Prometheus and its myth of creation

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 1:26 New International Version

Prometheus tries to have a lot of questions but it doesn’t really understand what the questions are. Who created us? Where did they/he come from?  Why did they/he abandon us?  These are standard questions that are far more complex than “aliens” as the answers.  Finding signs and cave paintings that point to the stars, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway kind of lead an expedition to an alien world to see where their vague and easy questions lead.  These signs and portents lead them to a world where their supposed makers, or “engineers” came from but they hardly find any real answers there.  It’s like director Ridley Scott was using this movie to figure out what he wanted to do in a sequel to Prometheus instead.

There are really only two characters in this movie that are searching for anything substantial.  Shaw is the scientist looking for meaning and David is the robot who wants to be a real boy.  In and of themselves, both characters have interesting journeys and questions throughout this movie that would probably be better suited for something that didn’t involve big, rubbery looking CGI effects.  But this being the “Alien prequel” and all of that, we have to have weird, odd monstrosities that are 30 years removed from H.R. Giger’s masterful alien creature.

Shaw is the rational scientist who continually wears a cross because she essentially has to believe in something.  From cave drawings of giants pointing to floating orbs, she deduces that these are the beings who created mankind and she wants to find them.  Even when her boyfriend is killed by the curious android, her cross stays with her. Whether there’s belief behind that cross or it’s just an affectation carried over from her father is never really made clear. Over at Think Christian, Josh Larson calls this the “God MacGuffin.”

She’s referred to as a “believer” and towards the end, after the planet is revealed to be far more menacing (and gooey) than she expected, she’s asked, “Even after all this, you still believe?” The movie tosses around a lot of dialogue like this, yet the notions behind the words are never explored in any serious way. Prometheus purports to be about big ideas, but if you’re really curious about something, you do more than mention it.

She’s looking to find the face to put with the idea of her “creator” and whether she truly finds that or not is just one of the many dangling threads the movie leaves to be answered in some projected sequel. When she is asked about her cross in light of these aliens that may have created humanity, she answers that something had to have created them. Maybe we’re just the creation of a created being, two or more steps removed from any actual God.

Maybe that’s what we are but we know that is exactly what David is. Scott introduces us to David by showing him playing basketball, riding a bike, playing basketball while riding a bike and watching Lawrence of Arabia.  All this happens while the real crew of the Prometheus sleeps in hibernation pods. When the crew is awakened and their mission revealed to them, David is said to be like a favored son to Peter Weyland, the geriatric founder of this space exploration. He’s only like a favored son because he is not human; he is a robot built to serve his crew. 

David is the ultimate reflection of his creator.  You can almost picture a young Peter Weyland looking like him, set out to explore parts of the universe that Weyland’s now old and fragile body never could.  Some members of the crew look at David and see just another tool to use.  Some find a curious boy without the knowledge or morals to truly understand his actions.  One even seems him an obstacle to getting her father’s real love.  David is all of those and maybe those elements are the things that make him the most human character in this movie.


Shaw is looking for her absent creator while David is never that far from his own “father.”  The search for a god is a MacGuffin like Larson writes about because there’s no discussion about creation vs. creator but Ridley Scott tells a story about characters just wanting to know why they exist, why they’re on the paths that they are on.  Shaw may verbalize it but David, through a masterful performance by Michael Fassbender, shows that journey.  David is a much closer representation of his creator than Shaw is of the Engineers.  Of course, Scott never gives us a clear answer on the origins of mankind as God remains a MacGuffin of Prometheus.  The movie tries to pose the question on the origin of humanity without ever wanting to actually answer it.

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