–The following piece contains spoilers, lots of spoilers, about “Prometheus” (2012, Ridley Scott). If you have not seen the film I highly suggest you avoid reading any further. What you will find below are my own personal thoughts, conjectures, and to be completely honest, fan-girl ramblings that may, or may not, make any sense to another reader. You may disagree with what I have to say, or think it all makes complete sense and thank me later. Either way, it has been a cathartic experience and this post is no where near over, it has only begun.
“Prometheus, are you seeing this?” – Elizabeth Shaw, crew member, Prometheus
Where do we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?
Peter Weyland was never a name spoken of in the original Alien. Nor was the name of his company; it was always “The Company,” and a name never attributed to it until James Cameron’s Aliens. Ridley Scott, and co-screenwriter’s Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts, did not have much of a choice when writing the script for Prometheus but to pre-date the information given in the succeeding three films. Any instances that you may find that are similar to Alien vs. Predator will be ignored here; there were not any Predators in this film and if you believe they are the evolution of the Engineers you are seriously grasping at ridiculous lengths. More than one species can discover alien life and manipulate it–enough said on that point.
Now, Prometheus works as two different types of a film, and it appears many people are angry about that. I for one, love the fact that it is not simply a man vs. alien action sci-fi movie. That has been done to death and I wanted more philosophy, more thought, and a great deal more mystery. Prometheus came through for me, even if it left many things unanswered. The questions it raises only make it more of a science fiction narrative that dives back into a world that has long been established, beaten to death, swallowed, and regurgitated for the masses. You do not need to have seen any of the Alien films to watch Prometheus as it raises its own ideas and introduces its own set of characters, both human and not.
A serious point to the film is human creation, and Peter Weyland initially states that is why he chose to fund the mission. He believed Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway were true believers, people who had faith. Prometheus speaks of darwinism, and then dismisses it. It talks about being created by another, an Engineer, but does not discuss how one creates a human with the same DNA but different, weaker. Nor does it seek to answer whether God exists. When questioned as to whether she will remove her cross Elizabeth simply answers, “But who created them?” My point exactly. Prometheus may argue that humans are linked ancestrally to the Engineers but it does not aim to answer how the Engineers came to be. Accept it, and move on.
Faith is not something with concrete answers, it is what you choose to believe. Elizabeth is a scientist who can accept facts, but faith is a separate thing altogether. As for evolution, the film does not address humans as an evolved species from the Engineers, a point that is interesting. By doing this humans are immediately the prey; the weaker race to be taken over and destroyed. We could go so far as to say the Engineers wanted to destroy human-life because it did not create the super-alien they dreamed of since everyone who becomes infected develops elephant-man defects and madness. The opening image of the alien drinking a suspicious black substance and then having his body crumble, his DNA strand break-apart, screams failure of a scientific experiment. Humans could well be the scientific experiment created to breed with the organic matter, and things did not turn out how the Engineers wanted. I am stretching here, I know, but it is so much fun.
Faith, that is what Prometheus asks of you, from start to finish. It may throw horrifying images your way; the cesarean scene will haunt me, forever. As will the smile on David’s face when he hands the infected drink to Charlie and says, “to good health.” It may also make you think about the human existence, and our place in the universe. I do not expect answers from Prometheus; no more so than I do from any large scientific narrative that establishes a world the filmmakers have only begun to explore. The only disappointing thing about Prometheus is knowing that the answers may never get solved if another film is not made–or not made by Ridley Scott to ensure imperfect perfection. At the end of Alien there were a number of things left unanswered, as there was at the end of Aliens. This is not a franchise for finding answers; it is a franchise born and bred on asking questions, facing the unknown, and overcoming evil–in the form of corporate entities or acid bleeding beasts. So, have a little faith in Prometheus, and accept that all of the answers you have been dreaming about being answered since you saw Alien would not make for a great movie. Why? Because you already have an idea as to what the answers are, and that is what makes Prometheus great…it just made us all rethink everything we have ever known, considered, analyzed, and the like from the Alien franchise.
David, David, David. What is your motivation, and why do you do the things you do?
The android has played numerous roles in the Alien franchise. The original, Ash from Alien, disguised himself as human, and was the voice of the company and their “crew expendable” philosophy. To quote Alien directly, “It’s a robot, Ash is a goddamned robot.” The androids in Aliens and Alien: Resurrection were kind, responsive, and pro-human–not pro-company. Prometheus‘ David is a conundrum, bordering on the good and the bad, never quite letting anyone know why he does the things he does but the fact that he is an android is revealed straight away. But is that true? I do not believe so. David’s motivations are made quite clear the minute we learn Peter Weyland is on board the ship and communicating directly with him. We don’t need to know what Weyland says to him, that is obvious, and the one line David shares with Weyland’s daughter, and tough-as-nails corporate representative, Meredith Vickers says more than an entire monologue could, “try harder.” Oh, we know what David is up to, and its a great deal of shady business.
David is the representation of/for Peter Weyland from the very beginning. He stands in for the man who cannot perform the actions needed to experiment, and eventually solve, with hope, the meaning of life and how to cheat death. Weyland wants to live on, this is why he funded the expedition, in the hope that he could uncover the origin of man and thus discover the power to cure–Weyland is searching for God, and the possibility that God is powerful and merciful. Readers of scientific/religious lore know this story well: of the man who seeks God-like status only to be condemned to death; his wish not granted and the answers he seeks left unanswered because he is not worthy of the gifts that may be bestowed upon him. When you ask yourself why David spikes Charlie’s drink with the alien organic matter consider the scientific possibilities.
Here is a form of organic matter that has lived for centuries, survives in an nitrogen-oxygen-carbon dioxide environment, and is activated by such an atmosphere. A scientist would want to know how it affects the human body and if its sustaining properties could react positively with the human DNA. The only way to know is to have a test subject, and as we all know from the previous Alien films everyone and anyone is expendable in the eyes of The Weyland Corporation. In David’s defense, he does ask permission when he inquires how far Charlie would be willing to go for answers–he just didn’t tell him the choice was being made on his behalf. “All things have small beginnings,” and “to good health,” are two phrases David speaks with such a great amount of hope and curiosity you cannot fault him for his experiment. Just like when he opens the door to the room outside where the Engineer body lays, and the organic matter lives–Elizabeth warns not to open it but it is too late as David already has–“Oops, sorry,” is his response. Oh David, we know you could read the writings on the wall, and knew what may be behind the door you sneaky devil.
David working for Weyland, and the corporation, is again seen when he tells Elizabeth Shaw that she and her alien fetus will be put back into stasis and sent home to Earth. David knows about the medical pod on the ship, he knows that the operation could easily be done, but he also knows it would lead to the alien being exterminated. The child is his doing, his creation, and the bond–using this term is a stretch–between creator and created is strong. David plays God, on behalf of Peter Weyland, and at this moment he is no longer under anyone’s control. His soul has been established previously, when David indeed finds his soul is not directly known but its presence seen by his reaction to the music and very fancy light show of planets and solar systems in the Engineer’s ships control room. The beauty of such a scene cannot be appreciated by a soulless creation; or so we believe as humans. Just another blip in the story that is Prometheus. But upon watching the film more than once it becomes clearer that David does indeed acquire consciousness; the machine evolves, as every life form appears to have an evolution at some point in Prometheus. David’s intentions to understand and discover the alien species and the Engineers are because of his own fascination with them. David looks up to the Engineers, marvels at their work with the organic material, and wants to know more. David is, to use the term all science fiction junkies love so dearly, self-aware.
“What happens when Weyland’s not around to program you anymore?” – Elizabeth Shaw
“I suppose I’ll be free.”, “Doesn’t everyone want their parent’s dead?” – David
Well, David, you speak of freedom and wanting your father dead. My, my, isn’t that a very human thing to say. Herein lies the secret to David. Machines are machines, made by man, and used by man to their own disposal in science fiction narratives. When the machines rebel, gain consciousness, and desire their freedom man is no longer in control of their creation. David played God because his creator, his father, played God when he created him. The catch is of course that David can easily dispose of his creator and gain power because he, and only he, can communicate with the Engineer who is alive. What does David say to the Engineer? That is a mystery, and everyone I am sure has their different opinions. I choose to believe he spoke of Weyland’s wishes, knowing it would never happen and he would be killed, but unknowingly was discovered to be in-human himself when touched by the Engineer. David’s plan to be embraced by the Engineer backfired, as his face was aglow the minute the Engineer stroked his hair. David wanted a new father, a hero, whom with to learn, lead, and follow. What he got was his head torn off. One of the great things about the Alien movies that Prometheus does so well is maintain the God-complex in characters while counteracting it with the necessity for survival of the human race. Elizabeth Shaw wants to save humanity, David is more interested in destroying it for greater glory.
“They changed their minds, I deserve to know why.” – Elizabeth Shaw
[It is] “Irrelevant.” – David
For David it does not matter why the Engineers turned on their human creation 2,000 years ago; that would mean he would care about the human race, and not the possibilities of power that have been discovered. Androids don’t care about humans, nor do Weyland Corporation representatives. David does get his way in the end when he stealthy manipulates Elizabeth Shaw into taking another ship, and takes advantage of her desire for knowledge and understanding. David gets to journey in search of the Engineers, his quest has only just begun and things could not have played out better for his motivations. Peter Weyland could not have created a more perfect being than David, to represent all of the imperfections of man.
The alien from Alien: the ancestry explained, or muddled?
The final sequence during the credits is one that continues to boggle the mind long after watching Prometheus. The Engineer has been impregnated by the child alien-spawn of Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway and the result is an alien strikingly familiar to the alien in Alien, all grown-up. But how did this happen? The aliens that pre-date the one in Alien, as shown in Prometheus, are snake-like or as seen during the cesarean scene resembling an octopus. They do not walk on hind legs or have a head, so to speak. They appear more like invertebrates than animals. The final alien spawn looks partially like a bird, or dinosaur for that matter. The inclusion of a spinal column and arms with elbows, as well as walking on two feet, scream human. (I could not help chuckling remembering Dr. Grant’s theory that dinosaurs turned into birds from Jurassic Park.)
So, how does evolution skip so quickly from one form of a species to another? You could say that the DNA of human and organic matter created one being, and then the incubation of that DNA with a super-human (as I like to call the Engineers because of their size, strength, and intelligence) breeds a super-alien that is part man/part something. It even has human teeth, but none on the bottom and they are not seething with plasma yet or very sharp.
At the same time you have to consider that the infected Engineers all died when in contact with the alien organic matter. Their heads exploded or were eaten alive. As far as we can tell the only person who has survived implantation of the alien organic matter is Elizabeth Shaw, and her previously barren uterus (so we believe as there was an umbilical cord) was implanted with it from sperm of an infected, near dying, human man. Everyone else turned into monsters unable to control the “change” that occurred from contact. But, as there is always a but with Prometheus, what about the Holocaust?
Yes, the Holocaust scene. Two of the crew members are stranded in the Engineers structure for the evening and find on their exploration a pile of dead Engineer bodies they equate looking like a “holocaust painting.” The line is quick, and easily distracted away from the image of the Engineers on screen. This one line is incredibly important as it hints to the Engineers being exterminated by an unknown species. The previously seen hologram memories showed the Engineers running from something, but what that was was never shown. The holocaust scene is also the first time we hear the words, “exploded from inside.” Either the Engineers whom had their heads explode did not react well to the alien matter or an alien bursted out of them–that would explain what they were running from, and the final scene of the film would make more sense but its all too overlooked in the screenplay to know anything for sure.
Hmmm…the perplexity of the situation only thickens as the analysis continues. This is a plothole, or unexplainable plot device, in Prometheus. The addition of the alien birth at the end was clearly to excite fans of the original Alien, and the iconic scene of an alien baby bursting through a man’s chest. Let us not forget though that the original alien was born a “baby,” no larger than a bottle of beer. The one in Prometheus came out nearly full-grown, or perhaps full grown for this specimen.
Why the change? Does super-human breed super-alien, and human breed mini-alien who needs time to grow. It is all becoming more like human pregnancy and infancy–albeit an accelerated infancy for the alien in Alien. Or is this the Queen alien, born of the super-human, ready to breed other new forms of aliens born of human/super-human/alien organic matter? The aliens we will come to know in the Alien films post-Prometheus? Consider the mural on the wall of the first room the crew enters with the organic matter. It sure does look a lot like the Alien we are familiar with. The cut away from the mural, and the dark lighting, make it hard to decipher (I found an image online to assist: see below). So many questions raised, and the answers do not exist. Evolution plays such a strong part in Prometheus it only made sense to evolve the alien, but the great lengths the film went to jump ahead to give the audience the alien they know, and love, may have gone too far.
Did the final scene need to be present in Prometheus? No, I do not believe it did. Was it fun to see, regardless? Sure, why not. Does it only cause more confusion as to the origin of the alien species and evolutionary properties in general? By all means, yes. What is done is done, and perhaps the sequel will answer the questions this final scene has raised. Or it will just forget the inconsistency ever occurred and have full-grown aliens running amuck again, after a face-hugger implants their seed into a human host. Oh, the mysteries of the aliens in Alien and Prometheus never cease.
The Inevitable Sequel.
The final twenty minutes of Prometheus are pure set-up for the inevitable sequel–and I am not complaining. The sequel can go in two directions. One, it can follow the journey of the Engineer who crashed on the original planet from Alien, LV-426, and what happened leading up to this moment. That sounds boring, and redundant. Option two is much more interesting, and has two options it can take. Firstly, we get to follow Elizabeth Shaw and David to the home of the Engineers; discover their secrets, what other worlds they have created, and maybe, just maybe, the source of the organic matter that breeds aliens. That sounds like a great deal of fun! Discovering where man came from, as well as man’s greatest enemy, the perfect species, could be magnificent. Prometheus leaves both options open, because there are other ships, and Elizabeth and David only took one from the manufacturing planet that is LV-223. Whether we follow David and Elizabeth, an Engineer, or a new group of humans who will make contact with aliens one thing is for certain: at some point The Weyland Corporation has to know the alien race and/or Engineers exist because Alien dictates as much…
“There is a clause in the contract that specifically states any system that finds a transmission indicating a possible intelligent origin must be investigated.” – Ash, crew member on board the Nostromo (Alien (Ridley Scott 1979))