David and I talk about the new Star Trek movie, and the comics we’re reading and David forwards the very interesting idea of applying video game price points, including Free to Play, to movies.
The Oblivion Podcast. Surprisingly thoughtful, watchable, interesting plot/premise. Lacks an emotional core.
David and I both saw the new 4K version of Lawrence of Arabia recently.
Putting the podcast on Soundcloud on purpose so you can comment, live, as you listen, and other people can then see your comments and continue the discussion!
Up next, Oblivion!
This may seem like an unusually personal post for me, but like everything I post here the process of writing about a subject is, for me, the process of thinking about it. Understanding it. And understanding the limits of understanding. That’s why I blog, because it helps me think. The thinking is the goal; the blog is merely the process.
I do not remember the morning or afternoon of Sunday, July 9th, 2012.
The gap in my memory begins around 9pm Saturday night and extends to around 3pm Sunday afternoon. Eventually, afraid about how disoriented I was and feeling like I should tell someone about it, I posted the following on Facebook. (link to the whole comment thread, where you can see what was happening in realtime).
“I am incredibly disoriented for some reason, like I’ve had a stroke or something. I think I am having problems forming short term memories. If I’m not having a stroke, I am going to feel incredibly stupid having posted this to Facebook. ”
At that point, the process of recovery began. I have since been able to reconstruct what happened Saturday night and Sunday morning, but I do not actually remember them.
At some point Sunday morning, I created a new Word doc in which I wrote about what was happening to me. I was literally trying to write myself out of this problem. I will post links to those docs later.
After posting to FB, I texted some friends. I was repeating the same questions over and over. “Do I seem normal to you?” I was hyper-focusing on the difference between how weird I felt, and how weird I might appear to other people.
“Is this,” I was asking, “all happening in my head? Can people tell there’s something wrong?” The corollary to this was “And is there any difference between this happening only in my head, and this being real?” In other words, I was entertaining the notion that perhaps I was fine. Perhaps I was merely perceiving a failure of identity and memory where there was none.
But in fact, I don’t think it’s possible for there to be a difference between those two things.
Eventually my friend David, he of the Prometheus Podcast, called me on Skype and said “Are you ok bud?” It was a rhetorical question, he knew I was not ok. He recommended I go to a hospital. I know all this because I have software that automatically records every Skype call, since I never know which call is going to turn into the next PodCast. I have a recording of this call. I listened to it once, and deleted it. I regret that now, as I would like to share it, but it was too creepy hearing me saying things I don’t remember, struggling with the Now.
On Skype, my friends advised I write myself messages in marker on my own skin. When I laughed at the Mememnto reference, they felt like whatever else was wrong, it couldn’t be that bad. I was already talking about how gimmicky I thought Mememnto was!
About 45 minutes later, I was on my way to the nursing facility my elderly mother was at. I know this because I said so on Facebook by way of reassuring everyone.
I was heading to the nursing home mostly because that was part of my routine on Sundays. In other words, I was going back to normal. I was going about my daily routine. In fact this whole thing began when I found myself dressed and ready to leave, with no memory of getting dressed. I just…appeared sui generis in my office. Like I teleported there from some other story.
But also, I’m pretty sure part of me was thinking “You need your mum.” She would make things better. Also, I know I was thinking: the nursing home is a safe place, my mom is there, they have nurses there, and it is literally across the street from a great hospital.
I got in the car, and started driving, as though this was a perfectly safe thing to do when you literally cannot remember anything more recent that about 30 seconds ago. At this point, if I asked you a question, and you answered it, I would have no memory of the asking or the answering 30 seconds later.
I arrived at my mom’s place. It wasn’t immediately obvious to her something was wrong. I was able to talk, carry on a conversation as normal, but I was aware there was a problem and I talked to her about it. She didn’t freak out, she was in Mom Mode. She told the nurses I was having a problem, they took my blood pressure, it was normal.
Then my friends Craig and Holly appeared up at the facility. Why were they here? This was like a dream, with random people I knew showing up in places they didn’t belong.
Well, in point of fact, Craig and Holly were there because they had called me on the way to the nursing facility and I had talked to them. I don’t know what I said, but it was clear to Craig I needed help. So he figured out where I was going, and came and got me with the intent to get me to a hospital. They took me to the ER which was literally right across the street.
I have no memory of the ER. At some point my friend Mark showed up. Yay for friends!
In the ER preliminary diagnosis was a “mini stroke.” I have a vague memory that the dude in the bed next to mine was suffering from a gunshot wound. They gave me a CAT scan in the ER, but no results yet.
Around 6 or 7pm, I think, I was admitted to the hospital and given a room. To confuse matters, I was in room 257, but they wrote 258 on the whiteboard in my room. So I often heard two different numbers for the same room. Not good when you’re dealing with an amnesia patient! Which room was I in!? I was in quantum superposition!
During all this, I was perfectly coherent, my personality and identity and ability to reason were all fine. This, maybe, is why no one was freaking out. I could walk and talk and all that, I seemed like me and I wasn’t in any pain, I just couldn’t remember anything for more than a few minutes.
Where Time Becomes A Loop
I was stuck in a loop. I would start by stating my name, my birthdate, my address, and then my profession. It’s genuinely alarming to me, how much of my identity is wrapped up in my profession. This may be related to being a single guy without a family. This incident threw that fact of my life into sharp relief, let me tell you.
In the loop, I would ask the same questions, literally the same questions, word for word, over and over, no memory of having asked them. When given answers, I would react the same way, over and over. A finite state machine resetting every five minutes.
Eventually I could tell what was happening, not because I remembered it, but because I could read my friends’ reactions. “I’ve already asked this, haven’t I?” got fed into the loop. The loop was about 5 minutes long when my friends arrived. It had been much shorter. About 5 seconds when I talked to David on Skype. But it grew with every iteration. Mark, a science teacher, said “This is a good sign.”
At 10pm, visiting hours were over and they kicked my friends out. Mark said “sleep is where your brain will heal” and I knew he was right. Also, I was really tired.
I slept for only a couple of hours. Woke up feeling better already. I knew, I could tell, I was recovering. For hours before this, I didn’t want to look at my phone, because there’d be all these messages and I just couldn’t deal with them. I needed to worry about me. But waking up around midnight, feeling better, I posted on FB to let everyone know I was ok. For a given value of ‘ok.’
Went back to bed, slept all night.
Monday morning, I woke thinking “I’m not late to work until 11am, I still have time….” Again, all through this, I knew what my routine was. I knew it was Sunday on Sunday, and I knew I had to go see my mom. I knew it was Monday on Monday and I had to go to work. Part of me thought, if I could go to work, I would be merging with reality. I would be back in the normal world where I remembered things. I would have escaped the permanent Now and be living in a temporal world where there was past and future.
In fact, I wouldn’t escape the Permanent Now for weeks. In the meantime, I had lots of tests!
Weeks later, my doctor told me: You’ll probably never know what caused it. But there was a brief period where everyone assumed it was a stroke and I might need actual brain surgery. That was…alarming, but in a distant away. As if I was being told about someone else.
Had an EKG, an MRI, a carotid ultrasound, and an EEG. The carotid ultrasound was cool because they basically look at your carotid artery and check for plaque buildup. The kind of stuff that clogs your veins and gives you a heart attack. The concern was that a piece of plaque might have flaked off and traveled up into my brain, causing a stroke.
Happily, my arteries were pronounced clear which makes me happy. I do not have plaque building up in my veins! Yay for genetically miraculous low-cholesterol!
The MRI was tough because they stick your head inside a tube that’s almost exactly One Head wide. So I open my eyes and I’m looking at the inside of the MRI machine about a quarter of an inch from my face. That freaked me out a little, but some headphones a classic rock later and I was asleep and when I woke, the MRI was done!
Back to my hospital room for a meeting with a neurologist. That was a very strange experience because the neurologist asked me very simple questions, and I imagined he was peering at me as he asked them, waiting to see if my answers made sense. Which made me incredibly self-conscious about my answers.
“What day is it?”
“Ah…ah…I think it’s Monday.”
“Well…I could be a butterfly, dreaming I’m a man.” This answer was perhaps not taken in the spirit it was meant.
The neurologist says “We’re calling this Transient Global Amnesia. All the tests came back clear. If it was a stroke, it was very deep in the brain. No one knows what causes TGA, I see a few dozen patients a week, and I see maybe one TGA patient a year. The good news is, it never seems to happen to the same person twice.”
This is remarkable, I mean even typing it here I’m amazed. Considering how weird, how disorienting my episode was, this was the best possible diagnosis. I felt like I was in a dream, and this was like someone coming up to me with a magic wand, tapping me on the forehead saying “It IS a dream! You’ll wake up and be fine!”
I was discharged that night, my friends were nice enough to drive me home. The next day, I went to work like a normal person. It still seems very weird to me that I was allowed to drive the next day but even during this episode, I was able to get up and walk around, no problem.
Escaping the Permanent Now
Even though I’d been discharged, even though I was now going to work every day like a normal person, I had not yet escaped the Permanent Now. Strange things kept happening.
If I was listening to a song, I had the incredibly convincing sensation that if I couldn’t remember how that song ended…it would never end. If I couldn’t remember my exit on the freeway it wouldn’t be there.
If I put my phone down and turned away, I felt like I literally had to will my phone into existence. Like the ending of the song. If I couldn’t make it happen with my mind, it wouldn’t happen.
This persisted for days and it often freaked me out quite a bit. If someone said something in passing that was meant as a non-sequitur, I couldn’t detect it. I thought they were referencing something I was supposed to know! Something I had forgotten.
I saw my doctor the next week and explained this to him and he said something remarkable to me.
“That’s OCD,” he said. It was like being hit with a bolt of lightning. “One of the reasons patients with OCD need everything to be in exactly the right place is because of the feeling that otherwise the thing, like your phone, won’t be there. This should go away. It’s a side effect of the amnesia.”
The Persistence of Memory.
It did go away, thankfully. Throughout this entire process, posting on Facebook, talking on Skype, talking with my friends in the hospital, all of them made the same remark. “You seem like you.”
My personality, in other words, was independent of my memories. There was a Me Doing The Thinking that was different than the Me Remembering.
But there was another component. Apart from the Rememberer, and the Thinker, there was the one Being, and that one was, temporarily, missing.
I came home from the hospital to find a package had arrived. It was one I’d been eagerly awaiting for a while, a painted Warmachine army. When I saw it had arrived, I was indifferent. I opened it up, saw some painted figs, and thought “Huh. I guess this was important to me for some reason.”
Literally half an hour later, I saw them again as if for the first time and thought “Yay! My Trollbloods arrived!”
So there was this process where there was no motivation, no desire, no regret. No identity. But that part was slowing coming back.
It was as if my Me-ness was dived into three sections.
The Me Doing The Remembering: this had been annihilated and while I would soon be able to form memories again, some were permanently lost.
The Me Behaving: my personality. My attitude and sense of humor. This was preserved throughout. People who didn’t know any better thought I was fine. Maybe a little hung over.
Me. My identity. My wants and desires. These had collapsed for a while, but slowly came back.
Most fascinating to me was how much of what seemed to everyone to be Matthew was inact. The Me Behaving was fine.
But internally, the Me was gone. And the most astonishing thing about that was…it didn’t bother me. I thought, at one point in the hospital: “If this is how I go, this isn’t bad.” I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t freaking out…because there was no I to do the freaking out.
Afterwards I reflected on this experience. It is, I believe, what Karen Armstrong is talking about in The Case for God. The reason humans developed the religious experience. The reason our ancestors drew pictures deep in caves, almost inaccessible from the surface, and then created this rite of adulthood when young men would have to crawl through the darkness to emerge in the Underworld. Not symbolic for them, real. Under the earth, with wild beasts, the beasts of the hunt, painted on the walls, appearing to move, to leap, to fight in the flickering torchlight. The adults of the tribe in masks.symbolizing dead spirit ancestors.
These rituals were designed to disorient, were designed to destroy the Ego, the Me, and give the young man some experience of what it was like to have your ego dissolve. Because that is what we fear, when we fear death. Non-being. So we created these experiences to give ourselves a little taste of it, so the young men wouldn’t be afraid of death. Would be able to do the incredibly dangerous things survival required without fear.
I had an experience like this in college, performing Handel’s Messiah. I had the experience of my sense of self, my identity, dissolving, of becoming part of some greater thing. It’s not frightening, it’s the opposite. It’s the death of fear.
I quite recommend it. Medieval monks achieved the same thing by studying the Bible over and over until the Me Doing The Studying dissolved. Socrates’ friends, and it only worked with his close friends, achieved the same experience just by having Socrates ask them questions until they no longer knew who they were. It only worked, one of them said, because of the connection of trust between friends.
It cannot be talked about. It seems like I’m talking about it here, I’m not, I’m talking around it. I can describe everything except how it feels. It cannot be understood. It can only be experienced. I quite recommend it.
Though perhaps not as a result of Transient Global Amnesia.
Post Script: The House Carpenter
There are weird remnants of the amnesia episode. Somewhere in the days leading up to the event, I was exposed to a Bob Dylan cover of the traditional song, The House Carpenter.
I was singing this song while I had amnesia. While I was in the hospital. I have no idea where it came from, how I was exposed to it. Strangely, the version in my head has the following lyric;
I could have married the king’s daughter dear And she would have married me But I have forsaken her crown of gold And it’s all for the love of thee.
But these are not the lyrics to the Dylan version! The Dylan version plays thuslywise:
I could have married a King’s daughter there
She would have married me
But I have forsaken my King’s daughter there
It’s all for the love of thee
Ok, so I misheard or made up some lyrics that were better than the Dylan version. Not the first time that’s happened. But wait! As it turns out, the lyrics I remember are the traditional lyrics! The Dylan version is unique to him!
So what the hell song am I remembering?
If you love movies, and you love writing, eventually you start writing about movies and if you get paid to do it, they call you a critic. But really all you are is someone who loves movies, and loves writing.
If they publish your reviews in the paper, people who don’t love movies start to read them and they get a weird, twisted sense of what you’re trying to do. They’re not writers, they’re not crazy in love with film. They’re just looking for a way to spend a pleasant afternoon So they think, when they read your stuff, that you are telling them what to think. That you think your opinion and experience is objective truth, which is ridiculous.
But you probably don’t give a shit what they think. You audience is other movie nuts like you. Your writing is part of a dialog all those people are having with each other all the time. You don’t care if those people agree with you, you’re interested in the back-and-forth, you love reading new perspectives on films you love. You love going back to movies you overlooked and seeing them from a new point of view.
You and the other people in this conversation develop a common language and eventually this is called the language of film criticism, and because you’re a community you also develop consensus.
You don’t really care about what’s popular because there’s already a whole industry built around what’s popular. Popular movies don’t need awards, they already won the only award that’s important to them; money. You don’t need to convince people to go see popular movies.
So you get a reputation for being a snob, but again, this is from people who aren’t really your audience. The people who just want the choice of which movie in the 18-theater megaplex to see. They’re looking to minimize risk.
You just love writing about movies.
Roger Ebert died this week. He was one of my favorite writers and I always got a little frustrated with people who would act out when his name came up because they didn’t like…it doesn’t matter why. They didn’t like a review, or the idea that he did reviews, or whatever.
I wanted to grab these people and say “Jesus who gives a shit whether he liked the movie, look at the writing!” He was a great writer and a good journalist and he brought a journalist’s discipline to everything he wrote. He knew he could be funny, he knew he could be poetic, and he knew that both of these had to be used with taste. Meaning, only when appropriate.
I’ve written a lot of movie reviews and I always thought Ebert would like them. Some of them. But as he got older, and the movie culture in America continued to atrophy, Ebert became fascinated with what people from other cultures thought about movies. There was no shortage of middle-class white guys writing about movies, but he promoted film reviews from people in Egypt, Argentina, Spain, Chile. All over the world.
His Far-flung Correspondents, the perspective of people from wildly different cultures than his, was his last gift to us. I enjoyed reading reviews of new movies, foreign movies, and classics, from young people in distant lands discovering the rich culture of film for the first time.
I’m sad Roger is gone. I grew up with him and Gene and their wit and passion for film. They taught me a lot. I know a lot of people who say “We didn’t always agree…,” as though that means anything. As though the point is whether you agreed. The point is that you thought something, maybe something no one else thought, and maybe someone else thought something you didn’t.
Talking about agreeing or not agreeing imagines there’s a right answer. There is not. The journey is the destination.
David Padron and I, maybe by the next ‘cast, will work out the audio so he doesn’t sound like he’s inside a shipping container.
Until then, this. HUGE SPOILERS FOR LOOPER! HUGE!
David and I started our typical, Pre-League of Legends discussion thinking we were going to talk about Looper. And we did! Eventually.
Before that, though, about 20 minutes of us talking about film culture in America and what moviegoing and entertainment mean today.
Why would a team of hand-picked scientists act so wrecklessly? They don’t even really act like a team. Why rush in headlong into a certainly unknown, possibly dangerous, alien planet? Why open everything, touch everything? Why does your robot refuse to listen when you tell him to stop, don’t touch?
This is not a movie about a plucky young scientist and her husband going off on a great adventure. The plucky young scientist thinks that’s what the movie is about, and says so. She explicitly tells the security team that this is a scientific mission and weapons are not needed.
Astonishingly, the audience appears to believe her.
But the mission belongs to Peter Weyland. Funded by his money and fueled by his ego. He has days, hours, to live. He has to stay in suspended animation just to slow the clock down enough to give him a chance.
If he hired the team the audience expected him to hire, they would arrive and spend months, years, scanning, probing, analyzing. That’s no good. That means Peter Wayland dies.
No, he needs passionate, wreckless, believers. He needs people like Shaw and Halloway. People so consumed by curiosity, they will open the doors, take off their helmets, touch, sample everything.
Because that’s the only chance Peter Weyland has. That’s why his Robot presses every button, opens every door. When they find the Prometheans are, apparently, all dead, his master Peter Weyland says Try Harder. He’s saying “I’m dying, goddamnit. I’m dying! Me! That’s unacceptable. Do whatever it takes to find the solution!”
There’s no question that Shaw and Halloway are competant. They’re supremely competant. They’ll go down in history books for making two history-changing discoveries. Shaw discovers the cave paintings of the Prometheans, hypothesizes that they created us, and is proved right.
Halloway hypothesizes that there is a Promethean Language, and that all human languages descended from it. That it can be reconstructed by digging deep into ancient human languages, and is proved right.
These two discoveries, proven true, mean Shaw and Halloway will be remembered as long as history is written. They’re good scientists. But they are not conservative scientists. They are, as Vickers describes them “zealots.” Though zealots in different ways.
Why does the audience believe Shaw when she says “This is a scientific expedition?” It’s clear it’s not. There’s no NASA or CERN or SETI logo on the ship. Merideth Vickers puts them straight. Weyland is in charge. Weyland paid for everything. If they’d gotten the funding, then they would be in charge, then it would be a scientific mission, but they didn’t.
There’s a scene that sets all this up. Vickers introduces herself. Says “I’m in charge.” Then introduces her dead father, who says he’s in charge. Then he introduces the two scientists and says they’re in charge. Oh, also the ship has a Captain, independant of this entire hierarchy. No, he’s not in charge either.
No one’s in charge. That’s the whole point. No one is in charge. It’s a collection of disparate people, motivations, all jockeying for position and the only constant is Peter Weyland, frozen in cryosleep, prodding them all to be as wreckless as it takes to find the secret or immortality.
I don’t think Weyland is a bad guy. Look at it from his point of view. It might have worked. It might have worked. Up until the very end, it did work. He found the star map, he built the ship, he hired the crew, he found the alien planet, they found a living Promethean. Everything that could go right, up until that point, had gone right. And the Prometheans might have been able to cure his old age, prolong life, who knows?
The audience leaves, many dissatisfied, but it seems to me that’s because they have a basic expectation that when someone in the movie says something, it’s true. Why?
Commodity vs Art
In this day and age, a hugely popular movie like this will be instinctively judged by its audience against other populist fare like Avengers. But movies like Avengers are intended to be consumed. They are a consumer product. A commodity. The audience is expected to pay their money, eat the movie, and leave the theater satisfied. In The Avengers if someone says something, it’s true.
There’s nothing wrong with that. I loved Avengers and was sad I only got to see it once in the theaters. I wanted to see it again.
But not all movies are like that, not all movies are intended to be like that and I feel we as an audience should be able to recognize when a movie is set up to challenge us, make us think.
A friend of mine came up to me after listening to the Podcast and say “Thanks for that. My wife and I saw the movie together and we didn’t know what to make of it. I listen to you and your friend talking about it and I realized that was ok. It was ok not to know what to make of it.” It’s not a perfect movie. You don’t have to uncritically love it, or write it off entirely as crap. It’s ok to think about it, hold it in your mind, come back to it. Talk to people about it.
Roger Ebert talks about leaving the theater after 2001 in 1968 not knowing what he had just seen. It felt, to him, like Kubrick had disappeared up his own ass. That he’d made this towering monument to his own ego, heedless of the demands of good storytelling.
But, Ebert says, Kubrick deserved the benefit of the doubt. So he decided to reserve judgement. Think about it for a week, go see it again. If he was right, the movie would still be crap a week later.
In that week, he watched as most of his colleagues slagged the movie off in the papers but, he noticed, young people, college kids, loved the movie, saw it over and over, came out afterwards talking about it. And Ebert realized that a large part of the appeal of the film was the experience. Not the plot, or the characters, or the dialog, but the experience of sitting in the theater and being transported to another world, a fully realized future unlike anything anyone had seen in film before, and then transported to another world after that one. A whole different set of dimensions.
Armed with this knowledge, he saw the movie again and started noticing the things he missed the first time. That was the point. The point was to watch it again, notice things, think about it. Build a picture of what was going on in the film. Ultimately, Ebert gave the film glowing praise.
Quentin Tarantino is another one. This is a guy who makes incredibly personal, quirky, art-house movies each of which is like a post-grad lesson in the history of film, and because of the Weinstein Company, he makes these tiny movies with big budgets, great casts, and the marketing tricks millions of people into thinking they’re mass-market popcorn fare.
Then they complain about how weird the movie was and how it didn’t make any sense. Same thing happening here. Same marketing trickery.
You read Todd Alcott’s stuff on Inglorious Basterds and you see what I mean. This is not a commercial product. It’s for an audience that wants to think about a movie after they’ve seen it. Talk to other people about it. Then go see it again, talk about it more.
We’re not talking about two different audiences here. We’re all seeing the same movies, let’s agree that we can see Avengers and walk out smiling and happy, because it was meant to be consumed and we consumed it, and walk out of Prometheus in wonder and confusion. Talk about it, let it percolate in our headmeats, see it again. Love some parts, feel let down by others.
The problem is not “you went in expecting Alien and got….” The problem is, they sold you a commercial product. And that’s how you judged it. You didn’t realize the marketing tricked you. You didn’t realize you were in for a cerebral Sci-fi, Horror, Action mashup.
It’s not a perfect movie. There are lots of problems. But my God the ambition. So much is happening inside that movie. It’s ok to think “Hey that’s bullshit, you can’t just drop ‘I can’t have children’ on us like that!” Totally fair. Yes, the fight scene at the end has obviously been chopped to hell. But even that, there was a reason for. No, you’re not going to get a Director’s Cut. This is it. This is Scott’s cut. He’s said so. The stuff that was cut, he cut. For a reason.
Watch the movie again. Notice the reaction shots. When someone says something, and the camera cuts to a reaction, watch the reaction. You’ve already seen the movie once, you know what Weyland says. Watch David’s reaction. Think about what he’s thinking about. You’re only going to be there in the theater for two hours, that reaction is three seconds, but the actor the writer and the crew spent hours on that one shot. Michael Fassbender had something in mind. Ridley Scott had something in mind. It’s up to us to try and figure out what.
There’s a phrase used in film criticism. Mise-en-scène. It means “What did the director choose to put in the shot?” And, by association, what did he leave out?
Because while the entire point of the magic trick is to convince us what we’re seeing is real, it’s not. It’s all artifice and Ridley Scott is the KING of mise-en-scène. He’s a master of framing a shot, populating a set, the art direction, he does it all. He’s not a normal director. He’s Ridley Scott. Everything is carefully placed, and for a reason. This isn’t a secret, go watch the making of Blade Runner or Alien.
If you walked out of Avengers frustrated and confused at how stupid everything seemed, that would be bad. That’s not why Marvel hired Joss Whedon. But Prometheus is Scott tackling a big SF movie, and big SF questions and themes. It’s meant to be thought about afterwards. It’s ok to be confused and angry at some bits.
But don’t expect the movie to hand you everything first time. You got plenty other movies for that. Plenty other movies coming out this year that will satisfy that itch.
Let yourself be confused. It’s ok to get angry. But give Ridley Scott the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s a reason behind some of this.
Maybe not! But we have to be open to the possibility that it is, before we can decide it’s not.
The first Promethean we see in the film looks like this.
He’s naked, healthy, exposed skin everywhere. Tall, pale.
What does he do? He sacrifices himself to create life.
The Promethean we see on the alien ship look like this.
Take a good look. That’s not a suit that dude put on. That Gigergoop is part of his body.
Furthermore, this is the only Promethean we see like this. All the other Prometheans we see on the ship are in exosuits. This is also the only one who survived. He’s the only one in cryosleep.
Is this Promethean/Giger Hybrid the only one of his kind? Is he the emergency that happened 2,000 years ago? This seems both plausible and likely to me.
In other words, if Peter Weyland had met a true Promethean, the guys from the beginning of the movie, maybe he would have been cured of old age. Under this theory, Shaw was right. The Prometheans from the beginning of the movie did invite us to come see them.
But they all died. When Shaw demands to know “what did we do wrong?” She’s asking the wrong creature. She’s asking the Hybrid. All the Prometheans are dead.
Even the ship is different. Look at the Hybrid ship;
It looks like it was extruded from something. It’s organic. Not just organic, it’s Giger’s Biomechanic.
Now look at the ship in the opening;
That’s a flying saucer. That’s a metal ship. That’s not biomechanical.
The Prometheans who made the Gigership are some kind of Death Cult. They worship the Alien Queen…
They are experimenting on themselves to produce a better Promethean. Some kind of ultimate life form. I feel safe in saying that the emergency we see happening via hologram on the Death Cult ship. Their experiment has gone horribly wrong.
The result of that experiment, I suspect, is the Hybrid.
Let us consider for a minute, that “Prometheus” in our culture has two meanings. The first, the one referenced by Peter Weyland, is the Titan who stole fire from blah blah blah. We know that one.
That’s cheating a little. When Mary Shelly subtitled her horror novel “The Modern Prometheus,” she was talking about Frankenstein, the mad doctor, not the monster.
I wonder if that’s the point of the hybrid we see at the end. He’s Frankenstein’s monster. He’s the product of the Death Cult’s experiments, gone horribly wrong. Were the Prometheans trying to do the same thing Dr. Frankenstein was? The same thing Peter Weyland was? Trying to defy death? Is that the point of the Hybrid?
There’s no way to know, but there’s a certain resonance there that seems very suspicious to me. More reasons to hope for a sequel!
“The king has a reign, and then he dies.”
At the beginning of Prometheus, we see an important image. A Promethean, killing himself to create life.
All the Prometheans we see are male. Or masculine. We see two of them in the flesh, and dozens off them via holographic CCTV, we see a Giant Head and a decapitated head, all appear male.
The Prometheans don’t appear sexless, or androgynous, they appear male. Their species is male. Creating life is something they can only do through sacrifice. It’s an act of will, of volition, and in the process, they die. For them, creating life requires death.
Furthermore, they need the Black Goop to do it. A Promethean drinks the black goop, dies, but seeds a new world with life. We don’t know where the Prometheans come from, we don’t know if they’re natural. Maybe someone else created them. Maybe they’ve evolved beyond sexes and mating. But they do not appear able to reproduce on their own. Maybe they can’t reproduce at all. Maybe each Promethean is the seed of life for an entire world. Maybe that’s their purpose.
Humans, on the other hand, can create life at will. Without dying in the process. How would the Prometheans view this? Would they think it natural, or dangerous? (more…)
David Padron is a cinematics producer, I am a writer/designer, both of us in video games. We talk a lot about movies and culture and games before jumping into a game of League of Legends or Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3 or whatever.
This week, we talk a lot about Ridley Scott’s most science-fictional movie, Prometheus. Come by Facebook, let us know what you think.
This post is part of a series. For which also see:
- Prometheus. A review.
- Prometheus Explained. In which I take a stab at interpreting the themes evident in the film.
- Two Kinds of Prometheans. Is the last Promethean we see a unique Hybrid between organic and biomechanical organism?
- Peter Weyland, and Film as a Consumer Product. We know it’s Peter Weyland’s mission. Why do we believe Shaw when she says otherwise?
- The 2001 Podcast, spiritually related to this movie and these posts.