoilers to follow.
Who are the Engineers? Why did they create and influence life on Earth? Why did they want to destroy humanity? And why did they go to all that trouble to lure us across the galaxy with cave paintings spread across the planet? These are the obvious questions left unanswered by screenwriters Jon Spaihts ("The Darkest Hour") and Damon Lindelof ("Lost"). Perhaps they did so intentionally, but to not even imply or approximate some kind of answer to these mysteries just isn't good writing.
For all its visual triumphs, "Prometheus" suffers because of the open-ended questions the script asks but never bothers to answer. (Of course, "Lost" fans probably aren't surprised that a script co-written by Lindelof fails to answer questions... But that's another blog post entirely.)
It's not just on those big questions that "Prometheus" falls flat. There are a number of smaller mysteries that are never settled, as well as some forehead-smacking leaps in logic and character behaviour that weaken the film overall. Here are five things in "Prometheus" that simply didn't make any sense.
1) Why did the two terrified crew members, left behind on the Engineer ship, start mucking about and playing with the weird cobra-like alien?
Yes, there is a requisite creepy-crawly quota that a movie in the "Alien" family of films has to fill, but Fifield (Sean Harris) and Millburn's (Rafe Spall) behaviour on the ship goes against everything the film has already established about the characters. Fifield, a geologist, tries to book it out of there at the first sign of extraterrestrial trouble, while Millburn, though curious, is also hesitant to tangle with any unknown life forms.
After wandering around the ship for most of the night, the pair soon end up back in the weird chamber with the giant head and oozing jars, and come face-to-face with the extremely phallic cobra-tentacle ceature. Instead of running the heck away (like they both did only a few scenes before), Millburn and Fifield inexplicably start trying to touch and interact with the creature, with predictably deadly results. Granted, Fifield was stoned at the time, but what was Millburn's excuse for acting like an idiot? Their buffoonery results in a zombiefied Fifield taking out a good number of the cargo bay's crew in a brutal rage later in the film. Not such a cute little alien now, eh?
2) Why were Prometheus' co-pilots so willing to die on the captain's suicide run against the Engineer ship?
Toward the end of the film, things really start to fall apart (and we're not just talking about the total breakdown of the plot!). With the awakened Engineer preparing to fly to Earth in his giant, U-shaped ship full of nasty bio-weapons, Captain Janek (Idris Elba) selflessly decides to sacrifice himself to stop the extraterrestrial vessel. But it's not so much selfless as it is kind of a jerk move. There were actually three other people on board the Prometheus at the time, and the accordion-playing commander gives them approximately two minutes to get off the ship before his kamikaze run.
Icy corporate rep Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) immediately takes Janek up on this offer and rushes to the nearest escape pod, but Janek's co-pilots Chance (Emun Elliot) and Ravel (Benedict Wong) bravely decide to go down with their captain and vessel, despite not having a clue as to what is going on. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) screams that Janek has to stop the Engineer ship, and he acts on it because the two characters have previously discussed the stakes of the situation. But Chance and Ravel, who have been privy to none of this information, just kind of go along with the plan -- making them either extremely loyal crewmembers, idiots, or both.
One of the central themes of "Prometheus" is how far living things will go to survive (just look at the ancient Weyland's trillion-dollar, cross-galaxy trip to extend his life). These two pilots, however, give up on their own lives pretty easily, and even have time to crack a joke about a running bet they had going moments before their fiery demise. And the Darwin Award goes to...
3) Why did Meredith Vickers escape the ship only to be crushed to death literally minutes later?
Vickers' dramatic escape from the doomed Prometheus is a pretty cool moment in the movie, but the fact that it was an awesome set piece seems to be the only reason she was allowed to escape in the first place. Theron's character is promptly squashed by the crashing Engineer ship mere moments after her escape pod touches down on the surface of LV-223. Why let her get off of the Prometheus if you're just going to kill her? This one was just odd.
Also, here's a tip: If a mile high alien ship is very slowly tipping over in your direction, don't run away from it, run to the side of it. The average I.Q. has apparently gone down in the future.
4) Why did David infect Holloway? Why did he do anything he did?
Much of what the android David (Michael Fassbender) does in the film is quite baffling indeed. He either has some sinister agenda that he's been pre-programmed to carry out, or he's just a curious psychopath who wants to see what makes things tick. In truth, it's probably a bit of both, but how could the artificial human know what the effect of infecting Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, a.k.a. the poor man's Tom Hardy) would be? There is no possible way that the "Lawrence of Arabia"-loving android could have known that Holloway's post-infection "intimate contact" with Shaw would result in the most messed up pregnancy/delivery ever.
Throughout the film, David is constantly tinkering with everything, much to the chagrin of his crewmates. The disturbing thing about the android is that he apparently sees no distinction between fiddling with an ancient control panel and impregnating a woman with an alien against her will. David is the embodiment of humanity's irrepressible search for knowledge, without all those pesky human emotions and morals getting in the way. As such a cold and driven being, he's scarier than any Space Jockey or Xenomorph. We probably don't want to know why he's doing what he does.
5) Why did the entire crew take off their helmets?!
Rule No. 1 of trillion-dollar mission to the other side of the galaxy: Leave your helmets on! Just because you can breathe the air inside the Engineer ship doesn't mean you should. One need only to look at the Europeans' first contact with many indigenous cultures in North and South America to realize that breathable air can still contain all sorts of horrible pathogens. The native populations of the Americas were decimated by bacteria and viruses brought over by the Europeans. With no immunity or resistance, many basically died of complications from the flu and the common cold.
The same would likely be true of humanity's first contact with any alien species. We would have no resistance to the diseases of one another, making any contact without a space suit problematic. Holloway may not have been infected as a result of being the first to remove his helmet (that was David's doing), but that kind of reckless behaviour put everyone on the expedition at risk. Come on, man, you're a scientist! Err on the side of caution.
Are we missing something? Were any of these questions answered for you in the film, or are you still just as confused as we are? Was there anything else in "Prometheus" that absolutely did not make sense to you?
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