Prometheus: A Summer Movie That Asks The Right Questions
Have you seen Prometheus yet? If you haven’t you may want to stop reading. However, if you’ve decided you don’t want to see Prometheus, then consider this blog post an invitation.
I was able to see Prometheus on June 1 since it had an early release in the UK. I’ve been waiting to write about the movie until it screened in the US this past weekend. I had been eager to see the movie for some time, especially with the early promotional videos (see TED Talk 2023; “David 8“). For one, the movie was announced as a prequel to the Alien quadriology during pre-production (its still true, though it avoids the pitfalls of most prequels, e.g. Star Wars). Yet the main reason why I was eager to see the film was because of Damon Lindelof’s involvement. As an avid fan of LOST, I’m naturally interested in anything any of the writers of that show do, especially when Damon Lindelof is involved. In a manner similar to LOST, the film Prometheus asks some really important questions. Unfortunately, as I evaluate the movie, the film didn’t explore these themes sufficiently for my liking. The movie was good, but not great. As I see it, the best alien related film in recent years was undoubtedly District 9—perhaps the best alien movie of all time? With it’s social commentary on South African apartheid, District 9 was far more than a film about an otherworldly invasion with a fair share of alien guts. It dealt with a very serious issue in a profound and powerful way. For this reason it rightly deserved the Oscar nomination it received for Best Picture. However, Prometheus never transcends its genre: it’s an alien movie.
But let me get back to the questions. Prometheus asks the right questions. It doesn’t answer them and it doesn’t linger on them. In fact, one feels like they’re sprinkled in to give the film a sense of sophistication that isn’t truly present. However, this is why I have included “Summer Movie” in my subtitle. Don’t expect Oscar-worthy material. For what it is – an alien movie – it’s good, it’s fun, it’s thrilling, and it’s full of some very important questions.
The movie is primarily about the origin of life. Several important questions are raised in the process: Where did humanity come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? What is the relationship between science and faith? What does it mean to be a “creator”? All of these questions are significant. Essentially, the movie suggests that aliens are the initiators of life on Earth. It is interesting that even with this point, the main protagonist – who wears a cross around her neck – never falters on her faith. She realizes that the aliens must have had an origin as well: which seems to set up something like an Unmoved Mover or First Cause (an Ultimate being).
The reason I like the movie and wish to commend it is because I think this is the kind of movie that can get people talking. Perhaps Christians should use Prometheus as an opportunity to share their faith with their non-Christian friends. I’d recommend inviting friends to see the movie and then grab coffee afterwards. Prometheus raises the questions so it wouldn’t be awkward or random to talk about faith (for those who wish for such conversations not to feel “forced”).
As I evaluate Prometheus on the whole, I think about the trajectory that science is on. I’m not suggesting that Prometheus is a good indicator of the state of modern science. But it does reflect the current Zeitgeist. I think people are starting to realize that we didn’t get here by purely naturalistic processes. The explanation that aliens are the originators of life on Earth is rubbish, but it’s a wonderful open door. The Intelligent Design movement has been moving forward for a few years now trying to demonstrate that good science can be done while assuming that a Designer of some sort might be behind the cosmos. If we can add aliens to the mix of scientific explanations of life, why not God?