The Problem with the Perception of Prometheus [Spoiler-free]

It’s no big secret that I’m a bit of a film buff. I mean to talk about books and movies and games a little more, but then I get distracted writing them or making them or playing them. It’s terrible, I know.

Anyway, I’d like to talk about Prometheus, if you’re up for it. You don’t even have to have seen it!
The convenience.

All you need to know is that it is a science fiction movie directed by Ridley Scott and set in the same universe as the Alien franchise. Set in the same universe, that is all. If you are looking for a prequel, look elsewhere. If you want explanations, watch Battleship.

It’s these explanations I want to talk about, since there are few of them. Even the experienced viewer will be confused, often. Motivations are unclear, alien behavior seems inconsistent, and a lot of the brilliant scientists behave in very very stupid ways.

Okay, the last one is a valid point. But Prometheus is, at its heart, a horror movie, and people have to do things wrong in horror movies. They have to deserve it.

The other complaints, however, only showcase the hypocrisy inherent in the critical world. When new science-fiction comes out, they whine about its lack of ambiguity, flat characters or exposition-heavy dialogue.

When they saw Prometheus, they whined that it was too ambiguous, that the characters behaved in unexpected ways without explaining everything that happened in extreme detail. Now that these things we have come to expect of modern science-fiction are absent, the critics grump again.

“It’s beautiful but hollow,” they say, since they can’t see its insides. “It asks more questions than it answers,” they say, though questions are why we loved Alien in the first place. “Nothing is clear,” they whine, but nothing in life is clear, and nothing clear is horrifying.

Prometheus leaves you guessing, lets you flounder in a beautiful world devoid of answers. It’s Lovecraftian horror, not Star Wars. It’s imperfect, still bound by genre and misplaced expectations, but it is brave.

It asks more than it answers, and we need more of that in film. Any definitive answer in any work of fiction is escapist fantasy. Life doesn’t work that way.

So why did people think they’d find answers to questions asked by the Alien movies, when it was the questions that made them great?
I hold that it’s better to ask than to be given answers.

Especially when the answers could be wrong.


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