By: Joel Mangin
The deep questions that Prometheus tried to address regarding humanity, its origins, and the purpose of man were undercut by the irrational behavior of a supposedly scientific team. Prometheus felt hollow in part because the scientists never actually used the scientific method.
Allow me to explain.
We’ve got our test group, the intrepid band of explorers made up of geologists, archaeologists, and possibly a biologist. But we need a control group, something to compare against as we evaluate our theory. Wikipedia says a scientist
in a broad sense, is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge.
Who does that remind you of? Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, that’s who. So let’s look at a few spoilers–erm…plot points– and rate them on a scale from 1-10. We’ll see how the Prometheus Explorers handled things before re-imagining the movie with Einstein and Hawking in those roles.
- Prometheus Team: The Prometheus explorers get so excited, they just can’t hide it. Dr. Holloway, who just happens to be an archaeologist, directs the captain to land right in front of the ancient alien artifact. Last time I checked, archaeologists dug using toothbrushes as brooms. Apparently in 2093 that’s no longer necessary. We’re just going to land the spaceship on it.
Science Score: 4/10. They were super-excited. I get that. Otherwise the score would’ve been even lower.
- Hawking & Einstein: I’m pretty sure they would decide to fly over and collect data. They’d search for a nearby place to land while they analyzed their findings. Those findings would lead them to a plan of action. Like sending a remote probe to map all the tombs.
Science Score: 8/10. Only reason they didn’t score higher was they got into an argument about supermassive black holes. Or something.
Should we stomp all over the place and ignore potential evidence in our quest to move the plot forward?
- Prometheus Team: With only hours of daylight remaining, the rational and clear-thinking explorers decide to suit up and see what’s in the massive creepy tomb mound. Is it natural or manmade? Who cares! They just want to get in there so bad. Once inside, out come the mapping drones. So let’s head back to the ship, let the drones compile the map, and we can start fresh tomorrow, right? No way! The Prometheus explorers flit from artifact to ooze with reckless abandon, never for a moment asking themselves should I touch this?
Science Score: 3/10. Zeal + Lack of Inquisitiveness = Plot Movement. At least they wanted to discover crap.
- Hawking & Einstein: Here’s how it would’ve gone down with real scientists in charge. First, they would get the lay of the land, using those fancy probe drone sphere guys. Second, they would’ve setup a remote lab near the site so they could take samples and examine them without risk of contamination. Third, they would have been really boring, unless you spoke Math.
Science Score: 8/10. This research stage could have lasted for years. Boring, but scientific.
Map Exists, Still Gets Lost
- Prometheus Team: This next one is just odd. The very scientist who uses the sphere-bots to map the tomb also gets lost on his way out. I’m not sure how to account for this. Was he afraid to look at his map? Unwilling to ask the ship to guide him and his buddy out? Unable to keep track of the 3 turns they made on the way in? Perhaps he and his buddy were just doing that “We’re guys and therefore don’t ask for directions” thing? Whatever the reason, it was pretty lazy.
Science Score: 1/10. Laziness makes for bad science.
- Hawking & Einstein: Even though one is wheelchair bound and the other is dead, they both would’ve made it out before the idiots from Prometheus.
Science Score: 9/10.
Bonus Question: Is Your Automatic Surgery Chamber Sexist?
It’s crunch time, and you need to abort the alien gestating inside of you. Good thing you have a fully-automated medical pod on board. Just fire it up, spin the dial to abortion and–what’s this? The robotic surgery device can only work on males? That’s odd, since there are multiple females as part of the crew. Why would a company that spent a trillion dollars on the mission install a piece of hardware that only worked for men? Great Scott, is it 2093 or 1953? Get with the times!
Science Score Totals Prometheus: 8/30. Hawking & Einstein: 25/30.
I’m not a scientist. But I’ve watched a TED Talk or two, which definitely qualifies me to critique the irrational actions of the characters in Prometheus. The theory? Prometheus had no soul. It felt hollow. I’ve done my best to prove why.
But maybe I’m missing the point. Could it be that the writers crafted the characters that way on purpose to illustrate the futility in man’s quest for understanding? That they wanted us to feel like the entire journey was a waste of time?
Hawking and Einstein might have a thing or two to say about that.