By: Myles Power Edited by: Hannah
In my opinion, Prometheus (Ridley Scott's highly anticipated prequel to Alien) was one of the most disappointing movies I have seen since the Phantom Menace. Now, I know what you are all thinking: “Myles, let's not say anything we can’t take back”, but it's true. Only once before have I had my hopes lifted so high, only to have them come crashing down at warp speed by a film that failed to deliver. Only once before have I ran into the cinema giggling like a school girl, only to come out hardened by yet another betrayal from Hollywood.
Before I get into why this film is so bad, I feel I have to talk about the positives. Visually, the film is stunning (unlike the badly ageing Phantom Menace), the cinematography is flawless, and the first 30 minutes were very immersive. Soon after however, the plot holes, lack of explanations and lapses in common sense and logic from the characters begin to compound on the movie and 45 minutes in, it was broken. I still have no clue why the android would poison the scientist! I still have no clue why face-melting acid turned the ginger into a monster! I don’t know why they did not cast a old man to play Peter Weyland and what his caricature hoped to achieve by meeting one of the aliens. As well as nothing making any sense, it was not scary in the slightest. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I found myself bursting with laughter at the death of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), which she could easily have prevented by walking two metres to her left.
Sat there in the cinema I could not believe I was bored watching a movie that I had been waiting for, for over four months. When I got home I wanted to vent my rage on the internet by writing a review, but I knew that every critic and reviewer around the world was foaming at the mouth with anger after watching this movie. So I thought I would do what I do best, and discuss some of the unforgivable scientific mistakes this movie made.
DNA does not look like that!
The first scene in the movie – a pale humanoid alien drinks a dark liquid in front of a spaceship taking off. His body then disintegrates, before falling into a waterfall, and you see what appears to be a short double stranded DNA duplex floating off.
Now, I work with DNA and if there is one thing that really winds me up, it’s when TV shows and movies show the cartoon version of DNA instead of the actual structure. Usually the camera will zoom in, showing everything else relatively accurately and then BANG! you have a stick and ball double helix. DNA consist of three components: a nitrogen heterocyclic base; a pentose sugar; and a phosphate residue. Not sticks and balls. This is the equivalent for me of watching a episode of House (who, in the past, have also shown the cartoon helix) in which they are performing open heart surgery on a patient, only instead of having a human heart, the patient has a cartoon love heart. I know some people reading will be saying to themselves, “It’s not human DNA, it’s a form of alien DNA” and you’d be wrong. The film clearly suggests that the pale aliens seeded human life on Earth and that they are a ‘DNA match’ to humans. This was clearly meant to be regular old deoxyribonucleic acid you are seeing here.
Whilst exploring the alien building, the crew see what I presume are holograms of the former alien crew. They see one of the aliens being decapitated as he is trying to run through a air lock. They then somehow open the airlock and find that unlike the rest of the body, the head has been well-preserved.
They decide to carbon date the head and discover that the alien had been dead for over 2000 years. Carbon dating is a radiometric dating method that can be used to estimate the age of organic remains. Scientists know that plants take up a small amount of the naturally occuring radioisotope carbon-14 from the Earth’s atmosphere, to synthesise organic compounds via photosynthesis. The quantity of carbon-14 in a plant roughly matches the levels of this isotope in the atmosphere. When the plant is eaten by other organisms, the carbon-14 is passed on and starts to decay at a fixed exponential rate. By knowing the rate of decay, and comparing the remaining carbon-14 in a organic sample to that expected from the atmosphere, scientists can estimate the age of the organic remains. If you don’t know the atmospheric levels of carbon-14 on the alien’s planet, then you can’t carbon date him. Heck, you don’t even know if they have plants on his world, or at this point in the movie if he even contains any carbon.
Creation Science and “DNA match”
Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) takes the decapitated alien’s head to Prometheus medical bay to run tests. She removes the alien’s helmet and reveals it as being from the same humanoid species that we saw seeding life on earth in the past. She then for some unknown reason makes the head explode and takes a DNA sample.
The computer tells Elizabeth that there is a ‘DNA match’ between the aliens and humans. It should be mentioned at this point that both archaeologists, Elizabeth and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) call the aliens “engineers”, as they believe that they engineered mankind. I know ‘DNA match’ is open to interpretation, but I think it’s obvious that the movie is now saying that these engineers created man in their image. And how does this movie try and explain away every piece of evidence for evolution?
Elizabeth Shaw: We call them engineers.
Fifield: Engineers? You mind telling us what they engineered?
Elizabeth Shaw: They engineered us.
Millburn: OK so do you have anything to back that up? I mean look, how do you discount three centuries of Darwinism? How do you know?
Elizabeth Shaw: I don’t but it’s what I choose to believe.
And that’s the last we hear about it. I find it hard to believe that on a ship full of scientists, medics and robots, no one had any follow-up questions or could see any problems with their theory. I am also curious to know exactly what is meant by “three centuries of Darwinism”. To my knowledge there is no such thing as Darwinism, just as there is no such thing as Einsteinism, Newtonism, Watson and Crick-ism, etc.
In closing, watching this movie was a waste of time and £10. The lack of cohesive storyline, combined with the lazy writing and a sprinkling of bacon bits of bad science on top, makes this almost unwatchable.