I still haven’t seen Prometheus but I’ve done a lot of reading and checking of clips to get a better understanding of one of my favorite movie verticals of all time. Many people have mentioned that the movie leaves viewers with more questions than it answers. As a result, there’s plenty of debates in terms of both the science and analytical readings of the movie. My blog here will attempt to address a little of both.
I think the biggest question in the movie seems to be what are the purpose of the engineers with their black goo. Much of the focus revolves around the mystery of the black goo and its functionality. The inconsistency of the black goo seems to confound people as people have a tendency to examine life with a linear mind set. But we have to look at a larger scale in understanding what that all serves.
The idea of using the engineers as a stepping stone to perhaps launch into Alien is one of Ridley Scott’s motivations behind the movie in revisiting the Alien universe. He simply asked the question, “Who is that guy in the chair?” However, both he and the main writer of the story need to provide an emotional motivation to get hardcore fans and others alike deeper into the movie. Hence, the linking of the engineers to a well established mythology (Prometheus) and the very essence of God itself.
Considering the growing debate of UFOs, encounters with aliens and even the appearance of aliens in the past 20 years or so, the appearance of these engineers coincide with the whole cultural phenomenon of extraterrestrial life. In the original script even, there is a rape scene (of sorts) of Elizabeth Shaw where she experiences what many UFO victims might describe as some sort of alien science experiment. Considering that she is sterile, this original scene as well as the trilobyte birth scene are keys to understanding a greater scope of what Scott and the writer are attempting to accomplish here.
That goal, imo, is attempting to ask or even answer some fundamental questions about our own existence: where did we come from? The subtle hints that Scott lays out in the film such as the fertilization of an assumed Earth by an engineer’s sacrifice at the beginning of the film, the genetic transformational powers provided through the black goo and the engendering of life where it once was not possible all allude to the engineers as a type of god-like species. In the original script, you can even see her own psychic debate with an engineer where she announces, “Not MY God.”
However, since the original script was thrashed in favor of what we see on screen, we need to take that route in order to still answer what the engineers’ purpose is in the movie. After all, if, indeed, an engineer at the beginning of the movie had sacrificed itself to create us, why would at the end of the movie another engineer attempt to supposedly destroy our species? This notion seems completely counter-intuitive, unless you accept Charlie Halloway’s overly simplified explanation that our Makers created us because, “they could” (I want to deny this explanation as the real one because Halloway’s character is the prototypical Alpha Male Jersey Shore Idiot type; so his reading of the situation has as much depth as an empty swimming pool).
Before getting into the Prometheus mythology, I want to delve more into the artifacts that the movie sets up. For instance, the engineer graveyard scene and hologram scene where the engineers are apparently running away from something. Naturally, the biggest question derived from that scene is “running away from what?”
Our only clues in answering that question given from the movie’s visual details are the trilobyte, the hammerpedes and the deacon alien at the end. With the exception of the deacon alien, the other two xenomorphs were not in the original script. I believe those were added to provide continuity with the Alien universe. The deacon itself, in fact, was probably modified visually to support the other alien movies, which eventually established the convention of the aliens assuming partly the DNA of their hosts.
But let’s attempt to take the three and isolate them as candidates in what the engineers were running away from. The trilobyte (aka Cuddles) is, imo, just an artifact to re-establish the convention of facehuggers in the movie. I do think there are other reasons for its existence, but I will delve into that aspect later.
The hammerpedes, I believe, were simply the results of accidentally intermingling with the black goo substance. If anything there is a resemblance to the tail aspects of the original facehugger in the strength and ability to coil around a victim. Also, the obvious deep throat reference. However, the movie does not provide additional clues to whether or not entering and remaining in a victim’s throat enact further impregnation. Just from a directional point of view, it seems that their real purpose is to scare people in the theater. But again, the question here is whether or not the engineers themselves are running away from this type of being and I think clearly the answer is no.
The deacon is perhaps the one thing that provides a possible answer. We see one mural where an alien-like creature is shown in a sort of odd pose. The pose possibly is something of worship by the engineers. However, if you examine the mural closely, you will see that there are other visual clues that might indicate that this is the result of the biological process from the facehuggers. In fact, someone posted a comparison of HR Giger’s painting of the temple scene that was supposed to be included in the original Alien movie. It seemed to be repurposed here.
More than likely the deacon/”adult” alien form is what the engineers are running from. If that is the case, the obvious follow up question is: why? Outside of the sheer terror that we know these aliens can possess, why would sophisticated engineers run from such a thing? Why not use a weapon or do something to destroy this creature? And why is it that Shaw is able to discover a decapitated head from an engineer? Why would a xenomorph do such a thing? Then how can we go from that aspect back to the fundamental question that Scott poses, which is how we came about?
Again, this is what makes the film interesting because of these questions that come to be. One internet writer analyzed the movie from a partly Biblical reading. He examined the film using some dates to create a few possible explanations. First, there is a connection to Christmas when the astronauts of Prometheus wake up. The year when they wake up runs close to the time Jesus Christ was persecuted. As a result, the writer suggests that the engineers provided a version of themselves (i.e. Jesus Christ) to us lowly, stupid, primitive humans in attempt to educate us to a higher being. Our brutal execution of Jesus Christ more than likely pissed the engineers off into writing us off.
Along those lines the writer talks about the dichotomy of creators (i.e. the engineers) and the destroyers (i.e. the xenomorph). Going back to the UFO/alien phenomenon/fascination in the past 20+ years, there is no question that there is a parallel as I established between the appearance of engineers and the UFO/aliens we establish in our culture. But let’s further examine the appearance of these engineers. Their physical nature is flawless with their muscles and more than likely their intelligence is equal. However, their size exceeds our own and they are pure white. These attributes can depict them as gods to the primitive human mind.
But those are details leading into establishing the xenomorph’s role as the destroyers or a satanic-like figure, at least from the writer’s point of view. I argue though that the xenomorph might not necessarily be THE destroyer. If not, then there’s definitely something more to them than the raw, biological violence that it manifests.
What I want to argue for is that the real destroyers possibly are the engineers themselves. Or perhaps not all of them. Or perhaps that their race is not unlike our own in that you have very complex groups vying against each other for control. Is it possible that the character Weyland is just another version of someone in their society? Someone who had a god-complex and wanted to go beyond their limits in sacrificing those around them for himself rather than sacrificing himself for those around him? It’s possible that the engineer who communicated with David saw parallel’s in Weyland’s selfishness, which destroyed his own people/group, hence why he grew angry. It defied the sanctity of some order/ritual/rite/convention of life that is well known and results in the decadence of civilization.
So here’s where I want to bring everything together into my own thesis. The engineers are not themselves just a species but a segment of a larger species. They have a purpose just like our own engineers and that purpose is to improve the universe. However, just like ourselves, their species may not necessarily nor always have the purist of intentions. You just need one egotistical nut who believes himself above all else or deigns to become above all else to disrupt everything. My guess is that they have their own Weyland/god-like character who wanted too much power and had manipulated the engineers into misappropriating the black goo.
The black goo itself is intelligent, just like how we are programming computers to become smarter about the world around us. It is not life itself but can be repurposed depending on the intent or genetic make up of the individual. The internet writer’s article makes this suggestion as we see the black goo having varying affects on everyone (except David). If you look at some of concept art for characters like Fifield or Halloway after being affected by the black goo, you will notice that they were supposed to morph into a more xenomorph-like creature. Of course, in the case of Fifield we get a zombie and Halloway’s eventual result remains a mystery after hottie Charlize Theron turns him molten.
Yet when you examine the end results of these transformations, you see how this black goo is attempting to convert people towards a certain type of mutation. You have the hammerpedes with their facehugger-like tail and the propensity to enter into people’s mouths, the trilobyte that clearly is an upgraded (at least a bigger, scarier) version of the facehugger, biomechanical-like appearance of Halloway’s face as his condition worsens, etc. It’s as if this black goo is making everyone towards this biological creature that will become the well known alien.
We have to return to the original Alien movie to better understand what this all means. It is Ash’s character who is able to objectively describe it: “You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility…A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”
The “perfect organism”. Is it possible then what the engineers are attempting to manufacture is this “perfect organism?” Has it always been this way? Let’s examine the original alien’s lifecycle (the non-James Cameron, director’s cut version): egg -> facehugger -> victim (Kane)-> chest burster -> xenomorph -> victim (intermediate stage/Brett) -> egg. This lifecycle precludes the notion of gender. Essentially, any living orgasm can fulfill the role of becoming the host for the next stage. There is no known restriction like gender for instance. I mean, we never once saw the equivalent of a female engineer as of yet.
So let’s go back towards the engineers. There’s always been this motive of using the aliens as a bioweapon and suggestions that the engineers on LV-426 were transporting the eggs for military purposes. In Prometheus, Janek’s concludes that the planet possibly was being used as a military bunker of sorts. Shaw sees the possibility of the canisters with the goo as heading back towards earth. When the engineer lifts off the ship, we can only assume that he is going to fulfill a potential mission of eliminating humans with the black goo.
Again though we have to ask about motivations in all of this. But first we need to summarize the possible things we’ve learned. The engineers are more than likely attempting to create the perfect life form via the goo. The ones that Shaw, etc. discover are evidently hostile (at least the one they awoken…then again he could be pissed in being abruptly awoken from a wet dream). There is a military purpose behind the black goo. They will head to earth. It’s possible someone from the engineer’s species has a godlike complex. There was a battle that might’ve occurred between the engineers on the ship and a xenomorph.
I think I’ve managed to establish a lot of “what’s” but not “why’s.” So the first thing I want to attempt to answer is why were the engineers running. If, indeed, the engineers were being chased by the xenomorph, then they should have every right to book. But let’s take that a step further and ask why would a xenomorph attack the engineers is the engineers had a hand in creating it? Wouldn’t you think that the engineers were capable of controlling their own creations? Or is the case of Frankenstein (again the Prometheus reference) letting his creation get out of control?
There’s no way of knowing exactly how the xenomorph could’ve gotten loose. But it is possible that you have some corporate greedy fucker like a Carter J Burke or Weyland who unleashes the creation to cause havoc. But if you have that greedy fucker, why not deal with him directly? Or were they able to identify him earlier on? Or why would that greedy fucker attempt to screw his own people?
My thoughts on this is that the said greedy fucker may not necessarily be a single person. It could also be a major disagreement between two sides. This is where the mythology of Prometheus comes into play. In the mythology, the Gods are the ones punishing Prometheus for giving mortals fire. Perhaps, likewise the engineers, who attempted to bequeath knowledge onto primitive man, were punished by their kind, especially after humans had failed to demonstrate any noble qualities in blindly crucifying a possible engineer/alien. So it’s possible that their species punished the engineers that made the bold attempt at enlightening us.
Additionally, it’s possible that some of these engineers made an attempt to defend us. There are, after all, stories of wars just above us between aliens over us. Isn’t that the whole notion of God vs Satan? The war of our souls?
That still leaves humans as a major problem for these species. Maybe our ignoble nature has motivated part of them to set course to destroy us. But will it be an obliteration or something else? We have established that the black goo genetically can alter things. So Shaw’s oblique, “There won’t be any home to go back to” might be hyperbolic. Just not the crappy world we know now.
We can only assume that the black goo will mutate humans and other organisms much like Fifield and Halloway. Or perverting our genes in the way that Shaw suddenly was able to conceive. If the end of the genetic transformation is the perfect species, then wouldn’t we be converted into some militaristic biomechanical weapon? That seems like a very plausible explanation for our eventual usage.
It’s possible that part of the flow of life as defined by the convention of these engineers is that the creation of simple life later would be used for military purposes. So the basic growth of primitive civilizations to later be upgraded using the black goo. Yet this reading seems to interpret the engineers as being quite callous. Again we have to look back towards the works of Mary Shelley and the mythology to find deeper meaning.
I think that again the real story is that the engineers are in a conflict with themselves. You have benevolent ones interested in the creation of life. Then there are those who are fascinated by the destruction of it and the violation of the principals of life. That is the very principle of how things work. Think about the world. To achieve true balance, everyone needs to sacrifice in order to make the world a better place. But when you get certain segments of society that refuse to give up their share, the rest of the world suffers.
Then look at the reasons why technology is created. We use technology to improve our lives. That’s what most engineers want and why we want to get into a profession like that. However, like anything, engineering can be perverted and misappropriated. You have engineers who are part of that segment of society that want to work for profit (not completely unreasonable) rather than the greater good and help to create things like nuclear bombs, spying tools, etc. There is no reason to believe that other intelligent beings cannot have similar motivations.
I think the engineer that Shaw encountered might be the only real mystery. On the one hand, I do believe that the engineer was genuinely angry at Weyland’s blasphemous request at prolonging his life. Hence why the engineer violently dispatched Weyland. I think that Weyland’s selfish revelation convinced the engineer that humans were impure and needed to be dealt with. Which is why he wanted to apparently return to his mission in destroying the earth. Of course, it’s hard to say whether or not the earth would be just destroyed or if the black goo would upgrade us into nefarious biological weapons. That message conflicts in some ways with the reading that the engineer is angry at our impurity. Upgrading us for weapons obviously in itself is not exactly your most noble act in the universe.
Yet the mural from the movie might attempt to answer some of this. In the mural, we see how what looks to be an engineer is subduing a bizarre creature. Up until now, we have never seen anything like the creature, which might be partly humanoid. Is it possible that the creature is a result of the black goo? And let’s talk about the notion of subjugation. Is the engineer controlling his own Frankenstein in this mural (so to speak)?
Isn’t another reason for engineering to control the environment? If that’s the case, then we can look at the possibility for the engineers using the black goo to control life itself. Life like ourselves. We might just be puppets in this universe. If we ever were empowered to finally realize that the higher being guiding many of our lives is just an alien, then it might be dangerous for that alien species as it’s well established people do not want to be slaves. We’ve always said that knowledge == freedom. Our own awareness in this universe would empower us to move beyond the limitations and many manipulations. And it’s always possible that these aliens have their own kind on earth pulling the strings. But at that point, I think I might be taking my readings too far at least with regards to the main script.
The only thing I’ve left remaining (for myself at least) is how we link this all the way back to Alien. I think down the road we will see some sort of links back to the Alien movie in a direct sense. For one, the planet/moon that Shaw and her crew enter is LV-226, not LV-426. And the ending to the engineer, despite being in a similar environment to the one seen on LV-426, is not the same at all. If it were, he would’ve been in the chair with the chestburster hole. Instead, we’re just giving small clues as to what might be to come.
I think that the next movie (which supposedly is entitled “Paradise”) delves into the possibilities of the engineer’s home world. If anything, I believe Scott has revealed that he wanted to move away from the pure Alien universe and expand it so we start looking more at these other beings and their motivations. Still you have to wonder how you get from an LV-226 to an LV-426. There certainly are parallels between the ships. But the main difference is the fact that the cargo ship on LV-426 contained alien eggs rather than the canisters. So your immediate conclusion is a direct link from the canisters back to the eggs.
Now, die hard canon alien fans have debated for years on what is canon, most notably the director’s cut of Alien, with the scene where Brett and Dallas are discovered by Ripley mutating into eggs. While future films pretty much have favored the James Cameron interpretation of where eggs come from (a queen), I feel that Scott will stick to his and Dan O’Bannon’s original vision. We’ve already seen that the black goo has some sort of genetic mutating powers and that visually there are parallels back to the original alien universe.
However, the connection between the ship on LV-426, the egg chamber, the canister chamber and the cut scene from Alien are what I think are the most interesting parts in all of this. First let’s examine the egg chamber and canister chamber between both movies. Something remarkable about both scenes is the layout. The canisters and eggs are pretty orderly. It’s not like they appeared in some random spots haphazardly. There is a design and organization to it. So I think that the engineers placed them that way. Again, you have to think of both as “cargo”.
The reason for establishing this fact is that the eggs eventually have to come from some place and placed into that cargo bay. Prior to Prometheus, one theory was that the eggs were the prior crew members of the derelict space craft. But I cannot imagine the aliens being so orderly and meticulous. Also, compare the way the eggs in the chamber appeared to the one on the Nostromo. The cocoon chamber in the Nostromo was created in a sloppy fashion by the xenomorph. The bodies of Brett and Dallas were strung against a wall. The eggs in the derelict were neatly placed in rows. Not to mention that they are smaller than the massive engineers.
That makes me think if the engineers could be abducting life forms like us around the universe and converting them into these eggs via the xenomorphs. This easily goes hand-in-hand with the alien abduction theories out there if Scott decides to use them. Also, we don’t see more of the derelict space craft to know if there’s an experimental area.
Maybe in a future movie, we’ll see Elizabeth Shaw discovering this process. There’s a certain cheese/horror factor about it that works nicely with what we know. But if done right, it ties a lot together. I prefer the combined notion of the warring faction of engineering species because then it describes a purpose for these biological weapons. Yet I want to take things a step further to talk about the xenomorph mural.
There is a sort of worshiping pose to this image. We have managed to provide this thing with some attributes, especially the notion that it is the “perfect organism.” But we also a while back described it as a “destroyer” and connected it to Satan. Something that we have assumed in all of this is that the engineers are manufacturing these species. But why create such a hostile organism? Obviously, once it’s created it becomes somewhat self sustaining and is damn efficient.
One argument is that the warring factions of engineers might’ve established this thing as their own deity. Or perhaps that a faction broke off and that an individual wanted to become this perfect organism and misappropriated the black goo to ensure it’s indefinite lifespan. After all, the cycle of its life is continuing and evolving. Kinda like Weyland’s true motivation.
Unfortunately, the convention of the alien has gone through numerous interpretations. At one point for instance, Hudson, in the movie Aliens, describes them as just “dumb bugs.” For the Alpha Male adrenaline junky type, we can always assume that surface level readings of the world are shallow. The alien itself seems to have quite a bit of consciousness on its own. For instance, how does the hammerpede know to break Millburn’s arms, shattering his bone to penetrate through the suit, to slither inside and then come straight up to the helmet and shove itself down his throat? For something that could be a “dumb bug” that’s damn crafty.
But what if these perfect specimens are that crafty and actually are not just “dumb bugs” but something with a far more sophisticated system. How can it know to penetrate one’s mouth to impregnate someone? How can it even know what a mouth or digestive system is? The black goo might empower part of that intelligence. Still that does make these things smarter than what we’ve assumed for all these years.
Now, let’s get back to the notion of the satan/destroyer xenomorph and the dichotomy of the engineering society. Is is possible that the xenomorph is the result of a corrupt set of engineers that wanted to prolong their own lives and not follow their conventions?
I think that is something which Elizabeth Shaw will discover. The aliens/xenomorphs are what these subset of engineers believe to be the next stage of higher life forms. They are intelligent and at war with the other sect of engineers. They are also technologically primitive and depend upon being parasitic, not unlike the people at top who use the slave labor of those below to accomplish their nefarious means. So they still require things like the space ships and hosts to prolong themselves.
What I think will occur in the future movie is the connection of this and we’ll get to see where these aliens really came from, whom the makers are and possibly where alien eggs truly originate from. With regards to the last part, we only got a small glimpse of the alien egg creation in the director’s cut. But it’s a major and interesting mystery as to the biological process of converting a human (for instance) into an egg. The black goo’s effects genetically explains one part. We do see small glimpses of Halloway mutating with his skin looking infected somewhat similar to the Brett egg from the director’s cut. Then we see how Shaw, who is infertile, miraculously is able to produce a squid-like creature that evolves into Cuddles, I mean a trilobyte resembling a facehugger. I think in the future movie we’ll see these two things come together where a xenomorph is infecting either an engineer or a human with the stinger of its tail (or perhaps the inner jaws) and the engineer/human mutating into an egg.
Besides, that director’s cut scene has left equally a large number of questions especially when it was put in. And I think that’s something Ridley Scott wants to answer.