Skip to content


2012 August 26
by ahageman

SF scholars’ communities have pretty consistently derided Ridley Scott’s Prometheus since it opened this summer.

Having resisted the urge to read any reviews or critiques before my own screening, I came away feeling very positive about this film. Sure, some of my positivity can be attributed to the positive social vibe of screening it in a packed house of people who responded palpably to it. Not since screening Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, had I come out of a theater able to feel the physical stress that the film had conjured.

Now that my excitement about Prometheus has encountered the negative reception of others, I’m trying to organize and analyze my thoughts on the film, including what I see it doing within an EcoMedia context. I do so appreciate the entanglement of science, religion, and corporate capital of this narrative; I loved the extended opening of landscapes in 3D that may or may not be Earth, followed by the view from inside the cave of the scientists opening a hole in the earth as a way of formally structuring the entry to the film’s mysteries. And kudos are due to the vision of flipflops and ZhongShan Zhuang (“Mao Suit”) as David’s uniform–that’s exactly what I’d wear if zipping through outer space–in fact I’ve been known to wear this combination right here on Earth.

But the one thing I am continually frustrated by is the missed opportunity of the human-origins element of the narrative. While the discovery problematizes conventional ideologies of God-centered meaning, the film does not dare to depict an utter meaninglessness in place of this lost ideology. Instead, there is still someone–the hostile aliens–who cares enough about us to try to annihilate us, quite likely for our unecological tendencies as suggested by the consistent references to the Earth’s environmental problems. I would like to have seen the narrative without this replacement God, but the fact that the film did not,  perhaps could not, go there is also useful for us, though, as ecomedia analysts.

I’d love to hear others’ responses to Prometheus.


5 Responses leave one →
  1. srust permalink*
    August 28, 2012

    Great insights as always Andy. On an aesthetic and emotional level I was deeply moved by the breathtaking landscape photograph and subtle uses of 3D cinematography in the film – the opening sequences reminded me of a couple of similar moments in the second to last Harry Potter film where camera pulls back to show the Hogwarts train traveling through the Scottish countryside and characters and their story are momentarily displaced by the sublime beauty of the landscape. In Scott’s film, though the use of landscape photography drew me further into the mystery of the story and the theme of humanity’s roots in an alien culture. Despite the B-movie sequence when two of the crew are killed in the ‘egg’ room I enjoyed the film. In terms of environmental concerns, although there were a number of consistent references to earth’s environmental problems and corporatization, I felt that these aspects of the story may have been downplayed due to Scott’s efforts to reclaim the Alien franchise as his own. After all, of the earlier films in the series it is James Cameron’s Aliens (which he wrote and directed) that goes to much greater lengths than Alien to implicate the company in the problems occurring on earth and in space. I’m going to have to give your comments about the aliens as a replacement some more thought because while I agree that this part of the story was muddled – I am not necessarily ready to suggest that stories need to stress the meaningless nature of existence are somehow more environmentally conscious. Hmm… you’ve definitely given me a lot to thing about!

    • August 29, 2012

      Thanks for the thoughts, Steve! You’ve inspired me to get the dvds again and revisit the alien worlds, including AvP, which, I know, is bending the canon…I realized when I came out of the theatre that I didn’t know where in the timeline Yutani Corp merged with Weyland.
      As to meaninglessness, I’m not prescribing it as necessary to ecological narrative and/or thought, and this particular meanginglessness is in terms of an external meaning-provider. Not that the world must be/is without meaning, but that there are paradigms in which this meaning is not provided/enforced by an actually existing external thing–a material big Other. I simply see it as an ideological marker–a point beyond which we rarely let our stories go, even when the story was clearly headed in such a direction. So, again, I’m not prescribing this worldview, but I’m interested in the consistently quite strict avoidance of it. As I write this, a bald eagle is zipping around outside my office window against the backdrop of limestone bluff, traffic on a highway and a turning wind turbine.

  2. Steve Rust permalink*
    August 30, 2012


    Very well put – “Not that the world must be/is without meaning, but that there are paradigms in which this meaning is not provided/enforced by an actually existing external thing–a material big Other.”

    This makes a lot of sense to me, especially in thinking about why environmental concerns are often secondary to issues in people’s lives.

  3. srust permalink*
    September 5, 2012

    On her blog, Cathy Fitzgerald has recently posted the Zizek excerpt from the 2008 documentary ‘Examined Life’. I was watching it to think about rubbish, but something Zizek said about AIDS made me think back to this discussion of Prometheus. He said that the conservative notion that AIDS is punishment somehow gives meaning to a disease that otherwise seems like a meaningless (godless) catastrophe. The way he put it helped me to further understand the point you were making about Prometheus in that Scott’s refusal to project meaningless rage onto the aliens predatory impulses toward humanity actually damps the power and fear those creatures create in the original film. Might be worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

  4. September 29, 2012

    Great comments. The overt religiosity of Rapace’s character as an apparent stand-in for Scott’s unwillingness to embrace meaninglessness also bugged me a bit, especially since there’s plenty of that in the SF genre*. Says something about the political economy of film that it’s harder for a blockbuster to go there, I suppose. And I think the “eco” angle on this issue is that the need for a creator seems to reproduce the anthropocentric: it’s all about us. That limits the film’s reach as both SF and eco-SF, I think.
    That said, I ate it up — as SF and as ripping yarn, despite the plot holes you could drive a spaceship through — and can’t wait for the deleted scenes on the DVD. 🙂 And apparently a sequel has been confirmed.

    *One of my alltime faves in that regard is Fritz Leiber’s “The Wanderer” — in which the earth is nearly destroyed, just as incidental damage from an interstellar police chase. Aliens neither malevolent nor angelic; simply indifferent and careless.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS