I saw Prometheus the other day and agreed with most of the viewers’ comments I’ve seen: amazing to look at, too diffusely plotted to really smoke, but includes one scene of sci-fi horror bound for the sci-fi horror Hall of Fame beyond a doubt.
But what anyone paying any attention to the dialogue will notice is that the entire film is essentially a meditation on the presence of God and the efficacy and humanity of faith (specifically in Jesus Christ) as opposed to the destructive dead end of scientism, materialism and their underlying nihilism.
These are rich themes for science fiction or any fiction. They bring drama to art because, whether you believe in God or not, French guy Blaise Pascal was right about people having a God-shaped hole inside them (though, okay, he didn’t put it that way exactly). And Leo Tolstoy, in his extremely cool book What is Art?, points out that when the elite lose their faith in God, the arts have nothing left to talk about but ennui and sex — which sounds pretty much like the crap we’ve been watching on screen for a lot of the last forty years.
So the yearning for Christ deepens the motivations and vivifies the scientific curiosity of Prometheus‘s heroine scientist Elizabeth Shaw, played wonderfully by Noomi Rapace. (She’s the Swedish lady from the original Dragon Tattoo movies and makes herself an American star here, I think.) And her ongoing religious clash with Michael Fassbender’s witty and sinister robot, cold at heart and envious of humanity, provides the soul beneath all the big metallic special effects and gives some purpose to the squishy monsters bursting in and out of various people’s various orifices.
I did wish the picture could have gone just a little deeper. It didn’t need any more dialogue or exposition, just something a little more concise. Shaw justifies her faith by repeating her father’s phrase — something like, “This is what I choose to believe,” as if theism were based on a sort of feel-good whim. Surely as thoughtful an artist as Ridley Scott can come up with something a little deeper than that. I’m not expecting the action to stop for a theological disquisition but look, while both faith and atheism require a leap of faith at the end, both are based on a series of reasoned steps. In faith, trust in the moral instincts of humanity leads us to conclude we were created purposely for love in the image of transcendent love. In atheism, you get a job as a mainstream journalist and conclude no one could possibly be smarter than you… or something. It’s all too deep for me.
Anyway, it was nice to go to a big, gooey summer picture and have something to marvel at other than the SFX. I’ve seen two of the summer’s big pictures so far — this and The Avengers — and both engaged with issues and expressed points of view normally repellent to the shallow leftists who’ve dominated the entertainment industry far too long.
Is this a good sign for our culture? I would say yes, for sure. And more to come.
Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture.