So. Prometheus. Saw it recently and I am still working out my thoughts on it. So this is less a detailed review and more a collection of things in my head that relate to the film. There will be, of course, massive spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk.
I want to consider Prometheus. first on its own and then as part of a larger structure. So. On it’s own then.
The movie is all about parents and children. It’s about how children want to know where they came from and want something from that experience and how parents seem to ignore or reject their children.
David and Vickers are both Weyland’s children. Vickers tries hard to be like her father, intentional or not. She holds things at the same distance we see him hold to. She tries to be as cold as he is. and yet she also smiles, takes Janek to bed, uses a flamethrower on Holloway when she needs to (and partly out of abject terror) – she can’t be him, though she tires. David doesn’t try to be Weyland. He wants something though – experience. All sorts. any sort. Weyland, of course, wants nothing to do with either of them. Vickers he sees as simply trying to get rid of him and as a power hungry spoiled child. David he sees as his greatest creation, yet one he treats like a lifeless toy.
Chance and Ravel want to do right by Janek, who treats his crew like his children. Janek sacrifices his children (and himself) for the greater good. They are worth less to him than taking a chance to save humanity. Not saying he’s wrong, just putting it out there.
Halloway wants to meet his makers, he wants to ask them all sorts of things, and is willing to take crazy risks to get there.
Shaw’s parents are both dead and she mourns them. She is also incapable of having children of her own. The alien baby she almost has, of course, she treats like many of the parents in this treat their children and tries to get rid of and kill.
The Engineer, the one live one we see, kills a whole bunch of people, of course.
It isn’t lost on me, given all of this, that the two people to survive, David and Shaw, are the ones who can not have children. They are also the two who have tried to kill their makers. They succeeded, by the way.
So what to make of all of this? I don’t know. Did I like the film – yeah. I dug it. The further I get from it the more I want to see it again to see if the things I think hold up or if I was missing other things that would tell me even more.
Now, I’m sorry, but to me that’s the sign of a really good film. A movie that you walk away from and want to think about, to study and discuss because it isn’t just sitting there, it’s a story and it has unanswered questions (not plot holes, those are different) and they’re interesting. Interesting is good.
David is possibly more fascinating to me in terms of other reasons to the char than he is himself. People seem to be all “Yay David” and doing the whole internet response of “I want to snuggle him he’s so cute.” Which… well, sure. David is, by our standards, a total sociopath. He has no quantity of consequence. He is a drive for experience, pure curiosity, and that’s about it. Yes he is funny, and has a child-like joy about him at times. But he will also happily kill if it is something he hasn’t seen or done yet. Realistically he is sort of a flat character. Once you know his drive you can predict him, and the performance is spectacular but the character is … all right, really. He’s not evil, he just wants to experience things and the cost, when you’re a robot who can’t die, is immaterial.
Also, of course, everyone treats him as less than human. and though he is supposed to not have emotions, he does. There’s joy there, he has a film he loves, he likes things. and he dislikes them. Does he seek revenge? No, not really, but it does color his actions somewhat. He wants Weyland to die because he’s heard that all children want their parents to die. And he hasn’t experienced that yet.
So what happens when they ask David, who is treated by his maker, and by the species of his maker, as a less-than-equal to help them meet their own makers. Well come on. He’ll help, but he won’t feel bad (of course) when the maker treats his creations as they treat their own.
And was this Engineer representative of all of them? We don’t know. The start of the film, with the Engineer breaking himself down so that his DNA merged and “infected” what we think was Earth. The last stage of their terraforming? The Cambrian explosion? Possibly.
and if so what were the creatures that killed the Engineers? Was it the alien/monsters? Alien/monsters that they probably created themselves, mind you. And isn’t that interesting. Another creator/creation circle there.
So let me stop and postulate here. Engineers seed planets. They terraform and design. either because they can or for other reasons. At some point, they do this to Earth. They donate their DNA to the project as well and leave. Well, some of them. A few stick around. Which is where we get the myths about them. Fine.
Then they end up on this other planet, obviously not their home. They develop this other species. To be a weapon or just another experiment since this Alien/Monster is DNA-adaptable. It can breed in a host and, seemingly, come out different, adapted to the DNA of the host. But it isn’t there yet. And it kills a bunch of them.
So why the hostility toward humans, displayed by the Engineer? We’re a subspecies. a lesser form they created and left. Who are we to question them, to wake this one guy and bug him. Look at how Vickers reacted to David when she first woke up. Now imagine David kept bugging her for answers she didn’t have “why did you make me, why am I here.” Then ass the Engineer was woken up into a situation he knew was hostile. How dare, when you think of it, how dare these things that look like freakish diminutive copies wake this guy up and into certain peril and then demand information from him? Fuck. Them.
The whole “He’s going to Earth to destroy it” felt odd though. Yes he knew Earth, and David seemed to know he would head there, after all David could read the nav controls. But “to destroy it” – we don’t know that. I don’t think that was a statement of fact but of opinion. “Look at what he did to us, now he’s coming after the rest of us!”
Then again you can argue “to destroy it” not because of the Engineer but because of the Alien/Monsters in the ship.
Now to consider the movie in terms of the Alien franchise. Well we now know who the Space Jockey from Alien is. We know how he got there. We also know what created the Aliens as we know them. Human DNA gave rise to that proto-facehugger and Engineer DNA made the first Alien. Of course Engineer and human DNA are the same thing. So.
We created the Aliens. they destroy… oh, look, another creator/creation bit.
and that carries all the way through Alien: Resurrection. Ripley “births” a Queen that can carry Aliens in a womb, closer and closer to Human/Engineer. That final Alien-thing has almost come full circle. Of course, it’s creator has to destroy it.
So yeah. Prometheus. Creation as cause for destruction. Creator as neglectful parent. What we have is existence. Demanding to know why we were created will never fulfill us as much as enjoying the fact we are created.
This, mind you, is summed up with the whole opening David scene. He enjoys being created. He spends two years just getting to enjoy his own existence and is better for it. It is only once his creator (both literal and in terms of species) comes back into play that his joy is edged out.
This is what we have. Trying to force meaning out of it, to force the universe to give us meaning instead of creating meaning and enjoying our time – that way leads death, isolation and despair. This is what the alien movies have been telling us all of this time, it is what Prometheus tells us now.
And it’s worth thinking about. the movie is worth thinking about and I’m sure if you give me two days I’ll have another 1500 words of thought on it, and that is the mark of a great film, frankly.
EDITED TO ADD: Aidan brings up a good point “I just realized that Idris Elba’s idle noodling on the concertina (which used to belong to Stephen Stills!) isn’t accidental. The Engineer starts up his ship by playing a few notes on an instrument like a flute.” and it does make you wonder what the connection there is.
Further edits: Let me not ignore some of the silly shit. The archaeologist who also seemed a biologist in the best comic book scientist manner. The “these cultures never crossed paths” when clearly a lot of them did. the Egyptian and Hitties? Come on guys, try harder.
Yet another edit: We’re told the Engineers died there “roughly” 2000 years ago. Which would have been about, as far as the movie goes, when Jesus died. This is not a coincidence. It just… it isn’t, not in this film.