What I’ve Been Watching: Prometheus

PrometheusWhat is Prometheus?

It’s a question movie fans are still discussing a few weeks after its release. It’s difficult to remember a film splitting fans and critics so readily as to whether this film is a wasted opportunity or an instant sci-fi classic.

On the surface, Prometheus is a prequel to the Alien series. It’s directed by Ridley Scott, who directed Alien (the slower, more horrory one); not to be confused with Aliens (the faster, more actiony one); or indeed Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection (the rubbishy ones).

It takes place at the end of the 21st Century. Some scientists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, have identified lots of cave drawings which a distant moon where they believe the secret of mankind’s existence can be found.

So a crew is assembled, made up of the typical mix of scientists, pilots, military and robots we’ve come to expect from the Alien series, and all sci-fi films for that matter.

The film is written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Fans of Lost will recognize the latter’s name as that show’s co-creator; they will also recognize a lot of the elements of Lost in this film.

Like Lost, Prometheus deals with mystery and large, broad themes. The mystery is set-up early in the film: “Where did we come from, who made us and why?” In answering the question, the film deals with the theme of faith: why do we believe what we believe?

If Alien is a horror film; and Aliens an action film, this is the most sci-fi of the three. Like Battlestar Galactica it uses the opportunities the genre affords to look at broad philosophical and theological questions.

Some things about Prometheus are stupid:

The disposable characters
An unnecessarily secret crew members
Some characters inability to think to run sideways.

However, the underlying questions the film asks are not stupid, and the lead character’s desire to find answers to where she came from and whether God was ultimately behind her existence is not stupid either. Good films ask good questions, and get their audience members to think about big things. Regardless of where you stand on Prometheus’ quality, hopefully you can agree it’s asking interesting questions.

The film conclusion’s may not be to everyone’s tastes. Like Lost, for every mystery it solves, it seems to ask about ten more. Yet thematically this fits with the very question it asks: Where do we come from?

People have been debating this since humans had the intelligence to think and debate and reason; for a film to answer it definitively seems to miss the point of the question.

Great sci-fi allows us to look out and up and round us and wonder about the universe we are in. Prometheus may be flawed, but it’s decision not to give definitive answers seems deliberate, and more than just a shameless promotion for an inevitable sequel….. I think.


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