When I first heard about the film Prometheus, I was like so many others who were totally excited about it, I love Ridley Scott and from the little plot clues that were doing the rounds, I thought it sounded like an movie I could really love…
Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I haven’t had the chance to go and see it yet, but the reaction to it from my friends and indeed the professional reviews have been very mixed. Some say it lived up to the expectations and the hype whereas others were deeply disappointed.
Forbes contributor Carol Pinchefsky wrote a very interesting article about the movie, where she consulted several scientists and exposed areas of really ‘poor science’ throughout the narrative.
One of the experts she spoke to was Wade Catts, an Archaeologist with John Milner Associates who was questioned about the behavior of the archaeologists who discover the severed head of an alien, but have to get back to their spaceship before a storm. Catts claims it is highly unlikely that ‘real’ archaeologists would have just shoved the thing in a sack and ran off. He also believes that if the sack had been dropped, like it is in the film, then the chances are that the specimen would have shattered. Catts also said that it was an incredibly improbably scenario that the archaeologists would pump electricity through the skull in an attempt to reanimate it!
Pinchefsky also questioned Geologist Bill Chadwick, also from John Milner Associates about the way in which the geologist in Prometheus carries on, which wasn’t quite as questionable as the film’s archaeologists, but still raised several concerns. Chadwick told Pinchefsky that he thought it was very strange that the geologist who was on a mapping expedition of a hollow mountain discovered by the team, using futuristic type probes to create his map would get lost like he did. Chadwick points out that he could have used the information he had already mapped to retrace his steps and find his way back out, however he did nothing of the sort.
The next expert that Pinchefsky’s spoke to was Ken Paige, head of the Animal Biology department at the University of Illinois, Pinchefsky and Paige both seemed to agree that it was rather strange that the alien creature that is discovered, which resembles a giant phallus, is referred to by the biologist as a “she”. They also agreed that the creature’s neck frill was indicative that it was a threat however they did not attempt to contain this threat and paid for it dearly!
Dr Michael Brotherton, an assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Wyoming pointed out that if the spaceship in the movie was moving ‘faster-than-light’ as claimed then it probably would not have looked the way it did in the movie. However, I think we might have to cut the filmmakers some slack on that one – as it is kinda tricky to show your audience something that is supposed to be moving quicker than their lame little human eyes can capture!!
There was at least one vote of confidence for the movie from one of Pinchefsky’s experts, Dr. Robert Hogan, a psychologist and international authority on leadership and organizational effectiveness.
Pinchefsky pointed out that the team sent on this mission were all just chucked in together, none of them had met prior to the mission and throughout the movie, there are conflicting opinions and power struggles. While it might seem unlikely that this would be the case, Hogan said that it happens regularly. He said that often in missions like this, people are hired on the basis of the technical expertise and not enough thought is given to the group dynamic and ethos of the individuals who have all been thrown in together. Hogan claimed that in order for a mission like this one to have any hope of succeeding then you need four types of people; a problem solver, a humans relations expert that keeps the group working together, a functionary and a leader who will push for results. According to Pinchefsky, the group in Prometheus were sadly lacking in these skills and maybe that it why it did not work out so well for them!
Although Pinchefsky clearly highlights several ‘poor science’ moments in Prometheus, it does not sound so terrible that it would ruin the movie for me, but maybe that’s because I don’t have an especially scientific mind. For other, more technical minds, it could well be what makes or breaks the movie!
Personally however, I find it much easier to ‘suspend disbelief’ and become immersed in the world of the movie if there are a few ‘scientific irregularities’ than per se if the characters are weak or there are holes in the narrative. At the end of the day, if I wanted to watch something that was completely ‘realistic’, I’d watch documentaries instead…
5 Scientists Share Their Baffled Reactions on the Science in ‘Prometheus’ (Via Forbes)