Prometheus is a disaster of almost Phantom Menace proportions. Its script is a comedy of stupid that makes the Three Stooges look like Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.
This movie lost me completely about 10 or 15 minutes in, when Noomi Rapace's and Logan Marshall-Green's crackpot archaeologist characters (Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway, respectively) are explaining their mission to the newly-awakened crew of the Prometheus. They tell the crew (consisting predominantly of scientists) that they had discovered stone tablets all around the world that depict giant men pointing to a particular constellation in the sky, and that they believe that these tablets constitute an invitation from humanity's extra-terrestrial creators that they should visit them in space. They dismiss the possibility of coincidence by saying that a.) the art lines up exactly, and b.) the particular star cluster was too far away for any of those primitive cultures to have been able to see with the naked eye, and so aliens must have told them. The hypothesis itself doesn't upset me on its own. But when asked by a mohawked, punk geologist what actual evidence they have to believe that aliens had intelligently engineered life on earth, Shaw responds that she has none, but it is what she "chooses to believe".
These two crackpot archaeologists' wild-ass hunch, thus became the basis for a trillion-dollar space expedition in which scientists and engineers were drafted into without even being told where they were going or what they were doing.
Now, if this silly setup had ended up being my only complaint with the movie, I'd let it pass, and Prometheus probably could have turned into an excellent science fiction (or space fantasy) movie. Unfortunately, Damon Lindelof's script is unbearably bad, and is completely dependent on every character (despite being scientists, engineers, and a hyper-intelligent andriod) being dumb as a rock.
Is it appropriate to call them "plot holes" when they're the whole movie?
When they reach the planet they are travelling to, the crew begins exploring some alien structures, and finds a bunch of dead, giant skeletons (belonging to an alien species hereafter referred to as "Engineers") and a hologram showing them all running away from something. Dating establishes the bodies as being thousands of years old, but that still isn't enough to stop two of the scientists (the geologist and biologist) from panicking and running away from the group to "go back to the ship". You'd think the biologist of all people would be absolutely stoked to find extra-terrestrial bodies, but no.
And here's where the movie begins to completely fall apart. Despite being in constant radio and video contact with the Prometheus (who have access to a full map of the structure's interior), these two dumbasses manage to get themselves lost in a cylindrical hallway with only one way in or out. While they are aimlessly wandering the corridor, the rest of the group is able to investigate the alien bodies, recover one alien head as a lab sample, and make it back to the ship before anybody realizes that the other two guys are lost. But oh no, a storm rolls in, so they have to camp out in the alien structure for the night. So when an alien snake decides to peek in on them, the biologist (who was previously terrified by harmless dead bodies) decides to reach out and touch it. He gets himself attacked and killed, and the other guy gets turned into a zombie for no reason other than to provide the movie with a needless action scene later on. Fucking brilliant!
A robot-scout-generated map of the entire alien facility. I have 2 comments:
1.) Where was this fancy mapping technology when the space marines need it in Aliens?
2.) How the hell did people still manage to get lost? Did I mention that the explorers are in constant audio/visual contact with the ship?
This sequence is just so mind-bogglingly stupid that I couldn't help but look at the whole rest of the movie with very scrutinous eyes. I might have been willing to forgive the lack of clear or logical motivations for any of the characters as an intentional effort to add mystery and allow for audience interpretation if the writer hadn't already set a precedent of the script being stupid.
Every plot point in the movie from here on out is based on one of two things happening:
- A character (usually the android David) doing something antagonistic for no apparent reason.
- Random, unforeseen accidents causing drama.
At one point, Michael Fassbender's character (the aforementioned android David) intentionally poisons Halloway with a bit of black tar (apparently stolen from the X-Files) without even knowing what the tar is or what it will do. Was he just curious? If so, why not run it under a microscope before you dip it in some poor, dumb bastard's drink?!
The tar mutates Halloway's DNA, and when he has sex with Shaw shortly after being infected, he impregnates her (despite her being sterile) with a little alien squid-baby that she later has to give herself a C-section in order to remove. That squid-baby then goes on to grow into a gargantuan face-hugging parasite despite having been locked in a room with no food or drink (conservation of mass, anyone?) for no apparent reason other than to act as a plot device for bailing Shaw out of trouble when she is attacked by an inexplicably angry Engineer later in the movie.
The movie is full of other logical inconsistencies, but for the sake of brevity, I'm only going to go over a few more:
It wouldn't be an Alien-like move without flamethrowers. Too bad Lindelof couldn't find a good reason for anybody to use one.
Charlize Theron's character refused to allow the infected Halloway back on the ship thinking that he had been exposed to some alien pathogen (because they were all dumb enough to remove their helmets on the alien planet just because they detected oxygen in the atmosphere). She is, however, willing to let the other expeditioners back onto the ship, even though every one of them had also removed their helmets and was potentially exposed to the same pathogens. After all, she had no idea that Halloway was poisoned by David. She does this despite the fact that the ship is equipped with at least one fully self-contained module and suspended animation pods. Why not just freeze the guy and take him back to be examined at a proper medical facility?
The geriatric owner of the corporation (in the movie's "plot twist") also ends up having stowed away on the ship in secret because he thinks the Engineers on the planet will give him the answer to immortality. He, of course, has no reason to think this other than blind hope. He also ends up being horribly wrong, since the Engineers actually want to destroy humanity, for no apparent reason. Why did he need to stow away in secret in the first place? He could have just told the crew that he hoped these Engineers could help him prolong his life and nobody would have batted an eyelash at it.
In the end, everybody dies except Shaw (who survives numerous action sequences despite having just given herself a C-section). Charlize Theron's character would have survived too, but when running away from a crashed spaceship that's rolling like a doughnut towards her, she just runs parallel to the rolling motion. She continues to do this even after Shaw (who was running right beside her) jumps to the side well clear of an imminent crushing. Shaw then finds her way to another Engineer spaceship and flies away to search for their homeworld so she can talk to them - despite the fact that she now knows that they are trying to destroy humanity. There's no real resolution to the plot. No significant answers are given. And the questions that the movie poses are really stupid ones that were not worth asking.
Oh, I'm sorry, did I forget to say SPOILER ALERT before giving away the movie's ending and every significant plot point?
Good. Maybe that will spare you from having to go see this well-polished turd.
As far as being a prequel to Alien, Prometheus fails at that too. Any information that it supposedly provides is directly contradictory to established knowledge from the first Alien movies. This movie cannot, in any way, be related to the events of the first Alien, since that film establishes that the "Space Jockey" ship (and the alien xenomorph species) is incredibly old. The Weyland-Yutani corporation in Alien also seems to be already aware of the existence of the xenomorphs and/or the Space Jockey ship, but none of that information is actually retained and transmitted back to earth during the course of Prometheus. After all, everybody in Prometheus dies, except for Shaw, who runs away with no apparent intention of returning to earth; nobody ever figured out what the black liquid is or does; nobody even saw the proto-xenomorph that was created at the end; and a radio transmission (if one was sent) would have taken decades or centuries to reach earth anyway.
A bad sign for Star Trek 2?
The absolute worst part of this whole thing, is that the writer Damon Lindelof has been brought in to "polish up" the script for the next Star Trek movie. If this is Lindelof's idea of a "polished" script, then I shudder to think of what's going to happen to Star Trek, especially considering my existing reservations regarding the rumors surrounding the movie's plot.
Regarding David's motivations
I've come across numerous attempts to explain David's actions in this movie, particularly infecting Halloway with the black liquid. None of them really make sense to me.
Gee, I sure hope this mysterious black goo doesn't kill the top-secret visitor that I'm here to protect...
The predominant explanation that I've come across is that David is under orders to find a way to extend Weyland's life at any cost, and so he decides to find out if the black liquid is some kind of "fountain of youth" by testing it on a crew member. This is still a stupid explanation. He has no idea what the liquid is or what it does other than that it is organic. The Prometheus isn't in any hurry to go anywhere (at least it wouldn't be if a series of unhappy coincidences and idiocy didn't conspire against them). The least he could do is run the stuff under a microscope. He could also just put it in a secure storage freezer and spend the years during the return trip studying it. Exposing the ship and crew to a potentially dangerous contagion is the very antithesis of his mission, and would just put Weyland at further risk.
The second leading hypothesis is that David was examining the black liquid's potential as a bio-weapon under orders from Weyland (or the corporation). This also doesn't make sense, and goes contrary to David's primary task of securing a life extension for Weyland. Similar to what I said above, exposing the ship and crew to a bio-weapon only puts Weyland at further risk.
The bottom line is that David has no idea what the stuff is, and so his actions cannot be justified, as any potential risk to Weyland would be contrary to his primary objective of introducing Weyland to the Engineers and securing a life extension for him.
Furthermore, why is David able to wander about the Engineer ship without anybody seemingly realizing or caring that he is missing? Isn't he the one who is going to be in charge of operating the ship and ensuring everybody's safety on the presumed return trip to earth? You'd think somebody would want to keep an eye on the android that is supposed to be everybody's ride back home.
UPDATE October 10, 2012: Twin-Perfect answers questions about Prometheus
In a recent video, Twin-Perfect attempted to rebut (with varying degrees of success) many of the criticisms of the movie Prometheus. I respect Twin-Perfect, and I think that they are spot on with their analysis of the movie; although, I still disagree with their conclusion that Prometheus is a good movie.
I've already explained in the original post why I think their justification for David infecting Halloway is bogus, but I'll tackle a few of thier other points below.
Prometheus is a prequel to Alien.
One point that they specifically bring up is the relation between Prometheus and Alien. They point out that Prometheus takes place on a different planet (or moon) than Alien. Prometheus takes place on LV-223, and Alien takes place on LV-426, which are possibly two planets (or moons) within the same star system or cluster. Twin-Perfect surmises that thousands of years ago, a xenomorph outbreak resulted in Engineers fleeing LV-223 (the Engineer bodies in Prometheus are dated as being thousands of years old). One of these fleeing ships also contains the black tar canisters and/or a stowaway xenomorph, and that ship crashlands on LV-426.
In their interpretation, the xenomorphs are not created by the events of Prometheus, but rather that the Engineers are creating races (such as humans) for the purpose of breeding xenomorphs.
This works, and is internally consistent with the overall timeline of the movies, so I buy it as a valid explanation.
There is one problem though: Twin-Perfect doesn't address how the android in Alien would have known about the xenomorphs and their potential as a bio-weapon. As I said in the original post, no record of the events of Prometheus is transmitted back to earth. It is possible that Shaw or David might do that after the events of the movie, so it's not a plot hole, but just a lose thread.
I'm sorry, but removing your helmets is still stupid!
I don't care how sophisticated your scanning equipment is, you should never expose yourself to an alien environment if you can avoid it. Even with advanced scanning equipment, there is always a margin or error.
Twin-Perfect also tries to explain why the automated probes didn't detect the worms in the ship by saying that the worms may have been in statis. This contradicts their previous assertion that the Prometheus scanning equipment is sophisticated enough to detect any microbe, and that Halloway and co. are justified in removing their helmets. If the probes and scanners can be fooled by a multicellular life form being in stasis, then the crew should know that is a possibility and still take precautions. Just try scanning a person in cryostasis, or any one of many earth microbes that can put themselves in stasis or go dormant for extended periods of time. If the scan doesn't pick up life in those situations, then you know the scan is not foolproof. If they couldn't detect that Weyland had stowed away, then how could they expect to detect any potentially dangerous microbe that may be in some kind of statis?
A dangerous microbe could very well be lying dormant or in stasis in the Engineer ship and still be contracted through contact or inhalation, and then become active. Somebody should have recognized this (particularly the mission leaders and/or biologist), and anybody who removed their helmet should have been quarantined upon returning to the ship.
Deciding that alien air is safe after 3 seconds without a helmet does not create a reasonable expectation that the air is safe. Even the common cold gestates for several days, and carbon monoxide poisoning takes several minutes! Everyone who removed their helmet in the Engineer ship is stupid! And Vickers is stupid for letting any of them back onto the ship without quarantining them!