Tuesday 5 June 2012

Review: Prometheus - Second Pass (SPOILERS)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Prometheus poster

Prometheus (3D) - Spoilers. Heavy Spoilers.
124 mins / Dir. Ridley Scott

NOTE: My initial review of the film is here. If you haven't seen Prometheus yet, you should read that, as it's spoiler-free. The following post will not only spoil the plot of the film, but also won't make a lot of sense unless you've seen it, anyway.

After thinking about my first viewing, and discussing some of the finer points in the pub (always a reliable way of analysing subtext), I'm left with a lot of small questions and one rather large one. I'll save the small ones for later posting (because I'll be seeing Prometheus again, I have no doubt of that), and concentrate on the one I have no real answer for…

What's in it for David?
David, an artificial person created by Peter Weyland as a surrogate son, is called-out by the human characters (and indeed his own father) on a regular basis for 'not having a soul'. Amusing in and of itself, because obviously a soul isn't a quantifiable object, and the humans seem to miss the point that as a sentient machine (mechanical or biological) with a self-preservation instinct, David is every bit as 'human' as they are. From his introduction aboard the ship Prometheus, spending his free-time watching Lawrence of Arabia, cycling and dyeing his hair, it first appears that David desperately wants to be human, to gain acceptance from his peers. However, from what transpires on the mission, I took it that David is well aware of the frailties of the human-condition, aware of why he's better than that, and is only seeking to fully understand humans so that he can overcome the obstacles that he feels are holding him back. He's fascinated by Dr Shaw's religious beliefs, especially in the face of so much scientific evidence that can provide data, and even by the end of the film hasn't figured out what enables a person to believe unconditionally.

But alongside all of this, he's carrying out his programming. Namely, to aid and assist Peter Weyland as he looks for a way to cheat death by communicating with the race he believes has created humanity. When the hologram of Weyland appears to the ship's crew at the beginning of the mission-briefing, David knows that his father isn't really dead as he claims to be. When the first scouting party enters the vase-chamber, and David furtively steals one of the vessels for further examination on the Prometheus, he knows that Weyland is asleep (or in hypersleep-recovery at least) onboard the ship.

When David has worked out that the black-goo from the canister has mutative effects on the life it comes in contact with, and with a sense of wry mischief deliberately infects Holloway with the substance, he knows that Weyland is only a few rooms away, at most.

What's David's motivation for exposing Holloway to the goo?

It can't be part of his programmed mission, as he's endangering the only (sensible) means of Weyland and himself escaping the planet. Weyland hasn't travelled all this way to find the secret of life, only to spend a prolonged period running around barren LV-223 avoiding whatever creature David has helped spawn. At first I thought that the idea was for infected-Holloway to impregnate Shaw, then to put Shaw into hypersleep to smuggle the resulting creature back to Earth (as per Burke's agenda in Aliens). But there isn't enough data on the life-cycle at that point to think that this plan will necessarily work, and David could have carried out the freezing of Shaw himself, but chose not to, getting the Prometheus' crew to take Shaw to the cryo-chamber (which backfired massively).

So what does David hope to gain by releasing this unknown factor into the immediate environment? Holloway's treatment of him up until that point had been dismissive, but with no real callousness, so it seems odd that David had decided to punish him just for speaking down to him. It's not really until the scene at the pool-table that Holloway shows any real belligerence towards David, and by then he's already got the alien-drop on the tip of his finger. Was there a chance of David chickening-out, if Holloway had been uncharacteristically nice to him?

And while I'm on the subject, why doesn't the black-goo affect David? Yes, he's an android, but it's already been established that he has at least some living tissue on his body, as he's dyeing his hair blond at the start of the film (only the roots, indicating continued growth). If he has organic hair, it stands to reason that he'd have other human-type tissue on his body, if only to help him blend-in (and assist hair/nail growth, etc).

Had the mutating-goo already affected David internally, hence his increasingly erratic behaviour? Were David's actions borne of child-like curiosity as his personality grows unchecked? Had the two years, eights months, fifteen days of solitude on the outward journey begun a neurosis resulting in David beginning to break his programming? Had David just become bored, and decided to do a little research of his own to assist the Weyland Corp?

I don't know. And from what I've seen in the film, I can't work it out. I suspect these questions will never be answered neatly, even with extended-cuts and director's commentaries. After all, people are still arguing over if Rick Deckard was a replicant or not.

If you have a theory on this, leave me a comment below, cheers! :)


• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.


  1. Marianna Nodale5 June 2012 at 01:39

    Actually my thoughts completely.
    Her impregnating and subsequent abortion/Caesarian section left me very puzzled. Nobody seems to pick it up in the film. Not even David. No explanation given towards motive. Never mind that she makes fantastic recovery from major abdominal surgery. Also the stuff (the goo) creates one thing when it infects Holloway (couldn't stand him), another when it comes out of the egg/canister and gets the guy with funny hair cut, another still when it impregnates Shaw (and let me say this, she aint no Ripley), and finally the familiar Alien when it comes out of the Engineer.
    Some speciation there...

  2. Saw the film yesterday... thought it was good / okay.

    However, after sleeping on it, the amount of time it has occupied my thoughts since, and the sheer number of questions I now have leads me to believe it is indeed a much greater film / story than the sum of its parts.

    I agree that David is the key to unlocking many answers and probably holds more relevance than his screen time leads you to believe.

    What is his real purpose?
    Is he actually loyal to anyone or any-being or does he see himself as being free, especially after Waylands death? His line about most people wanting their parents dead and his attempts to master humanness sticks out to me. Why does he feel the need to 'act' human? He certainly see's himself as superior.

    I want to know what he said to the surviving Jockey / Engineer before it went apeshit and if it's even pertinent?
    Does he see himself as a superior being / god? He certainly appears to have his own theories and agenda and has no qualms about manipulating life to satisfy his own intrigue.

    Does he have other motives we will discover (maybe in Promethius 2 or even 3 as I think there's enough room for a couple of sequels filling some blanks before we get too near the realm and timeframe of the original Alien film)? What was the 10.11.12 date at the end of the credits about? Secret sequel or Directors Blu-Ray release?

    Loved the proto / early DNA beasties we all know and love from Alien (the pre-face-hugger snakes were great), even though, for me at least, their life full life cycles leaves me with a few questions too. (Black goo / DNA manipulator that David infects Charlie with that then grows into the tiny wrigglers seen in his eye and messes with his DNA… meanwhile after a quick fumble under the sheets with Charlie, infertile Shaw is preggers with some sort of cephalopod which she extracts from herself which then grows into into an early full size, Gieger-esque tenticalled body hugger thing, which after taking over the remaining Engineers' body burts out as a full blown Alien.

    Were the wormy / snake like critters already habitant on LV-223? Were they part of the Engineers plan / weapon (evidently-so going by the mural on the roof of the 'big-head' room), or was the DNA mix that resulted in the nasty Alien right at the end of the film an accident and only intend to happen to humans on earth?

  3. ...just seen the viral clip that I missed from ages ago with a much younger Weyland giving a 'TED talk' declaring 'we are the gods now'.
    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XrotIFuX6Wg )

    So, that's his belief as he's decided Wayland Corp can change the world by building cybernetic individuals indistinguishable from humans.

    Wish I'd seen that sooner... it doesn't change my opinions but does give a different spin on a couple of points and perhaps his true agenda for going to LV and also perhaps gives and insight to what David might have said to engineer.

  4. Saw it last night and thought I'd add my two galactic groats. I think the goo is some sort of primordial growth medium, intended to rewrite or replace life on worlds the engineers wish to colonise / wipe out. Left unchecked, it evolves on it's own. I think the murals were some kind of warning, as were the holograms left by the engineers.

    The engineer that gets woken up is clearly upset about the unchecked human evolution; I'm guessing we would be as unwelcome as the alien xenomorphs in their eyes, a genetic mistake left unchecked. That would explain it's need to wipe us out with extreme prejudice.

    David is by far the best thing in the film. My own take on David is his entire motivation throughout is to follow his instructions to find a cure for his master, so he experiments on Holloway. When Holloway self destructs, it's clear that line of investigation is a non starter, so he goes looking for the engineers themselves. Once Weyland is dead, he's a free agent, which is why he helps Shaw defeat the engineer and escape in another ship.

    My own questions are regarding the end. What is Shaw going to eat on the ship? It doesn't look like she can use one of the hypersleep chambers, also, how does David pilot the ship in his current condition? Shaw is an archaeologist, so she's unlikely to be able to repair him.