Prometheus Fails

I have seen some really poor science fiction movies in the past.  This can be for aspects like poor character development, weak plot, lame screenplay, etc., which could easily be a problem for any film.  However, most often, a science fiction movie annoys me if it tries to be scientifically accurate and believable yet fundamentally makes no sense.  Unfortunately, I have to now include the recent film Prometheus in this category.

Let’s start with the character’s emotional and intellectual response to what was happening.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this film, I will try and sum up what was happening.  The crew on Prometheus is heading towards a new star system in the year 2093.  Two archaeologists believe this star system is home to humanity’s creators (or engineers) based on evidence of star maps in the cave paintings of several unconnected ancient human populations.  Although this sounds a little far fetched and based on insufficient evidence, the mission was funded privately by an extremely wealthy CEO who happens to buy their theory.  Upon arriving at the star system, they find it populated with three planets, one of which is habitable and able to support life.  Furthermore, within minutes of landing on the planet they identify evidence of intelligent life in the form of large cave-like structures built in the middle of a canyon.

Emotional and intellectual response

In any universe, this would be a remarkable series of events.  First off, I get overwhelmed whenever I think about the possibility of humans attempting to go to Mars.  This movie is set 81 years in the future.  Something like this happening 81 years from now would be absolutely remarkable!  For many people (including me), visiting an Earth-like planet in a distant star system inhabited by intelligent life would be the most significant event in human history.

Yet, the crew (to varying degrees) seems underwhelmed and unimpressed with what is happening around them.  The fact that they travelled to a distant star system in 2 years — underwhelmed and unimpressed.  The fact that they find this star system to have a habitable Earth-like planet — underwhelmed and unimpressed.  The fact that in minutes of searching this planet they find evidence of an intelligent civilization — underwhelmed and unimpressed.  AND, on top of that, when they enter the large cave-like structure, they find dead bodies of an alien race, and their reaction is comical.  Most of the crew start treating the archaeologists who predicted this with derision.  Why?  Because it appears as though the alien race is extinct (I’ll come back to this later).  And the male archaeologist in the film IS actually disappointed that the alien race appears to be extinct.  Yes, you were able to travel to a distant star system to find an alien race based off of evidence that you found in an ancient cave, you were right, AND you are still upset and disappointed.  WHAT?!  That is the most unbelievably ridiculous emotional and intellectual response to what was happening.  It makes no sense.

Wait, I’m not done.

DNA Match

So then the female archaeologist grabs a decapitated alien head and bring it back to the ship for DNA testing.  She finds out that this alien has an identical DNA match to humans.  Wow.  Wait.  They have an identical DNA match to us?

Then why do they look like this:

OK, they are humanoid anatomically, just like most aliens in science fiction films (which I don’t have a big problem with).  But they are clearly NOT humans.  Sure, I could buy that we are related in an evolutionary context, but how are we genetically identical?  Are all humans 7 foot, 300 lbs, hair-less albino giants with a ten-pack?


My point is that it makes NO sense that they are genetically identical.  If they found out that it appeared as though we shared some homologous traits that indicated common ancestry, it would make this film all the more realistic and believable.

My biggest alien-movie pet peeve

Finally, the most ridiculous aspect of this film.  They arrive on the planet, and like I have mentioned previously, they find a cave system built by an intelligent civilization within minutes.  When they enter the cave they find all the aliens are dead (you find out later that one of them is alive — but this is irrelevant to the point I want to make).  Their reaction to finding that all the aliens in this cave system are dead is that — the alien race is extinct.

HOW does that conclusion make ANY sense?

Think about it.  Imagine an alien race came to our planet and randomly landed in a large canyon or an open plain or desert, and they happen to find that everyone is dead.  Would a logical conclusion be: “well it looks like humans are extinct and everything we need to know about humans is right here in the middle of nowhere”.

The rest of the planet could be populated with billions of other aliens.  The chances that everything you need to know about the aliens and why they created humans on Earth is in that one location you happened to land in are so remote.  You travelled several light years to a distant star system… explore the rest of the planet!  You know nothing about the rest of the planet!

Ok, hopefully my point is clear.  Prometheus is a massive intellectual failure.

Don’t waste your money unless you like amazing visuals and don’t care that it is intellectually bankrupt.  Oh, and I should also mention that the character development, plot and screenplay all suck as well.



About Cadell Last
I am a science educator, freelance science writer, and founder of The Advanced Apes based in Toronto, Ontario. In the past my academic research focused on the evolution, ecology, and behaviour of non-human primates (i.e., chimpanzees, gorillas, ring-tailed lemurs). Currently, my official blog, The Ratchet, can be found via The Advanced Apes and Svbtle. I enjoy exploring recent research in human evolutionary sciences, as well as biology, ecology, astronomy, physics, and computer science. My work has been featured in Scientific American, American Humanist, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. I am also exploring science popularization in new mediums in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios with an animated YouTube channel. You can contact me on Twitter (@cadelllast) or via email:

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