Guest Review: Prometheus–The Horror!

by C.C. Finlay

Prometheus is the most frightening horror movie of the past 20 years. And the horror is that this is what American science will look like after a century of teaching Creationism in our schools.

[Spoilers ahead.]

Why do I think it’s a movie about Creationism? Because as the character of Weyland subtly and repeatedly tells us, he’s spent trillions of dollars on science and scientists for one reason only: so that he can “meet my Maker.” And why does he pick Elizabeth Shaw to lead his mission? Because “he wants a true believer in charge.”

But hey, that sounds pretty flimsy when I put it like that, so let’s just look at the science.

Anthropology. I know! It’s scary enough just imagining that anyone in this movie could be called an anthropologist. But technically Charlie and Elizabeth have travelled around the world studying the origins of ancient civilizations, and in our time, at least, that would more or less qualify them as anthropologists. So what have they learned? “Hey, you aliens who made us — whyyyy do you hate us? What’s wrong with us huuuuuumans. We’re sooooooorry. We didn’t mean to make you maaaaaad!” That’s a lot more like anthro-apology. “Sorry, man. Sorry.” No wonder, these aliens want wipe us out of existence.

Biologist. The team biologist talks about “three centuries of Darwinism” as if it means anything. Just the idea that “Darwinism” could be used as a scientific term by someone claiming to be a scientist should give you the heebie-jeebies. But to top that, in the one instance in which his expertise is needed, he tries to pet an alien life form that looks and behaves a lot like a cobra and then acts all offended when it tries to kill him. So what qualifies him to be a biologist? He looks at an animal and calls it a “beauty.” Aw. Isn’t that sweet? In a fear-for-our-future kind of way.

Geologist. Approximately 80 years from now, the final exam to be a certified astro-geologist so elite you get recruited to participate on a major space voyage, consists of one question and one question only: Do you fucking love rocks? If you answered “Yes, I love rocks, I fucking love rocks” then congratulations, you are now a geologist! Which sucks for you because your total scientific expertise consists of throwing some mapping “puppies” in the air and howling at them like a wolf. And then you wander around in circles and get lost on your way out because even though you’re the guy in charge of making maps, you don’t know how to find the map on your computer and couldn’t read it if you did.

Medicine. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! But no, seriously, let’s pretend that someone on this ship had medical training. Sterilization = burn it, burn it to death! Contagion-free = these living cells growing on this dead thing’s skull must be safe because they don’t look like an aggressive alien life form. First aid = sorry, woman, you’re out of luck, our medical pod has been preprogrammed only for men because the software is too primitive to treat both men and women. DON’T YOU KNOW THAT MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT SPECIES GOD OH GOD OH GOD?!

Astronomy. Hey, look, it’s a new planet. We could circle it in space, send down a probe, create a map of potential landing sites from up here. Or we could dive blind into the atmosphere, aim for the biggest mountain, and then turn right. No, seriously. “Turn ship ninety degrees right.” Yeah, let’s do that.

Genetics. So a billion years ago, one of these Promethean aliens came to earth and turned itself into DNA soup to seed the whole planet with life. Fast forward hundreds of millions of years through single-cell organisms to flatworms to fish to dinosaurs to mammals to primates to humans. And the end result is? This alien DNA is a 100% match for human DNA! The computer even overlaps the samples so we can see them line up perfectly! Woo!! And all those intermediate stages of evolution? Hahaha. Dude, we’re just dicking with you.

But if you look beyond the specific sciences and the scientists at the scientific method, it’s just as horrific.

On being methodical?

We just travelled billions of miles and many light years across space. It’s going to get dark in 6 hours, and we don’t know anything about the surface of the planet. Let’s wait overnight and approach this methodically in the morning? Hell no. It’s Christmas Day! I gotta go open up the Christmas presents baby Jesus brought me… RIGHT NOW!

On persistence?

Thomas Edison experimented with 200+ materials before he discovered the filament that would make a lightbulb work. But hey, my name is Charlie Holloway, and I travelled farther than any human ever has before, and since I didn’t find our Makers in the first structure we checked on the first planet we visited in the first six hours since we landed, it’s time to CALL THE WHOLE THING A FAILURE AND START DRINKING BECAUSE THIS IS JUST TOO HARD WHY DOES GOD HATE ME WHY IS MY WHOLE LIFE JUST A HOLLOW WAY WHY?!?

On safety protocol?

“Ooooh, cool, I’ve got an extra-terrestrial infection in my eye. It’s like having a really aggressive leech attached to my iris. But why should I tell anyone that or take any steps to isolate or treat it. Maybe if I just pretend it’s not here, it’ll go away. Oh, yeah, that’s a cool idea.”

On robotics?

Nah, we won’t put any behavioral limits on our robots. Why would we do that? They’re just robots. They would never hurt us. No, I’ve never read Isaac Asimov or seen the Terminator movies; reading makes my brain hurt. Plus there’s no God in these old science fiction books or movies, so I know the ideas aren’t worth thinking about.

You think that’s too harsh?

The catchphrase for Prometheus might as well be “Shaw, don’t tell.”

Elizabeth Shaw spouts the themes of the movie, embodies the themes of the movies, and makes the stupidest decisions of the movies. “Hey, this alien has been in stasis for 2000 years and the first thing he does when he wakes up is kill everyone he can get hold of and takes off in his spaceship full of biological weapons to wipe out Earth AND the last 3 people alive on our ship kamikaze his ship to stop them! You know what I should do? I should figure out how to go to the alien dude’s home planet. Yeah, that can’t turn out bad for anybody. Plus then maybe they’ll tell me WHY THEY’RE SO MEAN TO US OH GOD WHY ARE THEY SO MEAN?”

Elizabeth Shaw is the one who, when the giant wheel-shaped alien spaceship rolls toward her like a tire knocked off a stock car in a NASCAR accident, tries to outrun it straight ahead instead of turning to one side or the other.

Yeah, Shaw!

We know that she’s the smartest and most virtuous scientist and the one who’s going to survive because she wears a cross and she says things like “I choose to believe” and she has faith and shit. And also, after the robot steals her cross and makes sure she has the evil alien baby in her STERILE STERILE WOMB BECAUSE GOD HATES HER she cuts out the alien baby and then we find out the alien baby didn’t die, so it wasn’t really an abortion, which is why she keeps referring to it as a C-section, and she feels sorry for the hungry alien baby so she takes it someone to eat. And then she makes the bad robot give her cross back to her.

Science can’t do everything — it can’t tell us why life is meaningful, That’s faith’s business. But it turns out faith is REALLY REALLY BAD at doing science like anthropology, geology, biology, medicine and all the rest. Science and religion don’t have to be in conflict. It’s not an either-or decision. Each has their own realm.

But if you choose Creationism, this is the either-or future you’re embracing.

Bad science. Bad decision-making. And possibly the death of the human species.

You think this isn’t horror?

Then you aren’t paying attention.

•••

C.C. Finlay is the author of the Hugo- and Nebula-finalist novellas “The Political Officer” and “The Political Prisoner,” and of the Traitor To The Crown series of historical fantasy novels.  His most recent story is “The Cross-Time Accountants Fail To Kill Hitler Because Chuck Berry Does The Twist” in the May issue of Lightspeed magazine.  He’s married to YA novelist Rae Carson.

Author Photo courtesy of Amelia Beamer

11 Responses

  1. Steve

    But… according to demographics, isn’t Islam the fastest growing religion. So by the time of Prometheus, shouldn’t Shaw have been Muslim?

  2. Dr. Sean Finneran

    Well said. All those maddening twists kept me wondering what future mindset/failing causes such muddled thinking. The Marines in Aliens had me feeling the same way. It does seem he wants to engage his audience with a future he sees as resulting from continuing down the path of least resistance. Horrific? Yes. Many shortcuts ask forgiveness with a wink and keep it under budget and 4 hours. Suffice it to say the opening and closing sequences were jaw-dropping enough to make the middle worth the muddle.

  3. Rick Gilbert

    Well done and well said. Thank God someone paid attention and wrote his mind not his opinion about a well done, beautiful and thought provoking film. You have proven there were Complete ideas and themes in PROMETHEUS. For that I am grateful. Agree or disagree..it makes one think. A solid piece.

  4. Liana Mir

    Oh, for goodness sake. The movie may have sucked. The science may have sucked. Some people’s interpretation of creationism may suck. But there are creationists who create creationist curriculum who freely admit where the gaps are and actually write SCIENCE. See http://www.icr.org for one such organization. These are people with actual degrees who understand what you’re talking about when you talk science and who can talk it back.

    I wish a few people wouldn’t assume that anybody that mixes some faith with their science is automatically not using science and also stupid. Way to insult a huge and varied demographic that includes people who are neither.

  5. Mark Rivera

    When you wrote bad science, bad decision-making, etc., you should have added bad screenwriting too. Great review by the way. I reviewed it myself, but my approach was different from yours. Yet it seems most people are coming to the same conclusion. Prometheus is a tremendous disappointment. It is to Alien what The Phantom Menace was to Star Wars.

  6. KellyTeresa

    It’s a horror if anyone actually thinks Prometheus was a good movie. It looked great, but science or creationism aside the story had holes as big as Texas.

    It seemed like the main ingredient that was overlooked was plain old common sense.

    like this:

    Can I ask, why would an alien race create their experiment, leave an “invitation” —** spoiler alert** — then direct that same created people to a planet that is basically an army outpost that has been shutdown for 2000 years because the Alien’s couldn’t handle their weapons of mass destruction and the whole thing’s basically a total alien military cluster-f**?

    Did they just forget about it? or did they run out of funding?

    It’s like putting the cheese in front of the cat, ’cause the cat’s too fat and lazy to go get the mouse, but, man, it’s really important to get arid of the mouse, so hopefully this works.

    Don’t even get me started on the 5 star coordinates in the primitive drawings and carvings. (really? why was the cave painting the thing that sealed the deal? was it because of all the ones they collected so far, this was the most totally useless for getting any detailed information? )

    On the alien “genesis weapon”: There were no rules — and it seemed that it just got weirder every time someone inter-acted with it.

    If the alien race was being wiped out from their own weapon and they were running to a “safe” area (ie: the hologram of the aliens running and then the one being decapitated by the door)… why would they run to a room where those canisters were already all over the place? Wouldn’t you run to someplace that was actually safe, where there were no weapons?

    You have a race of beings that are supposed to be so brilliant and advanced they can create life to cover an entire planet from a single cup of “stuff” ( as per the beginning of the movie). They have traveled light years, they have built huge and powerful ships, they have occupied other planets. Why would one, after being brought out of stasis, turn into a ranging maniac that rips the head off a translating robot, then pulverize everyone in sight? Man – he must really hate humans. I mean, so much, that he doesn’t even care, where he is, or how long he’s been there, or anything about his own family or loved ones, or race. Right. He’s just a crazy loon and he’s mean to boot.

    (–and think about Dr. Shaw going to their home planet and expecting some kind of different outcome… Hopefully there won’t be a Prometheus II, as that story would only be particularly brutal and stupid, like watching someone drive full force into a brick wall.)

    I’m ending here, because my post will turn into the endless ranting, but I had to get this off my chest. I don’t think I’m required to compromise because I like good stories and I like SF. They can go together.

    Can someone please, write a totally stunning, brilliant SF masterpiece?

    please?

  7. Ron Vitale

    I had heard early reviews talking about how Prometheus was a “thinking person’s” movie and that the science in the film would change the way other films were made. When I sat down to watch it, I couldn’t believe how horrible of a film it was. I was shocked. How could a movie be this bad? There’s so much bad science in the film that it should win an award for that.

    But even beyond the science, some of the decisions that characters make in the film are downright dumb: The two throw away, red shirt, characters on the ship decided to toss away a chance to escape so that they can go on a suicide mission? That was the most insane moment of the film (not really because there are so many more horrible moments).

    I have actively told friends and film to stay away from this film. It’s essentially an ad for the sequel. That’s about all you need to know about it. First 40 minutes look pretty and then it’s all downhill from there (and not in a good way).

    Save your money and time. Hopefully, one of our books will be picked up and made into a damn good sci-fi flick soon.

  8. Ken

    This is more an anti-Christian rant than a movie review. The logic of the review is:

    1. Prometheus is a crappy movie with an unbelievable plot and weak characters
    2. This unbelievable plot and abhorrent characters depict clearly what will happen.

    What is SFWA about?

  9. Dave

    Prometheus is another bad Hollywood science fiction movie in a looooong line of bad Hollywood science fiction movies. Yes, it is heavy on the special effects and severely lacking in everything else. But a heavy-handed Hollywood promotion of Creationism? Seriously! C.C. Finlay, what are you thinking?

    More likely, this is a major Hollywood studio pandering (again) to a certain demographic of the film viewing public. Prometheus was awful. However, the anti-christian rant in the review was not necessary. Not all Christians (dare I say a majority) believe in Creationism, and, apparently, scientific reasoning is no cure against religious bigotry.

  10. Ed Farnsworth

    “Point Break goes to Mars.” I just walked out of this film after trying to stomach an hour of it. Science fiction blended with creationism (which is what the writers tried to do) is still just creationism. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the production no thought whatsoever was put into the script. Of course the characters behave stupidly and do nothing but shout at each other, the writers have clearly never even spoken with a real scientist. Is it any surprise that people who are stupid enough to believe in creationism CANNOT write science fiction? The greatest sci fi film in years? Tantalizing? Philosophical? Anyone who finds movie so, isn’t deep, they’re dumb.

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