Article Title
Article Title

Playing With Fire

by Mike Anton

‚ÄčThis article contains a bevy of spoiler material pertaining to the film ‚ÄčPrometheus. Continue reading at your own risk, non-movie watchers.

Growing up, I became accustomed to watching her figure lean ever so slightly towards me, the extended index finger of her right hand point directly between my eyes. "I brought you into this world," my mom would say, aping Bill Cosby, "and I can bring you out of it." It's not as if my mom would ever do that; if anything happens to me, she'll be my neighbor in the morgue's locker room soon after. But that motherly instinct never stopped her from realizing that inherent rule any creator has over his or her creation: the option to destroy it.

It is an inalienable right that shapes the world around us. The act of trying something, destroying it, and making it anew is the basic underpinning of creating art. It's why painters slash canvases, why writers waste paper, and how most sculptures are made up of the clay from previous attempts to mold an idea into its proper shape and form. In a more vital context, farmers have to turn over the fields to create a better chance for life next harvest. The natural order of things is to live and to die so new (hopefully better) life can be formed in its wake.

Naturally, the creators of a film have decided to put this inalienable right to the test in Prometheus, Ridley Scott's theological philosophy film wearing a summer sci-fi tentpole action-adventure blockbuster's clothes. Discussing this film has been a pleasure; I didn't search out my friend's concept of God after seeing Man On A Ledge. But the biggest gripe I've heard about the film have been called many things: "logic flaws," "loose character work," and an overflow of plain old "dumb" stupidity. In the end, the general sentiment is rather sad, reading as "all of these people suck and everything they do is terrible.” Which is rather unfair. We can't blame people for being people, can we?

It's of little wonder why The Engineers – the army of aliens, seemingly all formed in the image of the same Greek statue – seem to have decided to destroy us, even though they're the same people who created us. As they're about to flip their pencil over and take the eraser to life on Earth, something (lord knows what) goes wrong. Like a “Treehouse of Horror” vignette, humans are then allowed to grow until they have enough technological wherewithal to knock down the intergalactic fourth wall and see who pulled the strings. Consider it a deep space Duck Amuck. And in making that trip humans reveal all of the reasons that this eradication might not have been a half-decent idea.

Think about how shitty a person you have to be to even accept the pitch. "Ok, sir or ma'am, we're offering you a trip to the outer reaches of space. So deep, in fact, that we're going to cryogenically freeze you for two years and probably change (depending on solar winds, satellite traffic, etc.). After you get to your unknown destination and complete whatever it is you're going to do, which we're absolutely – not going to tell you about outside of 'science stuff,' so please stop asking – you'll hop back into another two year cat nap and wake up just in time to pocket an absurd amount of money back on Earth with the loved ones you abandoned for half a decade."

Do you think that pitch is going to reel in the best geologist in his field? Do you think he or she sees this as the best use of his or her time? I wouldn't think so. Nor do I think the top ten candidates would bite; maybe not even the first 20. You'll end up with the dregs of the list, the B-minuses, the ones who are willing to throw caution to the wind just to make money. They will be capable in their positions, but could not possibly be geniuses, as a genius would see through this plan, right? Even with the Superhero Filter through which we view nearly all movie characters (every doctor should be the smartest person ever, dammit – they're doctors!!) every character shows some basic flaw that comes straight out of human frailty.

Start with the mission's raison d'être: Peter Weyland, an impossibly rich man soon to be on his inevitable death bed (shown in supplemental materials to be in bio-med) throws an improbable amount of money toward the singular goal of becoming immortal. It's not to answer the questions of the universe, or return to Earth with the knowledge of how we came to be. This isn't CERN looking for the Higgs boson or NASA sending back images of faraway Mars. The ship – the one that Weyland names out of sheer audacity after a character whose legend ends with, "...then his innards were eaten by a bird, continually, until the end of time" and sees this as a positive omen – is the very embodiment of hubris. We haven't even discussed the idea of a man meeting his makers and assuming that they'll grant him – and, most likely, him alone – eternal life. And you think the 1% are dipshits in 2012.

This conduct is buoyed by nearly every other asshole on the ship. The only person with any sense of decency, Elizabeth Shaw, has an alien squid baby forcibly cut out of her stomach, which goes to show where being nice gets ya (in heavy-handed Christ imagery held together by a super-fast staple gun).

Take her boyfriend, the other person who sees this science mission as a time machine to our collective creation. This guy uncovers that people come from an alien race and his first, pissy reaction is to drink his disappointment away as he's not able to talk to the dead alien head and bring the entire creationist story back home with him. In his childish temper tantrum, he puts down David the Robot for no good reason other than the fact that he's a fucking asshole. That's why the audience watched his body burn in the same way that they took in July 4th fireworks. Some things should be destroyed in glorious fashion.

Think about how much personal hatred must be running through Meredith Vickers' body to get on a spaceship, throwing away a number of years of her life, only to watch her father die in front of her. What kind of life must you be living? Or the Wizard of Oz-style biologist (if he only had reason!) and geologist (if he only had resourcefulness!) whose professional qualities belie their Darwin Award-level inability to be real live human beings. Idris Elba With A Southern Accent For Some Reason? laughs as he leaves those two geniuses behind in the alien ship, as if everything he's seen on the screen when they were recently exploring wasn't scary as all get out (something that they, funnily enough, can't do).

But while humanity continues to fail over and over again in spectacular fashion throughout the film's entirety, they do stumble onto one great discovery. It's of no coincidence that this entire operation is being orchestrated by humanity's own creation, David, the machine built in our image whose human emotion has been substituted with an incredible ability to reason. David does not play games: he has directions to follow and he does, by any means necessary. This engineered being plays his organic counterparts as if it were a game of chess while the pieces are helpless to realize that they're standing on the board. Maybe that's the final indignity that would enrage an Engineer to rip David's head off and beat Weyland to death with it. Their creations were too stupid to realize that in an effort to find their God they don't see that they've created one on their own.

Image courtesy of Slate

 

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Mike Anton is the Editor-In-Chief at The Inclusive. Mike writes movie reviews and interview pieces for The Film Stage as well as screenplays, sketches, and the like. He lives in New York City and though he's an avid beard and flannel enthusiast, he does not consider himself a hipster. Contact him at mike.anton[at]theinclusive.net or @mpants