(Original post by Tommyjw)
It is very long, but a nice read if you liked the film, confused about things or not.
Reddit thread on it
(includes people discussing it should there be any other questions)
I am no expert and some of it doesnt make sense to me but i have tried to condense it down a bit.
Turns out i havent actually cut out thaaat much, but oh well :P
"The reason the Engineers don't like us any more is that they made us a Space Jesus, and we broke him"
The opening sequence and its meanings
Prometheus was chained to a rock and condemned to have his liver ripped out and eaten every day by an eagle. Fix that image in your mind, please: the giver of life, with his abdomen torn open. We'll be coming back to it many times in the course of this article.
Now, consider the opening sequence of Prometheus. We see the fragments of his body falling into the river, twirling and spiralling into DNA helices. Ridley Scott has this to say about the scene
: '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.
So, we know something about the Engineers, a founding principle laid down in the very first scene: acceptance of death, up to and including self-sacrifice, is right and proper in the creation of life.
The crew of the Prometheus discover an ancient chamber, presided over by a brooding solemn face, in which urns of the same black substance are kept. A mural on the wall presents an image: the lifegiver with his abdomen torn open.
. And there's another mural there, one which shows a familiar xenomorph-like figure. This is the Destroyer who mirrors the Creator, I think - the avatar of supremely selfish life, devouring and destroying others purely to preserve itself.
Through Shaw and Holloway's investigations, we learn that the Engineers not only created human life, they supervised our development. We have to assume, then, that for a good few hundred thousand years, they were pretty happy with us. They could have destroyed us at any time, but instead, they effectively invited us over; Until something changed
What caused them to turn against us
From the Engineers' perspective, so long as humans retained that notion of self-sacrifice as central, we weren't entirely beyond redemption. But we went and screwed it all up, and the film hints at when, if not why: the Engineers at the base died two thousand years ago. That suggests that the event that turned them against us and led to the huge piles of dead Engineers lying about was one and the same event.
If you have uneasy suspicions about what 'a bad thing approximately 2,000 years ago' might be, then let me reassure you that you are right.
An astonishing excerpt from the Movies.com interview with Ridley Scott:
Movies.com: 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?
Ridley Scott: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose....
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.
Yeah. The reason the Engineers don't like us any more is that they made us a Space Jesus, and we broke him
. Reader, that's not me pulling wild ideas out of my arse. That's RIDLEY SCOTT.
So, imagine poor crucified Jesus, a fresh spear wound in his side. Oh, hey, there's the 'lifegiver with his abdomen torn open' motif again. That's three times now: Prometheus, Engineer mural, Jesus Christ.
So how did our (in the context of the film) terrible murderous act of crucifixion end up wiping out all but one of the Engineers back on LV-223? Presumably through the black slime, which evidently models its behaviour on the user's mental state. Create unselfishly, accepting self-destruction as the cost, and the black stuff engenders fertile life. But expose the potent black slimy stuff to the thoughts and emotions of flawed humanity, and 'the sleep of reason produces monsters'.
The black slime reacts to the nature and intent of the being that wields it, and the humans in the film didn't even know that they WERE wielding it. That's why it remained completely inert in David's presence, and why he needed a human proxy in order to use the stuff to create anything. The black goo could read no emotion or intent from him, because he was an android.
Christianity and self sacrifice
The 'Caesarean' scene is central to the film's themes of creation, sacrifice, and giving life. Shaw has discovered she's pregnant with something non-human and sets the autodoc to slice it out of her. She lies there screaming, a gaping wound in her stomach, while her tentacled alien child thrashes and squeals in the clamp above her and OH HEY IT'S THE LIFEGIVER WITH HER ABDOMEN TORN OPEN. How many times has that image come up now? Four, I make it
. (We're not done yet.)
Here's where the Christian allegories really come through. The day of this strange birth just happens to be Christmas Day
. And this is a 'virgin birth' of sorts, although a dark and twisted one, because Shaw couldn't possibly be pregnant. And Shaw's the crucifix-wearing Christian of the crew. We may well ask, echoing Yeats: what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards LV-223 to be born?
'And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.'
A barren woman called Elizabeth, made pregnant by 'God'? Subtle, Ridley.
Anyway. If it weren't already clear enough that the central theme of the film is 'I suffer and die so that others may live' versus 'you suffer and die so that I may live' writ extremely large, Meredith Vickers helpfully spells it out:
'A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable.'
With all this in mind, we can better understand the climactic scene in which the withered Weyland confronts the last surviving Engineer. See it from the Engineer's perspective. Two thousand years ago, humanity not only murdered the Engineers' emissary, it infected the Engineers' life-creating fluid with its own tainted selfish nature, creating monsters.
And now, after so long, here humanity is, presumptuously accepting a long-overdue invitation, and even reawakening (and corrupting all over again) the life fluid.
It's hardly surprising that the Engineer reacts with contempt and disgust, ripping David's head off and battering Weyland to death with it.
The only way to save humanity is through self-sacrifice, and this is exactly what the captain (and his two oddly complacent co-pilots) opt to do. They crash the Prometheus into the Engineer's ship, giving up their lives in order to save others. Their willing self-sacrifice stands alongside Holloway's and the Engineer's from the opening sequence; by now, the film has racked up no less than five self-sacrificing gestures (six if we consider the exploding Engineer head).
Finally, in the squidgy ending scenes of the film, the wrathful Engineer conveniently meets its death at the tentacles of Shaw's alien child, now somehow grown huge. But it's not just a death; there's obscene life being created here, too. The (in the Engineers' eyes) horrific human impulse to sacrifice others in order to survive has taken on flesh. The Engineer's body bursts open - blah blah lifegiver blah blah abdomen ripped apart hey we're up to five now - and the proto-Alien that emerges is the very image of the creature from the mural.
On the face of it, it seems absurd to suggest that the genesis of the Alien xenomorph ultimately lies in the grotesque human act of crucifying the Space Jockeys' emissary to Israel in four B.C., but that's what Ridley Scott proposes
As a closing point, let me draw your attention to a very different strand of symbolism that runs through Prometheus: the British science fiction show Doctor Who
. In the 1970s episode 'The Daemons', an ancient mound is opened up, leading to an encounter with a gigantic being who proves to be an alien responsible for having guided mankind's development, and who now views mankind as a failed experiment that must be destroyed. The Engineers are seen tootling on flutes, in exactly the same way that the second Doctor does. The Third Doctor had an companion whose name was Liz Shaw, the same name as the protagonist of Prometheus. As with anything else in the film, it could all be coincidental; but knowing Ridley Scott, it doesn't seem very likely.