Regardless of whether or not you've watched Prometheus yet, you've doubtless heard the claim that the film raises more questions than it answers. Indeed, this seems to be the rallying cry for many of its defenders, with the odd whiff of smugness as they add that if only the detractors had been smart enough to pick up on this or that bit of (intentional, we swear!) ambiguity then everybody would acknowledge the manifest genius before them and not, you know, think the movie was a half-baked mess, albeit a very pretty one.
Rather than posting yet another review of the movie, I thought it might be more interesting to list some of the deeper questions Prometheus raised, at least for this longtime Alien franchise fan and the friends he talked to after the screening (many thanks to Raech, Molly, John, Kay, Justin, Thara, Marc, and everyone else for the input!). Spoilers ahead, dummy:
- Is the problem that Prometheus actually leaves too much unanswered, or is it that the heavy-handed answers it smacks the audience with are so obvious that only by seeking for less overt questions and potential tangents can one pretend the film is profound instead of ponderous?
- Assuming some or even all the proposed implications of the film are indeed what the filmmakers intended and not straw-grasping by fans, does that make the tired-ass ancient astronaut plot any more compelling?
- If the above does make Prometheus more compelling, what does that say about De Palma's 2000 film Mission to Mars, from which many of Prometheus' elements, including the ending, are liberally "borrowed"?
- Does this make anyone else giggle?
- What does it say about the film that its defenders respond to pointed criticisms of particular elements by asking a question of their own: "why would you care about that?"
- How long until fans start claiming that all the un-mined but interesting directions the film could have gone in but didn't--e.g, the human race being a biological weapon created by aliens--are actually crucial components of the movie that the filmmakers never actually explored because to do so would be waaaaaay too obvious for such a subtle film?
- When did Scott forget that you can pack more emotional wallop into a scene by understating your subject matter rather than beating your audience over the head with it? Rutger Hauer's last words to Harrison Ford in Blade Runner are so haunting and effective because we haven't been buffeted with endless reminders of Hauer's humanity and appreciation of beauty for the previous two hours...
- Was I having a nightmare, or is Ridley Scott really going back to the Blade Runner well next?
- Why does a film that makes such a to-do about science, especially science in relation to faith, not bother vetting any of the scientific elements in the film? Obviously not all so-called SF movies need to have plausible scientific explanations to be enjoyable, but when the major subtext of a film is that science cannot supply all the answers it might be seen as good form to actually supply the teensiest bit of plausible science...
- Or, for that matter, plausible characters, which raises another question: shouldn't characters act according to some sort of personality or internal motivation, rather than as bland propellers of the plot?
- As a sub-question to the above, say that you a punk rock geologist whose sole stated role in the investigation of the site is to map out the alien complex, a task which you initially perform with aplomb. How would you then become hopelessly lost when you single-mindedly set out to leave said complex?
- Or, for that matter, say that you are a nerdy biologist who's way too squicked out to investigate the two thousand year old corpse of the first alien lifeform you've ever seen. Why, then, when a living, genital-lookin' xenocobra creature rears up in front of you in an obviously hostile fashion would you reach out for the goddamn thing, sans tongs or even a Y-shaped stick?
- Why do all three of the remaining non-major characters have to be present for the suicide mission to succeed, instead of having all but one escape on the lifeboat?
- Have my eyes gone insane, or are people actually alleging that the gender dynamics in this movie don't suck alien goopus? Compare Prometheus' ladies-are-either-baby-crazy-or-have-daddy-issues-or-both binary to Ripley's non-gendered-in-the-frickin-script role in the first Alien and all of a sudden James Cameron's saddling Ripley with maternal motivations in Aliens no longer seems quite as problematic...
- And in re: the above, why does exposure to the black slime of dooooom turn all the dudes it infects into raging baddies with inhuman strength, but when an (infertile, no less!) woman gets it on with a contaminated gentleman, it somehow causes her to become pregnant? This raises another question, namely:
- Do the filmmakers know how babies are made?
- And as for the whole ancient-astronauts-created-life-on-earth, as Kameron Hurley's post asks, have the filmmakers effectively erased women from the creation of life?
- If you are an alien race of obvious superior intelligence, why leave a map to your bio-weapons laboratory with the primitive civilizations you've engineered? Assuming the not-at-all-sizable leaps in reasoning the protagonists make are correct and that is indeed the function of the complex, of course.
- Say that you're an obviously intelligent alien and you awake from a two-millennia-long snooze in a cryo-chamber to discover that several of your creations are waiting at your bedside, clearly interested in communicating with you. Why would you immediately try to murder them all?
- Is there any point in going on and on about the film's gaping plot holes, one-dimensional characters, and other manifest faults?
- When was the last time I watched such a gorgeous film in the theatre,and who doesn't like to consume a big budget turkey from time to time?
- Is there anything wrong with enjoying a giant lump of gorgonzola, even if the waves of stink rising from it blind your less cheese-eager friends?
Now, there was quite a bit I enjoyed about the film--the cinematography, sets, costumes, effects, creature design, and, not to be redundant, Michael Fassbender--but, ultimately, the questions raised by Prometheus weren't the sort of questions I find particularly stimulating or engaging. I don't think any less of people who loved it, of course, and I adore enough bombs to know that one person's meat another person's merde is, but, unfortunately, this fell into the latter camp for me. Even still, merde never looks so good as that which Ridley Scott produces!
[Cross-posed to my website]