Cavalorn (cavalorn) wrote,
Cavalorn
cavalorn

Prometheus Unbound: What The Movie Was Actually About

This blogpost contains many and frequent spoilers for Prometheus, so if you're planning on seeing it, I recommend you don't spoil yourself.



Important update 12th Nov: Original Jon Spaihts script now online! Details at the end.

Prometheus contains such a huge amount of mythic resonance that it effectively obscures a more conventional plot. I'd like to draw your attention to the use of motifs and callbacks in the film that not only enrich it, but offer possible hints as to what was going on in otherwise confusing scenes.

Let's begin with the eponymous titan himself, Prometheus. He was a wise and benevolent entity who created mankind in the first place, forming the first humans from clay. The Gods were more or less okay with that, until Prometheus gave them fire. This was a big no-no, as fire was supposed to be the exclusive property of the Gods. As punishment, Prometheus was chained to a rock and condemned to have his liver ripped out and eaten every day by an eagle. (His liver magically grew back, in case you were wondering.)

Fix that image in your mind, please: the giver of life, with his abdomen torn open. We'll be coming back to it many times in the course of this article.

The ethos of the titan Prometheus is one of willing and necessary sacrifice for life's sake. That's a pattern we see replicated throughout the ancient world. J G Frazer wrote his lengthy anthropological study, The Golden Bough, around the idea of the Dying God - a lifegiver who voluntarily dies for the sake of the people. It was incumbent upon the King to die at the right and proper time, because that was what heaven demanded, and fertility would not ensue if he did not do his royal duty of dying.

Now, consider the opening sequence of Prometheus. We fly over a spectacular vista, which may or may not be primordial Earth. According to Ridley Scott, it doesn't matter. A lone Engineer at the top of a waterfall goes through a strange ritual, drinking from a cup of black goo that causes his body to disintegrate into the building blocks of life. We see the fragments of his body falling into the river, twirling and spiralling into DNA helices.

Ridley Scott has this to say about the scene: 'That could be a planet anywhere. All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space. And the plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history – which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas – he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.'

Can we find a God in human history who creates plant life through his own death, and who is associated with a river? It's not difficult to find several, but the most obvious candidate is Osiris, the epitome of all the Frazerian 'Dying Gods'.

And we wouldn't be amiss in seeing the first of the movie's many Christian allegories in this scene, either. The Engineer removes his cloak before the ceremony, and hesitates before drinking the cupful of genetic solvent; he may well have been thinking 'If it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.'

So, we know something about the Engineers, a founding principle laid down in the very first scene: acceptance of death, up to and including self-sacrifice, is right and proper in the creation of life. Prometheus, Osiris, John Barleycorn, and of course the Jesus of Christianity are all supposed to embody this same principle. It is held up as one of the most enduring human concepts of what it means to be 'good'.

Seen in this light, the perplexing obscurity of the rest of the film yields to an examination of the interwoven themes of sacrifice, creation, and preservation of life. We also discover, through hints, exactly what the nature of the clash between the Engineers and humanity entailed.

The crew of the Prometheus discover an ancient chamber, presided over by a brooding solemn face, in which urns of the same black substance are kept. A mural on the wall presents an image which, if you did as I asked earlier on, you will recognise instantly: the lifegiver with his abdomen torn open. Go and look at it here to refresh your memory. Note the serenity on the Engineer's face here.

And there's another mural there, one which shows a familiar xenomorph-like figure. This is the Destroyer who mirrors the Creator, I think - the avatar of supremely selfish life, devouring and destroying others purely to preserve itself. As Ash puts it: 'a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality.'

Through Shaw and Holloway's investigations, we learn that the Engineers not only created human life, they supervised our development. (How else are we to explain the numerous images of Engineers in primitive art, complete with star diagram showing us the way to find them?) We have to assume, then, that for a good few hundred thousand years, they were pretty happy with us. They could have destroyed us at any time, but instead, they effectively invited us over; the big pointy finger seems to be saying 'Hey, guys, when you're grown up enough to develop space travel, come see us.' Until something changed, something which not only messed up our relationship with them but caused their installation on LV-223 to be almost entirely wiped out.

From the Engineers' perspective, so long as humans retained that notion of self-sacrifice as central, we weren't entirely beyond redemption. But we went and screwed it all up, and the film hints at when, if not why: the Engineers at the base died two thousand years ago. That suggests that the event that turned them against us and led to the huge piles of dead Engineers lying about was one and the same event. We did something very, very bad, and somehow the consequences of that dreadful act accompanied the Engineers back to LV-223 and massacred them.

If you have uneasy suspicions about what 'a bad thing approximately 2,000 years ago' might be, then let me reassure you that you are right. An astonishing excerpt from the Movies.com interview with Ridley Scott:

Movies.com: We had heard it was scripted that the Engineers were targeting our planet for destruction because we had crucified one of their representatives, and that Jesus Christ might have been an alien. Was that ever considered?

Ridley Scott: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an “our children are misbehaving down there” scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, "Let's send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it." Guess what? They crucified him.

Yeah. The reason the Engineers don't like us any more is that they made us a Space Jesus, and we broke him. Reader, that's not me pulling wild ideas out of my arse. That's RIDLEY SCOTT.

So, imagine poor crucified Jesus, a fresh spear wound in his side. Oh, hey, there's the 'lifegiver with his abdomen torn open' motif again. That's three times now: Prometheus, Engineer mural, Jesus Christ. And I don't think I have to mention the 'sacrifice in the interest of giving life' bit again, do I? Everyone on the same page? Good.

So how did our (in the context of the film) terrible murderous act of crucifixion end up wiping out all but one of the Engineers back on LV-223? Presumably through the black slime, which evidently models its behaviour on the user's mental state. Create unselfishly, accepting self-destruction as the cost, and the black stuff engenders fertile life. But expose the potent black slimy stuff to the thoughts and emotions of flawed humanity, and 'the sleep of reason produces monsters'. We never see the threat that the Engineers were fleeing from, we never see them killed other than accidentally (decapitation by door), and we see no remaining trace of whatever killed them. Either it left a long time ago, or it reverted to inert black slime, waiting for a human mind to reactivate it.

The black slime reacts to the nature and intent of the being that wields it, and the humans in the film didn't even know that they WERE wielding it. That's why it remained completely inert in David's presence, and why he needed a human proxy in order to use the stuff to create anything. The black goo could read no emotion or intent from him, because he was an android.

Shaw's comment when the urn chamber is entered - 'we've changed the atmosphere in the room' - is deceptively informative. The psychic atmosphere has changed, because humans - tainted, Space Jesus-killing humans - are present. The slime begins to engender new life, drawing not from a self-sacrificing Engineer but from human hunger for knowledge, for more life, for more everything. Little wonder, then, that it takes serpent-like form. The symbolism of a corrupting serpent, turning men into beasts, is pretty unmistakeable.

Refusal to accept death is anathema to the Engineers. Right from the first scene, we learned their code of willing self-sacrifice in accord with a greater purpose. When the severed Engineer head is temporarily brought back to life, its expression registers horror and disgust. Cinemagoers are confused when the head explodes, because it's not clear why it should have done so. Perhaps the Engineer wanted to die again, to undo the tainted human agenda of new life without sacrifice.

But some humans do act in ways the Engineers might have grudgingly admired. Take Holloway, Shaw's lover, who impregnates her barren womb with his black slime riddled semen before realising he is being transformed into something Other. Unlike the hapless geologist and botanist left behind in the chamber, who only want to stay alive, Holloway willingly embraces death. He all but invites Meredith Vickers to kill him, and it's surely significant that she does so using fire, the other gift Prometheus gave to man besides his life.

The 'Caesarean' scene is central to the film's themes of creation, sacrifice, and giving life. Shaw has discovered she's pregnant with something non-human and sets the autodoc to slice it out of her. She lies there screaming, a gaping wound in her stomach, while her tentacled alien child thrashes and squeals in the clamp above her and OH HEY IT'S THE LIFEGIVER WITH HER ABDOMEN TORN OPEN. How many times has that image come up now? Four, I make it. (We're not done yet.)

And she doesn't kill it. And she calls the procedure a 'caesarean' instead of an 'abortion'.

(I'm not even going to begin to explore the pro-choice versus forced birth implications of that scene. I don't think they're clear, and I'm not entirely comfortable doing so. Let's just say that her unwanted offspring turning out to be her salvation is possibly problematic from a feminist standpoint and leave it there for now.)

Here's where the Christian allegories really come through. The day of this strange birth just happens to be Christmas Day. And this is a 'virgin birth' of sorts, although a dark and twisted one, because Shaw couldn't possibly be pregnant. And Shaw's the crucifix-wearing Christian of the crew. We may well ask, echoing Yeats: what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards LV-223 to be born?

Consider the scene where David tells Shaw that she's pregnant, and tell me that's not a riff on the Annunciation. The calm, graciously angelic android delivering the news, the pious mother who insists she can't possibly be pregnant, the wry declaration that it's no ordinary child... yeah, we've seen this before.

'And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.'

A barren woman called Elizabeth, made pregnant by 'God'? Subtle, Ridley.

Anyway. If it weren't already clear enough that the central theme of the film is 'I suffer and die so that others may live' versus 'you suffer and die so that I may live' writ extremely large, Meredith Vickers helpfully spells it out:

'A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable.'

Vickers is not just speaking out of personal frustration here, though that's obviously one level of it. She wants her father out of the way, so she can finally come in to her inheritance. It's insult enough that Weyland describes the android David as 'the closest thing I have to a son', as if only a male heir was of any worth; his obstinate refusal to accept death is a slap in her face.

Weyland, preserved by his wealth and the technology it can buy, has lived far, far longer than his rightful time. A ghoulish, wizened creature who looks neither old nor young, he reminds me of Slough Feg, the decaying tyrant from the Slaine series in British comic 2000AD. In Slaine, an ancient (and by now familiar to you, dear reader, or so I would hope) Celtic law decrees that the King has to be ritually and willingly sacrificed at the end of his appointed time, for the good of the land and the people. Slough Feg refused to die, and became a rotting horror, the embodiment of evil.

The image of the sorcerer who refuses to accept rightful death is fundamental: it even forms a part of some occult philosophy. In Crowley's system, the magician who refuses to accept the bitter cup of Babalon and undergo dissolution of his individual ego in the Great Sea (remember that opening scene?) becomes an ossified, corrupted entity called a 'Black Brother' who can create no new life, and lives on as a sterile, emasculated husk.

With all this in mind, we can better understand the climactic scene in which the withered Weyland confronts the last surviving Engineer. See it from the Engineer's perspective. Two thousand years ago, humanity not only murdered the Engineers' emissary, it infected the Engineers' life-creating fluid with its own tainted selfish nature, creating monsters. And now, after so long, here humanity is, presumptuously accepting a long-overdue invitation, and even reawakening (and corrupting all over again) the life fluid.

And who has humanity chosen to represent them? A self-centred, self-satisfied narcissist who revels in his own artificially extended life, who speaks through the medium of a merely mechanical offspring. Humanity couldn't have chosen a worse ambassador.

It's hardly surprising that the Engineer reacts with contempt and disgust, ripping David's head off and battering Weyland to death with it. The subtext is bitter and ironic: you caused us to die at the hands of our own creation, so I am going to kill you with YOUR own creation, albeit in a crude and bludgeoning way.

The only way to save humanity is through self-sacrifice, and this is exactly what the captain (and his two oddly complacent co-pilots) opt to do. They crash the Prometheus into the Engineer's ship, giving up their lives in order to save others. Their willing self-sacrifice stands alongside Holloway's and the Engineer's from the opening sequence; by now, the film has racked up no less than five self-sacrificing gestures (six if we consider the exploding Engineer head).

Meredith Vickers, of course, has no interest in self-sacrifice. Like her father, she wants to keep herself alive, and so she ejects and lands on the planet's surface. With the surviving cast now down to Vickers and Shaw, we witness Vickers's rather silly death as the Engineer ship rolls over and crushes her, due to a sudden inability on her part to run sideways. Perhaps that's the point; perhaps the film is saying her view is blinkered, and ultimately that kills her. But I doubt it. Sometimes a daft death is just a daft death.

Finally, in the squidgy ending scenes of the film, the wrathful Engineer conveniently meets its death at the tentacles of Shaw's alien child, now somehow grown huge. But it's not just a death; there's obscene life being created here, too. The (in the Engineers' eyes) horrific human impulse to sacrifice others in order to survive has taken on flesh. The Engineer's body bursts open - blah blah lifegiver blah blah abdomen ripped apart hey we're up to five now - and the proto-Alien that emerges is the very image of the creature from the mural.

On the face of it, it seems absurd to suggest that the genesis of the Alien xenomorph ultimately lies in the grotesque human act of crucifying the Space Jockeys' emissary to Israel in four B.C., but that's what Ridley Scott proposes. It seems equally insane to propose that Prometheus is fundamentally about the clash between acceptance of death as a condition of creating/sustaining life versus clinging on to life at the expense of others, but the repeated, insistent use of motifs and themes bears this out.

As a closing point, let me draw your attention to a very different strand of symbolism that runs through Prometheus: the British science fiction show Doctor Who. In the 1970s episode 'The Daemons', an ancient mound is opened up, leading to an encounter with a gigantic being who proves to be an alien responsible for having guided mankind's development, and who now views mankind as a failed experiment that must be destroyed. The Engineers are seen tootling on flutes, in exactly the same way that the second Doctor does. The Third Doctor had an companion whose name was Liz Shaw, the same name as the protagonist of Prometheus. As with anything else in the film, it could all be coincidental; but knowing Ridley Scott, it doesn't seem very likely.

QUICK EDIT: Just noting down some of the other Christian symbolism I missed, with thanks to those who pointed them out: David washes Weyland's feet, and I'm told that when Janek and his co-pilots sacrifice their lives to save the Earth, they apparently stand in the form of crucifixes, their arms held out. ('Hands up'?) So you have three 'crucified' guys, one in the middle higher up, the other two on the sides, lower down. All a bit Calvary. However, I don't remember that bit very clearly myself, so I'll have to go see it again.

EDITED 10 JUNE 2012: I'm amazed that so many people are reading and discussing this. I'd like to make some sort of response to your various comments here and elsewhere, but it may take a while as there are loads. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Cavalorn) and tell me your thoughts in the meantime, if you like.

EDIT 11 JUNE 2012: Here's a brief reaction to some of the responses I've received. Thank you all.

EDIT 13 JUNE 2012: Cleolinda Jones has done a M15M Prometheus post! Go and read that instead of this. You won't regret it.

EDIT 18 JUNE 2012: FILM CRITIC HULK SMASH PUNY ARTICLE. HULK ALSO TELL AUTHOR HE RAISE GOOD POINT DESPITE HULK DISAGREE, WHICH NICE OF HULK.

ANOTHER EDIT 13 JUNE 2012: Obligatory viewing, y'all.







UNEXPECTED EDIT 12th NOV 2012: The original Jon Spaihts script for Prometheus is now online and he's confirmed its authenticity. It's here in PDF form, courtesy of www.prometheus-movie.com.

The following speech by Holloway stands out (p.57):

'But I guess we know why they never came back to us. Something killed them
off - back around the time of Christ. Maybe He was one of them! A great
teacher, sent from Heaven? Jesus. The last Engineer.'

So now I guess we know what Ridley Scott considered 'a little too on the nose' and opted to remove from the script. As I've said elsewhere, the term 'on the nose' when used in scriptwriting means telling rather than showing. The ideas are still there, but implied rather than stated outright. This is how come Ridley then went on to articulate the background to the Space Jesus Engineer concept in the movies.com interview - Roman Empire running out of control, Engineers sending an emissary to fix it - which he obviously wouldn't have bothered to do if it weren't relevant to the movie.

That's what I think, anyway. Others will disagree. It's the Internet. :)
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There's a lot of reading into this (I picked up on the "two thousand years ago" stuff; it was one of those 'shakes head and tries to forget the lumpen symbolism' moments for me), but did you pick up on del Toro's comments about At the Mountains of Madness? Prometheus is the reason his film of that got canned due to them having largely the same plot.

A shame, as I can't help that Mountains might well have been a better film than Prometheus turned out to be.

My review up tomorrow - and rather less kind than yours, I'm afraid.
There's some hope: if Prometheus does well (and it looks like it is) then Mountains of Madness may become a likely candidate for production. The two movies would be aimed for the same demographic, and they'll want to feed that audience with further R related high production cost visual effects spectacle movies, to keep the money rolling.

dissembly

5 years ago

cosmetics2013

4 years ago

GillRockatansky

4 years ago

davywavy

4 years ago

Just realised how many myths and movies have the 'sorcerer who refuses to die and uses unhealthy magic/technology to retain a twisted form at the expense of others' motif.

(I reckon both the Emperor and Vader count in Star Wars, and presumably many Sith.)
A common Doctor Who trope too - Davros and The Master of course, and in more recent series, Max in Voyage of the Damned, John Lumic in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, Professor Lazarus in The Lazarus Experiment, and Cassandra in The End of the World and New Earth.

Funny that a trope about the perils of striving for immortality/longevity should appear in a series whose protagonist is effectively himself immortal.

shes_not_there

5 years ago

girlvinyl

5 years ago

cavalorn

5 years ago

girlvinyl

5 years ago

verwuverhuven

5 years ago

Thanks for this. I'd read a lot of negative reviews of the film, claiming it was boring or had too little plot. I think this has re-inspired me to go and see it and keep an eye out the elements you mention - along with a friend's comment that there was a Lovecraftian sense of not being able to understand the motivations or intent of the alien Engineers.
It's an excellent film as long as you do not expect it to a) be science fiction or b) make any sense on the surface level, rather than the symbolic level...

danyata

5 years ago

chess

5 years ago

decora.myopenid.com

5 years ago

gregg_tavares

5 years ago

dissembly

5 years ago

Interesting reading, thanks Cav.

I also have to wonder whether there's a bit of Zecharia Sitchin in there as well.
I noted a few things that were reminiscent of Sitchin too. Their size for one thing, our giant creators.
But is Meredith a replicant?
Oh, snap!

JB_Barrow

5 years ago

Alex Bogdan

5 years ago

lee_chaos

5 years ago

morbid_curious

5 years ago

unwoman

5 years ago

nitrite

5 years ago

unwholesome_fen

5 years ago

With regard to the Doctor Who stuff and the possibility of influence, the plot of the original Alien has some similarities with Planet of the Vampires / Terrore nello spazio. In that film the crews of two spaceships are drawn to a planet by a signal. Upon arrival they are attacked by the remnants of a dying race who want to live on in new bodies - those of the crews. The film ends with the three survivors escaping, at which point it is revealed that two have been taken control of by the aliens. They promply then convert the third. Then it is revealed that these humans are also alien, as their next target is a primitive planet - Earth. So there are themes of survival, death and sacrifice there as well, plus an alien intelligence about to interact with a primitive humanity.
That is the movie Solaris almost to the letter.
Huh. Wow. Seen like that, the film almost makes sense! I may have to watch it again with all this in mind.

Thanks!
Some more thoughts:

I think, like many of Ridley Scott's films, this will get better with time and repeated viewings. There's a reason for everything in there and some of the themes are quite subtle.

Prometheus does leave the audience with questions though. What stopped the Engineers going to Earth? Well, what caused the black slime to create monsters which destroyed them and prevented it and why didn't the holo-thingy record what it was? Then where did those creatures go?

Ade talks about the Alien as 'Destroyer' archetype, but his theory also brings to mind Gozer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man - 'Choose the form of the Destructor!' and in this case, when it's humans, it's a psychosexual nightmare of rape anxiety and body horror. As the Engineers are essentially the same as humans, would it be the same for them? Or a

Now - I'm going to go out on a real limb here. I think that Meredith Vickers is an android. A replicant in the 'Rachel' mould. We're clearly supposed to think it from the start because of her emotionless facade and physical perfection, and when the captain mentions it, in terms of whether it means she wants to have sex with him or not, she does order him to her quarters, to seemingly confirm that she's not an android. That *could* be the film's way of confirming she's not, except for a couple of things.

- She's got a medical pod. Except, the medical pod isn't calibrated for females. Leaving this out wouldn't really change the film much. Shaw having to tell it to remove a foreign object rather than perform a ceasarian has attention drawn to it. Possibly, yes, to show she says 'ceasarian' rather than 'abortion', but I'm not sure that's the sum of it. It *might* be another hint that Wayland is aboard, and it's for him, but that's already been established by this point. So, why does she have a lifeboat, but not a functional medical pod? She's an android. Why is the lifeboat ejected? Yes, so that we can see the full on proto-Alien, but so she can have a way of travelling to where the next film will take place, as if she was an android, she would have survived the ship-squishing and as the point is made with David, wouldn't need a suit to survive.

- Another thing that points to her being an android, or a proto-replicant is the film playing on her big viewer thingy in her quarters when Shaw goes in to find the medical pod. When they're invited in the first time, it's a neutral mountainscape. When Shaws goes in uninvited, it's showing childhood memories of a girl on a tricycle. Is this her? Would she really play this? Or is it memory reinforcement? It's established that David can view dreams, but can they also be implanted? And memories implanted? I'm possibly reaching with this, and may be using nerd-polyfilla for plotholes, but Scott's usually so careful about what he includes and doesn't include that it's almost certainly more than throwaway.
Re: pod. It was there for Weyland, not her. If there are only 5 in existence, even as his daughter she probably couldn't afford it.

Re: Mereditch as replicant.
Weyland loves the android son more than the real daughter, and is more proud of him. Real daughter therefore tries to be a ball-breaker who looks/acts like an android. Possibly.

commonpeople

5 years ago

ed_fortune

June 7 2012, 11:35:48 UTC 5 years ago Edited:  June 7 2012, 11:37:37 UTC

All the lovely imagery and clever metaphors in the world doesn't stop the last leg of the movie being bollocks, however.

Great article though.
On the topic of Space Jesus... Anthony Hopkins reads Ray Bradbury. And how could I have forgotten that Prometheus takes place AT CHRISTMAS? Might have to go and re-edit original post...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKRPIMzlekk&feature=relmfu

O Glory, Glory, a New Christmas
Torn
From the very pitch and rim of Death,
Snatched from his universal grip,
His teeth, his most cold breath!
Under a most strange sun
O Christ, O God,
O man breathed out of most incredible stuffs,
You are the Savior’s Savior,
God’s pulse and heart-companion,
You! The Host He lifts
On high to consecrate;
His dear need to know and touch and cry wonders
At Himself.
Hi Cavalorn

I appreciate your article, because it at least bring SOME sense to the insane rambling that was Promethues. Most dissapointing movie experience I've ever had I think!

I did want to say though that all this talk of religious symbolysm strikes me at the end of the day as kind of argueing around the edges of the real problem of this film. The primary problem is the massive, ridiculous, premise the audience is supposed to swallow at the beginning of the movie, and that is that the Engineers created life on Earth and are still about. (even if the planet at the beginning isn't Earth, it's supposed to be analagous to what happened here - they're our creators/gods)

My main issue with this is to create 'life on Earth' this event would have had to have taken place 3.5 billion years ago. That's a quarter of the age of the universe!!!

The idea that these creator aliens are still kicking around doing essentially the same thing, having undergone (seemingly) no real evelution or change in their society or beleifs/choices after 3.5 BILLION! years, and then come back (finally!! how long were they waiting!!?) to visit and guide(?) earthlings 32,000-2,000 years ago is up there in suspension of disbelief with the sun turning off a bit, and too much sunburn makes you go criminally insane (the AWFUL premise for 'Sunshine')

Yet even if you say; okay maybe there was already life on Earth when he drank the black goo (65 MILLION years of dinosaurs anyone??) still to end up with Humans you have to go back 7 million years or so to find our common ancestor with apes - with which we share 99% of DNA (No I'm not a biologist up in arms, just someone who can use google) and even at several orders of magnitude LESS time-span, the same arguement applies.

I mean can you even imagine what WE will be doing in a thousand years as a race and a culture, let alone 7 million? (or 3.5 billion) It's just ridiculous.

I mean the rest is pretty stupid as well, but really that's the one that kind of boggles my mind.
but I imagine, it's just something you supposed to either buy into at the beginning or not.

Anyway, thanks again for your religious archeology
-Ferand


misterandersen

5 years ago

ext_1882305

4 years ago

"So how did our (in the context of the film) terrible murderous act of crucifixion end up wiping out all but one of the Engineers back on LV-223? Presumably through the black slime, which evidently models its behaviour on the user's mental state. Create unselfishly, accepting self-destruction as the cost, and the black stuff engenders fertile life. But expose the potent black slimy stuff to the thoughts and emotions of flawed humanity, and 'the sleep of reason produces monsters'. We never see the threat that the Engineers were fleeing from, we never see them killed other than accidentally (decapitation by door), and we see no remaining trace of whatever killed them. Either it left a long time ago, or it reverted to inert black slime, waiting for a human mind to reactivate it."

From what I gather, are you proposing that 'Jesus' was exposed to the thoughts and emotions of flawed humanity which altered the state of the black slime within him and that somehow the Engineers brought him back with them and from there a monster was unleashed, thereby killing all but one of the remaining Engineers?

Where did this black slime come from?
Where did it come from?

The X FIles.

TheMattaraja

5 years ago

serizawa3000

5 years ago

Dimm Summer

5 years ago

Deleted comment

kiwicoy

5 years ago

Jeremy Weyrauch

5 years ago

Excellent and well thought out argument, thank you.
It's just a shame that this doesn't come through in watching the film. I guess the director's cut might make more sense.
"The abdomen torn open" is a recurring motif more frequently than you might think. The first Engineer and Yeshua ben Josef aside, the first time we saw one in canon was the fossilized carcase of the original Space Jockey, on the ruined ship on LV-426. Afterwards, and most famously in cinematic terms, it happened to Kane. Tearing open the abdomen is the Alien's major gimmick.
Made me think of something. So the fact that the "Engineer/Space Jockey" left the ship after crashing to pursue Shaw means that he SHOULD NOT have been in the pilots seat of the crashed ship in the original film.

gominokouhai

5 years ago

JeffMCash

5 years ago

Eric Skodis

5 years ago

unwholesome_fen

5 years ago

Fascinating reading. I saw a more prosaic tale of a species at war and specialising in bioweapons, long-lived and calculating, making test sites where lesser but compatible creatures would one day be wiped out by prototypes.

Factional disagreements, ethical arguments.

If I tell them their purpose and whence death will come, maybe they can prevent their own destruction? They aren't developing fast enough, Shake things up at the lab etc etc
I really like where you were going with this but I thought you took a huge leap here:

"But we went and screwed it all up, and the film hints at when, if not why: the Engineers at the base died two thousand years ago. That suggests that the event that turned them against us and led to the huge piles of dead Engineers lying about was one and the same event. We did something very, very bad, and somehow the consequences of that dreadful act accompanied the Engineers back to LV-223 and massacred them."

I follow that 2,000 years ago the Engineers engineered a WMD and were going to travel, on their ship, to Earth to destroy humans. They never made it there, instead they all (except one) died on LV-223. Where did you come up with the black ooze originating on Earth then flying back to LV-223? It feels like you have it backwards.

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David Kimber

5 years ago

Robert X

5 years ago

Elizabeth Newton

5 years ago

ljbnomad

5 years ago

You deserve a trophy for this analysis. Mind = blown. Didn't think of the religious overtones, I really thought that they (the engineers) just decided that we were not worth salvaging, but didn't think of why or that they needed to be provoked, I would think that centuries of warfare and general suckitude would have convinced them to scrap the experiment. But anyway, all that to say I'll be directing anyone and everyone I can to this post.
A friend turned me on to this excellent commentary. Way I see it is a bit different though, human jesus dies for our sins, which the jockeys find terrible/failed experiment status, jockeys take either him or his body, corrupting the black slime and killing others.
Great analysis, but aren't we all assuming that the space jockeys are all the same? I was reading Ebert's review and it got me thinking--What if there are two types of "Engineers": perhaps one group creates and the other is more hostile. If you recall, the ship from the beginning of the movie is different than the ring shaped ship of the engineers on LV-223. Maybe the engineers have a type of religious schism where one group travels around the universe using the goo to create life, while the other group is only focused on destroying the creations of the other engineers and using the goo to make weapons.
i was thinking along those same lines myself

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The planet is LV223...Leviticus 22:3

"Say to them: 'For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.
Ooh. I like.

Leviticus 4:26 doesn't have a lot to do with the original movies though---unless you consider Ripley atoning for the loss of her own daughter by rescuing Newt, but that's a bit of a stretch.
I saw this linked over at imdb, what an intriguing and eye-opening analysis. Fantastic, thank-you for sharing.

wtfpeeps

June 9 2012, 05:21:34 UTC 5 years ago Edited:  June 9 2012, 05:59:36 UTC

I really enjoyed and appreciated your analysis. I found the film to be somewhat of a let down, but with your ideas in mind I can at least think back on it now with slightly more clarity, as your reasoning makes perfect sense to me, and fits in well and seems in keeping with Lindelof's obvious love/fascination with horribly trite religious mirroring and symbolism. I wasn't aware of Ridley Scott's assertion about Jesus potentially being an alien in the story, so it didn't occur to me until right now, as this wasn't brought up in the film AT ALL, unless I was distracted by my popcorn at the time or something, although when they said something to the effect of, "Something bad happened here 2000 years ago," my brain did flash to Jesus, but I guess I dismissed it entirely since that connection is somewhat of a leap. The symbolism of Shaw being infertile, but getting pregnant, at CHRISTMAS, wasn't lost on me however, so this idea of yours ties things up rather nicely, imo.

As another poster stated, I just assumed that what happened to the Engineers 2000 years ago on LV-223, was more so due to the ideas surrounding the notions of nature growing out of control, in this case, their weapons, the Xenomorphs, intended to go to Earth to wipe us out following Engineer/Jesus' death, turned on them as they are wont to do. It's the same scenario explored in virtually every Alien film, that these inherently evil creatures just can't be controlled, as those Engineers learnt to their demise. But that then poses the question of where did the Xenomorph's come from that killed them, if the one we see at the end of the film came about as per the very specific circumstances of black-goo infected sperm + infertile woman = space squid + Engineer = Xenomorph embryo.

Wow, I actually want to go and watch Prometheus again now. The film itself I still think is somewhat muddled in its approach, but at least the wannabe philosophical stuff might seem a little clearer to me now. If the idea of Jesus being an alien is actually what the story wants to, or will say, in the sequel$, then I both understand and abhor their approach to it, or lack thereof. I understand that if they did overtly say that Jesus was an Engineer, and therefore not even human let alone the son of god, then that's all people would have cared to discuss and would most likely have been somewhat of a controversy, at least in religious circles. But I simultaneously dislike their lack of balls for not proposing that idea in the first place. If they had, then I think the story overall would have felt a great deal more cohesive, and given that Engineer at the end some measurable sense of motivation for wanting to kill everyone in sight.
It was supposedly a scene that was cut out. Scott spoke about it during an interview with Movies.com.

"Movies.com: You throw religion and spirituality into the equation for Prometheus, though, and it almost acts as a hand grenade. We had heard it was scripted that the Engineers were targeting our planet for destruction because we had crucified one of their representatives, and that Jesus Christ might have been an alien. Was that ever considered?

RS: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an “our children are misbehaving down there” scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, “Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it. Guess what? They crucified him."

Jeremy Weyrauch

5 years ago

I like your analysis, but unfortunately it needs some refinement.

Foremost, in the initial "goo pod" room, there is a mural depicting a queen alien. Therefore, the Engineers knew of this property of the substance and liked it well enough to create a mural depicting them as god-like beings. Furthermore, I inferred that the snake alien that was created was from the worms present in the room before the humans arrived; therefore this area was seeded by the Engineers. However, these life forms did not activate the goo, even though worms tend to have the same survival instincts as humans, just without violence. Yet, they were capable of being mutated and did become hostile creatures.

Finally, the Engineers were depicted running *to* this room in a panic, constantly looking over their shoulders and stumbling over themselves to get there. (Minor plot hole, they all go *in* the room but the decapitated one, and the room is then sealed, yet the bodies aren't seen after the crew opens it.) This doesn't strike me as the actions of a godly, benevolent race that embraces death to promote life; it's a basic survival instinct. Why would they run to a secluded room full of a substance that destroys them upon contact? There is a missing theme that they unleashed something they could not control upon themselves, and humans could not have done this 35 light years away from a substance they had no previous contact with.
Exactly right, Eddie. While I was reading the blog post something didn't connect and I was trying to think what it was. You put words to it. It's the depiction of the proto-Alien on the mural and the Engineers' apparent worship of, or respect for, it. Kind of knocks down the theory by itself. While the Jesus Christ symbolism is without a doubt on point, something else destroyed the Engineers.

Black goo being psychically sensitive seemed a bit of a stretch anyway. Otherwise, good analysis.

sianmink

5 years ago

Ryan Colson

5 years ago

Sean Pak

5 years ago

Mayans lived long after the death of Jesus so your theory doesnt make sense. Because on of the drawings shown in the film, comes from Mayans and that meanes, engineers visited them after they decieded to wipe us out. See - no logic.
The Mayans were certainly still around and developing after the death of Jesus, but their civilizations were around long before that. "Maya art is considered by many to be the most sophisticated and beautiful of the ancient New World. The distinct style of Maya art that developed during the Preclassical period (1500 B.C. to 250 A.D.) has influences from the Olmec civilization." The cave art could have easily predated Jesus.
Great Review. Erin, I like the LV223 quote.

I never saw the Jesus bit, that's awesome and amazing. For me I think I'm more interested in the microcosm of the film especially the character of David as I was hoping to see him evolve, literally, as well as the Xenomorph's origins and hopefully explaining the two stage biology and of the Xenomorphs, which still makes very little sense (and possibly even less now), more than the philosophy in the film (at this point). I do love that this film is stirring as much discussion and hypothesis as Bladerunner.

I loved the subtle connection to Bladerunner in the form of David looking in on Shaw's dreams because it immediately made me think of the title of the book that movie was based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Do Androids dream, in the literal sense of REM sleep and in the metaphorical sense of hoping to aspire to do/be something? The answer is somewhat given in that David "hopes" for the day his creator dies so that he can be left to his own devices. I think if you look at this, the same thing can be said of humans/engineers. Going back to Jesus, he came down to put in check what humans had become due to being left to their own devices, and he got gutted for it, so the engineers wanted to do a redo (according to your hypothesis).

I think the film hints on a lot, answers some questions, and creates entirely too many more.

Also, I like the idea that Vickers may be a replicant, which is pretty much an upgrade to an android because, while synthetically created, they are still more human than an android. And more human than human was Tyrell Corp's slogan in Bladerunner. :) Also, also, Ridley hinted that Bladerunner and Alien/Prometheus may very well be in the same universe.

I kind of dislike the goo being affected by, and thus the evolutionary creations, emotion/intent/thought. That makes is somewhat psychic and creates more holes.

I do wish we could have seen what the engineers were running away from.

P.S. sorry this comment is all over the place. I'm super tired. :)
The Weyland industries timeline would seem to imply that blade runner and prometheus / alien are unrelated universes. Blade Runner takes place in 2019, and the first android is seemingly patented in 2023 in the Alien universe.

google search the weyland industries timeline page, it's pretty interesting. Particularly since supposedly on 10/11/12 Weyland incorporates...!

chiller

5 years ago

verwuverhuven

5 years ago

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