The 15 Big Ideas in Prometheus

#10 Great Things Are Often Accomplished by Driven, “Bad” People. Or Not.
Motivations are ever changing in Prometheus. Charlize Theron (as Meredith Vickers) is always looking out for herself, but in that capacity she’s also (kinda, sorta) looking out for the ship too. She wants to take over her father’s company, but only because she’s driven, not because she wants to destroy it. Captain Janek enjoys life, music, and women. But he’s willing to lay it on the line to save the whole of humanity. Peter Weyland has invested a trillion dollars in a ship capable of reaching an alien planet. This, on the face of it, is a huge boon to science and knowledge; only he did it for completely selfish reasons.

Crucially, though we want our heroes to be pure of heart, and our villains to do bad things for bad reasons, the inverse is often true. So what’s the secret to getting ahead? What quality have both papa and daughter cultivated to come out on top? Ruthlessness, and going after what they want. Perhaps the most telling moment of Theron’s character is her dalliance with The Captain. This is a moment of pure whimsy, perhaps the only scene that truly humanizes her, though all the “action” takes place away from our view. Still, Vickers takes what she wants, just like her father. She (mostly) seems disciplined, and each of her moments on-screen feel calculated to give us the impression that she’s every bit of her father’s daughter.

The special thing both Vickers and Weyland realize is that …

#11 “The Trick is Not Minding That it Hurts”

Another Lawrence of Arabia line, though this one David is watching instead of espousing. Here’s the entire exchange from the film:

Potter: [trying to copy Lawrence's snuffing a match with his fingers] Oh, it damn well hurts.
Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Potter: Well, what’s the trick, then?
Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

This trick is actually the “trick” of humanity. Want to play in the NBA? Get in the gym for about 20,000 hours. Want to figure out what’s on the other side of the ocean? Build a boat and suffer for a few months. All human achievement is built upon struggling, and none of our hard-earned luxuries came easy to past generations. This is the foundation of most “Greed is good” arguments, that Weyland’s struggle for eternal life somehow justifies him a shot at it. I would tend to disagree with this assessment, but depending on your politics you might very well argue “survival of the fittest” could be amended to “eternal survival of the fittest.” Slippery slope, meet current day technology. Prometheus points out, once again, the greatness and potential danger of “not minding” paired with hubris.

#12 “God Does Not Build in Straight Lines”

When the ship descends to the alien surface, they spot structure, which is a clear giveaway of habitation. Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) says this, but unpacking the statement after the fact makes my head hurt. Still, we’re a million words in; let’s just go for it. To wit:

Charlie and Elizabeth are on the search for an alien civilization based on multiple cave drawings. They find it. Unfortunately, they also find out that they were “created” by this alien race. As such, if the belief is that God created humanity, then these creatures are, by definition, God. And they did build in a straight line. Soooooo … Charlie’s perception of God is that it “doesn’t build in a straight line,” only he’s later proven wrong once the DNA matches up. Charlie’s creator built in a straight line. But it brings up the entire question of God. Did God create the previous human species, which then created us? Or is God simply the all powerful thing that created The Engineers, which created us? Clearly, these are big ol’ questions, but Charlie’s statement is eventually proven to be quite ironic while also pulling at the strings of faith and God. Yeeps. That’s a lotta mileage for one throwaway line of dialogue. How about another one …

#13 “Here’s Mud in Your Eye”

Charlie says this to David as he toasts him, right after the bit of dialogue above, and I’d say it needs further exploration. It’s an archaic phrase, even now in 2012, much less in 2093. To have Charlie throw this out, as he’s about to be infected, is a complete anachronism, so what gives?

This one is tougher, as the etymology of the idiom is massively unclear. It seems to have two possible meanings.
1) From a Biblical passage, John 9: 6-7 wherein Jesus cures a blind man by putting mud in his eye.
2) Horse racing, you would get “mud in your eye” when you were behind in a race.

The Biblical version pleases me the most, as it would make sense if Charlie were wishing David good sight, pointing out David’s clear lack of humanity. But … as the phrase doesn’t seem to exist in literature prior to 1927 it seems unlikely that it would have a Biblical origin. Which leads us to horse racing, which could be accurate, as Charlie clearly felt superior to David, with the infection serving as his comeuppance. Either way, it’s hard to tell where Ridley Scott and the writing team are just messing with us, and where the actual meaning of Prometheus is hidden. Could it be …

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