All (or some) of your Prometheus questions answered (kind of)

11 min read
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I think it’s safe to say that Prometheus is a hotly debated movie. Some of that debate rages around whether or not Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof’s decision to withhold answers to some of the film’s most important questions, in favour of sequels and ambiguity, makes for intrigue or just plain frustration.

Thing is though, there are answers to a lot of those questions. They’re just not in the movie.

I think it goes without saying: MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING if you haven’t seen Prometheus yet.

Thanks to Collider and i09, who have gone around collecting and collating nearly every single plot detail that Scott, Lindelof and all the cast have dropped in all of the interviews they’ve been doing over the last 2 weeks, some of those lingering why’s, how’s and who’s finally get some form of an explanation now. And while some of it was pretty self explanatory to me (especially since I had the luxury of multiple viewings), with only the really big questions leaving me scratching my head, I understand that a lot of people missed on certain clues.So here’s all the answers that they could find, including some new info on the sequel.

The opening scene depicts an Engineer breaking down his genetic material to create new life. Is that planet Earth? Are we witnessing the birth of mankind?

Ridley Scott: “No, it doesn’t have to be. That could be anywhere. 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.”

Why does some of the crew (specifically Holloway) treat David so badly, despite him having cared for them for 2.5 years?

Logan Marshall-Green [The actor who played Holloway]: “It’s something that I wanted to implement and I really, really liked it. Michael and I had a blast with it. It’s something I haven’t seen in science fiction, which is a sense of racism or bigotry towards androids and synthetic life. I think synthetic life is inevitable, and along that line bigotry and racism (if you will) will be inevitable as well. Although I can’t approach a role thinking of [my character] as a racist or a bigot. Certainly now I can look back and explain his disdain for Michael in that way. I kind of loved it… that social reflection on a future being, a synthetic android.”

What was David’s motivations for infecting Charlie with the black goop without knowing what it would do to him?

Damon Lindelof: “I’d say that the short answer is: That’s his programming. In the scene preceding him doing that, he is talking to Weyland (although we don’t know it at the time) and he’s telling Weyland that this is a bust. That they haven’t found anything on this mission other than the stuff in the vials. And Weyland presumably says to him, “Well, what’s in the vials?” And David would say, “I’m not entirely sure, we’ll have to run some experiments.” And Weyland would say, “What would happen if you put it in inside a person?” And David would say, “I don’t know, I’ll go find out.” He doesn’t know that he’s poisoning Holloway, he asks Holloway, “What would you be willing to do to get the answers to your questions?” Holloway says, “Anything and everything.” And that basically overrides whatever ethical programming David is mandated by, [allowing him] to spike his drink.”

Logan Marshall-Green: “My definition of a robot, or at least a self-sustained robot, is to put together information. As much information as possible and data. To build on data. The only way they’re going to grow is to build on data. You meet David collecting data instantly. I think he probably hit a wall (so to speak) with this mission. They all hit a wall, at first, with this mission. And going back to his father, Weyland, and he’s told to “try harder.” I think he understands that he will have to sacrifice a human life in order to achieve that collection of data.”

Do they (Scott and Lindelof) know the motivations for the Engineers’ change of heart about humanity or did they intentionally leave it ambiguous?

Damon Lindelof: “Golly, I’m all for ambiguity, but if we didn’t know the answer to THAT one, the audience would have every right to string us up. Yes. There is an answer. One that is hinted at within the goalposts of Prometheus. I’ll bet if I asked you to take a guess you wouldn’t be far off.”

So does that mean that there are enough clues present in the movie to allow us to piece together the Engineers’ motivations?

Damon Lindelof: “…I do feel like, embedded in this movie are the fundamental ideas behind why it is the Engineers would want to wipe us out. If that’s the question that you’re asking. The movie asks the question, were we created by these beings? And it answers that question very definitively. But in the wake of that answer there’s a new question, which is, they created us but now they want to destroy us, why did they change their minds? That’s the question that Shaw is asking at the end of this movie, the one that she wants answered. I do think that there are a lot of hints in this movie that we give you quite and educated guess as to why. But obviously not to the detriment of what Shaw might find when she goes to talk to these things herself.”

The Prometheus crew discover that the Engineers were on their way to wipe out Earth 2000 years ago, right around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Is this just coincidence or does this event play a part in their motivations for our genocide?

Ridley Scott: “We definitely did [have that in the script], 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.’”

The film features strong themes of religion (belief) vs science, specifically with Shaw’s belief in a benevolent higher power despite having no evidence. Why have that and will that be explored further?

Ridley Scott: “It’s interesting to do a sequel because this leaves the door so open to some huge questions. The real question to me is – the more mankind discovers in science the more clear and helpful everything becomes, yet we’re very bad at managing ourselves. And one of the biggest problems in the world is what we call religion, it causes more problems than anything in the goddamn universe. Think about what’s happening now, all based on the very simple idea that a Muslim can’t live alongside a Catholic, or a Catholic can’t live alongside a Protestant…”

What does David say to the Engineer that angers him so much? Is it actually scripted?

Damon Lindelof: “Yes. David’s dialogue with the Engineer has an English translation, but Ridley felt very strongly about not subtitling it. I spoke at length about this on my DVD commentary”

Based on the last Engineer’s violent reaction to the humans, did the Engineers actually want us to visit them as Shaw thought?

Damon Lindelof:“That’s an excellent question and one that I’m not going to answer. But I will say that there’s something fascinating about humanity where we perceive it as an invitation. You look at a cave wall, there’s somebody pointing at some distant planets, and one interpretation is “This is where we come from” another is “We want you to come here.” Where are we drawing that from? I think another thing that’s interesting about the system that they visit is that the moon the land on in Prometheus is LV 223. And we know LV 426 is where the action takes place in Alien, so are they even in the right place? And how close are they to the place that these aliens on cave walls were directing them. Were they just extrapolating “This is the system that has the sun with the sustainable life.” So there’s a lot of guesswork. There’s a small line in the movie where David and Holloway are talking about David’s deconstruction of the language based on Holloway’s thesis, and he says “If your thesis is correct” and Holloway says “If it’s correct?” and David says “That’s why they call it a thesis Doctor.” And the reason we threw that in there is that we’re dealing with a highly hypothetical area in terms of who these beings are, what, if any invitation they issued, and who is responsible for making those cave paintings. And did something happen in between when those cave paintings were made — tens of thousands of years ago — and our arrival now, in 2093, 2,000 years after these things have perished. Did something happen in the intermediate period that we should be thinking about?”

Was the intention always to have this film set up a sequel?

Ridley Scott:“From the very beginning, I was working from a premise that lent itself to a sequel. I really don’t want to meet God in the first one. I want to leave it open to [Noomi Rapace’s character, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw] saying, ‘I don’t want to go back to where I came from. I want to go where they came from.’”

Paradise has been rumoured to be the title of the sequel and would also refer to the Engineer’s home planet, to which Shaw and David are now on their way. However, it’s also been rumoured that this planet would be anything but idyllic. Why would that be?

Ridley Scott“Because [the Engineers] are such aggressive fuckers … and who wouldn’t describe them that way, considering their brilliance in making dreadful devices and weapons that would make our chemical warfare look ridiculous? So I always had it in there that the God-like creature that you will see actually is not so nice, and is certainly not God. As she says, “This is not what I thought it was going to be, and I think we should get the Hell out of here or there won’t be any place to go back to.

That’s not necessarily planted in the ground at the tail end of the third act, but I knew that’s kind of where we should go, because if we’ve opened up this door — which I hope we have because I certainly would like to do another one – I’d love to explore where the hell [Dr. Shaw] goes next and what does she do when she gets there, because if it is paradise, paradise can not be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous.”

Well, that’s all the “answers” for now. Did you learn something? Most of it was things that I had already figured out, but it helps to have some kind of confirmation.

Unlike my colleague, Noelle, I really am interested in the Prometheus narrative and would love to see more of it. But while a good sequel with a satisfactory conclusion to that narrative may help to wash out the bitter taste left behind by Prometheus‘ horrible ending, it certainly won’t fix the first film’s problems with script, character and logic.

(Sources: Heat VisionMovies.comIGNCollider and i09)

Last Updated: June 12, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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