Frustrated? Angry? Bored? Hungry? Ready to move on? Yes, the online conversation surrounding Ridley Scott‘s ambitious, belated return to the science-fiction genre in “Prometheus” is nearly exhausted. Depending on who you are, you’ve either experienced enough for a lifetime (online writers and editors surely have), but if you’re the audience who may have just recently caught the film, your thirst for more discussion around the film might not have been sated quite yet. While currently operating with a positive 74% Rotten Tomatoes score (though MetaCritic is lower with a 61 score and if you look at the way RT grades “positive” reviews… well… let’s just say there’s a problem there), in many corners of the blogosphere, and certainly ours, Scott’s “Prometheus” is viewed as a divisive piece of work that’s occasionally thrilling, but frequently opaque and narratively murky to the point of infuriation (check out our recent inaugural podcast on the film or our “Good, The Bad & Ugly” feature on the same topic).
And interestingly enough it’s hard to get any kind of true consensus: the geek cognoscenti are torn within their own community, as is the film critic intelligentsia. Everyone agrees the film tries for depth and summons weighty themes, but whether it has smarts to go along with them is certainly still up for debate. Anyway, that discussion’s been had ad infinitum, so what happens next? Spoilers ahead so please disperse if you haven’t seen the film yet.
As anyone who’s watched it is acutely aware, “Prometheus” ends on a cliffhanger note and purposefully sets up a sequel. So if and when we see a “Prometheus” sequel, what could it entail? Well in reading about the film, we’ve come across what you could call plausible clues and come up with some of our own potential posits. But first, some ground rules: while its narrative is murky, and motivations veer all over the map, let’s try and establish some basic facts from the plot of “Prometheus.”
What Happens In Prometheus
“Prometheus” begins with a mysterious prologue with a hooded Engineer figure. What’s actually going on in the scene is certainly up for more debate than any moment in the film, but we chose to see it as a sacrifice that begins life on earth. One could argue it’s a trigger for abiogenesis — the spark that forces biological life to arise from inorganic matter through natural processes. In other words, the Engineer’s sacrifice into black goo is the catalyst for the primordial soup which life on Earth likely arose from. And the alien ship seen far off in the distance, tellingly much different from the alien ship we see in the film’s conclusion? Presumably it’s the creators of the Engineers. Whether that’s incorrect or not is almost immaterial to this piece, but it’s probably good to get that out of the way.
What is not so ambiguious is the rest of “Prometheus” (and some of this is subjective, but much of it is spelled out in “Prometheus” albiet in murky, clipped sentences). It’s (mostly) clear that the Engineers were creating bio-weapons to destroy earth, and it’s clear from both the events in “Alien” and the ghost-like recorded holographic data on the LV223 moon where “Prometheus” takes place that these bio-weapons (aliens of some sort) turned on them (or were accidentally activated early) and horrifically killing the entire lot of them (or most of them anyhow). The crew of the Prometheus do after all come across a brutal, crime-scene-like mountain of Engineer bodies trying to reach a ship, but unable to enter closed doors (with one left decapitated by said colossal doors), seemingly with evidence that something has erupted from cavities in the chest. Hmm…
Part of the Engineers’ plan was to destroy their creation with these bio-“weapons of mass destruction” as Idris Elba‘s Captain Janek character hypothesizes. The film’s sub-protagonist (because Michael Fassbender‘s David android character is probably the more real protagonist of the film) Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) certainly agrees with Janek, which is why at the end of the film, she takes David and plots a course to find out where the Engineers came from and why they decided to rescind their decision to create planet earth. And so the themes of “Prometheus” are doubly told; both humans and engineers are punished for playing with technology that only should be owned by “the gods” — humans are punished for seeking immortality (the true nature of the mission as revealed by Guy Pearce‘s dying Peter Weyland character and part of the reason David infects Logan Marshall-Green‘s character with the alien goop DNA — to experiment with this “technology” and see what will happen exactly) and Engineers are mortally penalized for attempting to destroy the very civilization they created.
As some character hypothesis in the film, LV223 is not the planet where the Engineers come from, rather an operational testing ground for these weapons of mass destruction, which makes sense, given that Elizabeth Shaw compels David to fly them to Engineer’s origin planet. Ok, so onto what we might see in “Prometheus 2,” now that we’ve hopefully established the events of the first film.
“The Alien” franchise story seems to be over. At least for this particular prequel franchise.
“Prometheus” tells essentially two stories. One, how the alien xenomorphs came into existence (again, see both the podcast and the ‘GB&U’ piece for thos specific details), which is pretty definitively told, and the second story we’ll get to in a minute. But as many have noted, the events of Prometheus take place on the moon LV223 (which orbits the star Gleise 86) and the events of Ridley Scott‘s 1979 “Alien” take place on a moon called LV426 (some posit that they are two neighboring solar systems that are nearby, but not exactly next door, but let’s not go there for now). So does this mean, in their attempts to escape their own bio-weapons turned bad, that some of the Engineers end up on LV426? Well, maybe, but the “Prometheus” creators don’t seem interested in telling that particular story, probably because it’s a bit immaterial to the bigger picture story. “How do we end up on LV426? Where did that derelict ship come from? All the answers are not directed out of ‘Prometheus,’ ” the film’s screenwriter Damon Lindelof said in an interview with ShockTilYouDrop. ” ‘Prometheus’ has two children, one of them is ‘Alien’ and the other child — hopefully God willing people want to see another movie — goes off in an entirely new direction, so there could be a sequel to ‘Prometheus’ that is not ‘Alien.’ “
That story seems, to us, pretty dull and thankfully, Lindelof agrees. “You don’t have all the direct correlations to the eggs, to the chestbursters, but [you have a sense of context] and I don’t think we need to connect all of those dots in subsequent movies. That that would be a fulfilling idea… we’ve given you A and we’ve given you Z, so why would you want to watch a movie that’s B to Y? Now ‘Prometheus’ is ready to go off in its own direction on its own entirely different tangent that is not going to be reliant on the things we’ve seen a thousand times before.”
So that tangent is what?
Well, clearly it’s about Noomi Rapace trying to find some answers and risking her life (one that she doesn’t care too much about since she’s already lost the love of her life Charlie Holloway) to uncover why the Engineers decided to give up on Earth even though David advises her that the information is now irrevelant and she should go home. It’s as if her religious beliefs have finally trumped her scientific ones. Unconvinced? Ridley Scott spells it out more in a recent interview. “Well, from the very beginning, I was working from a premise that lent itself to a sequel. I really don’t want to meet God in the first one,” he told Movies.com. “I want to leave it open to [Noomi Rapace’s character, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw] saying, “I don’t want to go back to where I came from. I want to go where they came from.”
And note, as we mentioned in an earlier piece, “Prometheus” was once called “Alien: Paradise” and that title, or at least, theme could reoccur in the sequel, paradise being a type of heaven. “I’d love to explore where [Dr. Shaw] goes next and what does she do when she gets there,” Scott told THR. “Because if it is paradise, paradise can not be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous.”
Meanwhile, so why did our creators turn on us and do Lindelof and Ridley Scott know that answer yet? The answer is definitely yes. “I’m all for ambiguity, but if we didn’t know the answer to that one, the audience would have every right to string us up,” Lindelof said in a recent interview with MTV. “Yes. There is an answer. One that is hinted at within the goalposts of ‘Prometheus.’ I’ll bet if I asked you to take a guess you wouldn’t be far off.” And so what would make the creators decide to turn on humans and earth 2000 years ago? Well, the birth of one Jesus Christ was a pretty significant moment that happened round then, was it not? And it would rather fit in well with a film that grapples with questions of creation and a character that juggles theology with science.
As to why the birth of Christ would anger our creators to the degree that they decide, through rather tortuous methods, it must be said, to exterminate us? Well, this is even more highly, highly speculative of course, but clearly they weren’t bothered by humanity’s worship of a creationist God or gods prior to that point. Christianity, however, posits that Jesus was not just another prophet, but the actual literal Son of God – he was divinity made human. Was this the ultimate blasphemy to our creators? Or, going even further out on this tenuous limb, was there a more complex motive involved, for example, could they have been prompted not by pique but by jealousy, say, if Christ was the evidence that their own gods, that is the Engineers’ creators, favored us above their own creation? Ok, we’re skewing dangerously close to fanfic here, so we’ll pull back, but suffice to say, the part that the creators of our creators play in the evolving mythology of the franchise, and how that will intersect with our own theology, is one of the areas that any “Prometheus” sequel will have to address.
And if the film does dare to wade through these fascinating but dangerous waters, we have to say we’re intrigued, but also wary: frankly the filmmakers are going to have to do a better job of elucidating their themes and theses than they did here, if these weighty matters are what they’re concerned with. More importantly, how are they going to make a film of that nature be a sci-fi horror/thriller when on paper, all signs point to something much more existentialist (i.e. the part of “Prometheus” without action that’s though-provoking). Then again, as Scott says, paradise could be rather sinister. Tease some of the most profound philosophical questions, probe our very ontology if you will, and throw millenia of religious doctrine and theology into the blender too, but only if you have the smarts, and the chutzpah, to see it through. Otherwise you get, well, “Prometheus.” — Jessica Kiang & RP