The 15 Big Ideas in Prometheus

#4 “No Man Needs Nothing”
David (Michael Fassbender) is a fan of Lawrence of Arabia, and he quotes this profound line from the film. The “need” for something propels discovery, invention, and conquest. But do you want to take a guess as to a creation that does in fact “need nothing”? David. He needs nada. Not air, not food, not love. And it’s this “need for nothing” that makes him so diabolically dangerous. Humans have motivations. The intelligence humans are actively working to cultivate has no motivation, no need. This is the central concept of many a sci-fi book, and for good reason, as humanity has yet to come to terms with it. What do you do with a tool that cares not for your pesky humanity?

But does David really “need nothing”? After all, though his actions are initially tough to read, we can eventually put together a framework of what he was doing as constructed through Weyland’s orders. Then his motivations become “clear,” so long as your definition of clarity involves precisely executing the visions of a mad man. You could also make some pretty serious parallels between The Engineers and David. Both do things that we’re unable to comprehend. With David, we eventually suss out some logic. With The Engineers? Not so much, though you’d have to cede there could be some overarching logic that we’re not privy to. The folks who don’t love the movie are saying this avoidance of answers is what makes the film weak. But I’m not sure why they were expecting the mysteries of the universe to be cleared up for them within the structure of a movie.

Still, let’s go one step deeper into the world of Prometheus. What does the “creator” (The Big Humans, or what the film calls “Engineers”) make of a creation (Little Humans) that doesn’t even know its maker? The answer, the film seems to indicate, is “not much”. Which brings us to …

#5 Humanity is Becoming so Saccharine that it’s Not Humanity Anymore.
This is the central construct of Michael Fassbender’s character, David. But first, let’s break down that doozy of a name. From Wikipedia:

David is very important to Jewish, Christian and Islamic doctrine and culture. In Judaism, David, or David HaMelekh, is the King of Israel, and the Jewish people. Jewish tradition maintains that a direct descendant of David will be the Messiah. In Islam, he is known as Dawud, considered to be a prophet and the king of a nation.

So yeah, David is about the most meaningful name you could give a robot that appears at first to be hell-bent on sabotaging humanity, before the Weyland reveal. However, in this case it’s crucial to note that Ridley Scott has replaced our Judeo-Christian sense of “God” with a “creator” construct, an ancient (and larger) proto-human. Okay, so follow this math: The Engineers created the “Earth” humans, who then created “robot David”. We’ve now set up Michael Fassbender’s David as the “prophet” of the story, though without any empathy or “soul”. He’s the “evolution” of humanity, but because of this evolution, humanity is positioned on the edge of a cliff. Things get easier, cleaner, and take less effort, but they also become something other than human in the process, as “the human condition” is the struggle. If humanity has constantly been asking the eternal question of “Why are we here? Who created us? What is our purpose?” (and really, you’ve got to give me that premise) then David gives us the answer. But it’s not an answer anyone is at all prepared for or going to like very much. Which brings up …

#6 Robots Might End Up Being Jerks

Michael Fassbender in PrometheusThis has been done before (Hi original Alien!) but it bears repeating and reflection. The fact that so many directors tackle at least one “We need to proceed with caution on technology” film is worth noting. From The Matrix to Alien to Battlestar Galactica, the idea that we’re actively developing a tech that may end up our better is a profound notion.

David plays a critical, and somewhat inscrutable role in Prometheus. Why does he purposely infect Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green)? Why does he “save” Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace)? David’s motivations are constantly shifting, and he’s probably going to be the biggest problem for most audiences, because you just can’t get a read on the guy. Which is the exact point. You won’t be able to get a read on sentient computers.

In Prometheus, David is on a bigger mission than any of the crew realizes, a mission which supersedes their own, making David a potential saboteur. So what DOES happen if the person who creates (or manages) excellent tech pits it against fellow humans for personal gain? It’s going to be an issue, right? And this is why David is the key to the whole shooting match. If you find yourself intrigued by David, and the implications of David, then you’re going to dig the hell out of Prometheus. If not, well, you’re likely in the “egh, decent action, but that’s it” camp. Speaking of David’s mission …

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