Prometheus Revisited: a second examination by: GF Willmetts.
Although I reviewed the original ‘Prometheus’ DVD a couple years back, it’s only more recently that I’ve been able to listen to the two audio commentaries and the extras on the blu-ray as I try to unravel some of the information from the film.
The writer/co-executive producer Damon Lindelof declared in the second audio commentary on the ‘Prometheus’ blu-ray edition that he is precocious which probably explains why he didn’t make any of the characters particularly likeable that you cared whether they lived or died. The one character, Elizabeth Shaw, that you should have cared for, you knew would survive, and sufficient care wasn’t taken there neither. Compare that to the 1978 ‘Alien’ where you still care for the characters after endless re-watching. A lot of the info from the audio commentary, also with original draft writer Jon Spaihts, which alternated but didn’t share conversation, tends also to indicate that both were too subtle for their own good with information presented but didn’t sink in like it should have. Lindelof previously worked on ‘Lost’ and admits that this is a failing of his there as well so it looks like it has that in common with this film. Considering that in a new audio commentary, prior to ‘Prometheus’, with the ‘Alien’ blu-ray that director Ridley Scott doesn’t like precocious people, you have to wonder at the change of heart.
As Shaw called these marble-skinned aliens ‘Engineers’, I’ll keep to that title as well for a matter of convenience.
There is still a matter of speculation as to just what they were doing in early Earth history. From the opening scene it doesn’t appear that they created the evolutionary process on Earth, just added their own gene composite with a concoction of their own to the mix. Quite why it needed the sacrifice of one of their own into the mix does seem a little problematic as if their level of genetic manipulation was that good at that time, then surely they could have provided the genetic material in a different way. If anything, their combined DNA is some of the useless or waste DNA that we all seem to have and don’t appear to use. As it doesn’t appear to have been activated, one would have to speculate why it was there. I mean, it’s hardly like we’ve got any of the Engineer characteristics or we might have evolved faster and had more of their appearance. The last Engineer practically ignored the humans when woke and decapitated David and killing most of them. He hardly seemed that concerned with the fact that they revived him or the passage of time. If anything, one could speculate that he was actually continuing from his previous actions, namely escaping from the planet. He could actually have been thing that the humans had evolved there than on Earth.
However, let’s go back to Earth for the moment. Everything else from that time with evolution on Earth was pretty much as we know today until the discovery in the 21st century of various early representations of various first contact between early man and at least one Engineer, each with a distinct message of where he had come from. Something more recent star charts put together as being from the same place. We’ll forget the obvious flaw that star systems don’t necessarily stay so stable for so long, let alone the same relative position in the expanding universe and the Weyland funded exploratory spacecraft, the Prometheus, went to investigate.
Forgetting Shaw’s insistence that these were messages for us to visit the Engineers, there are alternative interpretations of what it actually meant. No matter the civilisation, humans are a curious sentient and the most obvious question these people would ask is where do you come from? The fact that the answer made such a strong impression on each civilisation to record this information, let alone with such accuracy should have compounded the mystery. I mean, was the Engineer pointing at the sky or using a version of their navigational holograms or had they been secretly watched and noted. I doubt if without telescopes, humans from these earlier time periods would be able to make sense of such directions so we would have to consider what they saw the directions from a navigational hologram. Even so, I doubt if it was an invitation. Man had only been able to get into space in the past couple centuries. If you wanted to use an enticement, then you would have approached mankind in a later time in its development. You would hardly want them to come knocking at your door, even that of a colony, unannounced. That happened, though, didn’t it? The Engineers were late in returning to their project as was discovered.
We therefore have to look at what these Engineers were making on LV223. All of their hologram information of them fleeing indicates that a biological weapon went wrong and yet we never see what was pursuing them. The size of the organisms in the egg chamber might not have been benign but you would have thought that these giant Engineers could surely have stamped on them, if they were like those worm or snake types. It should be pointed out that none of these Engineers were shown to have any weapons or were totally unprepared at that time. Certainly the organism that grew after being surgically removed from Shaw’s body wouldn’t have had the mobility to chase after all of them. At most, it would have caught one, not all of them. In its smaller form, it still wouldn’t have been fast enough to catch them. This does tend to suggest that there was another version of these creatures we haven’t seen yet. The snake in the egg chamber being one up from the micro-organisms. The specimen from Shaw, was certainly several generations beyond that. There is a useful comparison to how human embryos evolve in the womb. They have characteristics of earlier species, like gills, briefly before moving onto the our more accepted form. The only difference with this biological made species is that it goes through these variations while active, with variations created from absorbing the DNA of the species its eggs are deposited in, evolving with each generation.
In many respects, the egg-delivering face-hugger in any of its sizes does not appear to share characteristics of its original host. As a delivery system, these are obviously not needed. For the final xenomorph form, there is a need to share host characteristics to ensure it is already adapted to the host planet and ready to go. If this was solely designed for humans, it would be possible for the DNA to be adjusted that way. However, as the Engineers had blended their DNA to terrain life, they were also likely to be susceptible. One would also have to ask just what is the purpose of these final creatures? As a biological weapon that wipes out the enemy by replacing them seems counter-productive because they were then be a danger to the Engineers themselves.
Shaw believes that the final Engineer’s intention is to take these eggs to Earth is to exterminate mankind. I tend not to fully convinced by this as my comments about pointed out. Yes, mankind is unlikely to survive but it is the intent to change them into these xenomorphs and for that, you would need to deliver the next stage. The urgency seems to suggest that this Engineer experiment is running 1300 years too late. He therefore might still be fleeing.
A bigger question is what happened to the remaining Engineers on LV233 that they would abandon their spacecraft? If the danger that the Engineers faced in the first pyramid was duplicated in the other pyramids, then surely at least one of their spacecraft would have escaped. Equally, there might still be some of these eggs waiting for more hosts there. I did ponder on the implication that they each flew one of these spaceships except in the control/navigation cabin, there was enough places to hibernate them all.
As the android David indicated to Shaw that he can pilot her to the Engineers home world, one would also have to presume that they did not know of these experiments on LV233 for over 1300 years to come and investigate, let alone visit Earth in that time. That would tend to suggest something has happened to the Engineers species as a whole and that Shaw’s mission might be doomed to failure or at least not the answers she wants.
Although I doubt that the predator hunters would ever appear in a Ridley Scott film, there is also a distinct possibility that this project might have been done with them in mind to provide them with a dangerous species to hunt or to wipe them out. The major flaw with that is the more recognised xenomorph was already on Earth prior to the Prometheus voyage. However, who’s to say that the Engineers didn’t have similar projects elsewhere and further advanced than the ill-fated LV233.
Any speculation by Elizabeth Shaw can only be that: speculation. Even so, it does leave a lot of questions about the Engineers intent and ambitions. They were far ahead of us in genetic manipulation and involved in evolving a new ecology but they don’t appear that interested in keeping an eye on it. Logistically, they might have preferred to keep away from us as our own technological advancement developed. If it hadn’t been for the accident on LV233, surely it would have made more sense to wait for the humans to discover the eggs and take them back to Earth themselves than go to all the trouble of taking them there themselves.
Equally, this might not have anything to do with Earth at all and the Engineers had moved on from this first experiment and making a new species from scratch. Creating a malevolent species does seem an odd choice but that might have been the mistake. Things just got out of hand. If it hadn’t, one has to wonder what kind of foe they have that needs such a deadly weapon. Worse, what would happen if we encountered it? Maybe that would explain why the Engineers never appeared again.
Speculations (c) GF Willmetts 2016.