In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus didn’t just steal fire for the early humans; he also created them, sculpting the clay figures into which the gods breathed life.
In Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to the sci-fi genre, a group of scientists travels to a distant star in search of the extraterrestrial “Engineers” that seeded life on Earth.
I couldn’t think of a more appropriate title.
While it takes place in the same universe as the Alien series (calling it a prequel is an overstatement), Prometheus’ central thematic concerns traverse the same territory as Scott’s Blade Runner. In the earlier film, an emotionally-awakened android confronts his creator and begs him to extend his rapidly-dwindling lifespan. Similarly, Noomi Rapace’s Dr. Elizaeth Shaw—a pious woman who has suffered much pain and loss—desperately wants to look her maker in the eye and ask, “Why?”
“Why do I exist?”
Michael Fassbender’s David serves as an interesting foil. As the latest addition to the franchise’s cast of synthetics (Ash, Bishop, Call), he already knows the answers to the questions that torture his human companions. He knows his creator, Peter Weyland, intimately. He knows his purpose, as well: to loyally serve his master and carry on his legacy. And beneath his exterior of childlike curiosity, he resents this knowledge.
“Why did your people make me?” he asks one of his fellow scientists shortly after they first explore the alien ruins.
“Because we could,” the man replies.
“And how would you feel if your makers said the same to you?”
Dr. Shaw’s encounter with the authors of her DNA leaves her wishing for such a simple, disappointing answer.
[Originally written June 9, 2012.]