Prometheus took $50 million opening domestic weekend, placing second behind Dreamworks’ Madagascar 3 which opened to $60 million. It was generally a strong weekend for everyone, and Prometheus did well to place second for its rating, its lack of mass appeal, and its genre (sci-fi can have notoriously shaky openings).
**This post will address questions people may have after watching Prometheus so it’s heavy on SPOILERS.**
Prometheus has audiences and critics divided: some viewers are so blown away by the direction and by the visuals that they’re willing to overlook the movie’s flaws (plot holes, thin plot, dumbed down characters, and a heavy-handed use of Checkov’s Gun). Others are picking apart the movie and they feel it’s a convoluted mess.
A brief review of the movie, before moving on to an explanation: it’s entertaining, which seems to be the only goal at this point at the expense of all else. It’s beautiful, it’s well-cast, and it’s well-acted even though some of the characters are reductive (Sean Harris’s geologist Fifield uses mapping tools but gets lost in an enclosed space shaped like a crescent and his co-worker tries to pet an alien Penis Snake thing that’s hissing like a cobra about to strike).
You may well leave the theater unsatisfied. And you will almost certainly leave with questions of your own. Having seen the movie, this is mostly a listicle of cherry-picked answers. So, feel free to conjecture further in the comments. For reasons of length, this post won’t explore everything. It will only cover some of the more pressing themes. For the minutiae, I’d recommend /r/movies on Reddit from whence some of this information is derived.
* Is it worth seeing the movie in 3D or should you settle for (cheaper) 2D?
Personally, I saw the movie in 2D although I wasn’t paying nor in a position to argue. And my eyesight sucks, I need actual glasses, so I’m nervous about the whole 3D glasses thing. I saw it in 2D and it was still beautiful. Arguably, there’s little that needs to be flying out the screen at you and only some of the sweeping landscapes require that kind of 3D depth. So you’re not missing much. But the director didn’t cheap out, the movie was shot in 3D NOT post-processed. Roger Ebert called watching Prometheus in 3D “sane and effective,” so there you go.
* What’s the deal with the opening scene? As in, what was the alien doing in the first five minutes?
The planet, which one could surmise is Earth, is being seeded for life by an Engineer (note: “Engineer” and “Space Jockey” are somewhat interchangeable). That is, the Engineer’s DNA is from whence the first humans came and we developed quickly because of the goo’s mutative qualities that can cause change; it’s a sort of catalyst for evolution and for devolution.
The Engineer, atop a waterfall and drinking black goo from a cup, is broken down and seeded in its own image. Which is why we see body parts dissolve right down to the DNA. And, later in the film, it’s discovered that we have the Engineer’s exact DNA sequence. Although, it’s not established at that point, nor any point, WHY they seed (it’s conjectured they did it for an experiment, or… just because “they could”).
Ridley Scott, as director, says it’s inconsequential whether that planet is Earth: “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.”
Moreover, no, it was not a scene of suicide. At least, that wasn’t the point.
* Why did the Space Jockeys want to kill the human characters? Why did they want humans dead after creating us?
The aliens intended to exterminate the human race, and so they built a military installation on LV-223 to that end. (Note: it only exacerbated the situation when the Prometheus crew awoke the lone surviving SJ and screamed impertinent questions at it. And, no, we don’t know what, specifically, Michael Fassbender’s David character said to the SJ. We’re left to wonder.)
Following the discovery of the primitive murals, interpreted as an “invitation,” it’s conjectured by the scientists that the Engineers returned to supervise our evolution at points throughout human history. What the scientists supposedly don’t know, according to the director, is that things went sour because of us, the humans. We angered our creators, our Gods. Around that time, they plotted to destroy us but the weapons of mass destruction with which they planned to do so corrupted/ escaped/ turned on them and they themselves were killed. Explaining, in part, the piles of dead SJs.
Whatever we did wrong occured circa 2,000 years ago, according to attempts to date the severed head.
Movies.com asked the director: “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?”
To which Scott expounds: “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.”
That scene was deleted for its religious implications, Space Jesus/ Alien Jesus, and for being too “on the nose,” concludes Scott.
* What is the black goo, what does it do, why does it affect other beings differently?
The black slime has mutative qualities dependent on the organism with which it is making contact. It turns the dying geologist into a zombie, one drop mutates Logan Marshall-Green’s Charlie Holloway who in turn impregnates sterile his wife, Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, with a proto-Xeno (three months gestation within 10-hours of conception). The goo turns the worms into phallic snakes and it, within more peaceful settings, allows the Engineers to seed from their own bodies (admittedly, by killing them).
More specifically, on the Investor page of the Weyland Industries website (used to promote the movie) under a list of mineral assets is a small quantity of “Eitr.” Eitr is, according to its Wiki: “A mythical substance in Norse mythology. This liquid substance is the origin of all living things, the first giant Ymir was conceived from eitr. The substance is supposed to be very poisonous and is also produced by Jörmungandr (the Midgard serpent) and other serpents.”
* What is David’s motivation, and is Vickers an android?
In addition to the obvious religious imagery (washing the feet of Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland like the feet of Jesus Christ, and nulliparous character Shaw becoming pregnant like the Virgin Mary), there are throwbacks to auteur Scott’s earlier work like Blade Runner (not to mention George Lucas’ Star Wars with the question of paternity).
There’s the question of whether Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers is human or whether she’s possibly an android per Harrison Ford’s lead in Blade Runner. This is mostly hinted in Prometheus. There’s supposedly an off-camera sex scene between Vickers and Idris Elba’s Janek, seemingly putting paid to speculation that she’s just a gynoid. However, David is realistic enough to have hair that grows, evident when bleaching his roots to look like Lawrence of Arabia’s blond leading man, Peter O’Toole. So, perhaps, a robot could ape other human bodily functions.
Vickers calls Weyland “father,” so, with their preternatural age gap, there are two main possibilities 1) he’s her biological father who craved a son and so built one, David, whom Vickers resents 2) Vickers is an earlier model robot who, unruly, is replaced in the heart of her creator by the seemingly more placid David.
David is nefarious though (watching people’s dreams to learn their weaknesses), with insidious motives (conflicted about killing Weyland against protocol). He appears to want his creator, Weyland, dead, and he’s subjugated and mistreated by the other crew. Bitter he’s not a “real boy,” as mocked by Holloway. By contrast, Weyland clearly seeks immortality, literally. David is smart, he seeks information and language which puts him in a powerful position. He poisons Holloway after a convoluted conversation about the lengths to which the latter would go for answers. This is, in a way, how David created a life. And it’s testing the goo’s properties before it’s allowed near Weyland for unspecified ends. Although, honestly, David is too complex to parse here…
* What happens at the end? What is the Alien tie-in, is this a prequel or sequel, will Prometheus have sequels?
David explains that there’s more than one spaceship, when Shaw wishes to escape to find answers. There appear to be at least five ships buried, not by accident, sealed for later use. David and Shaw leave in one of the ships, to an uncertain fate. This explicitly portends Prometheus sequels. Moreover, Prometheus is set in the year 2089 on planet LV-223, Ellen Ripley’s crew re-visit LV-426 in 2179, so there are 90 years to fill in the interim.
Lastly, Prometheus takes place in the same universe as the events of the Alien series, although filmmakers were deliberately vague. Scott stated that: “Alien was indeed the jumping-off point for this project… by the end of the third act you start to realize there’s a DNA of the very first Alien, but none of the subsequent [films].”