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Ridley Scott’s Prometheus Explained- After 10 Years, We’ve Finally Figured It Out

It has been ten years since the gorgeous, indulgent, and confusing Prometheus graced our silver screens. In the decade since the film was released, there has been a lot of ink spilled and time spent meditating on what it all meant. There were thoughtful moral questions and stunning imagery between the odd plot holes, religious allegories, and grotesque death. Prometheus, which is currently free to stream on Prime Video, deserves one more trip down the rabbit hole. Here are all the theories that still monopolize our time.

Official Trailer Screengrab

Everyone dies, and everyone has an idea of the afterlife. It is what you choose to believe that matters most. David spies on dreams Elizabeth Shaw has while in cryosleep of a pleasant memory of her father where he explains what death means to different people. This central thought matters most in the cinematic world of Alien and Prometheus. Life requires sacrifice. That sacrifice is the certainty of death. Without it, life is meaningless, and good people forget their morality. Think continuous resleeving of the rich and powerful in Altered Carbon or organ harvest in Logan’s Run. This is why the question of whether or not David has soul matters. Peter Weyland tells everyone David is the closest thing he has to a son and simultaneously says he has no merit or understanding as a living being. A curious dichotomy plays out later when the Engineer decapitates David.

The alien, in the beginning, we come to know as the Engineer, drinks from the orb and disintegrates into a mush of black goo before falling into the waterfall. He is labeled the sacrifice engineer. That should be the end of the story, yet who he was and why he did what he did still perplex viewers. Humans advance for knowledge and proliferation. Shaw says as much to David when she admits she needs to know why the Engineers hate us. For him, life is what is essential, not answers.

David drops black goo from an alien orb in Charlie’s drink because he wants to create new life. He’s curious about what might happen and unconcerned with Chalie’s survival because one single life doesn’t matter. Shaw and Charlie believe humanity evolved not because of Darwinism but because Engineers interfered at various times for unknown reasons. These are all key things to remember while analyzing Prometheus.

Engineers and Gods have much in common.

Religion is a tricky thing. It can be a source of comfort, understanding, and morality, but it sometimes has a darker side. Guilt, fear, and retribution are hallmarks of many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and Paganism. Like Gods, the Engineers are no different. While we don’t know why they chose to destroy the very thing they built, they are clearly angry with us. Like the great flood and Sodom and Gemorrah in the Old Testament, they have taken steps to eradicate us. Another interesting parallel is that Shaw, who couldn’t have a baby on Earth and created an alien one, wants to destroy her spawn just like the Engineers want to destroy theirs.

What if our narrow-minded view is wrong? What if evolution requires sacrifice, and although the black goo kills Charlie, that may not be the intention. Great care is shown, illuminating what the goo does in certain circumstances. We only think the Engineers are headed to Earth with a weapon because Janek said that. He views the massive quantities as a payload of destruction when it could be the means to our next step in human progress. Considering how angry the surviving Engineer is with Weyland, though, this is doubtful. They are going to destroy us.

Maybe the biggest clue is in the title itself. The Greek titan Prometheus’ story is a gruesome one. The Titan gave Earthlings fire which angered the Gods who wanted to keep it for themselves. To punish him, they condemned him to live eternity chained while an eagle ate his liver. His liver grew back over and over, ensuring his pain would never end. With this in mind, the Engineers might be helplessly doomed to create life, help it evolve, and then doom it to destruction. This is why they kept coming back to Earth. They can’t help themselves any more than we can help meddling in other ecosystems.

Why do the Engineers want to kill us?

Each time they changed things, though, they brought us one step closer to the end. The mural on the wall in the hidden chamber has a picture of Prometheus on it. His body is cut open, but his face is serene. Sacrifice is necessary and revered. There’s another mural that depicts the Xenomorphs. If the Engineers are our creators, then the Xenomorphs are our destroyers. They are the harbingers of death. Their only purpose is to consume, survive, and outlive all others.

If you believe Janek’s theory and the Engineers want us gone, then posit why? What could we have done 2000 years ago to so anger a superior race of humanoids who created us from themselves? There is really only one event significant enough to qualify, and it involves Jesus Christ. If Engineers are Gods than Jesus could have been an ambassador of sorts. When Jesus was crucified, the Engineers took that as a sign that we no longer value life. Ridley has famously said as much in a mind-blowing interview.

Jesus could have been a last-ditch effort to make us change our warring ways. We fight with spears, swords, and armor with little regard to who or what else gets hurt. This is further proved by the surviving Engineer’s tender look at David just before dismantling him. To him, David was our child. He was our attempt at life, and just like the Engineer’s foolish experiment, it didn’t end well.

Official Trailer Screengrab

What destroyed the Engineers in Prometheus?

It’s hard to understand how something a civilization that is so young, millions of miles away, could do that would destroy the buff and righteous Engineers. The answer may well be in the biology already on the planet. It reacts differently to everything it comes into contact with. It does not respond to David because he is an android devoid of emotion or morality. To the Xenomorphs, it is violent and barbaric because they are feral and predatory.

When the goo infects humans, it makes the monsters we all are at heart. Selfish humans and our need to survive make the thing that eventually leads to the Engineers and our own demise. When we first enter the chamber, the slime starts changing. It is no surprise that the first creatures we find are snake-like. Stupid humans with our hubris and thirst for knowledge get lured in by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Something happens to the goo containment on LV-223. The Engineers were very careful about protecting themselves from contamination. Obviously, this is because the goo irrevocably alters DNA. What they failed to consider, however, is something was already there. When the goo met with the lifeform already on the planet and possibly one of the Engineers that wasn’t as self-sacrificing, it mutated into the dangerous slime our crew comes into contact with.

The mural on the wall seems to indicate the Engineers had encountered the Xenomorphs before. Was it myth or superstition that derived from fact, or had the Engineers seen the creation of Xenomorphs probably from ourselves on other planets? It could be why they were so hellbent on destroying all of us. When humans take a wrong turn, the result is always Xenomorphs. So essentially, the Engineers are the creators of both the modern Xenomorph and humans by allowing us to interact.

At the end of Prometheus, despite how much I enjoyed it, I am left with one big question. Given the agonizing way the Engineer seeds our planet, why not use a more enjoyable way. I can think of at least one much more palatable way to drop your DNA in the waterfall.