14 June 2012

First Impressions: Prometheus, Part 2, The Heavy Stuff

Welcome back, folks. This week, Prometheus (2012) is on everyone's mind and there's just not enough room or patience in one post to cover it all. Yesterday we gave some surface impressions of the general plot, cast, and some of the stupidness. Today, though, we're diving into the real meat of this flick lying beneath the surface. Imagine that - a planet full of meat. I would pet snakes from that place. Before journeying further, naturally there are plenty of SPOILERS and FUCK WORDS from here on out, so if you want to see Promie for yourselves, do that first. Do that right now, actually.

Ambiguity

First and foremost, this is the key to understanding as well as enjoying this film. It is incredibly and intentionally ambiguous, opening the gate for discussion, theory building, and critical and imaginative ininterpretation. This is the same kind of schtick writer Damon Lindelof pulled on LOST, and if you liked joining in on the conversation there, you'll like Promie as well. If you're someone who expected many direct answers, then you'll never be satisfied with this film. Lindelof has essentially stated that he understands he has this effect - and for all the complaints, his work leads to far more cultural discourse and discussion than anything else put out by his contemporaries.

This idea is entirely the purpose of Prometheus. It shouldn't be a huge revelation to make the connection between an audience whose expectations were pulled out from underneath them and a group of scientists in space who are experiencing the very same thing. The Team of the Prometheus wants answers to their existence, to immortality, to everything. The obvious narrative response is that like the god of Greek myth, they have outstretched themselves and are punished for hubris - trying to steal from their "gods" (the Engineers) and use for their own, lesser kind. On a more metaphysical level, though, the film is about how answers kind of suck.

"Hey cutie. You like Mexican?"
There's nothing that could really satisfy Weyland or Noomi or Tom Hardy. Maybe David. As the film positions itself to answer the meaning of life and creation as well, it would also come up short if it actually tried to answer anything. Instead, and this is important, what is more essential to life, faith, science, or whatever, is the need for the search. This parallels the frustrations of thousands of film-goers. We have such a desire to find out what the hell is the meaning of what we're watching we forget that it wouldn't really be any fun if we knew anything. And you know what, if I was a biologist who was the first human to ever encounter an alien life-form, I might try to check it out, too, dammit!

Creations vs. Creators

Christianity, Gods, and Chestbursters

The Myth of Prometheus and the Story of Christ have both been heavily alluded to in countless media over the past couple millennia. Considering there are still dudes like Weyland out there (who clearly understand the myth's purpose), it doesn't seem to hurt to trot it out again, especially if it is still interesting. In Prometheus, it is. The film makes clear reference, though, to the possibility of other gods and the reconciliation of their existences with faith in a personal belief, regardless of what that belief may be.

There has been quite a bit of discussion over the heavy Christian themes of this film around the Internet. From the significance of David's name, the possibility of Jesus Christ being an Engineer (from the mouth of Ridley himself, no less) or the simple fact that everything bad happens when Noomi's cross is removed, there's a lot here. There is also tons of references to Sacrificial Abdomen Wounds, essentially driving home the idea that creating anything, from stolen fire to eternal salvation requires a tremendous amount of physical pain and sacrifice. Kind of like childbirth. Or Squiddiebirth.

The Squid & The Noomi

One of the continued themes in Prometheus is the battle between Creators and their Creations. This has been going on in literature since the Modern Prometheus himself, Frankenstein. There's actually a surprising lack of Frankenstein references, considering how apt it would be. I guess Squiddie Shaw Jr. is born on a slab. There is much more of a Christian Thing going on here, which is interesting, disturbing, and cool in its own right.

Noomi may as well be a experiencing a Virgin Birth in the sense that she was not supposed to be able to have a child. That Virgin Birth instead of giving birth to the Saviour of Man, gives birth to the Saviour of Xenomorphs. Maybe. It's certainly her own Saviour from the vengeful Engineer who's coming to mess up her day. In this sense then, Noomi kills her creator with her own creation. Could this have been why the Engineers were so hell-bent on eliminating Humanity? Because of their purity and sacrifice, the Engineers mixed with goo to make the Humans, but because of their sin, Humanity mixed with goo makes this fucking shit. So where does that leave dogs?

This is just a theory. An interpretation of ambiguous facts that the characters are trying to figure out alongside the audience to an about even rate of success based on their background. Why does Idris Elba think they've arrived at a biological weapons facility? He has a military background - it's what he reads into his surroundings. Why does Noomi think the cave paintings are an invitation? She's a nice girl, if she was going to leave a map, that's why she would do so. Why does Weyland spend a trillion dollars to try to achieve immortality? Because he can.

David, Vickers, & Weyland

This is perhaps the most interesting trio in the film. It's fairly possible that Charlize Theron is still an android. Sure, she told Idris to come fuck her, but is that really a done deal? She could have A) Robot Vagina or B) No Vagina. Either way, once Idris came to her room would he tell anyone else?

"You'll never believe this, Chance, Vickers is an android!"

"Whoa! How'd you figure that out?"

"Well, she was so dry when I was banging her-"

"Wait - you just banged our Robot Boss?"

I'm not sure it would work out that well. At any rate, Weyland is father both to David and Vickers, and damn that must be one hell of a Thanksgiving. Weyland is clearly favourable to David despite making it very clear that he is a lesser lifeform. As he says himself, by creating David he has become not a patriarch as much as a god - one that must be served. It's more or less like Weyland isn't paying attention to his daughter because he's obsessed with continuously buffing his brand new Aston Martin.

"Shut up and find out what the hell you're actually doing here."
He also just won't die. Can you imagine poor Charlize, from the looks of it being born to the richest man in the world when he's in his late-60s, at least? Jackpot baby. Then what the hell, this cat lives for another 30-some years? This is the kind of bitch lobbying for Romney to clear a ban on inheritance tax, folks. Not only for the cash, but she's sick of her father's shadow, his lack of attention, and devotion to a lesser lifeform (more on that shortly). It's her dream to take his place - just as it's Weyland's dream to take the place of the Engineers, and perhaps David's dream to take the place of humanity.

The clearest reason for the Engineers' desire to wipe out humanity (if it even is their desire, again, that concept is more ambiguous than it seems) is that Humanity is just inconsequential. Weyland clearly points out that David lacks a soul, but a more accurate assessment would be that he lacks a soul as a concept constructed by humans. It's very possible that humans also lack a soul as constructed by the Engineers. In that sense, there's nothing really malicious in wiping us out. It's just like deleting a corrupted computer file - some good ideas once, but they just really needed to upgrade to something that masturbated less. It's no big deal to kill humanity. They probably have a ton more cave paintings on a ton more worlds. We are not special (no beautiful or unique snowflake). This kind of sucks for you know, the humans present at the time, but what are they going to do about it? Come back with the Hulk to beat up their puny gods?

See, that would be interesting. When will the gods learn not to mess with Humanity? Noomi and the Shark Head are going to travel the cosmos and come back with Thor, or at least Beta Ray Bill to kick some Ripped White Ass all over the Wasteland. To conclude this tangent, The Avengers (2012) makes Humanity feel exceptional in a Galactic Sense, Prometheus renders our existence inconsequential.

Bad Black Goo

What the Fuck is It?


There are two major camps on the Internet on this topic. There are those that are hopelessly perplexed by the Goo and its seeming inconsistencies, and those that at least offer some kind of hypothesis. I think the initial problem for the average movie goer is reclining oneself to convention. Convention isn't a bad thing. It is the building block for just about every image we see and allows us to quickly and thoroughly understand symbols, layouts, and set-ups, both visually and narratively.

Prometheus doesn't exactly stick with its conventions. It doesn't lay out Black Goo rules at any point, in fact, it ends with the Goo still being pretty ambiguous. It requires some careful thinking, observation, and understanding of each character at their point of exposure. We only have five characters that are Goo-Exposed, so let's start there.

If we can't trust Robots in Space, who is there left to trust?!
1) The First Jacked-Up White Dude in the prologue. As Ridley has stated, regardless if this is earth, he's in a state of willing and selfless sacrifice. With this extremely high level of altruism he's able to actually create new life. 2) David doesn't really have DNA, which seems to be what the Black Goo reacts with, so moot point. 3) Holloway is in a state of rekindled hope due to a conversation with David, but nothing is all that strong. We don't know what would happen to him or what he would turn into, but he sure wasn't feeling all that great - we know he had a lot of love for Noomi but is also a selfish character, and thus the goo causes him to collapse in on himself. 4) The poor worms got stepped on - fuck that, they say and they become huge Penis/Vagina symbolic Cobras and fuck up the days of the Shoe-wearing oppressors. 5) Finally, Fifield was in a state of extreme fear and anger that the Goo mutates him into an apparently near-invincible crazy maniac who won't quit until a truck runs over his noggin. Rough, mate.

There are two big conclusions to be reached here: the first is that since no one else actually dies (it sure looked like Holloway wasn't going to be opening any more Christmas presents, though) from the Goo, it may not be the same as from the prologue. Secondly, considering how much this thing reacts to negative emotion, seemingly granting evil tremendous power but fucking over do-gooders, is it any surprise that this shit got out of control in the wrong hands? Those poor White Gods.

Rape

The Alien series has always been about the transposition of genitalia and rape imagery in some way. This ranges from the vaginal facehugger mouth rape to the phallic chestburster, although there's certainly much weirder stuff, like the Weird Human/Alien from Resurrection (1997) that was originally supposed to have both sets of nards.

"That's it, young man, no ice cream for a whole week!"
Prometheus has a little roofie action in David poisoning Tom Hardy's drink. Holloway is then forced to do exactly as David wants him to, which I guess is just to be a test subject to see if the Black Goo can have any beneficial effect on the dying Weyland. Beyond that the Big Nasty Cobraworms already look like a weird vagina (the biologist's been asleep for years and the only chicks around are either married or a robot! Maybe he just wanted some puss, give him a break) and then unwillingly penetrate over and over again, traumatizing Fifield so that he's in a state ready to mutate into a vengeful evil maniac monster. Powerful stuff.

Finally there's literally the Mother of All Facehuggers, young Noomi Squiddie Shaw, Jr., who has obvious vaginal dentata imagery but then forcibly impregnates the hapless Engineer. Does anyone else realise the penultimate scene in this flick is a hardcore Alien on Alien rape scene? It's bizarre and disturbing and has everything to do in a film featuring three main species who all compete with each others' gene pool to procreate. It's the struggle of creation v. creator, possibly incestuous in this sense. As Holloway said though, when you're willing to go all the way to find the answers you came for, this is what you end up with.

The Engineers vs. The Destroyers

This article, which has gained a surprising amount of notice for a livejournal entry, and I've referenced plenty, got me thinking about the concept of the Engineers and the Destroyers. The Destroyers, of course, being these guys again, exist for a single purpose, how did Ash put it? "Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility...I admire its purity. A survivor unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." They are an infection, a corruption, a side-effect of the Creating Black Goo that crafted something as beautiful as it is horrible.

After thirty years of The Destroyers being the main adversary in these films, Prometheus introduces their opposite, the Creators or the Engineers as Noomi loves to call them. They create through destruction and turn old life into new. Their problem comes when their benevolent ways are met by the sins of not only Humanity, but their own Elephant People. As the tapestries in their temple clearly indicate, the Destroyer has been around for quite some time, always the reflection of the sinful pride of the Engineers' creation turning uncontrollably on the creator. For all their goodwill and sacrifice, the Destroyer exists within each to literally burst out and ruin dinner. I guess it's equivalent to a bad fart.

That's the point of this movie. We created the Alien, we created that kind of fear and ugliness that lies inside us, regardless of our abdominal holes.

Next up...

I do owe a debt to the tremendous amount of discussion available on the Internet already, I've cited a ton of it here and always looking for the kind of intelligent conversation and criticism that this movie will elicit.This kind of extensive post may seem difficult to follow, but in our next post right here, we'll try to examine this criticism and impending legacy of one of the best films of the year. Or was it actually the worst? We really ought to just watch The Tree of Life (2011) to find out.

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