You could feel it happening even before Prometheus announced itself on our cinema screens – as anticipation for the movie reached fever pitch, Prometheus was dividing the disparate Alien fanboy collectives into variant factions. Your inclusion depended on which side of the fence you sat with regards to how you believed the movie would answer the Alien connection question… Was it an Alien prequel, or wasn’t it? Was the xenomorph going to appear in the movie, or not? And yet all that tension pales into insignificance next to the spats that have arose since Prometheus exploded at the box office, as vitriolic posts either in defence or in support of the film are spewed onto blog and forum alike.
There appear to be two key camps: i) those that view Prometheus as an existential work of soul-searching genius that has delivered the sci-fi genre back from the nadir it reached with Alien Vs Predator, and ii) those that consider it a plot-hole ravaged carcass masquerading as a masterpiece that may very well have damaged Ridley Scott’s film-making legacy as he moves into the twilight of his years. In space, it seems, there is no middle ground from where people can hear you scream.
Chief to the creation of these divisive splits is the failure of Prometheus to provide answers to the grandiose questions that it poses. Though the movie is rather heavy-handed and far from subtle when dealing with its underlying themes and motifs, it relies on a heady mix of ambiguity and enigma when it comes to hinting at answers. Deliberate ambiguity applied to film can be a wonderful thing- a kind of magic employed by the expert film-maker who can use it challenge and stretch their audience. However, in order to achieve this rare feat the fundamentals of the film must be strong: a movie that utilises ambiguity and enigma to satisfying effect should do so skilfully and sparingly, and whether Prometheus actually does this is seriously open to question. The myriad plot-holes and other screenplay issues are certainly causing many people to see what purports to be deliberate opaqueness as sheer ineptitude.
Ironically, Ridley Scott was previously considered an expert when using ambiguity in the science fiction field- people are still debating today whether or not the principal character of Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, is a replicant. And, prior to Prometheus, the plot point on which many people continued to dwell after watching Alien was the enigmatic character of the Space Jockey, the giant extraterrestrial humanoid who appears- momentarily but very memorably- as the long-dead pilot of the derelict spacecraft on LV-426.
To silence the critics and to vouch that Prometheus is not just a melting pot of quasi-philosophical posturing designed to short-circuit your small human brain, Prometheus screenplay writer Damon Lindelof has stated that the triumvirate behind the movie- himself, Jon Spaihts and Ridley Scott- do indeed have a set of pre-defined answers:
“Ridley wanted to know what the answers were as well, and we talked about those at great length,and then he determined what it was he wanted to put in the movie… those answers are not definitively presented in Prometheus, though if you look through all the materials, I think that the evidence is all there to form a very informed opinion as to what happened…”
After my third viewing of Prometheus I believe that the film does indeed present clues to potential answers, but- as per Lindelof’s comments above- few if any are definitive. Here I seek to offer my interpretation of the events of the movie. For the sake of levity and brevity this ‘Answering the Titan’ series will be divided into three articles: this particular article will focus on what I believe are the answers to the Prometheus conundrum, whilst the next two articles will delve into the mythological and thematic motifs explored within the Prometheus narrative.
Whether or not I am a victim to the genius of Damon Lindelof or am a sucker who spent several hours of his life trying to make sense of an empty shell of a movie– you can let me know your opinion below…
And so here we go– let’s answer the titan!
This article was first posted on June 22, 2012