Prometheus Impressions

I just watched Prometheus. It’s a weird movie. If you haven’t heard about it, how did you do that?! Here is a trailer.

I was looking forward to it a lot and I was quite surprised that it received so mixed reviews. Having watched it, I kinda understand why. What follows are some of initial impressions. Yes, there will be spoilers. If you want to watch the movie with fresh eyes, better stop now.

What really stood out to me were some of the character constellations. I really loved the David / Vickers / Weyland triangle. There were some good religion vs. science bits as well. I would have preferred a more critical approach to creationism and intelligent design. But it certainly taps well into current trends and discussion. It is a US movie after all. The way those philosophies are used does not make them intelligent design propaganda yet.

I really loved the theme of immortality vs. making room for coming generations. Sadly, it seems that there was a lot more the writers wanted to say about it. I guess it’s one of the many things to be discussed in the sequels.

Which brings me to one of the two biggest gripes about the movie. The first one being that the movie feels very much like the pilot of a series. It leaves the audience with more unanswered question than actual answers. Clearly, there is an entire trilogy coming. The movie doesn’t quite stand on it’s own. It is very different from a Star Wars or Matrix that way and incredibly unsatisfying.

By other gripe is that the movie has some serious plot issues. There are huge plot holes. Characters sometimes act in illogical or confusing ways. Here are some bits:

  • What does the black goo do exactly? It seems like every infection does something different. Holloway turns into a zombie. Shaw gets impregnated with a squid. The Engineer’s head explodes. The Engineer at the beginning is dissolved. It seems to be a magical substance that does whatever the plot needs at this point. Sadly, because nobody knows what it does, it’s impossible to tell what the Engineers are up to. The crew seems to think they want to destroy Earth. But there is actually no good reason to think that. It makes the plot wobbly and aimless.

  • Why does David infect Holloway with the black goo? How does David know that it would do something when ingested? He doesn’t even put it under a microscope or anything. It could have been engine oil for all he knew? If this is Weyland programming – that wouldn’t make any sense. Why would Weyland be interested in killing the crew? How do they even know about the black goo? Weyland seems to be interested in meeting the Engineers. The black goo doesn’t really have anything to do with that. Infecting Holloway doesn’t serve anybody. Even if it was just David’s own curiosity, we don’t see him trying any less drastic experiments first.

  • Addendum: It just occurred to me that David could have read the inscriptions on the walls and maybe learned something about the goo we don’t know. Whatever it was, it must have been quite the revelation if it made him kill a crew member. In any case, that would be something to be revealed in the subsequent movies yet again.

  • The geologist punk is stupid. First he flips out when they discover the alien body. What the hell? He is a scientist. He should be interested in this as well. There is a corpse of an alien being lying right in front of him. Anybody would be curious about that. Why is he acting like a dick instead? Then, when he and his friend eventually find an actual life form, they are suddenly curious and forthcoming? That goes directly against what we just learned from them. I know they are supposed to be just alien-fodder. But they at least should be consistent.

  • The whole treatment for Shaw’s pregnancy is weird. Why does David suggest to put her into cryo sleep? Why do the other crew members agree and help out? Why is she the only one to think of the medical pod? Why does nobody react to her when she comes out of the pod all bloody and cut-up? Why does nobody do anything about the Squid that is loose in the medical pod room? I mean, they wanted to return with the Prometheus to earth at some point, right? It seems a reasonable idea to get rid of the aliens on the ship before going spelunking again.

  • There is a moment where Shaw tries to stop Weyland and the others from entering the ship. It’s the “we were so wrong” moment from the trailer. Why the hell would she want to do that? Shaw is a scientist who dedicated her life to figure out what the Engineers are. She should be the last person to suggest to leave now. Leave to do what? Especially as right afterwards, she decides to go back into the ship with the rest. Would’t this be rather the right moment to tell them about the squid? And confront them about the putting her to sleep thing?

  • At the end, Shaw decides to trace the Engineers back to their home planet to find out how they crated Humans and why they changed their mind. This makes sense. That was the original reason why they came here. Why doesn’t David understand this? He is an explorer just as she is. In fact, we have been shown David in a lot of scenes being very bold and inquisitive. Shaw’s decision should be perfectly understandable for him. Yet, the writers decided to make this a “You don’t get it because you are a robot.” moment? What the hell?

  • Finally, a little nitpick but something that really struck me. The medical pod is programmed for male anatomy only? Whaaaat? The pod was in Vicker’s suite. It was Vicker’s “safety precaution”. Is she a trans-gendered person? In that case, the black captain was in for quite a night. Or was it something that Weyland did without her knowing? In both cases that would yet another setup without a payoff. More realistically, it was just sloppy writing.

That’s it from me. I’m still digesting the movie and I’ll certainly want to watch it again. The movie is certainly not stupid. But it doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders either. At least I do understand the mixed reviews. Perhaps the upcoming sequels will bring clarity. Until then, I’d be interested in hearing other people’s opinion.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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