The Tragedy of Prometheus

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26 Responses

  1. Katherine says:

    I’ve never watched Alien, because I have a very low tolerance for horror movies (the only one I’ve ever watched was The Ring, and it terrified me, even though it retrospect it doesn’t seem like it should be scary), so I’m approaching Prometheus purely on its own terms rather than as part of a saga.  And on those terms, it looks awesome.

    Sometimes going into something with no background knowledge improves it.  I loved X-Men: First Class despite (or probably, because of) having no knowledge of the mythos, so I completely missed all of the continuity and faithfulness-to-the-comics issues that purists had with it.Report

    • Sam in reply to Katherine says:

      I’m baffled by your terror at The Ring and simultaneous excitement for Prometheus. As for watching it solely on its own terms, that seems a good way to go into it. But what if you have?Report

      • Katherine in reply to Sam says:

        I’m a big fan of science fiction, and there’s all too few good science fiction movies, so I’m willing to accept the ‘horror’ aspects of Prometheus to get what looks like an extremely interesting plot and characters.  I’ll just go to a matinee.Report

  2. CK MacLeod says:

    eh – not having seen Prometheus yet, I have no idea what relevance it has to the Alien world, and whether it would take much explaining to safeguard the various elements of Alien that you think might be threatened by it.

    because the information it will introduce would presumably have had some influence over the decisions made aboard the Nostromo

    That seems to sum up a lot of what you’re worried about.  I don’t know how news travels, assuming it travels at all, in the interstellar society of the future.  I haven’t been given many good reasons to believe that it’s an open society.  My impression is that most of the people controlling interstellar activities are secretive, evil, and fallible.  I don’t know what they choose to share with the crews of ships like the Nostromo, or with anyone else for that matter.  Nor do I know what they can be presumed to know about Prometheus.Report

    • Sam in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      I suppose information conceivably might not travel – and we might get some sort, “This is a very secret mission, don’t tell anybody anything…!” That ought to provide enough of a logical barrier to explain the Nostromo’s ignorance to the threat (and of course, the ship on the planetoid in Alien presumably came from the whatever planet Prometheus landed on, so there’s no reason to suspect danger on that planetoid necessarily). But that still doesn’t address what will be undermined by the ubiquity of androids and the degree of technology in Prometheus.

      Obviously, I haven’t seen the movie. None of this might end up being a problem. But if any of it is, I’m troubled by what will have been inadvertently done to one of the great horror accomplishments of all time.


      • CK MacLeod in reply to Sam says:

        Well, I sympathize, even if I don’t agree with your analysis entirely. I still haven’t completely gotten over, though I have learned to accept, what the Fincher installment did to poor Newt. It’s just I don’t want to pre-judge one of the few films I expect actually to see in a real live movie theater this year.  I hope you do a follow-up at the appropriate time.Report

        • Sam in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          Newt is a good example of the retroactive effect that -quels can have on earlier movies, right? Because we know that everything in Aliens is for naught, it becomes easier to not be as concerned for the frightened little girl, a character incidentally who is the reason I struggle to watch that movie. That she is just casually offed at the beginning of Alien3 does the predecessor a disservice.


          • CK MacLeod in reply to Sam says:

            When I said I had learned to accept Newt’s death, I meant that I have been able to integrate it conceptually within the total development of the four main movies (and even the non-Ripley Alien films fall to some extent under the same thematic structure).  ALIENS taken separately was a very well done but in the end conventional happy ending action sci-fi.  The much unloved ALIEN 3 returns to and deepens the questioning started with the first film, but needs to do an “autopsy” of the preceding one to get there.  So, if I watch ALIENS again, it’s without illusions.  What did I think was going to happen?  That Ripley and Newt and Hicks were going to form a happy nuclear family somewhere in the galaxy together, and live happily ever after?  The universe is a harder place than that, and requires a different kind of heroism.


            • Sam in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              Alien had a conventional happy ending, standard to both sci-fi and horror: Ripley, the films’s ostensible hero, survives. The elimination of Newt though, for me, was cheap, because it took this thing that was hugely important right up until the end of the second film and then entirely dismissed it in the third film. “Oh, that thing that might have compelled you to invest significant emotional concern in the second film? Now it doesn’t mean anything. Moving on.”

              Obviously, you can’t have a kid running around on a prison planet housing sexual offenders (even if the previous movie did have a kid running around on a terraformed planet housing seriously deadly xenomorphs), but still. To so casually ignore the previous film and pursue a storyline that doesn’t necessarily follow from the end of the first Alien film was a bad move, panned by most (re)viewers, as well as the project’s own participants. I wonder how they’ll react to Prometheus.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Sam says:

                Just to play out the string a little: Most (re)viewers would presumably already be emotionally invested in, or trained in childhood to expect, the bourgeois happy ending, even if it’s just a return to normalcy rather than a pure fairy tale depiction.

                I can interpret my own typical reaction to the news of Newt’s death as the de-valuation of that investment, but I disagree that it was handled “casually.”  The autopsy scene removes any sense of casualness.  It depicts or realizes Ripley’s further distancing from any remnant naivete about her own situation and about the larger predicament, and also prepares her own sacrificial end:  She’s got nothing to lose, no potential for any kind of normal life left,on the way to her resurrection in the final film as (one) alien-human synthesis (among others), alongside the dissolution of the human-android opposition.  In other words by #4 the alien-ation process has advanced so far that the android and the hybrid-clone occupy the most fully human positions available for anyone who doesn’t enjoy ignorance:


              • Sam in reply to CK MacLeod says:


                Although I disagree with what you’re saying here, it is beautifully written. I see no point to argue about this. You got more out of the sequels than I did. I saw something done to make the third movie’s script viable; you saw a substantive critique of the film’s general expectations. I like that both of these interpretations can be out there and valid. We should discuss this again, post-Prometheus.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Sam says:

                Fersure.  As I said before, I look forward to your taking up the theme again after we’ve seen what they’ve done.  Just to be clear, though, I don’t see “something done to make the script viable” and “substantive critique of expectations” as contradictory.  Diverse writers and filmmakers working in divergent contexts cannot make the stories work on their own terms, and in relation to each other, without advancing them along certain lines. PROMETHEUS looks like a different kind of movie altogether than any of the Alien films, but with some thematic overlap.Report

              • Sam in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I didn’t write my comment very clearly. My apologies. What I meant to say was that for me, Newt’s death came across not as a critique of the standard happy outcome model, but rather, a writer asking, “How can we get rid of the girl if we’re going to put Ripley on a prison planet populated by rapists?” To me, it didn’t seem thought out. I actually like your theory more, because it gives the screenwriter way more credit than I do. (Speaking of which, have you read about the proposed Wooden Monastery script for Alien3? That might have been incredible.)

                Meanwhile, I have theories about Prometheus and how related it will be to the Alien world, but perhaps those are better left thought but unsaid.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                No need to apologize. I may have heard previously somewhere vaguely about the Wooden Monastery Planet thing, and have now read up on it here:

                It’s interesting to note what survived from the discarded script and made it into the Prison Planet version we have:  the determination to get rid of Newt, Weaver’s expressed desire to have Ripley killed off, and the introduction of a religious element.

                My view of movies of these types – extensively collective and corporatized adventures that are at the same time extremely personal for all of the creatives involved – is that they turn into explorations of the political unconscious, to use Jameson’s phrase, and eventually into something even grander or more archetypical and at the same time even more conflictual.  It’s as though “Hollywood” itself authors them, and it’s no coincidence, and not merely a cliche, that the “villains” (who are at the same time the characters truly responsible for the action) so often turn out to be evil corporate combines represented by inhuman humanoids.Report

  3. Kyle Cupp says:

    Great description of why Alien is so terrifying.Report

  4. Ryan Noonan says:

    As an avowed opponent of prequels, I am totally down with this post.Report

  5. George Turner says:

    It’s hard to talk about prequels objectively because George Lucas forever soured the word, which now carries the connotation of “the prequels raped my childhood.”


  6. Wow. This was an incredibly thoughtful article, and I read it from beginning to end without looking up. I feel the same way you do and continue to prefer the first Alien to any of its sequels.

    In general, I like extrapolating/imagining the excluded information for fictional realities. The more questions left unanswered the better.Report

  7. Sam says:

    Is anybody up for discussing the Coors Light Prometheus advertisement that’s been floating around? I saw it for the first time last night; it was horrifying in everyway. Unless, of course, it will be revealed that the only thing more potent than the xenomorph’s acidic blood was Coors Light and that the advanced civilization used gallons of it to keep the xenomorphs in check…Report

  8. Anne says:

    Saw what you did and I’ve seen it while watching the NBA playoffs (GO THUNDER!!!!) I agree horrifying unless it is the most jarring and egregious case of product placement in a movie in which case I guess that ups the horror factor by 10 and means I don’t want to see Prometheus after all. I kinda feel the same way of all the commercial tie in ads for the Lorax I never went to see it mostly because I did not want my childhood memories sullied but the ads sealed the deal.Report

    • Sam in reply to Anne says:

      I absolutely cannot imagine what the goal is. Do interstellar travelers drink Coors Light on-board? Do the xenomorphs crack open brewskies after a long day of chest-bursting? How on Earth could anybody have thought this was possibly a good idea?Report

  9. CK MacLeod says:

    Um, are you guys actually thinking that Coors Light appears somewhere in the movie? It’s just a TV commercial. All those NBA players don’t turn up in Men In Black 3 either, I reckon.

    Signifies to me they’re expecting a blockbustery week or two. Must be getting good numbers on “want to see,” however they’re measuring that these days.Report

    • Anne in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      What??!!! Kevin Durant is NOT going to be in MIB3? Well, not going to go see that either.Report

    • Sam in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      What’s the connection though? Fine if you’re going to link Dr. Pepper with The Avengers (that strikes me as a drink that many Avengers fans might potentially be interested, assuming that their local 7-11s are out of their most recent shipments of Mountain Dew Live Wire! or whatever the flavor du jour is), but Prometheus fans are assumed to want Coors Light? And Prometheus’s producers want a tacky cross-over marketing campaign like what we’re apparently going to be seeing?

      (Incidentally, I know the drink won’t actually be appearing in the movie. Everyone will still be drinking blue milk, right?)Report