Ten Common “Prometheus” Questions Explained

By: Heather Seebach

The following article is intended only for people who have seen Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Needless to say, it is full of MAJOR SPOILERS. Herein I attempt to answer some common questions asked about the film with my personal interpretations and evidence from the film to back them up. Feel free to share your own interpretations in the comments section!

This is one of two articles about Prometheus. Part two is a rebuttal to some of the more petty or flat-out asinine complaints being presented about the film. You can find that HERE.

1) What is that opening scene on the waterfall about?

In the opening scene, an Engineer in a robe kills himself by drinking the “black ooze” seen throughout the film. Meanwhile, a disc-shaped space craft floats overhead. The location is undisclosed – it could be Earth, but Ridley Scott has stated it does not have to be. Upon drinking the fluid, the Engineer’s body decomposes and falls into the water. The disintegrating double helixes suggest life is being created here. Was this suicide? A religious rite? A science experiment? Given the ceremonial robe, I believe this was indeed a sacrifice by the Engineer to create life. As Scott puts it, the man is a sort of celestial “gardener.” Also, the fact that the spacecraft leaves before the Engineer even swallows the liquid suggests it was always the intention for him to be left behind.

2) So why did the Engineers want to kill us when they created us?

One theory is that the Engineers became unhappy with their creations at some point. The fact that the Engineers all died approximately 2,000 years ago has led some to suggest the crucifixion of Christ angered the Engineers. I, on the other hand, eschew the “Space Jesus” theory. If anything, it is more likely that the Engineers became angry at their creations (humans) for worshipping a false god (Christ), not for killing him.

If you don’t buy the religious angle, however, there is a more direct explanation – we are a threat. Just as Meredith Vickers wanted her father dead (“A king has his reign, then he dies. It’s inevitable”), or Shaw wanted her own offspring torn out of her, it is reasonable enough to assume our creators simply did not want us. The movie emphasized over and over the tumultuous relationship between parent and child. This is further stated by David’s line, “Doesn’t everyone want their parents dead?” Also, David and Holloway have a great exchange at the billiards table where Charlie says humans created androids “because we could” and David replies, “Imagine how it would feel to hear that from your creator.” The dynamic between creator and creation in this film is fascinating. And let's not forget David's line, "In order to create, one must first destroy."

Furthermore, I believe there are at least two factions of Engineers – some peaceful, others militant. Not all human beings subscribe to the same belief systems, so why should the Engineers? This idea is also supported by the differences in their dress (robes vs. space jockey armor) and the difference in their ships (disc-shaped vs. horseshoe-shaped). I have no doubt that the space jockeys we saw throughout the film (and in Alien) were military. Furthermore, this scene (cut from the film) displays more robe-wearing Engineers, presumably of the peaceful variety:

3) How did Shaw and Holloway infer the aliens depicted in the drawings were our creators?

The cave drawings were spread across centuries and various ancient civilizations that had no contact with one another yet they depicted the exact same images. This suggests a common denominator – an ancestor. Given the tall human-like creature pointing to the stars in every drawing, Shaw and Holloway theorized an alien that preceded us. Their thesis that these beings created us was just that – a thesis. Shaw obviously had a vested interest in the creation of life (as she could not do it herself) and a curiosity about where we came from (based on her own religious hang-ups) so it is no surprise that she would land on such a conclusion.

4) Why did the Engineers leave maps to where they were?

If there were indeed benevolent Engineers, the maps were likely an invitation. And for all we know, they were not even pointing at LV-223, where the events of Prometheus take place. After all, the drawings were pretty ancient and crude, so it is very possible that the crew missed the intended target and ended up on a military installation. Another theory is that the malevolent Engineers were deliberately pointing us to the “moon of death” but I feel this is less likely.

5) What is the black goo?

It is an evolutionary precursor to both human beings and Xenomorphs, not unlike the long-theorized primordial ooze. It is harnessed by at least a faction of the Engineers as a biological weapon (or so it is implied in the film). Interestingly enough, in Sumerian myth (The Epic of Atrahasis), after a conflict between “working Gods” and “ruling Gods”, man is created from mud and the flesh of a lesser God who sacrifices himself. When the Gods tire of their creation, they try to destroy the mankind with plagues. Of course, the Greek myth of Prometheus also involves the creation of mankind from clay. Given co-writer Damon Lindelof’s strong affinity for religious and mythological metaphors, these references should not be overlooked.

6) Why does the black goo react differently to different victims? 

Obviously we do not know the origins of the black ooze, and so we cannot explain its unpredictability. Still, based on the events in the film, we can infer a few things. Firstly, the ooze may have a different outcome based on who or what it touches and how. When the Engineer ingests the liquid, his body falls apart. When Holloway ingests a tiny droplet, his body seems to be slowly decaying also. Similarly, the decapitated Engineer head was degenerating (and ultimately exploded thanks to the scientists jolting it with electricity). So consuming or becoming infected by the ooze seems to cause the body to break down.

But when the mealworms encountered the black ooze, the result was a worm-like creature with a face-hugger-esque mouth. And Fifield, the geologist, transformed into an aggressive zombie. So it seems like external/surface contact with the ooze brings about an aggressive transformation rather than decomposition. And finally, of course, there is the reproductive route of transmission. Shaw received some black-goo-laced sperm courtesy of Holloway and the result was a squid alien baby. And when an Engineer got that squid’s ovipositor down his throat, the result was a mini Xenomorph-like creature. One could argue all this is convoluted or inconsistent, but here’s what it really is – science fiction. All you really need to know is the black ooze is a dangerous substance capable of rapid development.

7) Is that a Xenomorph at the end? How is it related to the one in Alien?

The creature that bursts out of the Engineer in the film’s final scene is presumably a relative of the Xenomorph from Alien. It is obviously not the same alien we know and love. Why does it look like an adolescent and not like the one that burst from Kane in Alien? Probably for fan service but I think it was also to explain the bipedal design of the adult Xenomorph, and to answer the chicken-and-the-egg question for the Alien series. So where did the Xenomorph on LV-426 come from? My guess is that one of the space jockeys escaped LV-223 after having been infected with the black ooze, and crashed/landed on LV-426, thus kick-starting centuries-worth of Xenomorph evolution there.

Also worth noting: that Xenomorph cousin in the film's final scene is not the first of its kind. Remember the room with the vases? There was a mural clearly depicted an adult Xenomorph (or something very similar). So the black goo and the Engineers have clearly mixed before. This is also supported by the fact that Millburn says the space jockey corpses "exploded from the inside." Perhaps a faction of the Engineers worshiped the quasi-Xenomorphs? Treated them as children? The latter would certainly fit in with the "children-turning-on-their-parents" theme. 

8) What was David’s agenda in this film?

Simply put, to serve Weyland, as he has been programmed to do. There also seemed to be an inherent desire to be free of his master, though. Again, “Doesn’t everyone want their parents dead?” As Bishop explains in Aliens, the previous android models were “a bit twitchy” and known to turn on their human creators (there is that theme again!). His affinity for Lawrence of Arabia is a great metaphor for this eccentric “man” trying to fit into a culture that is not his own. Much like Lawrence, David yearns to be praised and accepted, not stuck in a corner until needed like a vacuum cleaner.

9) Why did David poison Holloway?

He clearly was not trying to kill Holloway, as he could have left Charlie out in the storm if that were the case. Rather, he was running an experiment. Weyland urged him to “try harder” to find answers, and possibly even acquire an alien specimen to take back to Earth (as Weyland-Yutani was very much after in the other films). Right before he spikes the drink, David asks Holloway, “How far would you go for answers?” to which Charlie says he would do anything. David says that is worth drinking to, then. It is also possible that David was hoping to secondarily infect Shaw (to do it directly would kill her) and thus acquire a specimen. The way he later insists on freezing Shaw rather than killing the alien baby supports this.

10) Why was the med-pod calibrated for males only when it was in Vickers’ room?

The medical pod was never intended for Vickers, it was for her father, Weyland. With only a dozen ever made, do you really think Vickers could afford it? No, the med-pod was a precaution for Weyland, who clearly did not care about the lives of any other human on-board.

Questions? Comment below! 

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