Christmas Cheer in a Movie Full of Slimy Tentacle Monsters

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Prometheus is a Christmas movie! I didn’t either until I re-watched it last week. But sure enough, there is a Christmas tree in one scene so that is enough for it to qualify as an Off-the-Wall-Christmas-Movie under my extremely lax standards.

For those who haven’t seen it, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is about what happens when a group of well-meaning but painfully naïve and unobservant folks go looking for the origins of life on a distant alien planet. Bad things happen, but hey, Christmas!

The aforementioned Christmas tree shows up after the crew of the spaceship “Prometheus” has been awakened from cryosleep when they are finally nearing their destination. Their destination is the also-aforementioned distant alien planet (maybe it was a moon and not an actual planet, I forget), and they have been asleep in cryostasis for something like two and a half years because that is how long it took for them to get to the alien planet where the bad things will happen.

The ship’s captain Janek, played rather awesomely by Idris Elba, sets up a Christmas tree in what I guess was the ship’s rec room. When the character played by Charlize Theron asks him what the hell he is doing, he responds that the crew needs a holiday in order to orient themselves in time after having been asleep for so long. Makes sense to me. If I had been in cryostasis for that long I can imagine that it would be a bit difficult to anchor myself.

Of course, it’s not like I can really identify with that or anything since cryostasis or cryosleep or whatever you want to call it doesn’t currently exist the way it is portrayed in science fiction. As far as I know.

This silly little discussion reminds me of a similar scene in one of the Walking Dead comics. I’ve forgotten the exact details but there’s a scene in one of the comics where someone tells protagonist Rick that, if so-and-so’s calendar-keeping has been correct since the whole zombie apocalypse thing started, it will be Christmas soon. Rick tells her not to tell anybody, especially the kids in their group, since the last thing they need in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is for the kids to be expecting Santa to show up.

I always liked this scene. It just, I don’t know, made a certain kind of sense to me. I also liked it from a storytelling perspective, since it helps give the reader a sense of time and it orients the characters, and it helps to show how much time has passed since everything went to hell in a handbasket. So I guess Janek had the right idea.

There’s a scene later in Prometheus where Janek plays some snippet of a Christmas carol on an accordion. This man is full of so much Christmas cheer that I half-expected him to put on a Santa hat at the film’s climax. Interestingly, at the end of the film the last surviving character mentions that it is New Year’s Day, so I guess Janek’s Christmas tree made more sense than Charlize Theron’s character realized. But then, she doesn’t seem like the type of person who would really enjoy Christmas much anyway. Santa must not have brought her a pony when she was eight.

Prometheus is a deeply flawed film, I’m not going to go into more detail because this film has already been so thoroughly dissected on other parts of the interwebs that there’s not much I could add to the discussion that hasn’t been said already. But watch it and you’ll find a surprising amount of Christmas cheer (you know, maybe an iota or two) amongst the stupid character decisions, gaping plot holes, frustratingly unanswered questions, sumptuous visuals, and tentacle-monster maulings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.

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