It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

Prometheus stole fire, not stupidity


A few nights ago, I watched the DVD of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. I’d seen the film at the cinema earlier in the year, and been most unimpressed. It looked gorgeous, but there wasn’t a single functioning brain cell in it. Anyway, here are some notes I took as I watched the DVD…

  • When DNA breaks up, it does not form magical chemicals that can reform as DNA.
  • Noomi Rapace’s character is fond of saying, “it’s what I choose to believe”, which does not mean “it is true”, and any scientist with half an IQ would know as much.
  • The Prometheus starship appears to be somewhat bigger on the inside than the outside – I mean, if the crew are going to spend the journey in cryostasis, why would you put a huge gym in the ship?
  • The Prometheus takes two years to travel approximately 34.5 light years to LV-223, so the moon could be orbiting either Pollux, Gliese 649, Gliese 86… or some completely made-up star.
  • Why does David the android (Michael Fassbender) eat?
  • The lifeboat in which Charlize Theron’s character lives has everything she might need… including a grand piano?
  • On arrival at LV-223, they discover the Engineer facility because “God does not build in straight lines”. Er, what? Nature certainly does, physics certainly does.
  • Why does everyone aboard have a seat on the bridge of the Prometheus? Shouldn’t only the crew?
  • The ancient paintings depicted a “galactic system”. This means absolutely nothing.
  • The civilisations which made the ancient paintings apparently never had contact with each other. Unlikely. Even if centuries apart, there would still be historical artefacts – like, er, the ancient paintings which prompt the mission to LV-223…
  • The cave painting on Skye was dated as 35,000 years old. Northern Europe was still experiencing the last ice age at that point (the Flandrian interglacial didn’t start until 10,000 years ago).
  • Why does David the android dye his hair? Can’t he just swap it?
  • The Engineer facility is a sugar-loaf type rock hill inside a circular rock wall, and it has an undercut entrance supported by carved pillars – so yes, it would be easy to say it is not natural.
  • Speaking of entrances, the scientists have to duck to get inside – yet the Engineers are enormous. What a silly way to enter a building.
  • Speaking of the Engineers, their spaceships are famously boomerang-shaped… Except for the one which opens the film, which is saucer-shaped. Why?
  • The scientists are inside an alien facility, their sensors have told them the chemical composition of the air, but there’s no mention of biological contaminants… so let’s all take our helmets off. Right…
  • Several of the scientists make jokes about Martians – eh?
  • The man responsible for mapping the Engineer facility… gets lost. Fail.
  • Why is there a xenomorph in the mural?
  • Two scientists are in charge of the expedition– no wait, one scientist and his “zealot girlfriend”. So no gender equality in the 22nd century, then.
  • How do you trick a severed head that’s been dead for 2000 years into thinking it’s alive?
  • And, what do you know, a perfect match between human and Engineer DNA. So much for evolution.
  • David the android does not need to drink, or indeed breathe, but he still eats food – eh?
  • The two lost scientists don’t know where they are… but they can give their coordinates to the ship.
  • It’s the twenty-first century, haven’t we moved on from infertility as the sole motivation for a female character?
  • Or indeed, when a woman is asked if she is a robot, offering sex is not the first or most efficient means of proving your humanity.
  • Some of the scientists and crew smoke cigarettes. Aboard a spaceship. Fail.
  • What generates the holograms of the Engineers running through the facility? Where is the machinery? You can see it in the engineer spaceship.
  • And how come it still works after 2,000 years? The Antikythera Mechanism didn’t.
  • When Noomi Rapace takes off her clothes, she is apparently wearing a bandage around her chest rather than a bra.
  • When Weyland makes an appearance, where did his nurse come from?
  • Why do all the Engineers look identical?

… And at this point I gave up making notes because it was all getting too silly. Why bother mentioning that Rapace has to abseil out of the Engineer spaceship… so how did she get into it? Or that running away from a rolling spaceship along the line it is rolling is pretty bloody stupid.

I was also informed that the DVD version featured a different start and end, and a number of additional scenes in the middle – as if it were, you know, a different and less stupid film. I didn’t notice any difference. Perhaps the version I bought is the theatrical release – it doesn’t say it is, but it also doesn’t say it’s not. That’s annoying.

I’m all for science fiction cinema, and I would like to see more of it. But this is shoddy writing, this is a failure of writing craft. It’s indicative of the contempt in which Hollywood holds the audiences of its films. It’s no wonder I’ve found myself increasingly watching world cinema, art house cinema and classic movies…

9 thoughts on “Prometheus stole fire, not stupidity

  1. Why does David the android (Michael Fassbender) eat?

    This is something I appreciated in Madeline Ashby’s vN, where she actually thinks about this sort of thing.

  2. Beautifully put. Possibly the stupidest SF film of the century so far; I think it even topped /Avatar/. (And it wasn’t as pretty.)

    But have you seen…

  3. Sad but true. I’m all for suspending disbelief here and there for the sake of a decent story, but this piled up too high and too quickly. AND, it signaled that it wanted to be a serious film. Scott set the bar, not me. My biggest problem is that most of your list could have been fixed. It don’t know that it would’ve made the film what it wanted to be – but it would’ve been a lot less annoying.

  4. I think some of these are defensible.

    The eating android makes sense, because how do you expect an android to take on energy? Plug into the mains? That’s not smart design if he’s going places where they might use different voltage/plugsockets or have no mains at all! About the only better solution that I can think of than eating is having a tiny nuclear reactor in his chest so he has all the energy he needs for life. But nuclear reactors have size limits dictated by the need for a critical mass, and they have many other issues.

    In fact, when I think of it now, I can’t think of a better solution to fueling an android than eating. Oh, maybe the cells of his skin could absorb energy from sunlight, but that might not work so well on long interstellar journeys.

    Also he might eat for social purposes, because eating is an important bonding activity for humans. But in that case he’d drink and make an effort to breathe and blink too.

    As for ‘no gender equality in the 22nd century’, well, there might not be. Everyone seems to assume that everything’s just going to keep getting better until the progress train pulls into station utopia and we all disembark into the rapture. There’s no reason that the future couldn’t be worse in some ways, or in all ways, than the present. However, the question of whether we should depict it that way is something else, something that depends a lot of what the work is trying to achieve. If a work contains casual xxxx-ism, then it ought to know why it’s there. But still, this point doesn’t come under ‘stupid’, just under ‘sexist’.

    The bra/wrap thing is actually an interesting one. I think it’s an attempt to dodge the mundane. I don’t ever recall seeing a washing machine in the future, nor an electric razor. If we see a man shaving in the future, he’s generally doing it the ‘old school’ way. I suspect this is because some items are so mundane, so much of the time we live in, that it’s jarring to see them in the future. A bra or an electric razor looks like an anachronism. But then the question is “What do you think they’ll use instead? Are we really going to invent something better than a bra for the tasks it does?” Hollywood tries to dodge this by being even more anachronistic, because an outright anachronism at least looks unexpected and alien to modern eyes. Or perhaps they just thought a bra would look to sexy or something.

    Most of the rest are not defensible though, and I plan to never watch this movie in my life. There seems to be a trend among directors these days to revisit and despoil the works that originally made their names. Let us hope that Scott never manages to do a bladerunner sequel.

    #Why do all the Engineers look identical?

    You mean they all look the same to you? Huh, next you’ll be telling us that these days you can’t tell the boy aliens from the girl aliens!


    • The eating android makes sense, because how do you expect an android to take on energy?

      If they have spaceship that can take them 40 light years in 2 years, I’d expect them to find a more efficient means of powering an android than eating. A small fusion reactor, for example.

      Also, he eats before he wakes the human crew, so it’s not an attempt to fit in socially. In fact, he later tells one of the humans that he doesn’t need to drink, and the same person asks him why he’s wearing a spacesuit since he doesn’t need to breathe…

      The bra/wrap thing is actually an interesting one.

      I think it’s safe to say the bandage is neither as comfortable nor as effective at giving support as a bra. It’s hard to defend it as a deliberate anachronism, especially given that the film contains two obvious ones – a Christmas tree and a concertina – both of which make sense in context.

      Let us hope that Scott never manages to do a bladerunner sequel.

      TOO LATE!

      • All right, I’ll bite. Given recent advancements in materials science, that bra-aid could very well highly supportive with the comfort of mink, while helping to maintain proper body temp and moisture control, an often overlooked aspect of climate control. Smart fabrics are the future of the foundation industry.

  5. What? Isn’t a grand piano an essential part of your life that you couldn’t do without on a long space journey?

    If memory serves, the androids in Alien/s also ate. As they appeared to also have tubes inside them and blood analogues, the “food = fuel” hypothesis might well make sense. You do not have to engineer separate android support systems into your ships if they eat like everyone else.

    I do recollect that when the main idiot (sorry, character) takes his helmet off, others put up a token objection on the very grounds of not having tested for biohazards, etc. But there are good filmic reasons for getting rid of the helmets ASAP; film stars need to be Seen.

    (BTW, why is it that helmets in SF films always seem to have lights inside them? How is that going to help your low light vision?)

  6. Pingback: Ridley Scott Wins the War on Christmas | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

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