A lot of people have come to me with questions about Ridley Scott’s kinda-sort-not-really-but-yeah-a-little Alien prequel Prometheus since it debuted last Friday. Most of these questions have been along the lines of “What the fuck was that?” but they were asked with some frequency. They only thing to so was pull out one of Topless Robot’s patented FAQs!
Short, spoiler-free version: How was it?
Pretty and confusing.
Like portentous confusing or dumb confusing?
About 40-60, respectively.
Well, is it a prequel to Alien or not?
Remember how, when asked this questions, Ridley Scott always seemed to answer with a hesitant “yes and no”?
…yes and no.
Sorry, there’s just no real way to explain this without spoiling the movie. Suffice to say it’s about 75% of an Alien prequel. Anything else you want to know, you’ll have to hit the jump.
After the jump, spoilers abound. Also, this Prometheus
FAQ is exceedingly long. I’ve divided it into two section, the Recap FAQ
and the Discussion FAQ
; feel free to skip to the latter bit if you know what happens already, are pressed for time, or are Damon Lindelof.
THE RECAP FAQ:
Okay, maybe you should just start from the beginning.
Some super-buff, pale blue dude walks a planet that is probably Earth but isn’t necessarily, takes off a Jedi robe he’s wearing some reason, drinks some black goop, disintegrates into his component DNA and starts life and evolution.
…okay. Is it Dr. Manhattan?
Couldn’t see his dong; I don’t know for sure.
Cut to 2089! Noomi Rapace and Scientist Boyfriend find one of those star maps from all the commercials in some cave paintings. Then immediately cut again to: The Prometheus. It turns out Weyland Whoever, who is clearly Guy Pearce made to look old less effectively than old Biff in Back to the Future II, has assembled the two scientists, Charlize Theron, Robot Michael Fassbender, Country Idris Elba, Lysa Arryn n?e Tully from Game of Thrones, and bunch of emotionally damaged, highly aggressive other scientists and pilots and maybe some mercenaries or something, funded this expedition, put them all on a spaceship, froze them for two years of space travel, and told almost none of them what they’re doing.
I see no potential problems with this.
This incredible sense of peace and calm may be why everyone feels comfortable in totally shitting on Robot Fassbender for the entire movie.
Like mean, dark shit. Anyways! Holographic Weyland comes out, assures everyone he’s totally super for reals dead and seriously, don’t even bother looking around the ship, because he’s so dead he couldn’t possibly be hiding in a back room somewhere.
I’m detecting a bit of-
SHH. Holographic Weyland says Noomi and Scientist Boyfriend are in charge of the mission and disappears (wink wink). Noomi and Scientist Boyfriend give the spiel about all these civilizations having the same star map, Noomi says it’s an invitation from the beings that created us, whom she calls Engineers, and the whole plan is to ask them what the deal is. Then Charlize Theron immediately tells everybody she’s in charge, so basically there’s no confusion and everybody’s happy.
However, Noomi does manage to make sure no one brings any weapons into this first foray onto an extraterrestrial world with potential, unknown life on it, so at least she’s got that going for her.
That’s a tremendously dumb idea.
It won’t be the last one. They land on the planet close to some pretty obviously unnatural rock formations — a big dome surrounding by a raised ring with a small break in it. Noomi, Robot Fassbender and some other start wandering around. Robot Fassbender starts pressing buttons and touching weird green goop as soon as possible; this triggers some kind of 3-D recording of aliens — not Aliens, actually, but Space Jockeys — running like hell down the hall from something unknown.
…until one Space Jockey trips and is beheaded by a closing door. You can almost hear the sad trombone noise.
Well, that’ll happen.
Indeed. Noomi and Pals enter the room, find the Space Jockey’s head, a shit-ton of dark vases laid out on the floor like the eggs in Alien, a big stone head — of what appears to be a human, or at least an Engineer — and two murals, one of an Engineer getting his guts ripped open and one of an Alien.
Really, although no one in the scouting party appears to notice or care about the murals or their content. In fact, two members — let’s call them Weirdly Aggressive Geologist and World’s Shittiest Biologist — decide this is all too freaky and decide to head back to the ship.
That sounds pretty smart, actually.
Yet they do it very stupidly, but I’ll get back to them in a minute. Back in the room, Robot Fassbender starts messing with one of the vases, and black goop — presumably the Instant Life Juice from the beginning — starts leaking out, first from one vase, then all of them. Robot Fassbender secretly gets a sample, Noomi gets the Space Jockey head, and everybody runs back to the ship before the crazy silica storm hits.
Silica storm? I thought this planet was habitable?
Except for the massive silica storms which effectively contain a blizzard of glass particles traveling at hundreds of miles per hour that can tear humans to shreds. Other than that, it’s quite nice. Oh! And after the team left, some of the black goop fell on some worms.
That can’t be good.
No it cannot. In the ship, Noomi Rapace and Lysa Arryn examine the Space Jockey head. They realize it’s actually a helmet, take it off, and voila! It’s an Engineer head! The Space Jockeys are Engineers! Then they immediately start shooting electricity in it to make it think it’s still alive.
Holy shit, that sounds like a terrible idea.
I know, right? I mean, they don’t have any other tests to run before Frankensteining the goddamn thing?
It almost immediately blows up after indicating it had some black goo in it.
These are not particularly smart scientists. Speaking of, Scientist Boyfriend is massively depressed because all the Engineers are dead and he couldn’t ask them shit.
Yes, he’s journeyed to another planet, discovered alien life, discovered the beings who created humanity, and discovered they were murdered by some unknown entity… and he’s sulking because he can’t talk to them.
What a dipshit.
Which is why, I think, it’s pretty understandable that Robot Fassbender gives him a drink with a bit of the black goop in it.
I don’t know, that still sounds a little harsh.
It’s worth noting that Scientist Boyfriend is the biggest dick to Robot Fassbender for no discernable reason. In fact, right before Fassy gives him the drink, Boyfriend pulls out the “You’re not a real boy” card.
Okay, I’ll allow the unknowing human experimentation.
I did. Okay, remember Weirdly Aggressive Geologist and World’s Shittiest Biologist?
Despite the 3-D maps the crew made upon arriving and that they have access to — and that one is a Geologist, who you’d think would be able to remember rocks enough to remember his way through a cave system — they’ve gotten lost! They find a bunch of dead Engineer corpses in a big pile! They freak out! They call the ship! Country Idris Elba tells them he’ll pick them up in the morning after the storm! Country Idris Elba seems terribly amused that they’re probably going to die!
Hey, why do you call him Country Idris Elba?
Because for this film, for reasons unknown to me, he has adopted the world’s worst Southern accent.
Hey, Idris Elba was in The Wire. He did a killer American accent in that.
I know! But American and American Southern are two totally different things, and Elba sounds… well, he sounds ridiculous. I don’t blame him; someone should have told him, or told Ridley Scott, that his accent was terrible. They did not do anyone any favors by not speaking up.
Back to our intrepid duo?
Yes. They head back to the original Big Head n’ Vase room that they were too terrified to be in earlier —
— just go with it — where there are huge puddles of black goop on the floor. Suddenly, a snake-y thing pops out of the goop! It’s one of the worms, who evolved! Presumably!
So they run?
No. For some reason, World’s Stupidest Biologist — who was afraid of the room when it was empty — is suddenly confronted by what looks to be a cross between a giant albino boa constrictor and a very angry penis, and decides to make friends with it.
I’m going to bet that doesn’t work out.
Well, if you call Angry Penis Snake coiling around his arm, breaking it, then shoving itself down World’s Stupidest Biologist’s throat — while knocking Weirdly Aggressive Geologist face-first into the black goop, which melts his helmet and gets all over his face — if you call this not working out, then yeah, it didn’t work out.
Back on the ship, Scientist Boyfriend has sex with Noomi. The next day he wakes up feeling funky, looks in the mirror, and sees a tiny tentacle coming out of his eyeball. This concerns him somewhat, but not enough to tell anyone else, or not go on the rescue mission to find Aggressive and Stupidest. Which is a shame, since when he arrives he immediately gets sick and everyone has to go back to the ship anyways, although this is probably for the best because an evolved worm-thingie that came out of Stupidest starts attacking people and it’s all just kind of a mess.
It’s amazing that no one dies.
Oh, I think they did, they just didn’t have any personalities or anything, so I can’t remember. They get back to the ship, Charlize Theron won’t let Infected Scientist Boyfriend on Board, Infected Scientist Boyfriend realizes he’s fucked and asks Charlize Theron to kill him, and Charlize Theron obliges with a flamethrower. Noomi passes out from the sheer drama of it all, then wakes up to find Robot Fassbender telling her she’s pregnant.
AREN’T YOU SHOCKED?!
No. Should I be?
Noomi couldn’t have babies!
Oh. No one told me that.
Oh, shit, that’s right. It came up really briefly 10 minutes ago in the movie specifically to make this scene weird even though Robot Fassbender says she’s three months pregnant and she’s only been out of cryo-sleep for two days max.
Sounds like the pregnancy is weird enough to me.
Probably. Noomi is a bit upset by having what is obviously an alien baby in her stomach. Robot Fassbender wants to put her in cryosleep to get her treated on Earth — or at least get her and the specimen back to Earth — but Noomi beats up Lysa Arryn and some other guy, wanders through the ship until she gets to Charlize Theron’s quarters, which has a special surgery machine that was introduced earlier specifically for this scene. Since the machine is only calibrated to men, she can’t get a Caesarean, so she tells it there’s a “foreign entity” in her stomach, hops in, and the surgery begins.
Dude, you have no idea. Whatever problems I may or may not have with Prometheus, this scene was amazing, visceral, scary and utterly unique. Noomi has her belly slit by a laser, pulled open by clamps, and claw takes out what appears to be a very angry albino octopus alien out of her stomach. It’s not happy. Neither, for the record, is Noomi.
Medicated and with two dozen new stitches in her gut wanders through Prometheus, suddenly coming into a secret room and OH MY GOD IT’S WEYLAND HE’S ALIVE HE WAS ALIVE THE ENTIR–
This is not surprising in the least.
Fine. Yes, Weyland is here because he wants to meet the Engineers to become immortal. I don’t have the foggiest clue how or why an Engineer would do that, but Weyland seems convinced it’s an option.
Why did he even bother to pretend to be dead?
He’s also kind of a dipshit. Anyways, while Noomi was having her Calamari surprise, Robot Fassbender was searching the caves and ends up finding one Engineer who’s still alive in his own cryo-sleep, along with like nine kajillion jars of black goop. And then Country Idris Elba figures out the planet is some kind of weapons factory, despite never having set foot in the caves. And because Fassy has been working for Weyland all this time — which is presumably why he performed the experimentation on Scientist Boyfriend, among other weird things — he tells Weyland about the Engineer, and everyone decides to go meet it/him.
But shouldn’t she — wait a second. What happened to the alien baby?
It’s back in the surgery room. Just hangin’ out.
No one’s worried about it? Not even Noomi?
Not really. It’s just an alien squid that burst from a lady’s stomach that she had to manually extract from her body. In the spaceship. Unmonitored. Loose. What could possibly go wrong?
Lots, I would think.
Doesn’t matter! Weyland gets in what looks like a worst first draft of the accelerator suits from G.I. Joe, and they all go wake up the Engineer. Weyland asks Robot Fassbender, who has learned the Engineers’ language because he’s a super-awesome robot, to ask for some immortality, please. The Engineer politely declines, and when I say “politely declines” I mean “rips Robot Fassbender’s head off, beats Weyland to death with it, and kills every other motherfucker in the room.” Oh, except Noomi, because she’s feeling incredibly spry after her incredibly invasive surgery and manages to get away.
It’s okay, we’re going to work through this together. Let’s wrap up the plot first, though. The clearly irked Engineer plays a flute (seriously) and the big gun/cockpit thing from Alien pops out of the ground. The Engineer gets in it and it puts on his Space Jockey suit for him, and it turns out this part of the caverns is actually a spaceship! The Space Jockey starts lifting off to head for Earth, to either drop a shit-ton of black goop on us or beat us to death one-by-one with severed heads. I’m guessing the former.
Noomi tells Country Idris Elba that the Engineer is going to kill Earth, Country Idris Elba and his two co-pilots very happily fly Prometheus into the Engineer’s ship, wrecking it; the ship crashes and starts rolling towards Noomi and Charlize Theron who is also there for some reason but only Noomi has the brilliant idea to run to the side and Charlize Theron dies and Earth is saved.
Is that it?
Not quite. Turns out Robot Fassbender’s head is still alive, and tells Noomi that the Engineer is coming for her. Noomi gets into an escape ship which Country Idris Elba had also jettisoned, which also happens to be the place where Noomi had her Squid Baby. The Engineer comes aboard, Noomi tricks it into fighting with Squid Baby — who has grown considerably — and gets the hell out of Dodge. Eventually, Squid Baby wins, and by wins I mean facehugs the Engineer, and by facehugs I mean facefucks, as there’s no passion or emotional attachment, just a tentacle in the throat, and they both die.
I think I see where this is going.
Noomi and Robot Fassheader get in another Engineer ship — there were several structures like this on the planet — and Noomi goes off to ask some living Engineers what their deal is because that obviously worked so fucking well the first time. And back in the escape ship, a humanoid being crawls out of the Engineer.
Is it an Alien?
Yes. Well, it could be a very thin latex bondage enthusiast with a dolphin for a head, but yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be an Alien.
Still confused? The Prometheus Discussion FAQ is on the next page!
What the fuck.
Take a deep breath.
So why did the Engineers create us, leave us an invitation to meet them, and then kick our asses?
I don’t really have an answer for that.
GODDAMMIT. Well, why does the black goo turn one Engineer into The Source of All Life, and turns everybody else into assholes or monster incubators?
Another good question, and one I kind of have an answer for. When watching the movie, it felt like there were no rules whatsoever for what the black goop did, and it was pretty irritating to me. But afterwards I did some research, and some people smarter than me are saying it’s some kind of biotool/weapon depending on how are around it. When the happy go-lucky Engineer in the prologue drinks it, he dies and starts the creation of life. When we evil terrible humans get near it, it gets all Alien-y.
Okay, but even if that’s true, it’s all over the place. It accelerates the evolution of the worms, but turns Scientist Boyfriend and Weirdly Aggressive Scientist into some zombies of some kind. When ingested, it causes tentacles of the eyeballs, but when transmitted sexually it creates a squid baby. And then if that squid baby happens to get a hold of an Engineer, then it turns into a Xenomorph?
Seems to be.
That seems like a really bizarre and random set of occurrences to get to an Alien.
But aren’t the Engineers are obviously well aware of the Xenomorphs, right?
Yes, because of the mural with the Xenomorph on it.
How the hell would they even discover the circumstances to make a Xenomorph in the first place?
And hey, isn’t the Prometheus planet different from the planet on Alien?
Definitely. Both director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Damon Lindelof have said constantly and consistently that Prometheus does not feature the Alien planet.
So you’re telling me that a human ate some black goop, had sex, and the resulting Squid Baby facehugged — er, facefucked an Engineer on two totally separate planets?
Apparently so, yes. I have a theory that the black goop always ends up in a Xenomorph at some point, although there is nothing in either Prometheus or Alien to support this, and the constant mutation of the Xenomorphs seems to contradict it.
Are their any totally insane, mind-blowing theories about what Prometheus might be all about?
I’m glad you asked. The most popular one happens to be right here, which explains a lot of things — including why the Engineers started hating us.
And why’s that?
Because we killed Jesus.
What. The fuck.
The theory goes that Engineers are all about sacrificing themselves for life/a.k.a. the greater good. So they create life on places, and if the result ends up noble they become friends or something, and if they end up selfish and shitty like humans do they send the black goop to start killing everybody with Aliens.
As I mentioned earlier, the black goop supposedly reacts to the intent of whoever’s nearby; when the person is good, like the Engineer, the black goop kills them and turns them into Life Juice. If they’re bad, like humans, it turns into Xenomorphs and kills them.
Well, I can see why you’d want to have a jillion kazillion bottles of that just hanging around loose in your spaceship.
Yeah. So the theory goes an Engineer created life on Earth, and visited primitive people for a while to give them all the star maps so that humanity could eventually visit them. And then they abandon us and leave, because that’s what gods do, I guess, when people get close to inventing camcorders.
What does this have to do with Jesus?
In the movie, Noomi says the Engineers died 2000 years ago, and if you accept the idea that the black goop responds to feelings, something must have upset the Engineers 2,000 years ago. The theory continues that this event, and the event that made the Engineers start wanting to beat us to death with Michael Fassbender is one and the same — the Engineers took a look on Earth circa 0 A.D. and saw all the fighting and sent a representative to tell everybody to chill out.
And then humanity crucified him, and the Engineers freaked the fuck out, triggering Goopocalypse.
That’s fucking insane.
It is. But what’s more insane is that Space Jesus was actually part of the Prometheus script at one point before Ridley Scott took it out.
HOLY SHIT. No pun intended.
Madness, my friend. Madness.
Okay, I see two problems with this: 1) Jesus was never referred to a giant bald pale blue dude.
True, although might explain why everybody thinks a Middle Eastern Jew born in the first century was white.
2) If Ridley took it out, then this theory shouldn’t matter, right?
Except that he didn’t replace it with anything. As the movie stands, we have no idea why the Engineers started hating us or got themselves killed 2,000 years ago. This is the only answer I’ve heard suggested — and it works out remarkable well with the author’s theory on the black goop. Basically, there’s a weird, Space Jesus-sized hole in the plot, and once you learn that potential answer, it’s hard to see an alternative, because the movie’s only answer is random insanity.
Seriously. I can’t even say if this theory makes the movie better or worse, but I do know it’s completely bonkers.
Okay, let’s try to move on.
Assuming this isn’t some intergalactic version of Punk’d, why do the Engineers invite us to their fucking Weapons Factory planet instead of some place that wasn’t full of deadly bioweapons in fragile, awkwardly placed jars?
No idea. It might have been closer than their home planet or something, but there’s nothing in the movie to indicate that.
Why did the Engineers have a zillion-kajabillion jars of goop when like a single sip effectively creates life, but also has the potential to kill the bejeezus out of everyone the minute someone with a bad attitude pops by?
They’re like Space Hoarders, I guess.
Assuming that the Engineers knew that humanity had the potential to turn out to be assholes, why would they invite humans to come to the planet that is filled to the fucking brim with Shit That Turns Into Aliens When Assholes Are Nearby?
They’re optimists, I guess? No, presumably they hadn’t planned on humanity coming up to see them before they had a chance to slime Earth Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award-style, but the accident happened before they could send a ship. And when the living Engineer woke up and saw humans, he was pretty surprised — albeit not so surprised he couldn’t kill everybody and finally start sending his goop-filled ship to Earth.
What was the deal with David, a.k.a. Robot Fassbender? Was he evil or crazy or what?
I personally feel that everything David does can be explained by him 1) following Weyland’s direct orders and 2) Weyland being kind of an idiot. For instance, I can totally see Weyland telling David to give a drop of the black goo to somebody just to see what it did.
What does this have to do with the legend of Prometheus?
Well, some of the legends say that Prometheus made humanity, and all of the legends say he stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity, for which the god punished him by chaining him to a rock and having an eagle tear out and eat his liver everyday.
So in Prometheus, an Engineer sacrifices himself to create life on Earth and other planets, a la Prometheus. And then a lot of people have stomach problems.
Yeah, kind of. I personally think Prometheus is much more known for the fire myth, except I can’t think of anything in the movie that metaphorically stands for fire other than the black goop, which the Engineers don’t really give to us as much as it just attacks us.
Isn’t there a big deal in the movie about looking for gods?
In the movie, yes, but Prometheus was a Titan, so he was also a god, just a nice one. About the only thing you can say about the gods from the Prometheus myth is that most gods are assholes, and that also seems to be the case with the Engineers.
But what about the danger of looking for our gods?
Well, there’s definitely a danger in the movie, because when we finally meet a god, he beats us to death with Michael Fassbender’s head. But in the myth, humans don’t mess with the gods at all. We get free fire, and Prometheus takes the fall. It works out swell for us.
Okay, look. What Prometheus the movie seems to forget is that there’s a world of difference between a god that is the reason for everything and some blue dudes who make humans. For example, say I order a packet of Sea Monkeys and create them. Then say these Sea Monkeys gain sentience and start worshipping me as a god, because I created them, right?
Well, if they ask me why they were created — a question humanity has been pondering about itself since the dawn of time — I’d tell them “Because I ordered a packet of shit off the internet.” That’s not a deep, spiritually satisfying answer, because I’m not a god. I’m just the dude who created them.
Likewise, the Engineers are the people who created us, but they’re not gods — they’re just assholes like us. They’re just as crazy and stupid as humans are, as evidenced by their incredibly lack of foresight regarding their Goops of Mass Destruction and their rather severe attitude reversal regarding humans. Even if Noomi and Pals had managed to talk to them and get some answers, there’s no way they’d give us any kind of satisfying answer to our place in the universe and reason for being. They’re just middle-men.
So back to my original question: Is this an Alien prequel or not?
Okay. Remember how in Alien, they see the dead Space Jockey?
Well, in Prometheus, there are many dead Space Jockeys. Remember the cockpit/gun-looking thing?
There’s one of those in Prometheus. Remember how the dead Space Jockey with the burst chest was in the cockpit/gun thingie?
Prometheus doesn’t have that. The Engineer whose chest bursts dies without his Jockey helmet on in Prometheus’ escape ship.
So it’s not a prequel.
But remember the crashed spaceship the Nostromo crew finds? Prometheus has one of those. And don’t forget Prometheus has Xenomorphs and Alien has Xenomorphs, which seem unlikely to have developed independently of each other.
So it is a prequel?
Alien has rows of eggs; Prometheus has the exact same thing except they’re vases.
What the fuck?
Basically, Prometheus sets up about 75% of Alien and then just stops. Meaning somewhere else in the Prometheus/Alien universe, something almost exactly the same as the events of Prometheus went down in order to bring about the circumstances that lead to Alien.
There is also the possibility that Ridley Scott is an asshole.
Anything you want to add before I go bludgeon myself into unconsciousness?
Yes! Prometheus is more or less the same story as Alien — same sequence of events, for the most part — except it’s all bright and shiny and really trippy. Alien is a horror movie that happens to be set in space, while Prometheus is a crazy, more sci-fi retelling of Alien that often confuses vagueness and plot holes for portentousness. I can’t say it’s not worth seeing — it’s visually stunning and again, that surgery scene is incredible — but it’s not nearly as deep or as thoughtful as it wants to be.
And that Biologist was the stupidest fucker ever.