The Roundtable: Everyone Has An Opinion On Prometheus
You might have noticed that a certain sci-fi epic, Prometheus, has hit theaters worldwide. You might also have noticed that it has provoked an immense amount of discussion, and even controversy. The opinions on its quality range from something like this to something like this, and there is precious little middle ground. And since everyone at Filmophilia is an undisputed genius on films, it has been the subject of many a conversation, facebook chat and carrier pidgeon message at the Filmo editorial offices. What’s perhaps best about this is that for once, there is a film that everybody has an opinion on, and in celebration of that, and the wild differences in opinions, I asked a choice few of my fellow writers a few questions on Prometheus. My own opinions can be deduced through reading this review.
Of course, there will be spoilers.
Erlingur Einarsson: Prometheus has really split people into lovers and haters. Which one are you, and in as short an answer as possible, why?
Sverrir Sigfusson: I’m definitely a lover. I loved everything about the film visually, the performances and the philosophical musings Scott takes on. Having said that, I can see where the haters are coming from with their criticism.
Bjarki Dagur Svanthorsson: While I don’t absolutely hate the film, I do fall on the ‘hater’ side. While beautifully made and most of its flaws were outweighed by its successes, the script just killed it. It felt like Scott was too eager to make the film after all this time, so he settled for a shit script.
Mary Cummins: I actually enjoyed it more than I enjoyed Alien. Alien is a monster-in-a-small-space movie, and I liked the suspense and the weird stuff with Weyland Corp., but when I watch that movie I get a little bored with them chasing the cat around and getting killed over and over again toward the end. I really loved the philosophical and religious issues that come out in Prometheus. The film made me think a lot more than Alien did. That said, I think Alien is a more “perfect” film in that it does what it sets out to do and only that. Part of Prometheus’ flaw is that it sets up these philosophical issues and doesn’t deliver completely or delivers unclearly. But I will take a big mess that makes me think over perfection any day.
Atli Sigurjonsson: I’m neither, really. Or maybe both. As a sci-fi geek and Alien fan I found it to be a lot of fun; great visuals, excellent cast, cool ideas, well paced, but it’s also incredibly frustrating and full of annoying contrivances and half-baked elements. Simply put, it’s fun but frustrating as its solutions or answers are often either too conventional or too muddled. Also, the third act is kinda lame as the movie sort of turns into a dumb action movie, feeling at times more like Resident Evil or something rather than an Alien movie. I guess I’m a lovehater.
Simeon Haselton: I am without a doubt a fan of Prometheus. I understand the hate, due to some shoddy writing and poor characterisation, but the film is visually so perfect, and Ridley Scott has created such an interesting new mythology, that I find it impossible not to love the film.
Erlingur: Both of Ridley Scott’s first two sci-fi films received very mixed reviews, only to become recognized as masterpieces years after their release. If you look ahead 10 years, do you think this one will follow the same path?
Bjarki: I’m sure it will be recognized as a true sci-fi epic, and be on countless “Best ____” lists. But, again, Prometheus has a truly atrocious script. If it becomes recognized as a masterpiece, it’ll be for its visuals and ideas, not its execution.
Kolbrun: Definitely. The characters, the plot, the questions raised – it all amounts to a classic in the making.
Sverrir: There’s really no way of telling, I hope it will be.
Mary: I really believe that will depend on the sequels. If the sequels don’t deliver some kind of interesting take on the open-ended questions that Prometheus has set up, then no. But if the sequels do deliver, then yes.
Simeon: I think it all depends on whether he will release a Director’s Cut and what the sequels will be like. The story leaves so many unanswered questions that a sequel is absolutely necessary – once it comes out and clears up some of the mysteries of the plot, people who desperately wanted all their questions answered in Prometheus may be able to sit back and appreciate it for what it is. In 10 years, if there is still no sequel or DC, I think opinion will be just as mixed as it is now.
Atli: Nope. Those two were something truly unique, something you hadn’t really seen before while this one feels less special. It will probably have some sort of cult following, but definitely not in the same class as the other two.
Erlingur: Prometheus leaves a lot of questions unanswered, like most of Damon Lindelof‘s writing (LOST, for example). Do you think that’s an intentional strength or is it taking on too “big themes” for its own good?
Kolbrun: I don’t think it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The DNA of man is there, the answer to the question who made us? is there – that’s a lot more than most films can deliver and it does so in a non-preachy way.
Atli: Yes and no. Movie don’t always have to answer all the questions they ask but this film seems to be all about the questions and it’s a little frustrating that everything is so vague and muddled. It seems intentional but it also seems like Lindelof, Scott and co. really had no clear idea what any of the answers are.
Sverrir: This is something that can really go either way, depending on the viewer. Personally, I liked the fact that I wasn’t spoon fed answers and left to my own devices to ponder the implications of what transpired.
Bjarki: I honestly don’t think there were that many questions left unanswered. The ones that were were obviously set up to be answered in the sequel, or revealed by Scott in interviews (as with the Engineer-as-Jesus-Christ scene that was cut). The themes aren’t ‘too big’ for its own good, and basically boil down to a Creator-Created thing that has been done countless times before (most recently in Mass Effect 3). Where it fails is thinking it‘s doing something new and incredible, when in reality, it isn’t.
Mary: It’s a strength in that it pulls in suckers like me, who believe, against all probability, that Lindelof has some idea of what he’s doing here. Lindelof and the writers of LOST proved that if you can’t chew what you’ve bitten off, just bite off some more and schmucks like me will keep watching. Still, I will hold out hope that the sequel will do something interesting with the questions it has asked, but I recognize that I may be overly optimistic, like the poor, naive girl who still believes in the douchey boyfriend who keeps standing her up.
Simeon: It’s probably more realistic for such massive themes not to all be answered in one film and for some mystery to remain. It gets the audience thinking and talking as well. It seems to upset many people, who possibly expected another haunted house horror like Alien, but I think once the huge implications of the new mythology are looked at in-depth, it’s easy to see that leaving the big themes open was the right thing to do, so as not to insult the audience with spoon-fed conclusions.
Erlingur: Would you say this is or isn’t an “Alien film”?
Atli: Hard to say. It seems to be trying to be both which might be one of the film’s main problems. It’s set in the same world and sets up some elements but tries to set itself apart as well. It has its own feel to it, in a way, but the Alien connection is always there and you can’t help but compare.
Kolbrun: Like Ridley has said all along, it happens within the same universe. The Alien is a subject within the film. But it’s a minor character really. Its story is a subplot. The theme of corporal greed is not here. The haunted house in space label does not apply. The theme of motherhood does not apply. Ellen Ripley is not a character in the film. Without these elements there is no Alien. So no, this is not an Alien film. Those expecting it to be will be disappointed.
Bjarki: Definitely not. Prometheus is its own story, with its own themes and subject matters. It just happens to take place in the same universe, and feature some of the same ideas.
Simeon: In genre, definitely not; it’s much more grandiose in its themes and the style of filming is completely different. But it’s the same universe and it’s the same story, for sure. Even if we still don’t know the events that led up to the Space Jockey ship crashing on LV-426, we now know who the Space Jockeys are, and what their ships do, etc. Alien was the tip of the iceberg, and Prometheus showed us some of the massive bulk underneath the surface.
Sverrir: Given how the definition of an Alien film has to be “features Ellen Ripley and one or more Xenomorph” (the original four are all of a different genre really, so that isn’t a common thread), then no. It deals with different, and in some cases, much grander themes.
WARNING: THIS FINAL QUESTION IS IN REGARD TO PROMETHEUS’ FINAL SCENE. MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT – I REPEAT – DO NOT READ THIS LAST PART IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM.
Erlingur: I was torn myself over it for a long while after seeing the film, but the final shot of the film, in which we do indeed see the legendary xenomorph’s birth, is a highly controversial one. What’s your take?
Simeon: As soon as the Space Jockey (or Engineer – whatever you want to call it) was overcome by Shaw’s ‘baby’ which stuck a tentacle into its mouth, I was certain it was a giant facehugger. It looked like a scaled up version of it, and captured its victim in the same way. Because of this, seeing the Xenomorph (or at least, a close relative of it – maybe even a stage of development leading up to the one in Alien) was, in my eyes a perfect treat for the fans. It’s a complex journey through Holloway’s infection, Shaw giving birth after being impregnated and then finally bursting out of the Space Jockey’s chest – it raises hundreds of questions about how the Xenomorphs in Alien came to be, which is probably exactly what Ridley Scott wanted.
Sverrir: I’m not sure that the film really needed it, but as a fan it was pretty cool to see. That said, I’m not sure how that fits in with the general agreement that the Space Jockeys, or Engineers rather, created them as a bio-weapon. Or maybe this is exactly how they ended up making them originally. All in all, I liked it but perhaps it ventures too far into the world of pandering to fans. It certainly undermines the film’s ability to stand on its own completely.
Mary: I think that because you asked Scott whether we’d see the original xenomorph in this film, he decided to go ahead and throw one in, because it was such a fine idea. I’m sure your check’s in the mail. Really though, I think that the Engineers created the human race to serve as hosts for the xenomorph, and we were meant to be nothing more than the factory for the Engineers’ weapons of mass destruction. That’s why they were sending them to us, and there at the end we see the xenomorph’s evolution as it was designed by its creators and ours. Or . . . some alternative explanation that is all uplifting and stuff.
Bjarki: It felt incredibly forced and a cheap way to make the audience go “OH WOAH!” right at the end. I mean, it did nothing for the story and only served to make the previous question (“is it an Alien movie”) needlessly harder to answer. So, basically, that was just some random Xenomorph that only served to create a fan-pleasing connection between the two films, at the cost of Prometheus’ integrity.
Atli: It seems the xenomorph is a hybrid of humans, the engineers and a new species created by the engineers. You could say it’s some sort of parasite that’s grown to a very big size thanks to its DNA being spliced with human/engineer DNA. The idea is interesting but the mystique of the xenomorph has been somewhat removed and thus it’s not as interesting anymore. Part of what made the xenomorph scary was that you had so little idea what it was or where it came from.
Kolbrun: I think it’s a nice nod to the fans and a way to set Elizabeth apart from Ellen. She’s not there to take on the Alien. She’s not the mother of this creature. She’s there for reasons completely her own. I think it makes Alien a lot more fun to revisit.
What’s your take on these questions? Share your opinion in the comments. We know you have one.