Psychology and Pseudo-Science in Ridley Scott's Prometheus

by Mladen

Can strong psychology be found behind the weak plot, full of unrealistic and hollow pseudo-science, in Ridley Scott's Prometheus?

This is a personal, deeper, insight into the most expected movies of the year 2012, written by a Wizzley author and huge fan of science fiction.
After reading all those reviews across the internet about Ridley Scott's Prometheus, I thought it can not be that bad as presented on major web sites. I am offering different insight on psychology and pseudo-science that can be found in this movie.

Psychology and Pseudo-science in Ridley Scott's Prometheus:
Psychology and Pseudo-science in Ridley Scott's Prometheus:

The image above shows the opening scene of Ridley Scott's Prometheus, where an alien, later called Engineer is doing some sort of sacrifice on the top of that mighty waterfall. What brought that Engineer there, we don't know. Why is he killing himself is one other mystery. 

Lets say those things won't remain the only mysteries in this the most expected movies of the year. Prometheus is filled with mysteries, and there are many ideas exchanged across the Internet among the science fiction fans. They can't even agree about which planet is this waterfall located on. Is it primordial Earth, or is it the destination crew of Prometheus is traveling to (habitable moon of the alien planet)?

Since there are dozens of articles about possible connection between Alien and Prometheus, it would be pointless to write about it. I will just try to state my side of the story, and I like to see things in light of psychology. Another subject to this article will be an insight about some technical solutions that have been used in this movie. Which things were pointless in my opinion, and which simply were funny, or even not  thought through enough

Spoiler Warning!

This article shares the information which can ruin the first watching experience. So, if you haven't watched it yet, try watching the movie first, and then come back to check this personal review about psychology and pseudo-science in Prometheus. 

Strong Psychology Behind Weak Plot of Ridley Scott's Prometheus

What does Father-Son relationship has to do with this movie?

The crew of the ship was sent to this distant moon by a head of the powerful corporation: Peter Weyland. Well, this is one of the absurd moments in the movie. it is obvious that they had to add a lot of mask to Guy Pearce's face in order to achieve the look of old Peter Weyland. Well, wouldn't be far more simple to just pick an older actor for this role? It is not the main role, so I don't see the point of choosing Guy Pearce for it. On the other hand, that mask was quite unrealistic. But let it put aside, since this is something not quite relevant for the movie itself.

The crew of Prometheus is on their task of searching for Engineers who are assumed to have created life on Earth. This is actually search for God, Creator, or Father. Call it the way you want. Parallel with this quest, there is an other story going on in the movie: complex relationship between Weyland, Miss Vickers (Charlize Theron) and android David (Michael Fassbender)

In this triangle we have Weyland, a supposed biological father to Miss Vickers, who considers David to be "the closest thing to the son he ever had", while rejecting any relation with Theron's character. We can see it as: he loves what he created with his own hands, modeling it to his ideal, but he rejects what is product of his DNA and has been developing in unpredictable way. Just from this fact some would assume that it is easy to create life, but not to control it. Humans do share DNA material with these Engineers, but maybe we are not what they wanted us to be. We are smaller than they are, less musculus, weaker and so vulnerable. Maybe the human race was represented by Miss Vickers in the movie. Weyland obviously wanted stable, strong son, even if that would have to be a robot. Instead nature gave him a daughter. No offense to female readers, it is just a way to look at this, not saying I approve this possible way of thinking Weyland could have. 

If you are interested in the role and position of female characters in Prometheus, I suggest reading an article written by excellent Wizzley author, Jo Harrington: Prometheus DOES Pass the Bechdel Test

Miss Vickers is everything but weak on outside. She knows what her father wants to see in her, and she is doing everything to glow in that light. At one point Captain of the ship asks: "Vickers, are you a robot too?" This made me think if she is actually just acting strong-like, but she is still weak inside.


So, what is it that Aliens want from us now? Why were they preparing to return to Earth only to destroy their creation? 

We know they breath the same air as we do. On the moon, crew has found no signs of working technology, lots of clouds and high levels of CO2. One structure was discovered, and within a labyrinth of long, endless tunnels. What is surprising is that the air in this structure is breathable, actually. What could this all mean? Maybe, they made our mistake... Emitting too much of CO2 to the atmosphere, creating greenhouse effect. This leads to heating of the atmosphere, evaporation of the water, and creation of dense clouds that could have been seen on that moon. Similar thing happened to Venus. 

So, I am guessing they are now finding the way to continue their race. They know one planet with water and trees and breathable atmosphere. They have visited it once to plant a life, to plant their own genetic material hoping the resulted life will be similar to them. What happened were humans, weak, small, emotional, self-destructible, hopelessly looking for their fathers. The Earth could have been the only way for Engineers to continue their existence. Weak offspring, has to be destroyed in order to preserve mighty race. 

Again, we are returning to the story of Weyland, Miss Vickers and David. Miss Vickers was weak offspring, and surely not something old man would want to continue his genetic line. So he created David. 

Psychology in Prometheus: Mysterious David the Android

David is way too mysterious character in this movie about search for origin. He knows who are his creators. Man made him on his own image. But just as Meredith Vickers did everything to prove her father she was worth enough for him to accept her for his daughter, David was doing the same thing. 

In one scene, when the crew were preparing for making their first step to the moon's surface, David, even he doesn't breath, went to put astronaut's suit on. In the moment when he was about to put helmet on, Holloway asked him what for, when the toxic air can't hurt him. David's answer was: " I was designed like this, because you people are more comfortable interacting with your own kind. If I weren't wear the suit, it would defeat the purpose". 

David obviously was feeling for acceptance. Is the word "feeling" appropriate when it is about android? Well, it is hard to tell. Even his "father" said David "doesn't have a soul", but in some reactions of his, he was giving away slight emotions. Something was bothering David, and he had a different plan for this voyage. 

One cannot really say what was David's plan, and why was he on the ship. What was he looking for? Doctors Holloway and Shaw were looking for equivalent to our God, Peter Weyland was looking for something that will give his youth back to him, Vickers was hoping nothing will be found there to see her father disappointed into something else, something that is not her. He would die soon, leaving all the money, empire and power to her. But what was David looking for? 

Could it be the opposite goal to his father's? Was he looking for death? Did he know, or assume what was waiting for them on that moon?.

At the beginning of the movie, Weyland's hologram was introducing the crew with their mission. This is what he said in that speech about David: "He is the closest thing to a son I ever had. Unfortunately he is not human. He will never grow old, he will never die. .... David will never have a soul!" After all he did to become one of them, humans, he was never accepted. He looks like humans, he can drink, eat, he can take precaution when exiting out of the ship to hostile moon's environment. What else is in his power to do to show his creators that he is worth of fully acceptance? He must die! 

In other dialogue which is lead between young Shaw and her father. She was dreaming it, and David was listening to her dreams. Her father was talking there about death. He said dead people are leaving Earth and going to Heaven, Paradise, or call it what ever you want. Shaw asked her father why does he think dead go to the beautiful place, if he is not even sure what that place is. his answer was: "because I choose to believe it". This quote is one of the important ones in the movie.

Did David CHOOSE to believe death on this planet will bring him both: acceptance from his creators and better place to exist in? 

Who knows. This is just a theory. Other fans have other theories. it is really possible to come up with lots of possible solutions filling up numberless gaps in Prometheus' plot. 

Check out the movie yourself on Amazon!

The most expected movie of 2012!
Prometheus (Blu-ray 3D/ Blu-ray/ DVD/ Digital Copy)

Legendary director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) returns to his sci-fi origins in this epic adventure bursting with spectacular action and mind-blowing visual effects. A te...

20th Century Fox  / $19.26  $18.85

View on Amazon

What About the Pseudo-Science in Ridley Scott's Prometheus?

Film is abundant in pointless scenes, illogical pseudo-science theories and sometimes even lack of technology which should be existing 100 years from now.

Movie starts with scene where musculus alien (later known as one of the Engineers), covered in robes sacrifices himself on the top of the mighty waterfall, by drinking some strange fluid. This fluid affects him on sub-cellular level, disintegrating every piece of life out of him, even his DNA. What happens then is that he falls in the water, and some of the DNA remains, providing the material for creation of life we know today. 

What was he sacrificing to, why or even where remains mystery. Lets say this happened on Earth, I believe it did, since it has shown the moment when first cells divided to create daughter cells, after he fell in the water. It is obvious he was the trigger for the creation of the life on Earth, according to  the movie. 

I am of strong belief it wasn't their intention to create human race, or any sort of the life on that primordial Earth. Why would he then have to kill himself, disintegrate himself for that cause? Wouldn't it be easier to drop a small amount of blood into that river?

But no, he was sent to drink some sort of fluid which should have demolished every single piece of genetic material inside him. We can't even guess the reasons for this act. I am just pretty sure, there is no logic in starting life somewhere in this way. 

 In the scenes when crew is checking underground tunnels on alien moon, we see them using red, flying globes for mapping the structure. They fly around, following tunnels, scanning them using red lasers... Later we see crew using simple flashlights to light the space in front of them. It is dark in those tunnels, and I assumed there could be better way to bring more light to the space, than using flashlights, we use in 2012, and that have been used for years behind us. I expected that they will have similar orbs to those scanning probes I have mentioned, just this time they would put more light into those tunnels, then does one simple, primitive flashlight.

In the other scene, two crew member meet alien creatures for the first time. The are snake-like, grey, wet, and they came out of black liquid, hissing at those crew members. These creatures are known to fan as "face-huggers". Well, what would you do in such situation? You encountered such "lovely" aliens, and what would you do?.I can tell you those crew members thought they are cute little alien babies. Hug was the option. Well, lets just say, they didn't live through to see the Engineers. This was one of those incredibly insane scenes in the movie.

While illogical, and scientificly wrong to me, this scene where Shaw orders machine to get this thing out of her, has some beauty. It is one strong surviving instinct, rarely seen in movies. You can read more about it from Jo Harrington: Elizabeth Shaw's Survival Instinct

 One scene bothered me the most. I am at my last year on the college, studying to become a doctor, and in one scene Dr Shaw is using automated bypass for surgeon to get an alien form out of her uterus. After this unbelievable procedure, machine does clamming of the incision  instead of using some kind of regeneration technology that should be at service 100 years from now. The machine was trying to do the famous abdominal incision: Pfannenstiel, or bikini line incision. Well, it was done too high to be called bikini line incision, and itself it was useless  for the operation she has chosen at the beginning of the operation. Not to go too far with this, I will conclude with one word: illogical.. 

Final Word on Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

After reviewing the possible psychology moments hiding behind weak plot of this science fiction movie, and pseudo-scientific solutions chosen to be shown in it, what is the conclusion?

Reading all those reviews on the Internet before actually watching the movies, I expected to see far worse things in it. But at the end I was surprised in a positive way. 

Aside from those flaws stated above, I enjoyed those father-son moments in this Ridley Scott's work. It intrigued me in the way only a good mystery book could. I don't like when all is set in front of me. I don't like watching the movies without having to think about it. After all, this is what makes us intelligent: ability to think about possible ways to solve mysteries and find ways to explain everything we experience. 

Prometheus offers a lot of material to think about. One thing everyone agrees about is that it gives little to no answers. Is it prequel to Alien, or is it set for some other sequel we could see in the future? Maybe next year already, i will be revising my own article saying I was so wrong. :)

Until then, you can share your own opinion in the comment section at the bottom of the article. I am open to any suggestion. 

Many sites are giving it 6 or 7 out of possible 10 points. I would go with 7,5, maybe. Special effects were stunning, acting was solid to great, characters had some background, conversation wasn't pointless, and some holes in the story shouldn't bother much the fans of science fiction. 

Where do you stand with this movie?

Do you think it is complete disappointment, or there is actually some logic and point in it?
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I think it is worth of viewing. All those questions were there for the reason, and answers could be found in sequel.
JoHarrington on 10/04/2012

I'm straddling these two possible answers. On the one hand, it's not the best movie known to humanity; and it has a lot to disappoint. But I'm tempted to go back for a second viewing now, to check out the nuances that you mentioned here. If I'm in for a second time, then it has to have something to recommend it.

Are you fan of Ridley Scott's work?

Updated: 10/08/2012, Mladen
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cmoneyspinner on 12/23/2013

Uuuhhh ... OK. You're right. This is a different kind of review. So maybe Mr. Scott didn't bring his A-game to the table with this particular movie. We all have our down days. But hey! Blade Runner, American Gangster, Gladiator? Come on! The guy is good at what he does!

I like the review. I will be sharing this link. :)

Mladen on 10/04/2012

Same works for you. I would love to read your side of the story after you watch the movie, and read the article. :)

Sheri_Oz on 10/04/2012

I also read just to your spoiler alert and I'll have to watch the movie first and then came back here.

Mladen on 10/04/2012

I think this is more like sci-fi movies, hardly having anything that could place it among psychological thrillers. But you can try and find that something. With that kind of plot, I think one can actually see in it whatever he/she wants.
Let me know your reaction to it, once you watch it.

katiem2 on 10/04/2012

I meant psychological thrillers. I really love a good mind boggling deep thinking movie.

Mladen on 10/04/2012

Looking forward to read your comment AFTER watching the movie, K.
I hope you will find this article interesting next time you come to read it. Great to hear from you!.

katiem2 on 10/04/2012

I read only to the spoiler alert. I've not seen the movie and yet I'm a huge sci-fi fan. I'll be back once I watch the film. Thanks for the great review. Gotta share this very detailed review. Can't wait to read it. It looked great as I glanced down the page to get here. Eyes closed now... :)K

Mladen on 10/04/2012

There is a lot more to be said about this movie. As you stated, it is not the best movie known to humanity, but it has some quality, and I saw something from psychology, which is my field of interest.
I think there is no movie where you can say everything is logical. They just cannot cover all the scientific elements and yet have interesting movie. They make movies for everyday people, not for scientists and philosophers, I guess. That is why I didn't take it in consideration when I was thinking about the possible number of points to give.
I would only say that that scene with an alien hissing at scientists who look so "high" is complete miss. No one would want to shake, or hug something that came out of black liquid on the alien moon.
Other things, even that operation performed on Dr Shaw, well I can just close my eyes on that, and not take it personal. :)

I am glad you have found something interesting in this article, and just like you, I am thinking of re-re-watching it. :)

JoHarrington on 10/04/2012

Great thoughts on this! And thank you for the links to my review too.

I can answer the Guy Pearce one. Originally there were going to be scenes with him as a younger man. They all ended up on the cutting room floor, leaving only the ones where he was older.

I missed so many nuances of this movie. You've really got me thinking about the Vickers role especially. I should have caught that if nothing else.

Until I read this, I didn't think anything would induce me to watch the movie again. Now I want to, so that I can follow your psychological pointers to their conclusion. There's a depth here that I missed in disappointment the first time around.

LOL! I have a Physicist friend who was ranting about the 'science' in this movie. He was pointing out how illogical it is. Now I have your medical knowledge doing the same. It's hilarious. I'm just glad that it didn't have a real world history element, else I'd probably be joining you both in the academic rolling of eyes.

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