What is Going On in ‘Prometheus’? A Universe of Questions, Answers and Theories

Michael Fassbender in Prometheus
Michael Fassbender in Prometheus
Photo: 20th Century Fox

“I love him who willeth the creating of something beyond himself and thus perisheth.”

Friedrich Nietzsche in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”

UPDATE: I have edited the age of Peter Weyland on Page 4 as a result of incorrect information I had previously.

I can’t say I have Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus figured out. Not in the least. But I do have my own theories and I thought I’d offer up some exploratory thoughts in an attempt to figure out if what Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof brought to life actually carries weight or if they had no real clue what they were doing and instead left the audience to do all the heavy lifting. Not that I mind doing the work, clearly, but I like to know I’m doing it for a reason.

Over the next six pages I’ve broken the conversation down into six parts exploring the opening sequence, the Engineers, Peter Weyland, David, the black goo and finally my overall theory. Inside this are quotes from Nietzsche and the Bible, thoughts on Darwinism vs. Creationism, concept art from the film and a pair of exclusive pictures of the sacrificial Engineer from the beginning of the film.

It’s a lot to go through, I know, but I didn’t want to leave anything out and hopefully you’ll have plenty more to add.

THE OPENING

Darwin Shaw in Prometheus
Darwin Shaw in Prometheus
Photo: 20th Century Fox

The film begins on an unnamed planet. Some have resigned to calling it Earth, but in fact it doesn’t really matter. When asked specifically Scott said, “No, it doesn’t have to be [Earth]. 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.”

In this opening sequence we’re watching what I would describe as the carrying out of an age-old ritual, a destined being, honored with bringing life to a new planet.

Concept art from Prometheus: The Art of the Film
Concept art from “Prometheus: The Art of the Film”

As evidenced by some recently revealed scans from the forthcoming book “Prometheus: The Art of the Film,” the opening sequence originally included not one, but two of the so-called “Engineers”. Above we see what is referred to as the Elder Engineer performing what looks like a blessing on the younger one before he does his duty in drinking the black liquid (a liquid I don’t believe to be the same as the goo we see later in the film) that would eventually cause him to disintegrate, thus beginning the terraforming process.

Concept art from Prometheus: The Art of the Film
Concept art from “Prometheus: The Art of the Film”

This second piece of concept art shows the cup being given to the younger Engineer, an offering and/or religious confirmation ahead of the ritualistic fulfillment of his duties.

Scott spoke of the scene saying, “[T]he guy at the beginning is simply donating himself — no stranger than the Aztecs or Incas would choose some poor bugger, at the beginning saying, ‘Right, you’re it, in the year you get all the girls you want, all the food you want, blah blah, and at the end of the year we’re going to take your heart, take it out, squeeze it, and we’re going to get jolly good crops and good weather next year.’ It’s no more than that, he’s into a form of donation, except his DNA is so powerful, each molecule is like a time-bomb.”

Interestingly enough, it sounds like Scott filmed more of the opening sequence than we see in the final film. Darwin Shaw, who plays one of the Engineers seen later in Prometheus, commented on Twitter saying, “You’ll have to wait for the Directors cut for the full opening scene!”

Scott cut Prometheus down from two hours and 27 minutes to two hours and four minutes, which does mean there may be upwards of 23 minutes of deleted scenes. He has already said there won’t be an extended cut, but extended scenes will be made available on the Blu-ray.

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