So I finally got round to watching Prometheus. I’d seen a lot of Facebook status updates from people who’d seen it in the cinema and complained about the plot. I tried to take these with a pinch of salt but I have to say it did put me off a little. Their main problem with the movie was that the plot was confusing and it asked more questions than it answered. I reminded myself that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and that my tolerance for arcane sci-fi plots is probably higher than my average Facebook friend because I only really read arcane sci-fi books. On the other hand, I knew the screenplay had been written, or at least developed significantly, by Damon Lindelof of Lost fame and while I enjoyed Lost its tendency to drip feed the audience with trite answers to mysteries that promised far more was hard work in the later seasons.
Was the plot confusing and did it contain a lot of unanswered questions? Yes, but I’d say this – how better to make your audience feel an unnerving sense of alien-ness and wonder than making them wonder about some unnerving aliens? I liked it. It’s a lovely cinematic experience. Aside from the cerebral considerations of plot and theme, I felt like I was actually there, particularly in the opening act. The unanswered questions don’t detract from this, they add to it. Like the characters with whom you’re travelling, you are confused and curious and crucially, you know you might not get answers. Apart from the film itself I also enjoyed immediately going on the internet and reading about the plot, characters and people’s theories, some crackpot some rather clever. Below are some of the questions I felt weren’t answered explicitly in the movie and my attempts at answering them. Apologies if I’m restating what others have said, I’ve not based these on theories I’ve read elsewhere…
What is the Engineer in the opening sequence doing?
The Engineers create and destroy life. They play God and are literally the gods of ancient Earth religions. The Engineer at the start is creating life on Earth by adding his genetic material to the river. He does this by destroying his body – like instant primordial soup. I think he is Prometheus. The rather violent and painful nature of his method of sharing his DNA suggests to me that this isn’t the normal way the Engineers do this kind of thing. He’s a rebel.
What is the ‘pyramid’ and what are the Engineers doing on LV-223?
There’s a scene in the movie in which David talks about his creators, humanity, not wanting him to be too human. It’s also suggested throughout the movie that David is more intelligent than humans and that this is not particularly a good thing for his human masters. I think this is a hint about the Engineers. In order to remain dominant they create life of limited sophistication. Prometheus has broken this rule by creating life from himself that will one day be the Engineers’ equal. I’m undecided about the cave paintings in the story. They are evidence of visitations of Engineers to early humans but their intention is not obvious. They could be the orthodox Engineers who have deliberately left ‘directions’ to LV-223 as a trap. Should we become advanced enough to follow the directions then we are too advanced and must be culled. I tend to think they are actually warnings from Engineers who followed Prometheus who nurtured human civilisation, gave rise to stories of gods and giants and told us the story of our creation, by Prometheus. These Engineers knew that others would plot our destruction and from where it would come. In the Greek myth of Prometheus he gives fire to humanity, our first ‘technology’ and in the movie David watches Lawrence of Arabia in which Lawrence demonstrates his ability to extinguish a flame with his fingers. I think this is also hinting to us about the Engineers intentions. The pyramid on LV-223 is a weapons factory. The weapon is the black goo and its xenomorphs, designed to infect and destroy the biosphere of a planet. To cleanse it before it can be reseeded with more appropriate life. Two thousand years ago, Engineers about to deploy this weapon against Earth and its fledgling civilisation became victims of their own bio-weapon.
Why does David infect Holloway?
Without empathy David is effectively a psychopath. I think he does it because he’s clever enough to understand what the black goo might be and simply because he can. This also ties in with the conversation they have around the pool table when he infects him. They discuss asking humanity’s creators why they did it. Holloway says they created robots like David “because they can” and David responds by saying how disappointing it would be to hear that.
There are a lot more questions being posed and answered on the internet but these are the ones I felt I wanted to answer. I may have simply stated the obvious in these theories but that’s all they are. I’m not saying I’m right, I’m almost certainly wrong but this is my best guess so far. I watched the movie once and I didn’t take notes so I may have misremembered or totally missed some important bits. I also watched the viral TED video of Peter Weyland after writing my ideas above and I feel it reinforces them. Let me know what you think.