Con and Prometheus

By Phil Plait | June 18, 2012 1:39 pm

So a week or so ago I went to the movies and watched Prometheus. While I didn’t hate it unequivocally as a lot of people seem to, I didn’t love it without reservations either. On the Alien sliding scale, it was better than being attacked by a face hugger, but worse than listening to Hudson complaining about being a space marine.

I think there were some really good things about the movie, including many of the over-arching themes, but the problem wound up being in the details. And by "details" I mean "science", for the most part. At some point though, the details are the plot, especially when the movie revolves around those points.

So I wrote up some thoughts and sent them over to the good folks at Blastr, who added some pictures from the movie and let me rant. After my first draft, I edited it, and then again, and it was still 1300 words — it’s hard to do a good/bad analysis of plot points without racking up quadruple-digit essays, so I left a lot of stuff out that I thought was cool, as well as stuff that — haha — bugged me. Think of the article as an analytical sampling of the movie science.

Of course, there are spoilers flying as furiously as pressurized acidic blood there, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you might not want to read it. And if you have, feel free to leave comments there! The discussions I’m reading about the movie are actually pretty interesting, so I’m curious to know what everyone thought.

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Comments (74)

  1. I haven’t seen it yet, so I didn’t read the spoilers. Just wondering, was it a visual eye candy treat? I imagine with Ridley Scott at the helm, it could be pretty stunning.

  2. Matt B.

    I haven’t seen the movie, and the finished article doesn’t seem to me like it has too many spoilers. In fact, having had the bad science spoiled, I might be able to relax and enjoy the movie more if I ever get around to watching it.

    I have to wonder if the line was “half a billion miles” instead of “trillions of miles” because they thought the audience would find that large a number implausible. Then again, in Stargate the movie, they said their probe went half-way across the universe, which was implausible (Ra couldn’t find an Earth-like planet less than 13 billion light-years away, but he was able to find one further than that in less than 5000 years?)

  3. John Powell

    [Spoiler Alert – Prometheus]

    Immediately after leaving the theater my interpretation of the opening scene was that it takes place on LV-223. The Engineer was a dissident that opposed the destruction of the human race, or maybe just the creation of goo-based WMDs. He used the xenomorph goo to take his own life and simultaneously infect the base in hopes of killing everyone and keeping others of his kind away. Thousands of years later, we show up and unwittingly wake up the last xenophobic survivor and almost let him complete his mission.

    I assume that the alien xenomorphs that we run across in the Alien movie are the product of a similiar WMD program by the Engineers that got out of control and wiped them out.

  4. Gaebolga

    Well, even though I kinda liked the movie, there were a number of issues that bothered me about it, but probably the biggest was a very simple one (one that was much easier to ignore in the original Alien movie, btw, and even easier in the second film): where did the critter that got trapped in the operating bay get the sustenance to grow that much that fast?

    I mean, I’m willing to accept that biological systems can grow incredibly fast, so I suppose I’d be willing to posit that alien biology could bump that growth up a little, but by any stretch of the imagination, that would require a truly stunning amount of consumables – mainly energy (one would assume chemical), but also nutrients and minerals and stuff like that there.

    And as near as I could tell, there wasn’t anything in the operating bay to eat….

  5. Grand Lunar

    Saw this film not long ago. I thought it was kinda cool.
    I do agree with you Phil in that the stated time of the events is a bit too soon.
    I think 170 years in the future would’ve been better.

    I wonder if the sequel may clear up misconceptions that may occur.
    Or not….

  6. Charlie Kilian

    I would really like you to go into more detail about how Prometheus got the role of religion in society right. My take-away was almost the opposite. I felt like they didn’t even do basic research on the philosophical questions they tried to tackle. They had the “scientists” say lots of un-science-y things, like “Don’t be a skeptic” — literally, an archeologist said that — and claim that “where did we come from” and/or “what is our purpose in life” are the Big Questions that science tries to answer. I will begrudgingly grant you the former (though I don’t think IRL scientists ask the question the same way the movie was asking it), but the latter? C’mon. I strongly suspect most scientists would take a humanist approach and say that we assign purpose to our own lives. The questions aren’t framed in the ways a scientist would ask them.

  7. Doug Little


    In your report you mention that because the moon was 30+light years away it implies FTL travel because they only took 2+ years to get there. Time dilation could explain this if they were talking about time relative to the crew on the spaceship. Not having seen the film I’m not sure what the frame of reference was for the trips duration.

  8. Chris

    The Bad Astronomer is back!

    I have an answer for Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s complaint when she said “half a billion miles” from Earth and every other movie where they mess up the length conversion. Just like mariners use nautical miles which are longer than normal land miles, perhaps in the future spacefarers will use space miles which are much much longer than normal Earth miles.

    Another thing which got me was the carbon dating of the alien. Unless you have some standard calibration for that planet, there is no way you can use the concentration of carbon-14 to determine an age.

  9. Brice Gilbert

    It wasn’t just he science that bothered me. I can look past that every time. It was the characters being incredibly stupid, uninteresting, and underdeveloped. I’m supposed to like someone here and yet I can’t. Not every character is supposed to be a random horror movie cliche who I want to see dead. Alien certainly wasn’t that. Never mind that it’s philosophy was void of anything intelligent to say in regards to religion, humanity, and AI crap. It not that I found it terrible overall. It was just average. It’s beautiful, there are a couple creepy as hell sequences, the acting is great, and the first hour is pretty solid.

  10. Ryan

    It is a visual treat, and one of the only movies that does 3D well (none of that “hey, were throwing this in your face CAUSE ITS 3D! woowawee!). It’s also true stereoscopic 3D, and not of the post production “viewmaster” kind, which gives me headaches and looks funny.

    As for the movie I agree that it’s a beautiful, fun, wild ride with some really good theme’s, but ultimately flawed. If you had high expectations, it’ll disappoint a bit. If you had low expectations, you might be thrilled that big budget scifi got another chance and didn’t screw up even as it didn’t succeed the best.

    Biggest problem to me is it seemed they tried to “meld” hard scifi with popcorn flick stuff to please everyone. Instead of a nice meld that works, the movie ebbs and flow between the two and ticks off both camps.

    For me I’m able to overlook the tropes, cliches and common popcorn mcguffins used to move the plot forward in areas where little else needs to be done; but it seems to really grate the nerd rage for some people.

    Be warned, you’re show a lot and nothing is answered. The first question, in the first few seconds of Shaw and Holloways screen time, is about the only resolution you’ll get in this flick. Seems they saved a lot for the second act, should it get green lit.

    And it’s really only then you’ll be able to judge this one on the merits. Scott seems to think he couldn’t possibly deal with everything he wanted to in 117 min, or even 180 (which the studio never would have allowed for a R rated scifi flick).

    Overall, the more I think about it and the more I discuss the subtleties, allusions, ect; the more I’m liking it.

  11. Matt

    You left off my biggest peeve of that movie (which I actually quite enjoyed despite the science badness)….the complete disregard for the laws of thermodynamics shown by shaw’s “baby”.

    This thing grows from a microbe to a small octopus overnight, and then within a few hours of that it’s large enough to fully envelope an Engineer? Where is all that mass coming from? I can kinda sorta get how it was feeding off of shaw, although losing 6-10 pounds in 12 hours would probably leave a person in pretty shabby shape…but how did it grow to be 15 feet long in the span of a few hours locked in a sterile room with nothing to eat?

  12. Matthew Rigdon

    I was disappointed in how the movie seemed to take some cool, science-respecting elements and then turn them upside down so they make no sense anymore. I’m thinking of the blast shield over the cockpit. Cool mechanism, something you would need if you have gigantic glass sheets at the front of your ship (I assume it’s just glass, not transparent aluminum , otherwise why would you need a blast shield). But they use the blast shield backwards. In interstellar space, where the odds off hitting anything are close to nil, the shield is closed. When they enter orbit and then reentry, where the odds of something wiping out the cockpit are near 100% (and it appears Prometheus enters a planet cockpit first), they leave it wide open! What’s the point of the blast shield?! “It looks cool.” That’s the only explanation. What a waste.

    The other problem with that early sequence (this is where I figured out we were in for a bumpy scientific ride) is the ship is given engines that swivel (so they can land and look cool). Why don’t the engines swivel forward for a de-orbit burn? Or if you don’t want to close the superfluous blast shield, rotate the ship engines forward for that maneuver, like the space shuttle does?

    And if a spaceship the size of Manhattan were to fall back onto a planet, how many miles wide would the blast radius extend? On LV223, the blast radius is only six inches. On this world, the gravity must vary through the day, so much so that a massive spaceship can roll over on top of you and have it’s entire momentum stopped by a four foot tall boulder. I guess the rocks are made of Unobtamium.

  13. Chris

    Also that first scene (spoilers) where he drinks and dissolves into the water. If you are an advanced alien race, surely there are more efficient ways of putting DNA into the water supply. I had to look up what others were saying about that scene since the scientist in me didn’t have the foggiest what he was doing.

  14. Ryan

    Well, as for the Trilobite facehugger growing without a food source, ALIEN followed the same illogical growth. They have acid for blood, so maybe he was snacking on the medpod and various medical utensils?

    Or maybe they were taking nutrients from the Earth like atmosphere on the ships?

    Imagination is key here, since there really is not right answer. They grow because they need them to grow and becomes big scary alien murderers!

  15. Daniel J. Andrews

    Spoiler alert.

    The religion theme wasn’t any more advanced than what you’d expect from a 10 to 12 year old. You’d think someone willing to fund such an expedition would have done some reading of religious philosophy and found someone who was also knowledgeable. It was so bad it wasn’t even wrong…you would have thought they took their idea of religion from some of the commenters over at Panda’s Thumb (the equivalent of AIG’s commenters when they talk about biology and science…who I imagine were probably the source of inspiration for the science in this movie. And as someone pointed out already, the religious questions were framed in a way that no scientist would frame.

    But my biggest facepalm moments were because of the biologist (my profession). First he’s not interested in an alien body and decides to leave. C’mon! We’re generally the ones who go around poking dead bodies at the ocean, sides of roads, much to the distress of the people we are with (you’re not putting that in my freezer!!). We bring home body parts all the time, bury them in the backyard or place in a beetle larvae colony to get the flesh stripped for bones, after we’ve dissected it a bit.

    A chance to examine the head of an alien life form, the first of its kind to be found?! We’d be fighting for that chance even if a Nobel prize and fame didn’t likely lie at the end of that road. You’d be the first and, for a while, the only expert on alien life forms, and then you could lead the field. Publications, book deals, sponsors, prestigious offers, your own research lab…and he turned it down because he didn’t like dead bodies. Why the heck was he even on the trip?

    Then he wants to touch a strange alien life form, a live one, with his glove. Again a general rule we live by is, if you don’t recognize it, you don’t touch it…..unless you’re well protected or have a big stick. You don’t want rashes from plants like poison ivy or animals with poison hairs that cause rashes, itching; not to mention being stung, bitten, sprayed with acids, spit at, regurgitated upon, etc by something you’re not sure about (we’re pretty aware of the way the wild kingdom can make your life anything from mildly discomforting to intensely painful and/or bring it to a gruesome end).

    Not a chance he would have reached out his arm to a strange life form even if he hadn’t been afraid of a dead alien body. Spitting cobra came to mind when I saw it–the word “harmless” did not (granted, in this movie we can expect it to be dangerous but everything about it declared dangerous like the speed at which it moved (muscular, strong), snake-like posture, spreading cobra-like hood, etc.

    As for the medical scene…looks like the machine just stapled her outsides back together and left the womb still sliced. And staples?? Medical establishment is experimenting with interesting tissue glues. They still don’t have anything better than staples in the future? Stopped the bleeding really well though. Amazing what staples can do.

    btw, the male archaeologist acted more like a frat boy than a scientist. Watching him was like watching Charlie Sheen or Keanu Reeves play a scientist (which they both have done much to the damage of the audiences’ suspension of disbelief).

    So, fun ride but bad movie.

  16. Keith Bowden

    George Hrab gave a nice long rant on the movie in last week’s Geologic Podcast, and I had pretty much the same reactions to it that he did as I watched it, in glorious 2D.

  17. charles222

    To 11: The original alien did that as well-the chestburster, which was what, a foot or two long at best became a two-meter creature in the space of hours; given that we’re dealing with a species (the engineers) that has apparently mastered trans-galactic travel and have a substance that brings about radical DNA mutation in minutes or hours, I’m not too worried about them having figured a way around that.

    As to the half a billion miles thing-for the love of crumbcake, it was a conversation about getting laid. I’m sure the first thing on Vicker’s mind was scientific accuracy in exactly how far away from Earth they were.

  18. Keith Bowden

    I still have no clue what the cold open was about, or why that planet was apparently being visited by Visitors (V). Breaking down his body to disperse his DNA in the waters of that planet and starting life? Okay… I’ll accept that. But it certainly didn’t come across that way when I saw it.

  19. Tyrant

    I sort of found it amusing that in the “creation” of life on a planet much like Earth (any old plant Scott suggests) kind of lays creationist dogma biggest issue down front and center.

    Even if creationism is right, and there was a single progenitor who intelligently got life started on Earth 4.5 billion years ago; who’s to say he was God, or giant white space jockeys with a thing for ritual sacrifice?

    Under intelligent design “theory”, how would one know? How could one know.

    As for the rest of the movie I thought it was a wonderful expose on how absurd human arrogance and lack of humility can be. Shaw thinks she’s got an invitation to meet god, and only when she finds out the horrible reality that awaited her does she drop the schtick and seek the truth.

    Can’t wait to follow Dante and Virgil deeper into the abyss, once they get around to a sequel.

  20. SMITH

    I saw this one almost back to back with Snow White and the Huntsman – so I got a whole lotta grumpy Charleeeez, overkill morphing F/X, and that one wierd rock in Scotland the other weekend. The irritating stuff in Prometheus had a lower standard deviation than the irritating stuff in Snow White, but I still liked Snow White better overall. Too many of the almost good ideas just seemed like they needed a little more work, and a few of the weaker ideas (Mohawk guy’s final scene???) just seemed pointless to include. Just the same, I still love the addition of another chapter to that universe, for HRG’s sake if nothing else.

  21. I’m just so glad we aliens aren’t depicted as the only villains. I’m so tired of the stereotyping. I hope Ridley shows us aliens as the heroes in the sequel.

  22. bigdaddyhen

    Here is a website (viral website for the movie that was shown at the end of the credits) that may cover some of the concerns that Phil had, like the FTL travel and the medpod (among other tech used in the movie).

  23. AbsoluteZero

    As for the opening scene with the Engineer DNA breaking apart and reconstructing, suffice it to say the black goo did it. I think that was the implication. This was how the Engineers seed a planet with life (presumably in this scene, Earth). It seems the black goo turns Engineers into DNA “seeds”, but also functions as Uroburos style bio-weapon. That’s what I got out of it anyways.

  24. Jonathan G.

    I dunno, sometimes one just has to be a bit pragmatic about all the “it doesn’t work like that” stuff – I mean, who wouldn’t want a flying skateboard? You’re absolutely right about allowing the viewer to just take some things as a “given” rather than resorting to clunky explanations though.

    “Also, when Shaw crawled into that autodoc…. I hope the OS was Unix-based (you wouldn’t want to get a virus HAHAHAHahahahaha! Heh).”

    Heh, I have a mental image of a delicate diy surgical procedure being controlled by the patient having to type “Sudo scalpel”… “left a bit, right a bit, cut there…” etc. into terminal. Assuming that those “Unix based” operating systems will be any less arcane in 80-odd years time is possibly the biggest leap of faith of all. I’m just sayin’! 😉

  25. I actually had a breakthrough realization about Vickers’ half-billion-miles gaffe. The obvious explanation is that she’s speaking casually, as we all know real people do; that’s enough to satisfy me that Tyson is just looking for nits to pick.

    But here’s where it turns out Scott knew exactly what he was doing: what is half a billion miles (roughly) from Earth? Jupiter. Where 2001: A Space Odyssey took place. And Prometheus is as much an homage to that movie as it is to Alien.

    I’ve come to believe that most of the complaints about Prometheus come down to taking a science fiction movie and focusing on the wrong word. Hint: when Scott is involved, the right word is neither “science” nor “fiction”.

  26. Del

    I find it much harder to comprehend half a billion dollar wars and trillion dollar debt than ‘trillions of miles’.

    I remember as a teenager wondering what the original Kane alien ate to get so big. His teeth definitely look like they were engineered for tearing flesh not chomping moon-buggies and chains.

    I kind of liked the world when the Space Jockey and Derelict were mysteries of the universe. Now I will always associate the word ‘engineer’ with ‘mitichlorian’.

  27. Nigel Depledge

    Charlie Kilian (6) said:

    . . . “what is our purpose in life” are the Big Questions that science tries to answer. I will begrudgingly grant you the former (though I don’t think IRL scientists ask the question the same way the movie was asking it), but the latter? C’mon. I strongly suspect most scientists would take a humanist approach and say that we assign purpose to our own lives. The questions aren’t framed in the ways a scientist would ask them.

    Actually, in biology the purpose of life is a simple one, and it matters not whether it is an amoeba or a human being – the purpose of life is to procreate.

  28. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel J Andrews (15) said:

    A chance to examine the head of an alien life form, the first of its kind to be found?! We’d be fighting for that chance even if a Nobel prize and fame didn’t likely lie at the end of that road. You’d be the first and, for a while, the only expert on alien life forms, and then you could lead the field. Publications, book deals, sponsors, prestigious offers, your own research lab…and he turned it down because he didn’t like dead bodies. Why the heck was he even on the trip?

    Why was he even a biologist in the first place?

    Or maybe he was a botanist. Yeah, that’d be right – if it don’t photosynthesise, I don’t wanna know . . .

  29. Stan9fromouterspace

    #3 John P – Interesting theory, may be why RS has been so cagey about “doesn’t have to be Earth, could be any planet.” The Xeno goo got loose & laid waste to LV 223, making it a quarantine zone, and an illustration of the “best laid plans of Gods and Men” theme. The panic among the Engineers was to keep it from escaping, and now Shaw has a cargo full of nastiness on the way to Engineer Central. Sequel bets, anyone?

  30. DCM

    This movie infuriated me no end, with it cliche moments, poor editing, gaping plot holes and pandering to Christianity. I call it an “anti-science fiction” film.

    1. We have a HAL-like android running the ship, David. How can he appear to be surprised when the spaceship starts it deceleration towards the moon-planet? He is ship’s computer – he should know! Similar when they land on the planetoid … everyone has to suddenly buckle up. Space missions are planned specifically in advance.

    2. We have Idris Elba smoking … in a spaceship. Come on? A common plot device saying “I’m the rebel”. Sigourney Weaver was guilty of the same thing in Avatar.

    3. Demonisation of evolution by so-called scientists. It is “evolution” not “300 yrs of Darwinism”. Afraid to say the word, Ridley? I won’t even go on about Shaw and her stupid statement “I believe” and her obsession with the crucifix (and of course the only person with a crucifix is saved).

    4. Demonisation of geologists (because they gave us evolution … ahem …Darwinism) – he is made out to be a money-obsessed coward. Also he is given the standard Hollywood plot device to show that he is a baddie that deserves everything that comes to him – he is given a British accent. And why isn’t he looking at rocks?

    5. How is the engineer is so strong and resilient to survive the crash of his craft and then force open air lock doors but can’t escape the medpod?

    I could go on and on. I agree with all of George Hrab’s podcast dissection of this film.

  31. Thespis

    Gaebolga #4 said:
    “where did the critter that got trapped in the operating bay get the sustenance to grow that
    much that fast?”

    And I quote Lucy Lawless in the Simpsons episode:
    “A wizard did it.”

  32. Gaebolga

    @ Thespis

    After watching Alien 3 in the theater (FSM help me, for I am a sucker) I turned to my friend and asked “But where did the alien eggs come from?”

    Because at the end of the second movie, of course, Ripley spaces the alien queen who (after ripping herself free of her egg-laying segment) had stowed away aboard the dropship that had picked the humans (Ripley, Newt, and Hicks) up from the surface, and realistically (yeah, I know…it’s a movie), this was the only opportunity to transfer eggs from the surface to the ship in orbit. I think anyone who’s seen that movie would agree that no alien eggs got stowed aboard the dropship (and even if they had, how did they get moved into the escape pod?).

    Hence my question.

    My friend, consummate wit that he is, looked at me like I was a moron and said “well obviously they fell in through the holes in the plot.”

    I’m betting that the critter’s food came from exactly the same place.

    But now, thanks to you, I know where the plot holes came from….

  33. Keith Bowden

    I hate the critique of critiques that boil down to “Duh, it’s just a moovie.”

    First of all, that cheapens the medium and the genre.

    Secondly, what would be the reaction in a football film if people referred to the quarterback making a home run? “Duh, it’s just a moovie!”

    Or walking out of a New York apartment and taking a stroll through Champs-Élysées? “Duh, it’s just a moovie!”

    Or Frank Nitti being a common hit man killed at the trial of Al Capone? “Duh, it’s just a Brian de Palma moovie!” :)

    Whatever the genre, you set up a scenario, give a certain set of rules, and you have to keep an internal logic. You know, the “present only one impossible premise in your story” rule.

  34. Chris Winter

    When I saw Ridly Scott’s Alien back in 1979, I wrote a five-page critique and titled it “Alien: The Horror Movie.” It is true that I was less inclined in those days to overlook mistreatment of science in science-fiction films. But there was a lot of such mistreatment of science in Alien — starting with the very basic one that the humans involved (except Ripley, who wants to study the alien signal some more) display a profoundly unscientific attitude. In fact, they behave just as the cast of almost every horror movie does: going off alone to be mowed down one by one.

    I saw Prometheus last night, and it is Alien done better. It treats science well enough IMO to qualify as science fiction, but there is still a almost total disconnect between the way these characters act and science — even on the very basic level of science we call common sense. I mean, who among you would go to another star system hunting for aliens who left what seems to be a calling card on Earth and never even consider that they might not be what you expect?

    A rich old man on the verge of death who hopes to find a cure is one plausible answer. Certainly it’s a better one than the military industrial complex of the future (as implied in Alien.) But that does not explain the behavior of the crew.

    Also there are a lot of details that the film gets wrong. I’m sure these have been discussed at length already. I’ll mention just two.

    First, the scene where they examine the head of the decapitated Engineer. “Let’s wake it up with electrical stimulation. Give it 30 amps to start.” That would wake it up, all right — for the 3 milliseconds before its brain fries.

    Second is the way Elizabeth Shaw can get up from the surgical table and within a short time climb into a space suit, run around, scramble across rocky terrain, fall down, get slammed against walls, and suffer no significant disability.

    Don’t get me wrong: I liked the character and this was a very gutsy performance by Noomi Rapace. (No pun intended. Really.) And, like Ripley, Shaw quickly corrects her thinking about the aliens. But Shaw’s physical durability strained credulity. (Old man Weyland seemed a litte too spry as well.)

    Bottom line: I liked Prometheus overall. I just wish Ridley Scott had listened a bit more to the folks from the Science and Entertainment Exchange. (Judging by their list of recent film projects, he didn’t hook up with them.)

  35. Chris Winter

    Chris wrote (#8): “Another thing which got me was the carbon dating of the alien. Unless you have some standard calibration for that planet, there is no way you can use the concentration of carbon-14 to determine an age.”

    Ah, but how long would it take to do that calibration? Would measuring the radiation environment while the ship was in orbit, then taking the chemistry of the atmosphere on the way down, do the job? I think this is plausible.

  36. For a summer thriller, for another Aliens movie, I basically liked it. Agree it had a lot of silly or stupid stuff, but some of the visual design elements went a long way in making up for it. I enjoyed the tunnel mappers and the Engineers’ control room, for example. The surgery scene had its dumb points (agree with @15 on the staples), but it was still pretty harrowing!

    I found an examination of the movie that I found very interesting. Don’t know if I agree with his idea that the goo was sensitive to mental states, but it’s an interesting idea. Most of his other analysis seems spot on to me:

    And Cleolinda Jones has a take that’s one of the funniest bits I’ve read in a while. Literally made tears roll down my cheeks:

  37. [Warning, spoilers.]

    Yes to all that Phil mentioned, and the incredible growth rate of the facehugger.

    In addition, I can kinda sorta suspend disbelief at Shaw, all hopped up on morphine or something, scrabbling out of the Autodoc and running down the hall right after major abdominal surgery. But after that? Lots of running, jumping, driving a rover joltingly over uneven terrain, hauling an android body out of the base and lowering it on a line. Her staples would’ve ripped and guts spilled out long ago.

    Next is the snake-y fisthugger. The closes thing we see to the known facehugger, but all it produces is exploding heads? The only actual “Alien” comes from Shaw and Holloway getting busy after Holloway drinks in some of the black DNA-dissolving goo. Really disappointing, in my opinion, to have the more logical route of Alien creation that becomes the staple in the (chronologically) later movies be a dead-end.

    The Alien that pops out of the Engineer at the end of the film is more or less fully formed, though a “less advanced” version of what we’re familiar with. It is black and has an exoskeleton. Assuming that the movie was meant to explain where the Aliens originated or how they came about, this was infuriatingly annoying. My assumption from the original movies and the setup in this one, is that the Aliens were a biological weapon created by the Engineers. Using some mechanism of DNA mutation/repurposing, they take material from the host to create the final form. The Alien, fully formed, rather than an immature chestbuster, is entirely black (Shaw, Holloway and the Engineer were all rather pale to my eyes) and has an exoskeleton amazingly similar to the Engineers’ suits/architecture (my only explanation for this is that their suits must have been genetically connected to them…or something).

    Finally, you’d think that by then the video equipment would produce somewhat better signals/pictures. My guess is that it was just trying to keep the overall look similar to the original movies.

    There were some other nits I could pick (e.g., how incredibly unbelievable and stupid all of the characters were), but I guess I’ll close with something nice about the movie. The set design and dressing, the costumes and cinematography were all very well done. It was quite pretty to watch and the 3D was not gimmicky. If anyone reading this has not yet seen it and cares about these qualities, then it’s worth watching in the theatre. If the story, plot and action are what you really care about, wait until it comes out on video/Netflix.

  38. Doug Little (7): Huh, I didn’t even think about time dilation! Good point. But I suspect that while it might work for this movie, I’m not so sure it does for Alien and Aliens. They never say how far those other stars are, but hauling materials from one planet to another makes less sense if it takes centuries.

    Gaebolga (4), and many others: There’s food on that shuttle!

  39. Chris Winter

    Matthew Rigdon wrote (#12): “And if a spaceship the size of Manhattan were to fall back onto a planet, how many miles wide would the blast radius extend? On LV223, the blast radius is only six inches. On this world, the gravity must vary through the day, so much so that a massive spaceship can roll over on top of you and have it’s entire momentum stopped by a four foot tall boulder. I guess the rocks are made of Unobtamium.”

    Maybe as wide as Manhattan’s Central Park. Also, it wasn’t that far up — maybe ten or twenty thousand feet. But the main thing, I think, is that it used some form of bafflegab drive. At least I don’t recall seeing anything like rocket exhaust until the film’s final moment with the ship that Shaw and David took. So it’s plausible that the drive didn’t quit immediately. Maybe it took some time for the gravitons to bleed off the keel.

    You’re right about the rest of it, though. That was one very massive spaceship. I was also impressed by how tough its hull was. Massively over-engineered. I recall a scene from The Mote in God’s Eye when Kevin Renner takes Macarthur through the solar sail of an alien craft that is attacking it. Someone questions that decision afterward, and he asks, “Did you think the sail was made of abnormally strong material? Then they still would have used just enough of it to capture sunlight.” He’s right. You don’t build a spaceship any stronger than it has to be.

    But this ship was not only strong enough to fall a considerable distance onto the surface and roll around intact, it was strong enough to survive the explosion that left no trace of Prometheus without visible damage (although the explosion did disable its drive.)

  40. Gaebolga

    @ Phil

    On the shuttle, sure, but in the actual operating bay where (one would reasonably assume, given how events played out at the end of the film) the critter was trapped for the less-than-24-hours it took to grow to the size of a Colossal Squid?

    The implication of the scene where Shaw peers into the operating bay through the window in the door and is startled by the tentacle thwacking against said window is that the critter is trapped in there and cannot get out.

    …although I suppose one could posit that the critter – while a good deal smaller – got out through a vent or something, horked down some chow, then went back to a familiar environment to digest or something and subsequently grew too big to get back out again.

    I find the “fell in through the holes in the plot” explanation to be more personally satisfying, though.

  41. Gaebolga

    @ Chris Winter

    If one assumes it was a military vessel (since the human characters seem to eventually decide that the installation was some kind of military outpost), and since we saw no obvious weapons on board it, there’s only one logical conclusion one could possibly draw at that point:

    It’s designed to ram other ships.

    Hence the incredibly durable hull.

    What’s that you say? If it’s designed to ram other ships, how did a piddly little exploration vessel disable it simply by ramming into it (and leaving no visible signs of damage)?

    Well you see, one of the bits of shrapnel that used to be the Prometheus went right down the exhaust port and hit the nuclear reactor.

    After all, it’s about the same size as a wamp rat….

  42. viggen

    Just a note on a detail from the article:

    Another thing: as Prometheus approaches the LV-223 we see a caption telling us the planet is over 300 trillion kilometers from Earth (metric, yay!). That’s 30 light-years! Yet it only took two years to get there, implying the ship has faster-than-light engines.

    I disagree: the crew experiencing two years could easily be a special relativity effect (time dilation) and the Earth could have seen them traveling much much longer than that. We’re told nothing about what subjective frame “two years” was in, but it’s presumably the ship frame since the crew was made to sleep through it. If the two years was in the frame of the crew, they would see it as traveling less than thirty light-years in their higher velocity frame, but that’s distance contraction and is perfectly within reason for not breaking the speed of light, but traveling very fast. Thirty light-years could be the measurement of distance from the Earth frame. If you start invoking FTL, making the crew sleep makes no sense at all.

    I did a quick time dilation, distance contraction calculation to exemplify this (neglecting acceleration effects, constant velocity only). We’re told the ship is traveling 30 Light years (LY) in the earth frame and that it travels for only two years (Y) in its own frame. I solved for the time duration in the terrestrial frame using a gamma that contains a velocity as observed from the Earth, thirty LY per ship travel time in Y as seen from Earth with light speed as 1 LY per Y. This gives a ship travel time of 30.066 years as seen from earth and a ship velocity of .9977 of light speed. Within the ship frame, the distance is only 2.03 LY and the universe is shooting past at .9977 of light speed. Again, assuming magic start ‘n’ stop.

    Trying to decide how you missed this. You should give the movie credit for this! The movie was smarter than you here! Ah. Wasted time on my part; you’ll never read it.

  43. Oh, one other thing. Did anyone else wonder why there were any Engineers (let alone a live one) in one of the stasis chambers? I mean, other than as a ham-fisted plot device?

  44. Charles

    The time dilation discussion is pointless, the film makes it explicit (in an onscreen title) that the main events on Pandora take place four years after the scene in Scotland, so it doesn’t matter whether the two-year time frame is subjective or not, the ship clearly was FTL.

  45. viggen

    Correcting a quick math error. The distance from the ship frame is 1.991 LY.

    Pandora, huh? Charles, it is four years in the frame of the travelers, two years from discovery until departure, two years to travel. This says nothing about Earth, AT ALL, particularly since Weyland’s message makes the claim that they will see his message long after he has died.

  46. Couple of thoughts regarding questions asked above…

    There could have been some sort of high-nutrition food source in the medical bay, or maybe that’s where the pod’s food was stored.

    The Engineer pilot might have been put into hibernation when the ship first landed, but before disaster struck the base.

    Watching the movie, I wasn’t convinced the Engineers were making a WMD to take out Earthlings (the humans *assume* it is so), but RS seems to have made it canonical. It appears to be related to something humans did 2000 years ago. It seemed clear the Engineers were “gardening” life on various planets. I wondered if their process got away from them unexpectedly.

    But RS seems to have said that, while they originally created us, they became unhappy with us and decided to wipe us out (interesting way of doing it–Alien infestation). Was it just us, or all their creations? And were their two factions of Engineers? The space ship shown leaving in the cold open is oval-shaped. Maybe their ships were different billions of years ago.

    But here’s my conflict… the ancient art–tens of thousands of years old–points to the base that is assumed to be a military base for creating the WMD. That suggests the base was created long before, and had a different purpose. Why were we invited **there**? Or were those painting a warning? “Behave, or else!”

  47. Last comment: The Alien we see at the end of Prometheus isn’t the mother of the Aliens in the earlier movies. The eggs in the first movie were (my guess) laid by an Alien that infested an Engineers’ ship that tried to escape the disaster on LV-223 2000 years ago. That ship ended up crashing on LV-426. Possibly, once the Alien dispatched the crew, it had no food so it laid eggs and died.

    Keep in mind that, per AVP (which may not be canonical), Aliens were well-known to Predators in our day. So, bottom line, the Alien we see at the movie’s end is a whole new Alien.

  48. Vaughn

    First off: “Prom…” happens too close to us in time. It also suggests slicker, better technology than we saw in the earlier films (which take place later in the Aliens’ timeline). The ship itself was too small for a years long interstellar flight and was not only single stage to orbit but single stage to another star system some 30 light yrs away. All the ships we encountered in the later (earlier) films were too big to land on planetary surfaces and had to deploy expeditionary landers. But, hey, lets not nitpick its science fiction right?

    “Prom…” was a fun ride I’ll admit. But, it was eaten up by too many problems with its “science” (and plotting) for me to be taken with its “fiction”. For instance, as another poster mentioned, how did the surgically removed facehugger, left alone for a few hours in the autodoc bay – in a sterile environment with nothing to consume (unless it quickly learned the trick of converting electricity into body mass) grow so big, so frickin’ fast?

    Another distraction, were characters, who seemed to choose the dumbest course of action in any selection offered them. WeylandCorp seems to have a problem hiring good people – except for the heroic ship’s pilot/captain – but, after seeing the dysfunctional heads of the Weyland corporate state, I can understand why.

    And then the weird plot points like: the newly awakened Engineer’s first act (after kicking a little hooman butt) is to fire up the ol’ starship and resume his mission to destroy the life gone wrong on Earth? Why’d he wait in cold sleep for 2000yrs? How’d he know the interlopers who disturbed his beauty sleep were from Earth? David spill the beans in the untranslated greeting that cost him his head? Clearly the Engineers had come to the conclusion a while ago that we needed to go. Why wait so long?

    Maybe we were supposed to see that the Engineers were “false gods” who hated at least one example of their creation – unlike our “real god” who loves us and only takes a few thousands of us every year in seemingly random acts of cruelty while professing his/her undying (though highly conditional devotion) to us. Which brings me to my last point…

    Another issue for me was the religious subtext that ran through the film. I thought it was a hamhanded attempt at being “deep” and “philosophical”. Seemed out of place to me.

  49. Charles

    @45 viggen: Apparently you weren’t paying attention during that part of the movie. The title on the screen gives a date of 2089 for the Scottish nonsense (the Isle of Skye was buried under glacial ice 35,000 years ago) and 2093 for the arrival at the moon. There’s no room for a subjective time interpretation there, because the film gives absolute dates (in “Year of Our Lord”, no less).

  50. Charles

    @ 46: It’s not just “something humans did 2000 years ago”, it’s (per Ridley Scott) the crucifixion of Alien Space Jesus. Which is why the main story opens on Christmas Day, there’s a barren (virgin) womb that gives birth, etc.

  51. @49: Yes, I know. I was being subtle. d;-)

  52. Charles

    @ 50: Sorry to blow your cover!

  53. Chris Winter

    Gaebolga: Good one in #41!

    BTW: I make a guess that you are Irish, or of Irish descent. Your name suggests Cuchullain’s “nest of blades.”

  54. viggen

    @48 I’m not sure I care enough about the movie to fight with you. And, I don’t think it’s a bit as cut and dried as saying “Well the caption said… so relativity doesn’t matter” and then parading around like you know something about the thought that went into the movie. Given that this site is maintained by someone whose objective is science literacy, I’m surprised you want to discard the observation. If you don’t understand that “2093” is what their clock _would_ say, then I say the hell with you, you can’t be taught and you aren’t worth arguing with. Phil on the other hand, who was the target of my original post, I would expect to know better than simply jumping to FTL.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the ship clock would say “2093” thirty years later than an Earth clock does –and we had problems with the Y2K bug– and we never do have communication between ship and Earth frames during the movie to say whether the crew cared to set the clock by anything but their own time frame, which is 2093. Who are you to say that Ridley Scott didn’t deliberately decide to have the audience moving with the traveler’s time frame and pick that date because it’s the traveler’s date? The hell with the Earth, we’re not there! Jumping on the FTL boat because you don’t want to consider the relativity (and don’t seem to understand what I’m even saying) just suggests that you want the movie to be more wrong because suspended animation makes much less sense in that context –why use it at all since FTL arbitrarily jumps over any durations?

    I say give the director kudos for having a set-up that is totally consistent with the relativity.

  55. Chris Winter

    Someone suggested that the alien at the beginning of the film was a dissenter from his race’s new policy of genocide, and that he infected himself with the bioweapon to spread it through the planet and thereby destroy those carrying out that policy.

    I like this interpretation, but I don’t think it’s what Ridley Scott had in mind. Has he said anything about that scene in an interview?

  56. Charles

    @ 54: If they had said “shiptime” or “stardate” or something you might have a point, but since they specifically use an absolute date with an Earth reference, you’re just grasping at straws, and Ockham is on my side on this one.

    I understand perfectly well what you’re saying, it’s hardly an incisive or original observation, but you’re twisting yourself in knots to come up with an explanation for how it could have taken them two years to get there without exceeding the speed of light, when there’s no reason to believe they didn’t just fly faster than the speed of light. It’s not like they said “2 years at 99% of c” or “too bad we don’t have hyperspace” or “no, half a billion miles is actually a very small distance compared to how far we’ve come” or “well, when I say 100% match I mean for these specific gene markers” or anything else to indicate the filmmakers had a grasp of science any better than that demonstrated by Deepak Chopra or Jenny McCarthy. I say stop bending over backwards to give the director credit he clearly doesn’t deserve, because we’re talking about a movie where aliens tried to kill us to get revenge for us killing Jesus.

    And since when does FTL arbitrarily jump over any durations? Even FTL sci fi often requires subjective travel times (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc), and two years in suspended animation makes just as much sense regardless of how much time passes outside the ship. Believe me, I don’t need to go to any effort to make the movie “more wrong”.

  57. Chris Winter

    Ha! I should have looked before asking. Scott’s interview is all over the place. I won’t say what in his conception humans did 2,000 years ago to induce the Engineers to wipe us out. It’s, um, controversial.

    The means of genocide seems a bit puzzling, though. Infect entire worlds with an organism that kills everything that moves? Isn’t that rather indiscriminate?

    But as regards that opening scene, it is supposed to be some random Engineer seeding a random planet with life.

  58. Matthew Rigdon

    The easter egg website that people found after watching the credits (it’s in post 22) specifically mentions Weyland discovering FTL travel in 2032. “Weyland scientists discover the inverse relationship between velocity and the flow of time making the long sought-after concept of faster than light travel a reality. The search for practical application begins.”

    While discussions of earlier drafts of screenplays and deleted scenes and interviews with the filmmakers should be considered out of canon, a website set up to disseminate official information from film’s “universe” should be taken as near-canon, if not canon itself.

    In this future, mankind has faster than light travel. We discover it in twenty years.

  59. Charles

    (I don’t know why the blog is not posting this comment, there’s nothing inflammatory or controversial about it. Fourth or fifth try…)

    Don’t just take my word for it – according to the Weyland Industries Timeline:

    2032: “Weyland scientists discover the inverse relationship between velocity and the flow of time making the long sought-after concept of faster than light travel a reality. The search for practical application begins.”

    2034: “Weyland Industries introduces the first FTL-capable SEV (space exploration vehicle).”

    The fact that they talk about a “galactic configuration” that contains one sun and one moon (what are the other dots?) should have been a dead giveaway that this movie falls pretty far short of “hard science fiction”. I’m surprised Phil didn’t mention that.

    Here’s a review that takes them to task from a scientific point of view (it’s also pretty snarky):

  60. nomuse

    Charles —

    I can’t remember the exact line but when I heard them say something like “And there’s a sun in the system” I started to refer to the whatever-it-is of the cave paintings as the “Five round things.” They seemed very unclear whether this was supposed to be a single star, a multi-star system, a stellar cluster, a constellation, or what.

    Not helped by the big holographic display, later, that indiscriminately mixes individual planets and entire galaxies.

  61. Nigel Depledge

    Gaebolga (32) said:

    @ Thespis

    After watching Alien 3 in the theater (FSM help me, for I am a sucker) I turned to my friend and asked “But where did the alien eggs come from?”

    Because at the end of the second movie, of course, Ripley spaces the alien queen who (after ripping herself free of her egg-laying segment) had stowed away aboard the dropship that had picked the humans (Ripley, Newt, and Hicks) up from the surface, and realistically (yeah, I know…it’s a movie), this was the only opportunity to transfer eggs from the surface to the ship in orbit. I think anyone who’s seen that movie would agree that no alien eggs got stowed aboard the dropship (and even if they had, how did they get moved into the escape pod?).

    Hence my question.

    My friend, consummate wit that he is, looked at me like I was a moron and said “well obviously they fell in through the holes in the plot.”

    I’m betting that the critter’s food came from exactly the same place.

    But now, thanks to you, I know where the plot holes came from….

    Yeah, I totally agree. That openeing segment put me right off Alien 3 about 3 minutes in. Although it does have some great lines in it, and British actors delivering fine performances.

    Also, WRT Alien 3, I thought “what kind of a warship is the Sulaco that this piddling amount of damage makes the whole ship crash?

  62. Sorry, Keith, you miss my point. I don’t mean to say that it’s “just a movie”; I mean that it needs to be considered not only within its own context, but in context with a great many other movies. Scott, as a director, consistently works to inject mainstream fare with art-house sensibilities, with varying results.

    In this case, Prometheus is a stunning success, exploring ambivalent parent-progeny relationships from many sides at once on the thematic level, while providing homages to Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey (among others, but these two most directly).

    I mean, hey, if it doesn’t work for you it doesn’t work for you and that’s fine. The science wasn’t the best (though it was far from the worst), the plot shadowed that of Alien (intentional, as an homage), and the characters weren’t very well fleshed-out (given that they were archetypes). But the amount of vitriol people are pouring out over this film is what really confuses me.

  63. Gaebolga

    @ Chris Winters (#53)

    You would be correct (by descent, not birth).

    As for the name, I use it as my handle because it was the nickname my co-workers used to call me back when I was testing video games. One long, long, looooooooong night when we were swapping stories as we hunted bugs, I basically recounted the story of CuChulain’s life and, since my co-workers were mostly gamers in their early twenties and “gae bolga” sounds like it starts with “gay,” it stuck.

    Plus, I like it better than “White Shadow.”

  64. Jess Tauber

    Acid for blood- obviously some electrical stuff going on in the Alien metabolism. And if it can do high-voltage bursts, then possibly it can force element transmutations as recent table-top nuclear devices are claimed to do.

    With that, any set of elements will do as nourishment, and your body gets high energy in the bargain as well, so the Alien creations can grow to any size that their internal structures can support.

    The only thing that doesn’t make sense here is depending on hosts for some phase of development. Why bother. You can just turn an entire ecosystem (heck, the entire planet) into copies of yourself. Shades of gray goo…

  65. Keith Bowden

    Hi John,

    Sorry, my little rant was not directed at you at all, rather those who don’t care about thinking at all when they see a film and dismiss all criticism with that line. (It’s always been a pet peeve.)

    And I do appreciate that many people do like it (my nephew, for example, loved it) and have articulated definite reasons for doing so. While I’m more disappointed because I did have high hopes for the film, the bad science and characters acting like idiots in order to move the plot bothered me too much to fully enjoy a film that is good on many levels.

    And in spite of any explanations on the accompanying Weyland website and interviews with RS, to me the film is the piece, and if it isn’t in the film, and one has to go elsewhere to fill in the gaps, then there’s a problem with the film. But I can accept that for others our information immersion via internet makes these other sources (particularly the Weyland site) a perfectly acceptable extension of the movie; I just see them as marketing tie ins that are fun, but not the core piece of entertainment.


  66. From that Weyland website: “Weyland scientists discover the inverse relationship between velocity and the flow of time making the long sought-after concept of faster than light travel a reality. The search for practical application begins.”

    Didn’t Einstein discover that in 1905?

    @65: I sympathize, but I think in the modern era, social media tie-ins may have become de facto, because “everyone’s on the web.” It does bug me how some TV shows now expect you to also spend time on their websites.

    FWIW, I don’t mind unexplained things in my stories. I enjoy a bit of mystery and guesswork. Consider 2001 (the movie). You almost had to read the book to make sense of it, and I’ve had some enjoyable discussions with people trying to parse Prometheus. [shrug]

  67. TribecaMike

    As usual with Ridley Scott’s movies, I enjoy his mastery of the old mise-en-scène, and he does know how to visually move a story along, but his scripts have been getting weaker and weaker since at least “Matchstick Men.” I understand this has much to do with studio interference (“For god’s sake man, don’t make the audience think!”), but except for the often striking visuals and some engaging characters, “Prometheus” isn’t much of an improvement over “Robin Hood.”

  68. Matthew Rigdon

    It’s very easy to cross the line from archetype to caricature. Prometheus was very much in the world of caricature.

    And stop blaming the problems on “studio interference”. This isn’t a new phenomena for a Ridley Scott film. He’s worked with several different studios over the last few years and these problems keep cropping up. The “studios” aren’t a monolithic force providing the exact same set of notes for every film they get. Ridley Scott’s been doing this for a long time, he knows how to work the system and he’s built a lot of credibility. The problem isn’t with “the studio”, the problem is with the man whose name is on the picture.

  69. Richard

    Awww Phil. I know you’re right and all but seriously, does your wife never tell you to just sit back and *watch* the movie instead of taking it apart? 😉 .. (I know mine does when I start analyzing and criticizing a movie on TV! :D)


    (Just in case anyone’s read down this far and not had it utterly spoilt already – highly unlikely I know but still – and wishes to avoid ’em.)

    My take, on that movie, FWIW. :

    Prometheus : The Engineers pre-filming cut

    Engineer 1 : Okay, so our goals are terraforming a whole planet and spreading our seed, our copies, our children who will evolve to 100% genetic matches at some distant date right?

    Engineer 2 : Well, I can already see one major problem with what you just said but yeah, go ahead.

    E1 : Problem? {waves hand dismissively} Never mind. Okay this is the plan. You take this toxic gloop and go stand and drink it by the waterfall whilst we fly off.

    E2 : Toxic gloop eh? Sounds tasty.

    E1 : Dunno, never drunk it myself. Anyhow, you’re body starts to die and break apart your very DNA being destroyed by the toxic gloop ..

    E2 : So, not a cocktail then?

    E1 : We-eell kind of a cocktail of something if you want to call it that. You could say that you’ll get really blasted by it. A-n-y-h-o-w.

    E2 : Think I’ll pass but carry on ..

    E1 : Right, so you drink this gunk and die and fall into the waterfall as you die and that kind of somehow spreads your seed and our species DNA and creates life on this planet.

    E2 : My DNA and seed? Like, that same stuff that just got, like, totally destroyed by the potion of death stuff you’re giving me?

    (Why yes, the Alien spacejockey engineers do sound like teenage girls why do you ask? Hey, they gotta have ’emselves some kinda accent with that gap in time right?)

    E1 : Yeah that. Whatever.

    E2 : You did say we’re after 100% genetic matches after aeons of evolution right?

    E1 : Wut? I Forgot. Don’t interrupt. Now after you’re dead and have seeded the planet via falling into a waterfall ..

    E2 : Or just had my mortal remains buried in estuarine sediment or swept out into the ocean depths to be subsumed with oceanic plates and, tell me again, how exactly does this stuff seed, like, our DNA everywhere using just one corpse with mutated split apart DNA as a trace contaminant diluted in all the planet’s waters?

    E1 : Quantum mechanical nanotechnology with its neutron polarity flows rotatingly cycle reversed and tachyonic sub-space singularity-holes.

    E2: Gotchya.

    E1 : Where was I? Right. You’re dead, planet’s terraformed, life takes hold and evolves. We’ll need just a bit of patience here, Maybe four and half billion years worth, maybe just a couple of million if we’re lucky.

    E2 : Nice error bars. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    E1: Or take your helmet off in an apparent pocket of breathable air in an otherwise deadly atmosphere, but never mind that.

    So, viola we’ve got our 100% genetically engineered clones. Except maybe not gigantic albinos with nasty tempers. But otherwise identical~ish.

    E2 : I think you might’ve missed a few steps.

    E1 : {Shrugs} Mebbe, still don’t be so fussy, we haven’t got all day y’know.

    E2 : Eh, no rush. I can last two thousand years then some in cyrosleep. You’re sending me there now.

    E1 : Nah, I’m sending you to your death for the greater good at the end of this remember, better get along.

    E2 : (Slaps palm) D’oh! Course, wouldn’t want to be late for that would I?

    E1 : Well you will be Late for it but anyhow.

    ‘K. We’ve got our daughter species, let’s call ‘em I dunno, Newmans or somethin’ like that. We’ll guide them with a whole lot of things so they worship us but leave stuff all trace of ourselves anywhere, just a whole set of ancient cave paintings in which we’ll be shown in black (hah-ha just like photographic reverse images of ourelves man!) pointing and inviting them to the star system where we develop and store our worst bioweapons.*

    E2 : Because bioweapons factories are the first thing you want to show the young ‘uns as they start to grow aren’t they?

    E1 : Exactly.

    E2 : In-ter-esting childhood you must’ve had.

    E1 : Yep, anyhow. We’ve got these newmans to jot the accurate star map paintings down, k’?

    E2 : Make sure you allow for proper motion and stellar evolution won’t you.

    E1 : Yep, then we’ll disappear for almost all of their recorded history -in fact never mind the ‘almost’ make that absolutely all of their written history with one possible unfortunate ever-so cryptic exception at about the 2,000 years ago mark their time, so we’ll be totally mysterious. Very few of them if any, will even believe we existed.

    E2 : Yes. That should get our relationship with the kid species off to a Brin-ian Uplifting start and see our new species, oops new colony of not-quite-as-albino-as-us, getting on together well when we meet up next.

    E1 : Shut up already, you’re distracting me. Meanwhile, we go off and develop some bioweapons just in case we need to nuke ‘em all later or something.

    E2 : We could consider that possibility now, y’know, maybe not do this to start with or do it better? Try another plan, say one that doesn’t involve me dying from poison, I’d like us to consider that actually!

    E1 : Shhh! Concentrating. Yes, some sort of new alien genesis bioweaponry should be the best failsafe, sure nothing there could backfire on us or go wrong ..

    E2 : Natch.

    E1 : Aaand there we are. That’s the plan. Now, you go grab your poisonous Waterfallingapart cocktail, I’ll just go get my funny helmet, y’know the one that makes me look like I’ve got a trunk and have different skull shape altogether for no good reason.

    E2 : Well it does suit you. Where’s my trunk-helmet btw? Oh & want to swap jobs here for the Lolz?

    E1 : Nah, I’m good.

    E2 : And my helmet?

    E1 : Fuggeddaboutit! The air out there is entirely breathable and you can stand outside quite comfortably when you go kill yourself with drink.

    (Gestures out the viewscreen) Why just look at those trademark blue skies and mossy-lichen-y plants. Full of life already even if most of it is as always microscopic.

    E2 : *Facepalm* So I’m doing this because?

    E1 : Ridley Scott said so, that’s why! Enjoy.

    E2 : Oh, go get eaten by a mutant-squid-baby thing. I’m outta here!

    E 1 : Indeed you are, don’t forget your refreshing beverage, I’ll toast your health!

    E2 : (Grumbling as he leaves the airlock.) Ah heck, I’d rather face a xenomorph but, well, she’s the boss!


    PS. Always enjoy your movie reviews BA, cheers – science nitpicks and all. Others such as Martin Wagner over onthe FTB blogplex (if that’s what you call it?) have been considerably harsher on Prometheus.

    Personally? I saw this Alien prequel in 3D a week or two ago and well, it was visually breath-taking but I thought the plot was pretty silly and the science – and supposed “scientists” – were terrible and there were too many moments where you just thought “What? No way!” for it to be classed as a great movie.

    Later reading via links from the link I’ve linked have pointed out a lot of interesting symbolism, Hellenic and Christian esp., but don’t really save it. IMHON, YMMV.

  71. ^ * Now, okay, I’ll grant that maybe the LV-223 world wasn’t a bioweapons factory at the time and perhaps didn’t become one till much later. But I’m keeping the line. I like it is why.

    Later reading via links from the link I’ve linked have pointed out a lot of interesting symbolism, Hellenic and Christian esp., in the Pormetheus movie but that doesn’t really save it. IMHON, YMMV.

    Notably here :

    for instance.


    An aweseome, very funny albeit snarky review can be found here :


    @60. nomuse :

    Charles – I can’t remember the exact line but when I heard them say something like “And there’s a sun in the system” I started to refer to the whatever-it-is of the cave paintings as the “Five round things.” They seemed very unclear whether this was supposed to be a single star, a multi-star system, a stellar cluster, a constellation, or what.
    Not helped by the big holographic display, later, that indiscriminately mixes individual planets and entire galaxies.

    That caveart skychart – visible in one of the screenshots in the first link here – reminds me anyhow of the main stars of Canis Major. For comparison see :

    Top to bottom – Upper left – Mirzam or Beta Canis Majoris.

    Next down diagonal to left – Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris – hereafter abbriev. CMa) – Brightest star in our skies aside from our daytime star the Sun plus wandering stars a.k.a. planets

    Middle star point of the triangle – Wezen otherwise known as Delta CMa.

    Middle Star in line with Wezen on the head side of the figure’s arm in line with Mirzam – Adhara ie. Epsilon CMa by Bayer (Greek) letter.

    Lowermost star below arm of figure is Eta CMa or Aludra as its properly named.

    Hmm … Perhaps not an exact match but as a general mud map type symbolising of it not too far off.

    All these stars are blue giants except for Wezen a yellow-white (Type F) supergiant and Sirius an A-type main-sequence star which has a white dwarf companion. None are likely suitable for hosting life or even habitable planets – too short lived and hot.

    But they do make a prominent pattern in the sky that can easily be seen most of the world and easy to imagine them being painted in caves and used by early peoples for telling seasons, Nile river flooding, etc …

    Archaeoastronomy, FWIW, has noted the possible observations by some indigenous, pre-written history civilisations or tribes of a number of supernovae (Eg. SN 1006 see link in my name here.) and cave art including some astronomical designs relating to real stars and even nebulae is known. One famous Aussie one being the Australian Aboriginal “Emu” figure made of dark nebulae near the Southern Cross.

    Beats me where anyone would get the idea that such depictions of real stars are “invites” to go there though! 😉

  72. JP

    [Spoiler Alert – Prometheus]
    Wow! I just got back from the movie and I have to say I wanted so bad to like it.
    But… Wanting a movie that your mentally envision after watching the first Alien film and getting a film that looked good but had no heart.
    I didn’t care for the characters because there was so little interaction with one another that when something happened I felt nothing (Red Shirts in Star Trek) they were to one demential. There was very little suspense buildup when the alien or snake like things showed up to infest the two archeologists. When the critter broke the guys arm wouldn’t he pass out? I’m nit picking here but a prequel is suppose to give new light on the original films. Not here very little of the film backed the original and opened a new series of questions, hopefully not to be answered in a second installment.

  73. Tony

    In my book, Science Fiction films require that scientific knowledge and developments be so key to the story that removing them actually makes the entire story impossible. As a participant, you don’t have to have explanations for everything, but what you are shown should make sense within the context of the plot.

    We’re using FTL drives? Great! I don’t need to know how they work, and I don’t want to pay $1000 for a ticket to a year-long movie anyway.

    We’re meeting an alien race on another planet? Cool! We can do almost anything plausible with that. Face Huggers and Chest Bursters? Hey, it’s squidgy but it’s not entirely implausible…

    So for a Science Fiction fan like me, getting the science RIGHT is critical to making the story as enjoyable as possible.

    And no matter what type of movie you’re talking about, it’s also critical (or at least it should be) that people, their actions, and the way they interact must also conform to the things we are familiar with in life, as well as conforming to the theme of the story. Sometimes that theme establishes itself right away, and sometimes everything comes together in the end to make it all make sense.

    Prometheus doesn’t follow ANY of this.

    PLOT(ish): At vast expense, a small group of intellectually and emotionally one-dimensional people are thrown across a vast distance of space. Their decision to do this is based NOT on the discovery of some long-buried fantastic alien technology that points us in the right direction with valuable interesting knowledgy bits, but on ancient cave drawings… And we do this to meet up with what we Scientifimagically assume is the Progenitor Race of Homo Sapiens. Weeee! Science is fun when we’re making stuff up and not backing it up with any common sense or knowledge, at all.

    And THEN – as ADULTS trained as specialists in one field or another – they all do terribly unscientific, confusing, and otherwise extremely childishly stupid things, despite the common sense ingrained into ALL people from their childhood (you don’t stick your hand in the garbage disposal and flip the switch, and you don’t step into an airlock and remove your helmet and then press the big red button, and you DON’T reach out to pet a freaking hostile alien organism like it’s a two-week-old kitten). And almost all of these idiots die as a consequence. Wow, shocker!

    So yeah, that makes sense! Too bad these people didn’t employ ANY protocols of safety OR the scientific method (let’s zap a squidgy bodiless head with 30 amps of current – OMG, 30 AMPS?! Seriously? – and see what happens. And don’t bother with the sealing it safely away, because nothing EVER happens to organic material that is subjected to a continuous flow of twice the amount of current that would trip a circuit breaker in your home, AKA 300 times as much current as can actually KILL you). So yeah, too bad: They might actually all have lived to see another day.

    And that’s really my point. NONE of these people in Prometheus OR the actual plot conform to ANY human standard of what would probably ACTUALLY happen, overall. Sure, people make mistakes, and plots have twists (that are pointless if they aren’t explained to some degree), but in Prometheus, we really got screwed on plot and plausible human action and interaction. Instead, we got a lazy Michael Bay Alien 5, where the people and aliens explode instead of buildings and spastic, implausible robots.

    Blade Runner and Alien are my two all-time favorite movies, in that order, so I have a lot of respect for Ridley Scott (at least for those two movies). But Prometheus was nowhere near the quality of either of those films, and I was really disappointed in the science and the fiction of it. Can you tell?

  74. Halinka

    Probably I had too high expectations towards the film,or the advertising before the release talked stronger ,than the film itself.I am disapointed in many ways.As for me: too little science,too little fiction,but the acting was good.All in all-I think I do not like the ‘space-horrors’.


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