Monday, June 11, 2012

The Meaning of Prometheus

The message of Prometheus, the film and the myth, is that the new succeeds at the cost of the old.

(This contains spoilers)

This theme is not abstract, it is repeatedly presented throughout this film because it is the foundation of the series.

It is conveyed in the very first scene, on the barren Earth, an Engineer takes an unknown substance, dies and decays into the water, where his transforming blood begins the processes of life. Without his death new life would not have begun.

The theme carries on throughout this prequel, almost stated clearly in two instances. The first was between Meredith Vickers and Peter Weyland, where it is selfishly declared that for there to be a new King, the old one must die. The second was when David claimed, 'Sometimes to create, one must destroy.'

The very method of how the Aliens (Xenomorphs), of which this franchise is known for, come into being exemplifies the message of this film. The reproduction cycle of the Aliens requires a host, and for the new Alien life to be created, the host must die. Indeed, as also mentioned in this film, evolution operates in a similar fashion; after all the species that exist today only do so because other competing species died out.

The new succeeds at the cost of the old is also the message from the Greek myth, where Prometheus stole fire from the gods and delivered it to man. Fire enabled mankind to develop civilization and eventually not need gods at all.

This idea that advancement, be it socially, technologically, or evolutionary, requires the new to replace the old, is also seen in the further references to religion. Scientific progress allowed the crew to prove Engineers existed and that they created the human race, this led Charlie Holloway to claim the Engineers therefore replaced God. Peter Weyland, among others, went on to approach the Engineer as if he was God.

The central message of this film shows the importance of Elizabeth Shaw holding on to her crucifix necklace. Even after discovering the Engineers' existence she unlike the others did not replace one god with another. This contradiction to the theme defines her character and puts her in direct contrast with the Alien Xenomorph. It is also a foreshadowing of her actions in the next movie where her first impulse will not be to 'destroy to create' but instead to 'save to survive'.

Why the Engineer reacted violently near the end of the film was not made clear, but in all likelihood, it has to do with why the Engineers left Earth in the first place. The early cave paintings show that there were Engineers on Earth approximately 37,000 years ago, while they might have just left some time after that, it is also possible they didn't. The few Engineers didn't leave because keeping to the theme, they were killed by the new life they created, mankind.

The Engineer attempted to kill the remaining crew because he knew humans would eventually kill him and his species.

As for why the Engineers created humans, it is the same reason given in the movie why humans created androids, because they could. It is not a coincidence therefore that androids were so capable of killing humans as they, like humans to engineers, are merely the new succeeding at the cost of the old.

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