Nothing is explained, especially relating to the black goo stuff. I appreciate that it’s somehow the roots of Xenomorph DNA and human DNA (or something), but the screenplay never gives us any sort of concrete ground rules explaining exactly what the goop can do, or evolve, or anything.
The Xenomorph of Alien worked in part because of the fact that it had rules to abide by — an evolutionary chain of egg, facehugger, chestburster, and full-on rape monster. Later, the series added the Queen, the dog Alien, etc., but it never broke the believability of the creature’s life cycle. That’s what made the franchise such a strong, believable mix of science fiction and— it made sense. Throw in little touches like acid for blood and the possibility of invincibility, and you have the most iconic extraterrestrial in the history of film.
So why weren’t these rules applied to the black goop? This stuff is capable of a) infecting a person (or engineer, I guess) and breaking down their DNA, b) altering their DNA and infecting their sperm to create a squid monster/proto-face hugger, c) creating crazy, arm-wrapping alien tail monsters that can blow up people’s heads or something, d) bring back human beings from the dead in the form of super-strong, and e) combining with the engineer’s DNA to create a proto-Xenomorph revealed at the film’s end (which is admittedly fucking awesome looking).
Wow. So, basically, filmmakers of Prometheus, you’re saying goop upon which your entire film revolves around is just a meaningless plot device. It’s McGuffin, which can do anything and everything the screenwriters dictate on a whim, which, in turn, unravels any ultimate meaning the film can have… not unlike the black goop does to Charlie’s DNA. Hey, I see what you did there.
Listen, if it doesn’t bother you that this film about the meaning of God, existence, and human life has a throwaway plot device whose sole purpose is to be super evil and push the already-thin storyline along — fine. You and Roger Ebert can go join each other on the corner of the Internet with the rest of the Ridley Scott mark’s who have been convincing themselves the man cannot do any wrong and that Prometheus is the most meaningful piece of science-fiction since Blade Runner. I’m glad you enjoy it and hope it brings you great gratification upon future viewings.
But I have my doubts about that. Because you aren’t stupid. You know when a story doesn’t work. You’re the guy or gal who has been bitching about how Alien Resurrection and the AVP flicks ruined the whole franchise. You’re the first to point out a plot hole or inconsistency in a film you love and justify it by looking at the big picture. Here’s the thing about that — there is no big picture to Prometheus. It’s just a whole lot of pretty, sometimes cool, often trite and cliché stuff.
It’s a big, beautiful mess of a movie, but a mess nonetheless and one that’s just as flawed as the weakest entries in the Alien series. I will give credit where it’s due, Scott doesn’t fuck up the series he’s prequel-izing. No one on IMDB’s Prometheus message boards are putting up threads saying “He raped my childhood.” Also, the film is tapping into a cultural zeitgeist in a way few sci-fi flicks can ever manage, which if nothing else, shows validity in Prometheus beyond the merits of good or bad filmmaking or storytelling. It resonates with audiences, including me, or else I wouldn’t be typing this. This is in part because of the proto-Alien being totally boss (or maybe not, but let’s get another picture in anyway).
So the film does have some credibility in the public consciousness. But, like many films that reach a fever pitch in the collective imaginations of movie-goers, the buzz will die, and the film’s merits will have to carry it. Then, and only then, will it be accepted: Prometheus isn’t the second coming of science-fiction cinema. If anything, it’s a box office emperor with no clothes that looks really, really good naked.