It’s easy for us to take everything we watch at face value. I am certainly guilty of doing this when I watch movies. While some movies can be pretty up front with a message, others are a lot more subtle. While Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was certainly a visceral experience, there were also some things that audiences needed to piece together for themselves. And maybe that’s not so bad for a film, where everything isn’t necessarily spelled out for the viewer and you have to figure it out on your own.
Proceed only if you have seen the film and do not care about spoilers. I will be discussing a lot of the plot points in the story that may have been a little unclear during an initial viewing.
After thinking a little bit more about Prometheus, I have actually started to understand a lot of it. I think it may require a second viewing to be able to fully understand it and although there are still some things that are weak in the plot (zombie Fifield and the flute-manned spaceship are notable examples) I think I get what the writers were going for and what the story was trying to tell. Taken at face value it might not have seemed as impressive at the time but now looking back and after much rumination it actually is a pretty profound, unsettling story.
So the prologue actually was THE PROLOGUE. The beginning. The Engineers went to earth and created life using the black goo thingies. The black goo spawned the first life forms on Earth (that’s why David was like ‘big things have small beginnings’ because the tiny black goo was some sort of amoeba like cretin or whatever that was the first life form on earth). However, in order to create life one must destroy life, which is also another line said by David, hence why the engineer had to die in the beginning. Because life cannot start out of nothing is the point. The Alien needs a host to become a complete specimen which the ending alludes to, thus in order to create life one must destroy life. You can even read into it a Jesus complex that the engineer sacrificed himself for the sake of all mankind, which is another play on the science vs creationism theories.
The next thing I understood was that on the return trip back to their home planet, the engineers realize that what they created has turned on them and ultimately will lead to their demise. Sort of like Alien, where everything is fine and dandy until they realize these things will inhabit or consume them in order to live on their own. Parasites. This is when the engineers “changed their minds” as Elizabeth said. They reach their home planet and try to chart a return course back to earth only to be overwhelmed by the cretins, which would explain all the dead bodies on the ship. One of the engineers is left on the ship and is woken up from hyper sleep by David, Weyland, etc. and instead of welcoming his descendants with open arms he goes berserk because he realizes that man has been allowed to live and procreate and has even been allowed to make images of himself (like the Engineers tried to do with humans) with David. I just noticed the way the Engineer sort of looked at David with a mixture of disgust and revelry and it kind of hit me that it was sort of like an “oh no” moment, that he realized that they had failed and Earth was now populated by humans. In a rage he attacks David and then attempts to start up the ship to finish his mission.
So in effect they were about to go back to earth to destroy it before man could become their ultimate destruction, which now that I think about it, is pretty much the myth of Prometheus. Prometheus steals fire from the gods only to be struck down and punished because he dared to give life where he had no right to.This ties into why David deceived the crew and brought the capsule on board the ship, because he felt like the crew didn’t understand their origin and that he himself is a product of man’s desire to create fire for themselves. It also ties into why Elizabeth was impregnated, because it was David’s own way of saying, here I’m a robot but I too can create life where there wasn’t before. It also goes back to what Elizabeth said, “I can’t create life. What does that make me?” This raises philosophical questions about what defines womanhood, for example, or even just humanity in general. If your purpose in life is to procreate and you are unable to, what does that make you?
Although some didn’t particularly care for the Peter Weyland surprise, I actually thought it was quite interesting. Here was a guy who had reached the end of his reign and he felt that he wasn’t ready to go yet. Charlize Theron’s character, Meredith Vickers, says: “A king has his reign, and then he dies. It’s inevitable.” But Weyland felt that his time wasn’t up yet. As a powerful man with enormous tools at his disposal, he could literally plead with the gods to make him live longer - almost like he was in search of the Fountain of Life in space. Naturally when Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway give him hope that they can reach our makers, Weyland jumps at the opportunity to, well, live forever. Weyland’s obsession with longevity and the need to create life is evident in the way he treats David as a son. Weyland created David just like the Engineers created Man, and David felt like that made him mankind’s kindred spirit, and yet they look on him with disdain.
This makes me think about what scientist Neill Degrasse Tyson said. He basically said that man is always curious about what’s out there, seeking out alien life forms and life on other planets, perhaps far superior beings than we are. But he mentioned something stunning: just as we regard ourselves as superior to chimpanzees, which we are related to, what are the chances that the beings who live on other planets regard us as inferior to them? This idea seems to have found itself on Prometheus.
Finally what’s the tie-in to Alien? Well, my theory is that the planet that the Nostromo touched down on was the same planet where Prometheus found the Engineers’ ship. The weather conditions were similar (with that weird dust storm). The Nostromo responded to some sort of transmission from a nearby planet on their way back to Earth, whether this transmission was from Vickers’ life-sustaining pod, the crashed Prometheus or the crashed Engineer ship (or hey, maybe even a distress signal relayed by Elizabeth Shaw herself or David) who knows. The picture below is from Alien, and as you can see it’s the exact same position the last Engineer was in when he crash landed after Prometheus rammed into his ship. My suspicion is that the eggs found by the Nostromo crew were the mutated versions of those black goo capsules the Prometheus crew found.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Hope this helped clear up some things for those who were left a bit confused about the plot.
Does this post answer every plot hole in the film? No. Does it make up for the hilarity of the audience yelling at Charlize Theron to “RUN HORIZONTALLY!” during the end scene of the film? Probably not. But I am inclined to rework my review of Prometheus so I can give the film the rating is justly deserves.