Prometheus: And Still We Struggle
So the key to our survival is to believe that there are answers to every question. And somewhere out there, somewhere beneath the oceans or beyond the stars, the ultimate answer awaits. It is the magical world where everything is perfect, where all expectation is lifted.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus aims to take us on this journey. It is the year 2093, just four years after Doctors Shaw and Holloway’s great cave art discovery, when we board the corporate sponsored ship on its way to a distant planet. David is performing his daily rounds, checking on the sleeping crew, studying the ships coordinates, and learning ancient dialects. David is a robot, “designed this way because you people are more comfortable interacting with your own kind.” We spend a good few minutes with David, understanding quickly his role, his motives.
But the humans in Prometheus we spend quite a good deal less time with. “Big things have small beginnings,” and these big things are consumed with silly questions of heaven and hell, money and power, life and death. The crew is made up of the standard clichés, the motley crew including the geologist, the psychologist, historian, the doctors, and the captain; you get the idea here. This story is not a character study; it is a species study. There is so much more at stake here than mere humanity; this is about the core of all thinking species.
Scott opens the film with an awe inspiring, breathtaking panorama of rushing water, majestic waterfalls, and curving rock formations sure to spark mystical ideas in each of us. But it also reminds us that we may be a small coincidence within the workings of the universe. So when the ship enters the Martian atmosphere, the first thing the crew notices is the vast desert, where “there is nothing…and no man needs nothing.”
Man’s insatiable need for more answers, to know more each day, always leads us astray. And in the Alien universe, this wayward path leads us directly into the nest of the beast. Prometheus exists within this world, and the impending doom adds to the already intense first half. It is easy to get lost in the mythology, the H.R. Giger inspired corridors and machines, and the fantasy of discovering our true origins. I surely did.
This movie is about discovering how “far you would go to find your answers.” And should you find that answer, what would be your next question? Because there will be one; man always needs. And maybe it is this exact need that led to the serious flaw in the third act that made me wish I could rewind the film to see what I had missed. What could only be called careless assumptions lead to hastily drawn conclusions, igniting a violent and frenetic ending that is high on action but empty of emotional impact.
But the first two-thirds of Prometheus is enthralling, easily making up for the rush to the finish line (this is a big Hollywood production, after all). There is a lot to absorb and so many questions still unanswered. In the end, we understand one thing clearly, that answers matter, regardless of the weight of knowing. So when you meet the one who made you, and find yourself wondering who made him, take a deep breath and journey onward.